Everyone has, or had, a dad. Even if you never met him, or lost him early, or you are the lovechild of Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, conceived in a laboratory and shuttled as a toddler between the features desk of Spare Rib and the chain-link fence at Greenham Common, still you were fathered by someone.
Some of us are dads ourselves. And what this column would like to know is, what’s so funny about that? Why has the word become shorthand for something irredeemably naff?
We live in an era of dad-bashing. We’ve had dad rock; dad dancing; dad jeans; and dad bods. Of course this dad mockery is affectionate. We shouldn’t get uptight about it. But actually, we all know what putting the word “dad” in front of something signifies. It is sniggering, it is belittling, it is pejorative. Now arrives the latest indignity and, believe it or not, the trendy menswear accessory of the strange summer of 2020: the dad hat.
The dad hat was once known as the baseball cap, an item I have always thought looks absolutely fine on absolutely everyone, as long as they are American — and preferably playing baseball. Well, it’s had a rebrand. It’s gone from Kevin Costner to Kendrick Lamarr, from white-bread middle-aged spread to the acme of streetstyle credibility.
All the cool kids are wearing dad hats, the more esoteric the better. None of your classic New York Yankees. Certainly not Trump’s florid MAGA cap. What is called for instead is a hat from one of the hot new labels that dads, being irredeemably naff, will not have heard of: Noah, Ami, A-Cold-Wall*. With a curved brim, rather than flat. (Obviously. God! You’re so embarrassing.)
I say it’s time to reclaim the dad hat for the dads. I bought two, this summer. The first was a faded denim number from a New York brand called Rowing Blazers, a specialist in pastiche preppy style: boat shoes, button-downs, blazers and the rest of it.
That one was “borrowed”, never to be returned, by my daughter, aged all of ten but already a streetstyle icon, on our street at least. (She’s not just wearing a dad hat. She’s wearing <her dad’s hat>.) The second is a blue-grey number from the fiercely hip London brand, Aries. The legend above the brim, picked out in lime green lettering: No Problemo.
It’s apt because, when I’m dadding about with the kids, my No Problemo hat on my head, I really feel I don’t have any. Problemos, that is. Not kids. I definitely have kids.
Alex Bilmes is editor in chief of Esquire