- Photography by Mr Christian MacDonald | Styling by Mr Mitchell Belk
- Words by Mr Eric Konigsberg
It all starts with choosing the name, and like a lot of things about modern fatherhood, yours is a much more complicated lot than the previous generation's. Not so long ago, a man could simply name his son after himself, safe in the knowledge that this was how the ritual worked. But today, naming is a form of self-expression for the parents and your son's name is the first thing you give him, non-genetically anyway. And it probably tells the world a lot about what you see in him and maybe just a smidge about your own aspirations. Perhaps that's why for several of these New York fathers and their offspring, their choices speak volumes. "The first baby came out such a dark and brooding character - it made us think of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights," says Mr Euan Rellie, a British financier. "And his brother carried himself in such a substantial way that I immediately said, 'He's Titus'."
When Bon Appétit editor Mr Adam Rapoport and his pregnant wife were working their way through the alphabet on a drive to Long Island, they stopped at M, he says, "because when we got to Marlon, we just looked at each other and said 'Yes!'. Also, Keith Richards has a son named Marlon." And what about music impresario Mr Syd Butler, whose son is endowed with the very British appelation Nigel? "We figure he's either going to end up a rock star or an accountant," his father says proudly. "There's not a lot of room for middle ground with a Nigel."
Click on the images, above, to meet these men and more - and hear their views on modern parenting, below.
Mr Syd Butler and Nigel
As the founder of Frenchkiss Records, Mr Butler, 41, has brought the world the music of Bloc Party, The Hold Steady and Passion Pit. He was also the bassist for Les Savy Fav, and now plays alongside Mr Fred Armise in The 8G Band, the house band on Late Night With Seth Meyers. He started FKR.TV with the comedian Mr David Cross, and wrote a playoffs blog for the National Hockey League.
Would it surprise anyone, then, if he and his longtime partner, soap-opera actress Ms Amy Carlson, turn out renaissance kids? For two years, their daughter Lyla has had her own talk show on YouTube, originaly titled Five Questions by a Five-Year-Old, though the name and format have changed to accommodate her advancing age. "She's seven going on 28 now," Mr Butler says. And here comes kid brother Nigel, an avid train-set builder and part-time model for Hasbro.
Nigel, who is four, says his favourite things to do with his father include ice skating and, of course, those train sets. "Also," he adds, "we like to make up jokes." ("He loves jokes," Mr Butler says.)
Mr Butler says that after Nigel was born, he found himself approaching parenthood differently. "I coddled Lyla if she hurt her knee, but if my son gets hurt I tend to say, 'Come on Nigel, you're OK'," Mr Butler says. "I want him to be strong. But I guess it's all about the hang-ups I have as a man."
Mr Euan Rellie with Heathcliff and Titus
Mr Rellie, 46, hails from Brooklyn by way of London and has two sons with his wife, the journalist and socialite Ms Lucy Sykes. He is a co-founder and senior managing director of the investment bank Business Development Asia. As a new father, it hardly surprised him to gaze at his sons and see elements of himself - the same mannerisms or posture, and a developing interest in football (the European variety, of course). "But it did at first shock me when I realised that children actually, astonishingly, have their own personalities," Mr Rellie says. "It's great fun to see them doing something that makes me say, 'Now where does that come from?'"
This might be expressed by 10-year-old Heathcliff's obsession with Japanese manga comics, despite his father's boast of never having read a comic book in his life.
"He loves all kinds of Japanese culture - Godzilla, monsters, sushi," Mr Rellie says of his oldest son. Given that Dad spends a good deal of time on the western end of the Pacific Rim, the apple may not fall so far from the tree after all. As such, Mr Rellie is planning to take Heathcliff and his seven-year-old brother, Titus, to Japan later this year. As for their mother? "Their mum could take it or leave it," Mr Rellie says. "She says she'll come if I buy her a business-class ticket."
The boys say their favourite things to do include "going to different playgrounds" and "exploring", especially with their father. They also like to dress like him.
"We all wear polo shirts," Titus says, "and the same kinds of socks from a place called..."
"It's called the Gap," Heathcliff says. "And he doesn't like ripped jeans."
Mr Adam Rapoport and Marlon
"He's got his mother's eyes and his mother's butt," Mr Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit, says of his son, six-year-old Marlon. Marlon is also stubborn, like both parents. "We're both Scorpios," Mr Rapoport says. "And he's a physical, active boy. He does not seem to lack for confidence."
Mr Rapoport, 44, took over Bon Appétit in 2010, after a long stint as American GQ's style editor. Last year, Advertising Age named Bon Appétit A-List Magazine of the Year. What would success mean for his son? "You want him to somehow be 'quote-unquote' successful at being who he actually is, a kid with personality and verve," Mr Rapoport says. Marlon hopes to become an artist someday.
"I'll get to go to my own office and I won't have a boss," he says to his father. "And I'm not going to buy a house. I'll live with you guys." Both of them appreciate style. "He used to wear skinny ties and chocolate wingtips to school," Mr Rapoport says. "Now, he's mostly interested in making sure there are no tags on the inside that can scratch against his skin." Marlon's happiest when he and his father "have secret boys' dates, just us two," he says. And what makes his father proud? "Reading hard words," Marlon says. "Like aquatic."
Mr Robert Stilin and Dylan
There's no question about paternity here. Just look at them: the matching chiselled jawlines, high cheekbones and nobly jutting ears. Nonetheless, while these are some strong genetics, Mr Stilin's 19-year-old son Dylan clearly understands that more than a few elements of his father's style are worth consciously emulating - from the buzzcut (both get a trim every two weeks) to the aviator shades to the personal trainer they both work out with (though not at the same time, they hasten to add).
Mr Stilin, 48, is an interior designer known for his authentically American style - clean but hardly sparse, modern but rich with patina. He is a favourite in the Hamptons as well as on Park Avenue and at 15 Central Park West, the 2008 billion-dollar tower where he has had several commissions. A man whose clients pay well into seven figures for a major home renovation job, he had the confidence to name his boy Dylan Stilin after all, and to use the word "no" from time to time. "He's got great taste, but a lot of the things I see him wearing aren't in my budget, such as his Lanvin sneakers," Dylan says of his father, whom he credits for teaching him "the importance of showing up". It is worth noting that Dylan, an English major at NYU, also holds down a part-time job as a barrista.
"I buy him Nikes," Mr Stilin says, "but if he has $600 sneakers at 19, what does he have to look forward to?"
Mr Nick Sullivan and Charlie
Ask Esquire's influential fashion director to name a Sullivan man's most cherished endeavors, and he might reply that both he and Charlie are possessed of a lifelong fascination with Lego. Asking Charlie to list their preferred father-son activites, however, yields an entirely different answer. "Camping," he says, looking plaintively at his father before adding, "if you liked it."
"I just don't enjoy it," Mr Sullivan, 50, says, by way of apology. "I would go, but I would just like to go camping in Greece or the South of France - someplace where it's a bit drier. But I'm glad he likes it."
At 10, Charlie does a lot of things his father doesn't. "He's learning guitar, which I never did," Mr Sullivan says proudly. "He makes movies with his friend - short, James Bond-like films with action sequences. Kids find their own way."
And while it's too early to tell, at the moment it seems entirely possible that Charlie's way might not come equipped with an extensive wardrobe. "I told him recently that as he keeps growing, he'll be able to wear all my clothes," Mr Sullivan says. "He just said, 'Not the yellow trousers'."
Mr Bill Gentle and Oscar
"He's quite mischievous, which I was as well," Mr Gentle, 36, says of his two-year-old son, Oscar. "In general, though, I think his generation is going to grow up less rebellious than ours, because their parents are a lot cooler." Mr Gentle, a much sought-after fashion photographer, rose to prominence on the strength of his blog, Backyard Bill, and its very stylish shots of people he encountered on the street (or his friends, whom he would occasionally shoot in his yard in Brooklyn).
Asked what sort of wisdom his own father passed down to him when Oscar was born, he says, "He told me to take a picture of him with a golf club and ball right away, so that he's even younger than Tiger Woods was. I'm not sure if that was good advice or not, but I did it."
Young Oscar has already logged significant time at the beach, because both parents surf. "He's portable enough that we bring him with us to Rockaway and Montauk," Mr Gentle says. "He likes the water. He'll probably be ready to paddle out on a board this summer when it's flat."