Style Lessons From Dad
What are the rules of the road that the folks behind The Sartorialist, Officine Generale, Paddle8.com and MR PORTER learnt from pop.
When we were kids, our dads were just about the last people we’d consider approaching for style advice. “Dad”: it’s hardly a byword for cool, is it? As a prefix, it has the power to immediately render something unflattering: think “dad jeans”, or the oh-so-2015 “dad bod”.
With time, though, these negative associations begin to fade until eventually we see them as nothing more than a symptom of the natural contempt with which the young view the old. It’s like the old quotation, generally attributed (as so much is) to Mr Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
As we ourselves grow older, we begin to realise that our fathers were young once, too – and, dare we say it, stylish. We also begin to appreciate how much of our own style originates with them. To illustrate this point, we asked a few stylish men (and one woman) to look back into their family archives for pictures of their fathers (and grandfathers), in order to reminisce about what they learnt from them about the art of dressing.
MR NAT WELLER
Mr Weller is a model and musician. His father is Mr Paul Weller, the frontman of the Jam and a leading figure of the 1980s mod revival. Mr Weller (the elder) is seen here on the left in 1980 alongside Mr Pete Townshend of the Who.
“My dad was a mod – an avid, deep-rooted mod. But the clothes he bought weren’t always the clothes you’d directly associate with mod culture. We took a load of his old clothes out of storage recently and I got to see them for myself. There was this one piece, a Tom-Ford-era Gucci jacket in orange suede… a real American Hustle kind of style. So while he has this strong identity, he never really goes for a trend just because it’s a trend. He is a truly inventive dresser. And he is always well dressed, even when he doesn’t need to be. He makes it look so effortless.
“When you’re 16 or 17, you’re too tied up in trying to be yourself to listen to other people. But I’m older now than he was in this photo and I’m starting to appreciate what an influence he has been on me. It also helps that I can borrow his old clothes, too. That Gucci jacket is in my wardrobe at the moment…”
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MR SCOTT SCHUMAN
“My father never talked about style or fashion. He wasn’t of the generation of men who would discuss that kind of thing. But, in retrospect, we had a very stylish house and he always looked good.
“When I was around eight, he gave me a few pieces of advice. Like, when you fly on business, always wear the clothes you’re going to need for the meeting or put them in your carry-on, because if you lose them you’ll be in trouble. Or, always hold a pen or a pair of glasses, because if you need to point at someone, it’s less rude than using your finger. It seemed like crazy advice to give an eight year old. It was only recently that I realised that my dad had just had a triple bypass at that point. I think he was scared and was trying to pass on whatever wisdom he could in case he didn’t make it through.
“In later life, he became very open-minded. He grew as a person and learnt a lot from the younger generation but without ever forgetting where he came from. I hope that I’ll be the same.”
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MR PIERRE MAHÉO
Mr Mahéo is the owner and creative director of Officine Generale, an effortlessly cool menswear brand that we are big fans of at MR PORTER. This photograph shows his grandfather, Mr Yves Aumont, and his mother, Ms Chantal Aumont. It was taken on vacation in Dinard, north-western France, on 5 August 1957.
“My grandfather was a tailor by profession. He’d always be wearing a jacket, no matter what he was doing. I can still remember him doing the gardening in his old suit trousers and vest. It was thanks to him that I learnt the importance of dressing well from a very early age.
“On the other side, I always saw my father, who was a oyster grower, wearing faded red chinos – like a fisherman! – with blue Oxford shirts. I grew up surrounded by these two looks: one very dressed up and the other more based on workwear. These two influences can be seen in what Officine Generale is today.”
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MR TEO VAN DEN BROEKE
Mr Van den Broeke is senior style editor at British Esquire. His father, Mr Jan van den Broeke, was a 747 pilot for British Airways. He’s seen here at a fairground at Zandfoort, Holland, in 1962.
“I always remember my dad looking very cool. He always took care of his hair and his clothes always fitted him properly. He had a certain swagger about him, particularly when he wore his uniform. This photo – though he’s not in his pilot’s get-up – shows that, I think. He loved wearing Ray-Ban aviators, I remember. That really sticks in my mind. Now I like wearing them, too.
“He used to wear white socks with boat shoes when I was little. I hated it, for some reason, so while he was away I used to steal and hide his white socks and hide them under my bed. I was seven; he was 53.”
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“What I like about my old man is that he doesn’t really care. As an actor he’s quite manic and he claims that he doesn’t have time to follow fashion. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have a taste for the finer things in life. On a whim, he’ll go out and buy a beautiful Canali overcoat or a pair of handmade shoes. A while back, he spent a year doing a job in Italy and came back with a few lovely unstructured blazers.
“What I like about him is that while he understands that it’s occasionally important to look your best, he’s not vain at all. It’s really refreshing.”
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MR ALEXANDER GILKES
Mr Gilkes is the co-founder of Paddle8.com, an online auction house launched in 2011 as an accessible entry point for younger collectors. Born and raised in England, he now lives in New York with his wife, the fashion designer Ms Misha Nonoo. He is seen here with his father, brother and uncle at his old family home. His father is sat in the middle.
“This is a photograph taken in the early 1980s at Hookly Down, the old family home. My father is in the middle and his brother, my uncle, is on the left. As for the lessons I have learnt from my father, while he claims to have his clothes put out by my mother every day, when left to his own devices he can veer away from his more meticulously formal standards. In this photo I take my hat off to the neckerchief, an artistic nod to the likes of artist Lucian Freud.”
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MS JODIE HARRISON
Ms Harrison is the Editor of MR PORTER, a position she has held since 2011. The youngest of three children, she grew up in the north of England with her parents, Mr Stuart and Ms Christine Harrison. They’re pictured here picnicking in the Lake District in 1968, one year before their wedding.
“At 21, my dad was skinny and very tall, so he suited the slim silhouettes of the 1960s perfectly. Here he wore a pair of StaPrest trousers, suede Chelsea boots and his signature rollneck. I’ll always associate rollnecks with him, as he still wears them to this day.
“His style back then, way before I was born, looked very cool and considered. My dad has always been the cool guy (particularly in his opinion! Sorry, Dad.). He had the cool car (an Austin Healey Sprite), this innate level of confidence, and was an ace on the golf course. In fact, he used to wolf whistle at my mum from the green as she crossed the road on her way back from college. She says that she thought he was ‘so full of himself! A prick!’ but within a year they were dating. It’s funny how things work out that way.
“Dad has taught me a lot when it comes to style. How to hold yourself, how to disarm people with honesty and how to love people. He’s quite the character. He also taught me about the importance of dressing to suit your frame, as I turned out to be pretty tall, too.”
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MR OLIE ARNOLD
Mr Arnold is the newly appointed Deputy Style Director of MR PORTER. His father, Mr Richard Arnold, worked as an engineer in the RAF and a policeman. This is a passport photograph taken in 1968, shortly after the latter joined the police force. He’s wearing a grey striped wool suit and an aubergine silk shirt.
“Style was, and still is, very important to him. He was one of the first people to buy and customise Levi’s in his hometown and would often make his own clothing out of frustration with boring fashion.
“He was having suits made from a very early age, too. Having a ‘look’ has always been very important to him. The lesson, I suppose, is to be adventurous and not to feel limited by what’s available to you. He always looked good, regardless of the occasion. For him, it’d be a crime to be underdressed and I hope that I follow that mantra.”