A Guide to Dressing Sharp for Fathers

by Antonio on August 26, 2010 · 30 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

Six years ago my life completely changed; the birth of my son ushered in a sense of awesome responsibility that was greater than any I have ever experienced (the Marine Corps and marriage included).  I realized very quickly that my actions, at more than anytime in my life, would have a direct effect on the life of someone who would forever be connected to me.  Unlike any other relationship, this was an unbreakable bond; we all have only one father, and for better or worse much of the course of our early lives depends on this male figure and what kind of person he is.

With this in mind, I write this article for the men who care how they present themselves to the world but since having children have pushed dressing sharp to the backburner.  After all, taking care of yourself is second to doing the important stuff for your family, right?  I argue you must achieve balance.  Dressing sharp does not have to take away from spending quality time with your family; in my opinion, it enhances it.

Fatherhood Brings Challenges

A father loses personal time – Marriage is a relationship of choice; we enter it knowing we are making a free choice commitment to another rational human being.  Although we adjust our schedules, for the most part we still have our personal time to read, exercise, and entertain ourselves.  Children change all this – they are not rational, they do not respect your schedule, and your free time is now consumed researching which types of diapers are going to be the least irritable to your son’s skin.

A father loses personal space – I have a home office that is clearly sectioned off from the rest of the house to ensure it can be deducted for tax purposes.  The IRS respects this boundary; my two year old daughter does not.  She has no problem walking in as I’m having a conference call and telling me she needs to use the bathroom.  Those lower shelves that organize my collection of wires, small electronic devices, and important but rarely used papers? I discovered not too long ago that my son decided they would better house his Transformers. As a father, be prepared to lose many of the areas that you once considered your domain; unless it’s locked up, its fair game.

cuflinks used as toys

Who knew that cufflinks and cuff knots played such a pivotal role in the Battle of Endor!

A father has less control over life in general – Although I’ve never been under the impression that I control everything in my life, I did have a sense that my actions determined how most things turned out.  If I went to bed early, I would awake early and refreshed.  If I began a workout program, nothing short of a trip to the emergency room would derail my schedule.  As a father you’ll find life has plans of its own.  You’ll experience the week when both your wife and kids are sick; count on sleepless nights checking temperatures, administering medicine, and numerous trips to the doctor.  And just as everyone starts to feel better and you’re ready to return to work, you’ll get hit with that same nasty virus.

Why a Father Should Embrace a Sharp, Clean Cut Style

Despite the challenges that fatherhood brings, it is still possible to dress sharp and be a dad. It’s just takes some modifications and patience. Putting in the effort is worth it for a few reasons:

You no longer just represent yourself, you represent your family – You are the head of your family, and as such the impressions you make upon others reflect on those under your care.  As unfair as this sounds, your son, daughter, and wife are often judged by people’s first impressions of you.   If you are inconsiderate, unprofessional and poorly dressed when first meeting your daughter’s teacher, the instructor can’t help but assume this is normal for the entire family.   Sons and daughters pay for the faults of their father – do what is in your power to represent your family properly.

Set the example – Children do what you do, say what you say, and behave in a manner that reflects your actions.  When you dress respectfully on Sundays, your son will learn quickly that there is no room for debate here.  When you show proper manners to women, your daughter learns to identify a gentleman.  Lead by example, and dress in a manner that you’ll be proud to see your children emulate.

Your wife still cares – I haven’t met a woman yet who wasn’t thrilled by the idea of her husband dressing in a sharp and professional manner.  A properly fitted sport jacket can make you look taller, shave pounds off the midsection, and increase your masculine appeal overall.  A crisp white shirt set next to your dark skin and hair brings attention to the face and highlights the eyes. Looking great for the mother of your children is a fine compliment to the love you share – trust me on this one.

Tips for Fathers Looking to Dress Sharp

 

Encourage your children to help you prepare – Now I’m not saying you should have your kids shining your shoes or ironing your dress shirts.  No, rather I’m suggesting you sit with them as you perform these tasks.  Teach your son why leather needs to be taken care of and how it makes the shoes even more handsome, and he’ll ask you to teach him how to take care of his other belongings.  Explain to your daughter why laying out your clothes the night before saves you time in the morning; she’ll follow suit and hopefully build preparation habits that will serve her in other parts of life.

Select clothing that is dark and durable – When you can, select dark fabrics that hide stains and rougher weaves such as tweed that can hide food spills.  Grey flannel trousers are a father’s best friend; they are tough enough that they resist tearing, dark enough to hide stains, and professional enough to wear with a sports jacket and walk into a meeting with a client.  100% cotton shirts are great in that they can be laundered at home with strong detergents to remove dirt and grime.  Learn to spot clean your clothing, especially your wools unless you want a very high cleaning bill.  Brush your jackets after each wearing as food and dirt will end up on your jacket if you are within 5 feet of your kids.

pacifier pocket square

At least I know where the pacifier is located and that it's clean

Dress & groom before your children wake up -The key here is that you have time to yourself, before the household gets going and you are dragged into a fight as to who gets to play with a particular Lego mini-figure (despite my kids having 50 of them….they always zero in on one that both have to have at that moment).  Thirty minutes in the morning is all most of us need to enjoy a hot shower, shave, and dress without interruption.  I advise you leave your dress shirt and tie in the closet until you are about ready to leave – many times at breakfast right after a spill I’ve been thankful I’m just wearing an undershirt and trousers.

Have a chest or place to securely store your valuable menswear items – Kids are kids, and they will find and play with valuable items you’d rather not have them breaking and scratching.  That expensive watch should be kept locked away, and those freshly shined shoes placed in an area that markers and crayons cannot touch.

Dress Shoes with Toy

Dress shoes make nice vehicles for stuffed animals

 

Have an extra set of clothing at work – The day will come when everything is going according to plan, you’re out the door ten minutes early, you have green lights all the way to your daughter’s day-care, she doesn’t cry when you take her out of the car seat.  And then just as you’re hugging her goodbye she gets sick on your shirt and tie.  On this day you will thank me for this bit of advice.

 

Learn how to properly address stains & spills -In general, the rules are 1) Act quickly 2) Follow label directions 3) Follow stain removal instructions 4) Be patient and try again if necessary.  Below are instructions to remove some common stains children seem to leave in their wake.

Blood – Rinse with cold water, launder in cold water.  Never expose the garment to heat, as it could set the stain.
Chocolate – Scrape off any excess, then treat with soap directly and let sit. Wash in the hottest water allowable according to the clothing’s label.
Dirt – Scrape off any excess, then treat with soap directly and let sit for about one hour in warm water. Wash in the warmest water allowable according to the clothing’s label.
Ice Cream – Scrape off any excess, then treat with an enzyme containing soap or detergent (read the label – it should say- Tide is a common one) directly and let sit for about thirty minutes in cool water. Wash in the warmest water allowable according to the clothing’s label.
Ketchup & Spaghetti Sauce – Scrape off any excess, pre-treat with soap or detergent ten to fifteen minutes directly before washing – then wash normally.
Mud – Presoak the garment in the warmest water allowed by the label with powder detergent for one hour, then wash normally.
Vomit – Immediately scrape off any excess and thoroughly rinse with cold water.  Next wash the garment in the warmest water allowable according to the clothing’s label using normal laundry detergent.

Note to men without children

I hope this article doesn’t scare you.  Having said all this, I would not trade fatherhood for anything.  It’s in my opinion the most enjoyable experience any man can have.  But it is a major change in your life – this article hopefully helps prepare you for it.

 

Conclusion

Dressing well as a father requires extra effort; there is no denying this.  With little time for yourself, you’ll have to sacrifice sleep and entertainment to ensure your clothing is ready for the day’s challenges.  But remember that the confidence and competence you display in presenting yourself properly is important.  The ritual of shining your shoes briefly before heading out the door, the way your aftershave smells at the breakfast table, and the time you take to teach life’s lessons will be things your children always remember about you.

Centeno Family

Antonio and his three inspirations for this article

For further reading I suggest Tom Junod’s “My Father’s Fashion Tips” – a great 10 minute read!

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, A Tailored Suit
Articles on Mens Suits, Dress Shirts, Sports Jackets etc.
Join our Facebook Page & Win Custom Clothing

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Darnell Clayton August 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

As a single guy all I can say is thanks for the advice!

Question: How does one balance time with kids & the wife & friends? (assuming you have time left for the latter)

Do you have to schedule time at the end of the day (say an hour before bed time) with the wife or do you just find pockets of free time together?

2 Greg M August 27, 2010 at 12:15 am

Another homerun of an article!

I especially agree with the father representing the family. This is especially important at school and community functions. Just as dressing nicely has a trickle-down effect at the workplace, it has a definate effect on the family unit, too. When I started to change the way I presented myself, I noticed that my wife started caring more about the way she looked, too. It is easy to fall into the “tired and worn out parent” trap and dress like a slob, but a well dressed and well mannered family on an evening out together has an air of class that is sometimes lacking in today’s society.

I also agree with the idea of a maintenance routine. I have been following one for a few years now and it ensures that everything is in its proper place so I don’t have to run around looking for things in the morning. It also is the perfect opportunity to have a few relaxing minutes talking with my sons about the events of the day.

3 Chris Mower August 27, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hey Antonio,

It’s been a while. This article is a fine piece of writing. Being a father of two little girls, I’ve found that if I don’t want something destroyed, I’ve got to keep it on a top shelf.

I’ve never really thought about how a father’s dress represents not only himself, but his family. That’s a great point, and one I’ll definitely remember.

Fatherhood can be fun and hectic all at the same time. I’ve found that on those days when all heck has broken loose, dressing nicely helps me to keep a good attitude and positive outlook.

Oh, and I loved the pictures in the post–very fun.

4 Jeff! August 27, 2010 at 12:37 am

Another great article, Antonio. Those pictures are great, and do an excellent job of showing the sharp-dressed lifestyle melding with fatherhood.

While I’m currently child-less, I do appreciate how yet again you manage to show that there is little excuse for poor dress. Body types, budgets, even children can’t stand in the way of the well-dressed man.

Maybe ZZ Top was right after all..

5 Stephen Newell August 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

@Darnell:

I’ve found that the majority of my time is spent with my family. Quite frankly (and this may even sound harsh and snobbish) I don’t miss my friends that much at all. Since I live 5 hours from my own family, my wife’s family becomes my “social hub.” They have tried very hard to make their family sociable, always hanging out together on weekends, holidays, and events like ballgames and stuff, so I never lack for social outlets.

This means, at least for me, the majority of my “friend” time is limited to those who are closest to me. There’s no need for me to go out and have fun when I can do that with my family regularly. That allows me to actually have quality time with my close friends instead of distracting ourselves by going out, which results in deeper “man-relationships” that I think are actually more solid than the “hangout” culture we currently have. I know these guys have my back, will give me any needed kicks in the butt, etc. simply because we’ve taken the time to form those bonds.

I guess in general, I’ve found that focusing on your own family really does make everything else fall into its PROPER place – work and friends are not and should never be the focal point of your life, it’s your wife first, your kids second, your extended family third, your religion fourth (though the religious among you will agree your religion will permeate your first 3 priorities), and your job last. Don’t worry about time, your time will take care of itself!

6 Eric Granata August 27, 2010 at 9:15 am

There have often been times that I wished I had at least another shirt at the office. That’s a brilliant tip! Great job Antonio, I’ve enjoyed reading your recent posts. Beautiful family, too.

7 bill August 27, 2010 at 9:45 am

Ok, I’m not joking, go buy this

http://www.tide.com/en-US/product/tide-to-go.jspx

I have one i keep in my shoulder bag, you could drop a pot of ink on your new white shirt, and in 5 minutes this thing would have you ready to go to the meeting.

I believe it’s full of Scandinavian magic.

8 Chadd August 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

Fantastic article, excellent tips on both clothing and fatherhood.

A I write this, my four-month old daughter just fell asleep in her swing, I have one window open on Grey Flannel Trousers, and contemplating showering and shaving before she wakes!

Back again, pacifier down and diaper change. 11 minutes to write a 4 line blogpost! But unquestionably amazing!

9 Albert August 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

Great post. Thanks.

10 Thomas P Connolly Jr August 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

Great article! There is no better job title than “Dad” and the points you make are dead on. Great pictures too.

One added advice on dads and clothing. When I had to take one of my girls to day care (not our first choice, but had to be at the time), I would get dressed for work (business suit), keep the jacket off, but I would wear a chef’s jacket. The chef’s jacket would be for the occasional spit up, juice box explosion, or marker. Then, back to the car and off with the chef’s jacket and onto work. No worries. (Karate gi jackets work as well.) They can be washed in hot water with bleach and don’t have to be perfect, unless of course you are a chef and use them.

Thanks again, this article is a keeper.

11 Micah August 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hydrogen Peroxide works wonders on blood, too.

12 Torrey August 27, 2010 at 12:00 pm

My daughter loves to play with my pocketsquares. She pulls it out of my blazer and has a ball stuffing it back in. When dropping my daugher off at her daycare, I used to wear my dress shirt and of course when carrying her, it would become wrinked. I know hang my shirt in my car and put in on once she’s dropped off.

13 Josh August 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I have a 10 month old myself and echo that fatherhood is the best, most growth-inducing experience ever. Difficult certainly, but well worth the trials for the immense reward. Dressing well definitely takes a back seat, but I had never thought about me representing my family in this way. So kudos!

14 David August 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Good to know we’re not doomed to St. John’s Bay and Dockers. Now if we can just figure out a way to put a car seat in the Mustang, I might just be ready to have kids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOKuSQIJlog

15 Rickard Bensow August 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Spot on in every aspect. I had a smile of recognition on my face reading this article.

16 Kevin Hollingsworth August 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

The only thing I take issue with is, “A crisp white shirt set next to your dark skin and hair brings attention to the face and highlights the eyes.” What about us pale guys? Not everyone is Lorenzo Lamas.

17 Kevin August 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm

As a guy without, kids, still scared me. Even with the disclaimer. :)

18 Solo August 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Thanks Antonio! Excellent article.

As to the questions about balancing time, getting up early has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s 4 am, but it’s worth that time to get myself together.

On the other end of the day, after the kids are asleep, my wife and I get to visit. Gentlemen, there’s nothing sexier to a woman than her husband washing dishes and packing the kids lunches for the next day. Trust me on this one.

Lastly, it’s a tad off topic and I know it’s been said amillion times, but you must make time to have a sit down meal with the whole family EVERY DAY. It doesn’t have to be dinner, but it must happen.

Good luck to all the childless guys. May we see you soon on the other side (at soccer practice).

19 Hugo Stiglitz August 27, 2010 at 4:19 pm

A lot of men don’t have this worry as they work blue-collar jobs. My father wore jeans and a t-shirt to work every day. He’d wear a Carhartt jacket if it was cold out. No need to worry about wearing dark clothes, having extra shirts at work or carrying around Shout wipes or Tide sticks. Geez, you’d think that any household with kids is a perpetual foodfight. Vomiting babies? Puh-leeze — sounds like the wife’s job to me.

20 Ryan August 27, 2010 at 8:37 pm

While being put together before the kids are up is a good idea – I want to put in a plug for letting especially a young son, and even a daughter, get a glimpse of Dad wet shaving.

21 Steve Robbins August 28, 2010 at 4:01 am

Congrats Antonio, you have a perfect family. One boy and one girl, also have beautiful wife. I have read My Father’s Fashion Tips…it was great, thanks for the tips.

22 happy5 August 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm

This deceptively simple article just kicked me in the ass. I’m married, father of a 3 year old boy, and now have a 2 month old girl at home. My boy ushered a great deal of responsibility and renaissance (lost weight, organized my stuff, became more disciplined) but I have lost that, or some of that. With 2 kids, it is not as easy, but reading this just made me realized my time is not my own anymore.

Just talked to my wife about this, and she agrees that even though both of us are tired, I should jump on the bandwagon again and take control of my own life – even if that starts by shining my shoes with my 3 year old. Sometimes stuff just needs to be said. Thanks a bunch!

23 Phil B August 29, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Good work,

I have two girls and always have the spare clothes at work. Thanks for the stain removal techniques.

The one thing is always check over your shoulder for the imfamous baby badges. I had one pointed out to me at work the other day but was okay because another team mate also had one!

Keep it up….

24 Antonio August 31, 2010 at 9:24 am

@Darnell The key to balancing time is to identify what is important, and then act accordingly. I spend less time with friends, more time with my wife. No time in front of a TV, as much time as I can playing with my children. Priorities.

@GregM – Thank you sir, and I’ve heard from many other men as well that when they step up their wives also start dressing better.

@Chris – yes, we do need to catch-up! Call or email anytime!

@Jeff – Thank you….my son helped take the pictures!

@Stephen – great points, and pretty much my story. I still spend time with old friends, but not at the expense of my family. Quality over Quantity.

@Eric – Thank you Eric! My wife and kids are beautiful…..me on the other hand, I need some work

@Bill – will have to look at this.

@Chadd – thank you for a peek into your life sir!

@Albert – you are welcome.

@Thomas – GREAT tip! I love this one!

@Micah – Haven’t tried it, hopefully won’t need to much

@Torrey – Thanks for the personal story!

@Josh – thank you!

@David – Good luck on that one!

@Rickard – Thank you!

@Kevin – I’ll take care of the pale guys in my next article!

@Kevin – Haha!

@Solo – I agree, get up early. 5AM is my wake time.

@Hugo – Thanks for the comment.

@Ryan – Good point!

@Steve – Thank you sir!

@Happy5 – Glad to hear it had an effect sir!

@Phil – Baby badges – I love that term.

25 Raymond September 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

While at first I wanted to agree with this article, because I believe a great deal that one’s outward appearance reflects his inner state, upon closer thought I realized that it coincides little with reality. Yes, it’s true that fathers who go around in KISS t-shirts or generally try to appear “hip” get no respect from anyone, especially usually their older children, there is one real fact that goes ignored here:

If you are wearing pleated pants and a polo or, especially, a white button-down, it is usually a sign that you BARELY WORK FOR A LIVING. You are most likely a suburban paper-shuffler, and while earning a paycheck and taking responsibility for the financial welfare of your family is always commendable, you are, in effect, holding a woman’s job.

Men who work on the rougher side of life WILL ALWAYS, well, look ROUGH. They won’t be manicured and they sure AS HELL won’t be having their kids help them shine their shoes. When you are a mechanic, you are going to be judged as “low-brow” because your hands have permanent stains as well as most of your wardrobe.

Interestingly, it has been my experience that THESE are the fathers, the ones who worked with their hands in a thankless job, that get the most respect from their kids. A trip to the local suburban Chuck E. Cheese will show you countless well-dressed fathers who are practically walking vaginas when it comes to having the respect of their children.

Just a thought.

26 Torin September 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Now that I’m older I can really respect and admire how my father fulfilled his role without even knowing it. From dressing sharp (as a professional), to his fitness, discipline, manners… Power without aggression, subtly demanding respect because of his actions. Then being goofy as all dads can be… Kids pick up on all of it, and thankfully I think I got the message.

Great article and also, what a beautiful family!

27 Erik L November 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Tony,

Great article. I bring my 13 month old daughter to day care most mornings and I cannot agree more on your point of the need for the clean back-up white or blue oxford shirt, grey trousers, and navy sport coat in my office. I have had to break that emergency glass more than I care to admit.

Keep up the great advice to all men!

28 Joe H April 25, 2013 at 10:13 am

Antonio,
Great article. Hits the nail on the head. I was reading and chuckling the whole time thinking, “Yep, been there done that.” Especially the fighting over the same Lego. Great advice all around.

29 Will K May 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Lots of great dialogue here. I have a 14month old son. Another thing about fatherhood is it will force you to prioritize. You have finite time and energy, and nothing will put you to the test like being a parent. Especially if you’re a “go-getter” like myself, who is used to doing multiple projects in the evening. Not no more! But the fulfillment you get is incomparable, not to mention you are contributing to the next generation of society, which we need to have solid values, and be upright and moral more than ever in these crazy times!

30 Marc Gervais October 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I’m a blue collar factory worker. I wear jeans and work shirts to work. But I always make sure my shoes and polished and clothing clean. I was in the military and that stayed with me on grooming. I was a corrections officer when my girls were little and my uniform was always pressed, boots polished. Even on the week ends I tend to be spit and polished. I don’t like being dirty. Even if the job is dirty, a man can still clean himself up after and clean his clothing. That’s why they make coveralls.

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