Like most dads, I once got the Father’s Day card that is shaped like a tie. It looked just like the one I once gave my dad — a guy who has rarely wore one, and never for work.
Perhaps because ties are worn even less today, though, it serves as a sort of shorthand for “fatherhood” more than ever before. It’s a symbol of a grown up man whose exterior life you only partially understand.
Most kids, at least when they’re small, probably don’t notice or remember a lot about what their dads wear. Time with the children is usually best spent in what’s most comfortable, which means a uniform of T-shirts, jeans and shorts.
This makes it all the more remarkable when you catch you dad in a moment that has nothing to do with parenting. I remember when my parents, for instance, occasionally went out to dances.
I remember him standing in what I thought was his best suit. It wasn’t.
It was his only suit. But he looked fantastic, especially when I glanced down and saw his shoes—a pair of (yes) “alligator skin” loafers.
I didn’t know why that style existed. I just knew I wanted those shoes.
More recently, I looked back through some old albums as my dad neared another birthday and found one of him holding me at about two or three years old.
He looked both better dressed than I remembered and absolutely of his time.
The red-orange cardigan, the pristine white shirt with the collar popped outside it, the hint of T-shirt — even his hair looked good.
Looking at the photograph, I realized my kids would be looking at pictures of me like this someday — maybe in an album, maybe on Instagram, or whoever we showcase visual histories next.
I find myself hoping they won’t be too embarrassed of what I’m wearing, that it says something about the time when I was wearing it, and that they might even smile in surprise.
This isn’t the only reason to dress and look your best, of course. But it’s not a bad reason to add to the list.