“Dad-Core” as Youth Fashion Rebellion
by: Calvin Anthony-DuScheid
American youth are in a constant state of rebellion against the previous generation. This rebellion manifests in almost every way we participate in culture—the way we talk, the music we listen to and the clothes we wear. For years, the fashion rebellion of America’s kids has meant bucking the mainstream trends that our parents held so dearly. In the 1950s, this meant leather jackets and sneakers. In the ‘70s, inspired by the work of designers like Vivienne Westwood, it meant boots, distressed jeans and grungy hair. Today, however, the fashion industry’s attention is drawn to the “dad-core” trend, which contradicts the entire basis of youth fashion rebellion. The work of Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia has shifted youth fashion into the opposite of edgy, cool and rebellious, while still being fresh.
In the past few years, brands like Balenciaga (along with J.W. Anderson, Our Legacy and many more) have taken the “dad” aesthetic to new levels of popularity in menswear and womenswear. Balenciaga’s F/W ‘17 men’s collection showcased baggy trousers with chunky sneakers (think New Balance on steroids), awkward hoodies styled over plaid button-downs, and even a puffy winter vest—an ultimate homage of nerdy dads everywhere. While I find this collection to be beautiful and seminal, some might not easily see how these runway looks connect to everyday wear. However, what you might see walking up and down Commonwealth Avenue is a subtle influence by “dad-core” ideas on college students’ attire. This new form of fashion rebellion has meant that, rather than blazing a new path of fashion disobedience against the former generation, America’s youth are embracing what had been deemed “uncool” just a few years ago.
The current ubiquity of trends such as stonewashed jeans and all-white sneakers and cozy brands like Champion and New Balance demonstrates how younger generations are defining their style not necessarily by providing something new, but by re-interpreting underappreciated moments in fashion from past years.
I remember when I first bought a pair of Nike Air Force 1’s—what I consider to be a stylish and popular shoe—and my dad reacted by saying they looked like, “something you’d see an old man wearing at the mall”. This reaction, as the disapproval from a parent usually does, made me even more excited about my purchase. His reaction also helps explain the divide between my generation and the one prior.
Decades ago, edgy fashion meant dressing in all black, wearing leather and generally eschewing anything suburban. As time passed, however, trends in fashion that were once fresh and unconventional began to grow stale. As we have seen in lately, the ideas that now seem the newest and most interesting are those that might have been the most boring only a few years ago. “Dad-core” represents the newest form of youth fashion rebellion, one in which the newest “thing” might not actually be new, but old.