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Father Knows Best: The Scoop on the Dadcore Trend

In and among the streetwear hype beasts and designer darlings that parade outside of fashion weeks lies a growing style tribe that is, in essence, giving the middle finger to fashion norms.

Meet the Dadcore—a Gen Z or Millennial-aged male who favors basics like bucket hats, shapeless T-shirts, bottoms with cargo pockets and unattractive footwear.

A spin-off of Normcore, which entered the sartorial vernacular in 2013 and gave rise to the rebirth of the Birkenstock sandal, Adidas’ white Stan Smith sneaker and mom jeans, Dadcore is one part ironic homage to the ‘parentals’ and one part backlash to the $1,000 sneakers touted by Versace and Balenciaga.

At Project in Las Vegas last week, Brian Trunzo, senior consultant for WGSN, along with Keith Abrams, buyer for Brooklyn-based boutique Kinfolk, and Jeff Scott, brand director of FairPlay, traced back the roots of Dadcore and how the anti-fashion trend may evolve in future seasons.

Origins of Dadcore

“It’s a rebellion from fashion and streetwear,” Abrams said.

Dadcore, he explained, is for people who refuse to join the streetwear race. They don’t want to look like they made an effort, or stood in a line for an ‘it’ item.

Dressed in khaki pants and socks with embroidered Gucci slides, he said he adopted the look “out of pure laziness.” He added, “You willfully not trying to participate and by doing that, you’re setting the trend.”

However, despite Dadcores’ anti-designer ethos, luxury brands are in on the joke.

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Abrams sees Dadcore looks trickling down from high fashion houses, which are being ironic themselves.

“They’re trolling the consumer so to speak with ill-fitting and stuff that maybe doesn’t look great the body,” he said.

Scott pinned the popularity of Dadcore to millennials’ fondness for irony and nostalgia. “[Parents] are your biggest driving force of knowledge. You are a reflection of your parents,” Scott said.

While younger generation tend to poke fun of their parents’ style, he admits that “we kind of low key thought it was dope,” calling out the “weird” T-shirts dads wore during his childhood tucked into Levi’s or Rider jeans with Nike’s Monarch sneakers.

And now adult children are comfortable with admitting it was cool. “At the end of the day, it’s a nod to how cool your dad wasn’t but was,” Scott said.

Dadcore brands

Dadcore offers brands new opportunities to share their stories with young consumers.

Scott named Levi’s as a brand that resonate with the Dadcore audience. “You learn about denim through Levi’s,” he said. “They were the originators of it. No one can ever say they built a jean before Levi’s.”

The history behind RealTree, a 58-year-old camouflage print, inspired FairPlay to create an athleisure line of camouflage joggers, hoodies and mock neck shirts.

“RealTree is first original woodland registered camo that’s meant specifically for hunting. It’s meant to be worn as a hunter…but it’s always been this normal thing that people in the country wore. They go to [Bass Pro Shop] and Dick’s and they pick up RealTree because it’s what they’ve always wore,” Scott said. “To me, there’s a heritage there and a legacy that you want to keep intact, but I also want to bring it to a new consumer who has never seen it before.”

Outdoor performance brands that were popular in millennials’ youth like The North Face and Keen are part of the Dadcore tribe, as well as heritage and utilitarian brands like Alpha Industries and Carhartt.

Kinfolk sells Carhartt, which Abrams said appeals to a “huge cross-section of people.”

“The brand means something different to each person. It can be just workwear and completely functional or it can be something that has no connection to actual workwear but is a big part of your life,” he said.

Look for the offbeat

Dad style may be based on items that are easy and can be worn every day, but Scott noted that silhouettes are just askew enough to standout.

A boxy T-shirt or a short-sleeve anorak may look strange at first glance, but the eye comes around to it a season or two later. “It might be off-putting to you, but it might be worth trying three of them in your store because at the end of the day it’s something that could be around the corner,” Scott said.

Footwear is an easy way for retailers to try out Dadcore. “It’s the entry point for a lot of people,” Abrams said.

However, he expects there will be a lot of regrets when people look back and see themselves wearing chunky sneakers.

“It’s not an attractive silhouette,” Abrams said, adding that consumers will eventually feel bad about investing in items that are not designed to make them look better.

The Seinfeld effect

Still don’t understand Dadcore? Look at Jerry Seinfeld, who Scott said coined the look back in the ’90s in his sitcom, Seinfeld. He said the comedian, along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, Elaine Benes, are the epitome of what looks cool now.

“I was actually going back and looking at Seinfeld for inspiration. And the way that Elaine dresses is next level dope,” he said.

Perhaps Momcore is around the corner.