Evening Standard - ES Magazine
Giant puffers, piercings galore, maybe some mud-splattered ballet shoes? All hail fashion’s new stay-at-home dad, breaking free of dull style, says Susie Lau
Another season, another zeitgeist-y moment that grabs the ’gram on fashion show runways. Pregnant women and mothers with their mini-mes on the runway are nothing new these days. Now it’s the turn of the SAHD — the-stay-at-home-dad. Or as probed in Sharon Horgan’s Motherland, SAD, in reference to one of the main characters, Kevin, who spends his life pining after PTA meetings, preparing wholesome kiddy snacks and portraying a drippy extreme of the modern SAHD.
Demna, creative director of Balenciaga, definitely didn’t have that archetype in mind. His SAHD’s had piercings, gender-bending ballerina flats and giant puffers, trudging through a mud-filled stadium with their babies in Balenciaga-branded baby carriers, putting two fingers up at conventional dad attire. In a more gentle turn of the runway SAHD, a dad is seen in crochet knitwear swinging a Bugaboo car seat at Cormio, an up-andcoming knitwear label. As ever, fashion is simply reflecting what’s happening IRL and the message is that dads are taking an equal or lion’s share of parental care need not be reduced to simpering stereotypes.
After the show, a few people DM-ed me immediately to say, ‘This is basically going to be your other half.’ He does have a penchant for hypebeast Lency (short for Balenciaga). Especially when he gets it extra bargainous at Bicester with me enabling most purchases because well, erm… that’s my job — to ‘influence’ the sales of easy buys like hoodies and socks so that the designers get to work on more fanciful endeavours.
A Balenciaga baby carrier might well be a step too far. What are the straps like or the head support? Turns out they only held dolls in them for the purpose of the show, so
I suspect they’re there to facilitate the broader narrative, which is that Demna is probably seeing a new gen of dads who aren’t hemmed in by nuclear-family norms. It’s timely. In our friendship group, the number of SAHDs or dads who take on a 50 per cent share of childcare far outweigh the dated model of a father as absent breadwinner and occasional disciplinarian, or rough-andtumble dad who just comes in and flings their kids up in the air like a fun uncle. Not to mention the rise of gay couples and their often arduous journeys to parenthood and subsequent layered experiences of being fathers.
We wince at comments of, ‘Oh, isn’t he hands-on’ or ‘Wow, he’s so helpful!’ when a dad changes a nappy or knows the ins and outs of a Tommee Tippee bottle warmer. We know full well that praise would never be applied to a mother who apparently just does these things on autopilot. No, he will not get a badge and a pat on the back for knowing what detergent to use for baby vom/milk laundry because the labour division is very much practised.
But just as mums want to break free from ‘mumming’ labels and reach into the ‘I’m not a regular mum, I’m a cool mum!’ cookie jar, I suspect so do dads. Hence why Balenciaga had them trussed up in oversized puffers, mad jeans and mud-splashed ballerina shoes. And so, as I enter this final stretch of waiting for impending newborn parenthood, (second time for me, first for him), I’ve been keen to stress that yes, you can ‘dad’ in whatever garms you like. Moreover, you don’t have to enter an isolated phase when your persona is defined by the baby jiggling on your chest or the pram you’re pushing. He may well buy into the Balenciaga baby carrier if they go into production.
“We wince at comments of, ‘Oh, isn’t he hands-on,’ or, ‘Wow, he’s so helpful!’ when a dad changes a nappy”