About the Author: Ryan N. is a professional web developer for (and alum from) the University of Delaware, who keeps a close shave as to not be confused with his strongly-bearded twin brother. He plays guitar and drums, loves going to concerts with his wife, and loves being a dad.
Since becoming the parent of a newborn two years ago, I’ve changed up a lot in my personal style. Your priorities just change. They continue to change. It reframes the importance of some things, along with surfacing the absolute frivolity of others. Stuff that made me used to say “I have to have this,” became, “why did I ever value this?”
What follows are both things I’ve learned through experience, as well as things I WISH someone would have told me heading into fatherhood. Some are small picture, some are big picture. And whether you’re a Dad, thinking about becoming one, or have no interest in kids whatsoever… maybe you’ll still find some value here. Let’s rock and roll.
#1. Stretch is Everything
While these ten tips aren’t in any specific order, this honestly is THE first thing that came to my mind when I started writing this post. When you blow out the crotch of your favorite shorts jumping to chase around your little ones (yes, as yours truly did), your next pair will indeed have stretch. And this goes for more than just casual stuff. Stretch is everywhere, and while it can go overboard sometimes, a little goes a long way. At work, at home, being a Dad or out on date night, the stretch-revolution of the last 10 years has been terrific. (Shown above: The Banana Republic Core Temp Chino in Jupiter Grey)
#2. Simplicity is Freeing
I used to have so many clothes that I wouldn’t have to do laundry except occasionally. Always something new to wear, or an old favorite to uncover. I don’t have time for all that anymore. I streamlined my wardrobe, stripped out the things I just don’t wear anymore, and figured out what my personal “uniform” is. Lots of neutrals. Things that can take me from casual to work — my office is (was?) business casual — and back home. I also Marie-Kondo’ed my storage solutions, including uniform hangers in my closet (as shown above) for easy browsing. If you’re bleary-eyed from a midnight feeding, the last thing you need is one more decision to make in the morning. Help future-you out, and thin out your wardrobe before the littles come.
#3. Versatility is Key
This goes hand-in-hand with simplicity, but versatility is so much more than just going from home to work and back. The ability to wear one piece in multiple outfits, or in multiple levels of formality, just goes a really long way when you want to make as few decisions as possible. I’ve come to appreciate those pieces that serve double- and triple-duty when it comes to pulling their weight, and it helps me keep my outfits fresh with less overall items. I have a ton of neutrals now, which means I can splash in a more colorful piece here and there without overloading my brain. When you’re running out the door trying to find the diaper bag, that swazer you left on your briefcase after work on Friday evening might be exactly what you need to look put-together with a t-shirt and jeans on Saturday afternoon.
#4. Embrace Layers. (and keep a change of clothes in your car)
Layers don’t just look good, they’re hugely functional. They can help regulate your temperature when a cool summer morning turns boiling, AND when a crisp fall day turns bitter cold after the sun goes down. The other massive benefit to layering? If the kiddo spits up, you can peel off a layer instead of having to sit in a messed shirt for the remainder of your visit to wherever you are. Bonus tip – of course, you should have a change of clothes for the kiddo in their bag, but keep a change of clothes for yourself in the car. You might need it!
#5. Say what you will, but Target and Amazon get it done
I know, I know. We should all be mindful about how much money we’re throwing at these enormous retail giants (Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.) And we do shop local when we can. It’s fun shopping local! Yet I’d be willing to bet about 60-70% of my wardrobe right now is from Target and Amazon. Because… they have kids stuff there too. And shopping online is just too darn easy (or, necessary with pandemic restrictions). Once you know your fits, you can order online with ease, because you probably ain’t getting to a retail store much when you’re a brand new dad. You also aren’t going to change your shirt for three days at a time some weeks, so you probably shouldn’t go out in public those weeks. Happens to the best of us! This is also a super opportunity to have some fun with your kiddo’s clothing. Lots of kid stores have “dapper” onesies and shirts for your little dudes, complete with bowties, suspenders, you name it. And they’re usually super cheap, to boot.
#6. Gratitude is Important
There’s a lot to do as a new dad. It can seem overwhelming, if you approach it the wrong way. If you say to yourself, “I HAVE to (change diapers, watch this kid 24/7),” then replace it with, “I GET to (help a tiny person that loves me more than anything, provide a safe space for this tiny person as they explore the world),” see how the mindset shifts? It can be easy to get lost if you don’t remember to focus on the positives. It’ll show on your face and elevate your whole appearance. This is something I learned over a little bit of time, and I think most new Dads will too. But picking up on it as soon as you can will make an enormous difference.
#7. Self-Care is Vital
Obviously, self-care is super important right now for everyone. But when you’re a new parent, it can seem like there’s just not time for you. There is, but you have to be on the lookout for it constantly. Try to keep your grooming routine, have your partner cut your hair (or cut it yourself). Even a few minutes of meditation a day have helped me a lot in terms of self-care. Make the margin. If you’re not your best you inside, your clothes ain’t gonna change nothin’. Oh, and shower sometimes.
#8. Sleep is Essential
Another tip that’s an acquired skill, and not something that’s super possible right at the beginning. You won’t get a whole heck or a lot of sleep, but.. take it when you can get it. Nap when they nap. Sleeping in shifts worked wonders for us and let us each get uninterrupted shut-eye. But figure out some kind of plan so that you can recover and be at your best.
#9. Fitness is Worth It
Yes, it’s a time of little sleep, but if you’re doing your best to stay up on physical fitness, you’ll feel way better when you do get to conk out. As they grow, you want to model strength for them, not move-all-the-weight strength, but consistency and taking care of what you’ve got. Protect the asset. You can’t give your kids everything you have if you don’t fill your own cup to overflowing.
#10. Washing Machines are Your Friend
Looking back, I was SO worried that kids just threw up all the time, got food (or worse) on you, changing diapers, etc, that I put some of my “nicer” clothes away for a while because I didn’t want anything to happen to them. In my experience, it hasn’t been nearly as messy as I imagined it being, but wipes do come in 800-packs for a reason. Not that you should start to burp your baby in a Brooks Brothers suit, but.. remind yourself that most of your wardrobe is washable. Get good at doing laundry. It’s not hard, and once you’re good at the chemistry, the magic of the washing machine will blow your mind.
BONUS: Don’t take it all so seriously
So, I’ll take the last bullet point here and just say.. you don’t *need* to focus on being stylish if it’s taking up your headspace. The above list is to help you free up the headspace needed to concentrate on your new #1 priority, helping a tiny person do all the things. Have some dang fun with it. Drink it all in, because it flies by. I can’t believe my little dude is running around and chatting up a storm already. So wear the college hoodie, go all in on the fanny pack, whatever gets it done! Because that’s what’s most important. Dressing well should be a tool. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There will always be time for a nice suit.