A Chicago dad wonders if it’s square to be hip

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their 3-year-old daughter Viva, who is skeptical of all these old guys trying to be cool.

I got gussied up to take my daughter to the park the other day. I’m a bit of a dandy, you see, so if I’m going to go out in public, I prefer it be in some slim cut pants, all-stars, a fitted jacket, aviators, and a scarf in the best Parisian knot I can muster. And if my wife and I are fashion plates, Viva is a fashion… platelet? So she was looking awfully smart herself when we rolled onto the playground all pattern blocked and behatted. “I’m going to win fatherhood today,” I thought. “I’m going show this park that a Dad can have style.”

Imagine my dismay when most of the dads in the park were… cool?

What’s was happening? My hopes of being quietly revered for my haberdashery were dashed! A dozen other men pushing middle age (and strollers) were there, most of them with hipster beards, fatigue jackets, flat caps, messenger bags, tattoo sleeves, and low-rise jeans. But this wasn’t a bunch of twenty-something craft beer geeks, it was a bunch of guys on the wrong side of 35, and this wasn’t the Old Town School of Folk Music, this was a park. I thought I’d be shaming a bunch of paunchy guys with pleated khakis, woven belts, Bears sweatshirts and Super Cuts. Instead, I was struggling to even stand out.

The same thing happened to me later that week at Viva’s co-op preschool. I wasn’t dazzling some boring slobs with my artsy jobs and deliberate stubble, I was talking about improv and garage bands and composting with other interracial couples, with same sex couples, with couples wearing statement glasses. All the cool kids!

Why is this trend of parents not looking like sad, shambling, time-travelers distressing to me? It’s not just my ego talking – it’s also my fear that, if looking hip is something Dads do, it must not be hip anymore!

Is talking about podcasts the new “telling a bad pun to a waitress”? Is a sweet snap-brim the new “comb over”? Maybe clothes from Zara are the new Arnold Palmer collection from JC Penney! Microbrews, ukeleles, vinyl – are these new model airplanes, ham radios, and vinyl?

Just as Groucho Marx didn’t want to be part of a club that would accept him as a member, I fear that being a “Cool Dad” is probably a moving goalpost most men can never achieve. If it seems like we’ve all achieved it, that goal post must have slid further afield than any of us realize, right?

Maybe the hippest thing would be to throw on cross-trainers, dockers, and a blousy button down and start talking about escrow and cholesterol. Maybe all the kids are laughing at the old men and the infused spirits they keep behind the David Foster Wallace novels. Maybe once you’ve become a Dad you can’t be Johnny Depp anymore – you’re automatically Jerry Orbach.

I’d like to think I still have a chance – a chance to be admired, a chance to be relevant, a chance to be more than the guy who knows how the car seat clicks in.

Until someone assures me I’ve still got a shot at hipness, I’ll just keep wondering if Bon Iver is the new Jimmy Buffet.

You can CALL the White Dads now on their hotline:  (347) 766-3866. Leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast! If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe to the WDP podcast for free on iTunes! You can also listen at whitedadproblems.com. (Do note that the show has a potty mouth and is definitely for Over 17 Only.)

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