Is dad dressing - in all its diamond jumper glory - the emerging trend of 2021?

Women are choosing to dress up like their fathers this winter

Harry Styles and Phoebe Waller Bridge
Harry Styles and Phoebe Waller Bridge in the music video for his new single

Browse the websites of most men’s magazines and sooner or later you’ll come across an article filled with tips on how to avoid dressing like your dad. According to GQ that means buying Breton T-shirts and well-cut jeans, while Esquire says it’s all about finding the right coat and boots for you. 

Maybe it’s because I’m a woman who doesn’t yet have children, but once restrictions lift I won’t be shying away from raiding my father’s wardrobe, and until then I'll be emulating it. In fact, I predict this is going to be a bonanza year for dad dressing, and not just for men. 

Some of it is down to a transformation in our lifestyles. If stereotypical dad behaviour means sitting in an armchair reading the paper, pottering around the garden or snoozing in front of the television then there are few among us who aren’t ticking all three boxes.  

But it also has to do with catwalk trends and designers who clearly took inspiration from our new stay-at-home lifestyles and swapped dresses and heels for comfortable loafers and sensible slacks. Sweater vests were everywhere, from Jil Sander who debuted chunky white roll-neck designs, to Fendi, who presented argyle wool sleeveless jumpers with lots of gold jewellery. Trousers were high-waisted (what else?), tweed jackets were ubiquitous and thick diamond pattern jumpers were favoured by even the sleekest Parisian fashion houses.

Jacket, £49.99, Mango; sweater vest, £29.99, Mango

Although the real sign dad dressing – if not dad dancing – was the trend of the season came on New Year’s Day. Easing away the first hint of January blues was Harry Styles, who released the aptly-named, wonderfully cheerful Treat People With Kindness single on the first day of the year, starring none other than Phoebe Waller Bridge. 

My own father has sadly never worn a silver glitter jacket or a shirt with embellished silk cuffs – if he had I would spend a lot more time soliciting his opinion on the fashion industry – but other than a few eyebrow-raising details, both Styles and Waller-Bridge’s outfits in the video are decidedly pro-dad. 

The star of the show is the diamond-print sleeveless jumpers they both wear (Gucci, naturally) but the high-waisted wide-leg slacks with matching jackets and the sensible shoes are almost as memorable. Take away their tap-dancing ability and the ubiquitous martinis, and make their suits a few shades darker, and they could be two middle-aged men discussing golf down the pub. 

Sweater vest, £34, Urban Outfitters

So how do you do dad dressing like television and music's two most in-demand stars rather than your actual dad? The key is in the cut. My mother used to berate my father for buying trousers that were too wide and cut too high on the hips and while that has turned out to be the style of the season, she was right in saying that proportions are everything. If you want a pair that are loose on the legs, then make sure they are cinched-in tightly on the waist and end below the ankles otherwise they will swamp you. 

Arket has a pair of wide-leg beige women’s slacks that are loose in all the right places and sum up the tone of the season – they would look great with a black poloneck or a simple T-shirt. A favourite of mine for spring is Zimmerman’s belted, linen loose trousers that look both very comfortable and very Harry Styles. Although designs like this are not hard to find from Cos and Victoria Beckham to Ted Baker and La Redoute. 

Slacks, £59, Arket

The jackets are almost as important. There are fantastic deals on suit jackets in the January sales this year although if you’re looking for something you can wear to the park, then a tweed number is your best bet. Anine Bing’s ‘dad in the Eighties’ design has wide shoulder pads and a thick houndstooth print, while Mango is offering the sort of chunky tweed jacket that makes me think of Hugh Grant in the Nineties. 

But the pinnacle of dad dressing, as Gucci knows all too well, is a good old diamond-printed sweater vest. Urban Outfitters has a remarkably similar style for a tenth of the price, and I bought a chunky beige one from Zara at the beginning of the season and have been wearing it at least once a week since (particularly useful, it turns out, if you have a Zoom call and realise your shirt isn't ironed). 

My Instagram feed has also been awash with celebrities in sweater vests from Daisy Edgar-Jones to Alexa Chung. The main styling tip I would take from them is that, unless you are starring in a Harry Styles music video, it is best to limit the number of dad items you wear at once as nobody wants dad-overload. Pair your sweater vest and shirt with slim cut jeans or a silk skirt, and your wide-leg slacks with a thin ribbed poloneck and gold earrings. 

Happily dads are kings of practicality and if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that feeling good is just as important as looking good – and much like dad jokes and dad moves there a few things more comforting than pulling on one of your father’s jumpers. And in a year where so many of us are missing our parents, perhaps dressing like dad is the next best thing.