In Defense of “Dad Pants”

In a new on-line marketing campaign for Dockers khaki pants, Sara Harbaugh, wife of San Francisco 49ers football coach Jim Harbaugh, intones in mock seriousness,

I’d like to talk with you about a serious condition affecting countless men in our country. I’m talking, of course, about “Dad Pants.” The pleated, shapeless tragedy that too many men find themselves in every day.

According to the Docker’s ad, this terrible condition affecting husband Jim and his fellow American men can be easily treated. Fortunately, Dockers has the antidote: an entire wardrobe of stylish go-to casual slacks, all designed to fit perfectly and help dads find their swagger again. The ad appeals to women and families as much as to men: wives can now upgrade their husbands’ attire with more style, and children no longer have to be seen in public with dad wearing baggy jeans and khakis. How embarrassing!

This latest fashion revolt against “Dad Pants” had its genesis back in 2009, when President Obama was maligned for wearing loose-fitting (yet comfortable) blue jeans to throw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball’s All Star Game in Chicago. Asked later why he chose to wear those “Dad Jeans” before a national TV audience, the President acknowledged, “I guess I’m a little frumpy.” Besides, he added, “I hate to shop.”

So how does this everyday dad come out on the “Dad Pants” debate? I must admit I identify more with the President on this one than with the thousands of fashionistas crying fashion faux pas. Here’s why:

First, like the President, I hate to shop.

Second, guess which type of fit I chose in my pants on a recent Saturday morning that is typical of my weekend days.

• Up at 6 am to drop my son off at a 7 am lacrosse practice.
• Back home by 7:15 to give the dogs a good hour walk.
• Stuff some scrambled eggs in my mouth before running back to pick up my son from lacrosse practice.
• Take the same son home so he can change into his soccer kit, and drive him to a late morning soccer game, during which I pace the sidelines for almost two hours.
• Bring son back home and make lunch for the family.
• Debate whether to watch an hour of the baseball game on TV or do some yard work. Yard work trumps, as usual.
• Take the other son to his tennis match. Watch him play for two hours sitting on an incredibly uncomfortable aluminum bleacher seat.
• Bring son home; chauffeur both sons to meet up with friends for the evening.
• Return home. At last, time for Dad to kick back! Dine on leftover pizza and a cold beer. Settle down to watch an evening baseball game, but fall asleep on the couch after only 15 minutes. Wake up in wrinkled clothes about two hours later.

So, you tell me, which pants did I wear that day – my comfortable, pleated “Dad Pants,” or my tailored casual slacks – the ones that bind in the crotch after an hour of wearing? Enough said.

Third, money. I have a home mortgage and car payments, school tuition fees, and am saving for college. In the grand scheme of budget priorities for my family, Dad’s wardrobe stipend comes last.

Fourth, let’s face facts. I’m no longer the svelte, athletic buff guy I was in my twenties. I don’t have the time to work out one to two hours each day as I did back then, so tight-fitting, tailored clothes don’t have the same appeal for me (or the same appeal for others.) So why don’t I work out more? See reason #2 above!

Fifth, let’s face more facts. My wife and I don’t have a vibrant, going-out-on-the-town social life anymore where I can show off my fashion style. We now spend more time on our teenagers’ social lives than we do our own. Chauffeur duties on Saturday nights have a way of spoiling date night with your spouse. Besides, if I do unintentionally embarrass my kids in public wearing baggy “Dad Pants,” isn’t that what dads are supposed to do? Embarrassing my teenage sons is one of the few social pleasures I have left!

And finally, did I forget to mention? I hate shopping!

So there you have it. Personal vanity will have to take a backseat to personal comfort for this husband and father. Wearing comfortable, practical, and inexpensive clothes is more important to me than the opportunity to make a fashion statement in public. So bring on the “Dad Pants” for this dad. With extra room in the seat, please!