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The M Dash

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What My Father Taught Me About Style

Dads can be fashion icons too. Just ask M.M.’s Senior Project Manager, Sofia.

By Sofia Rainaldi

As a six-year-old, I liked to pretend I wasn’t strong enough to force my own feet into ski boots. Not a big problem, but a specific one. I’d go wandering through the kitchen to find my father, who would hold the stiff boots in place so I could step into them.

I liked the ritual of getting ready with my dad. He would work his way down the line of kids, snapping buckles into place and making sure our helmets were cinched, and I’d feel a little more secure as I headed off into the snow. I think I was still pretending not to know how to put on my boots a decade later. 

My father taught me many important things: buy good olive oil, cheer on your partner, fight for causes you believe in. But he also gets credit for teaching me how to dress. I’m lucky enough to have a mother who set an elegant example for all of us, but I’d do a disservice to my father to omit what he taught me—the practical side of elegance known as preparedness. For Father’s Day, I’ve pulled together five specific things I learned from him. 

Choose Pieces That Can Keep Up With You

My dad isn’t one for sitting still. He’ll head out most mornings to bike a quick thirty miles—and once, he notably completed a race with what turned out to be a broken collarbone. Few things slow him down, and his clothes can’t be one of them. Thus, rule one: To handle whatever is coming your way, you need clothes that work with you, not against you. Will it stay dry in a rainstorm? Can it keep you warm if it turns icy?  Does it breathe on a hot day?

When I choose clothes now, I have my mother’s style in mind, but my father’s realism, as well.  This perspective has helped me find trench coats that stand up to damp city streets and a coat that gets me through even the most arctic of winters, as well as dresses that last years instead of seasons, and sharp jackets that still allow me to stretch.

Tailoring Matters

A great fit keeps you from looking rumpled. Dad was the first one to explain to me how a blazer should fit, walking me through sleeve length and inseam. He demonstrated that, when done well, a tailored sleeve provides the perfect accompaniment to sentence-punctuating hand gestures (a well-researched art of his). Cuffing and rolling accomplishes the work of a tailor some of the time, but if it’s an investment piece that will be pulled out on important occasions, it’s worth finding someone to get the fit exactly right. 

 

Don’t Lean on All-Black Outfits

This rule actually came from my grandfather, an eminently well dressed man who also taught us never to wear a hat inside and to carry a handkerchief. As a New Yorker, it feels sinful to write this, but I have to admit he has a point. Chic, sharp, cool—an all-black outfit can be these things with aplomb. But approachable, reliable, and put-together works just as well in deep blues, soft greys, and neat camel browns. Black paired with navy isn’t forbidden, and the combination can be just as sleek, while a little softer. Again, please don’t tell New York I said this.

 

Menswear Should Be Comfortable

“Menswear” can conjure up memories of YSL’s Le Smoking suit—cigarette-thin pants with sleek black blazers. But it can also be loose linen button-downs with the sleeves rolled up, soft corduroy pants cinched with a belt, or structured wool coats that keep out any breeze. It’s clothing designed to look powerful, that happens to be comfortable. These are the silhouettes I find myself looking for more and more, and they’re the ones that I’m grateful my father let me purloin from his closet. 

You Need a Jacket

I write this reluctantly, as my well-worn morning routine growing up included insisting to my father, every time I left the house, that I didn’t need another layer. It wasn’t cold! I was tough! I was just running to the store! These were lines of argument that rarely worked, but that I stuck by anyway. I can see why he made sure I took a jacket regardless—looking for a little guarantee that his rambling offspring would be safe and warm wherever she went. Besides, who knew who’d be controlling the thermostat?

Dad: You were right. I did need a jacket. I’ll bring one tomorrow, too; thank you for reminding me. 

 

Written By

Sofia Rainaldi

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