Like daughter, like father — we set fashion trends for our parents, too


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Meluch

The author and her father.

Every Christmas Eve, I used to pick out my father’s tie he would wear to mass. It was a tradition that started when I was a measly little first-grader. 

He had just assumed I was picking out the penguin tie for him to wear because as a child, of course I would love a tie with penguins wearing Santa hats on it.

The man I know as my father loves to wear an olive green suit with shoulder pads. It is the suit he wears every Christmas Eve to church, the family party afterwards and any other special occasion. 

At six feet tall, the only time someone saw a man at that height wearing shoulder pads was if he were on a football field. As a first-grader, even I knew the suit was an outdated fashion statement. 

Maybe I loved the penguin tie when I was in first grade. Maybe I still love it now, but every year as I grab it out of his closet, I hope that it’ll distract others from the hideous olive green suit. 

At a young age I developed an eye for fashion; I thank my three older sisters and my mom for that. And I know my dad thanks me. 

“You’re wearing that?” I would say to him before trips to the mall, on vacation or before parent-teacher conference nights. 

Years and years of studying my dad’s fashion sense motivated him to start studying mine. We banter back and forth whenever he is wearing a hideous mock turtleneck or when I am wearing a pair of jeans ripped “a little too much.” But deep down, we admire our gifts of style. 

No kid wants to ever admit “Yeah, my parents got style,” but my dad does have some good taste. The man loves to shop. He loves to take his time sifting through department store aisles and looking for the best sale. 

He loves his brand-new Dr. Martens. 

It only took me buying three pairs of my own for my Kennedy-era fashionista of a father to take interest. 

“You kids are always wearing those clunky boots, but are they comfortable?” he would ask with a slight insult and a raised brow, his curiosity not as subtle as he thinks. 

My “Docs” — as the kids call them — are the comfiest, most durable shoes I own. I’d hike in these boots. I have hiked in these boots. I’ve hiked with my father while wearing these boots.

The curiosity didn’t last long and my dad had to try for himself. Last week, I opened my phone to a text that read, “Bought my first Martens at DSW for $89.”

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Meluch

A picture of a grandfatherly looking brown pair of ankle boots, sitting on our coffee table surrounded by toddler toys and a stack of diapers, accompanied the big announcement. But there it was — the black and yellow stitching on the sides. The popular trademark stitch found on Dr. Martens. 

If there was any fashion trend I would want my father to take from me, I’m flattered that it’s my clunky boots. It’s one fashion trend more than my sister’s that has had an influence on my near 60-year-old father. I take pride in my statements. 

My dad takes pride in his Docs too. Since buying them, he hasn’t stopped talking about them, researching and planning future purchases for new pairs. “Do you know if there is actually a Dr. Marten store?” he texted me a day after his big-boy purchase. 

After breaking them in, he hasn’t been shy to give me little updates. “Like my boots so far, was told they will last. Got mink oil if you ever need.” Dr. Martens and text updates are my dad’s latest endeavors, it seems. 

“Do you have Doc Marten Chelsea boots 1276. If not I will buy for you.” I was giddy at my dad’s offer. I didn’t know the boots had searchable serial numbers — of course that was something a baby boomer would use to their benefit. I typed in the number and saw the pair of black boots I already own. A fashioned-themed dad joke. 

After all the years of telling him what to wear or mocking his choices, he’s not obliged to remind me that a lot of my clothes and articles I wear are something from back in his day. 

He sent a picture of his box, crinkled between crumpled tissue paper and cardboard, and there was a piece of text I’ve never seen on one of my boxes that read “Ever since 1 April 1960, when Dr. Martens boots first rolled off the production line and onto the feet of postmen, policemen and everyday workers, our reputation for durability has become footwear folklore.” 

I just bought the shoes because I liked them and they made me stand a little bit taller. Little did I know they were made one year before my dad was born. Maybe they’re more of a staple of his generation than they are of mine. 

But I saw them first. 

 “You know, I used to have those same red high-top Chucks you have out there laying in the garage, if I knew you wanted a pair I would’ve saved you mine,” I remember him saying to me once, a comment intended to remind me of his fashion wit and that I have too many shoes. 

Statements of my dad’s era sometimes still find their way into my closet. Oversized jean jackets, flared jeans and bomber coats are all something I’ve seen my dad wear in printed photos, that I too have adopted. Trends repeat themselves. Kids often take after their parents. 

I even somehow found myself rifling through my dad’s old clothes. I’m known to “borrow” some of his oversized sweaters, denim jackets, and dusty t-shirts. 

To me, they were handy clothing articles. To others around the ages of our parents, they are collectors’ items. 

I’ll never forget when a lady at Starbucks offered to pay me $40 for my dad’s vintage “Save the Planet” Hard Rock Cafe jacket — which is actually worth somewhere between $100 and $300 dollars now. 

“I bought that before you were born, Bec, don’t you dare lose that.” A Liberty Brewery t-shirt from 1998 somehow managed to find itself in my suitcase when I came back to college after winter break. 

But like younger generations take after older generations’ fashion trends, they take after ours too — although we make it look a little cooler. 

I’m looking forward to the day where my dad visits me again; he will blend in perfectly here on DePaul’s campus.

Through the wave of students marching down the stairs at the Fullerton L stop, mixed in with the swarm of leather boots lined with black and yellow stitching will be a six-foot tall,  gray-haired man, earnestly wearing an olive green suit with shoulder pads and a fresh pair of Dr. Martens.