The Case for Actual Dad Shoes

Just like the old man himself, the New Balance 990 deserves a round of applause.

I picture my dad in Sperrys. He's not a dyed-in-the-wool blue blood like some of his friends from the Main Line, outside Philly. But he certainly dressed the part back in the day. Brooks Brothers to marry my mom. Faded jeans and L.L.Bean chamois shirts to wrangle the kids. And, of course, the boat shoes. Practical. Dependable. Unassuming. The first pair of “dad shoes” in my life.

I was appalled by them. Dads aren’t cool! So I got into sneakers: Vans, Chucks, Nikes. Then, in the middle 2010s in New York, a few of my best-dressed buddies started wearing New Balance 990v4’s. Even though these weren’t the dad shoes I grew up with, they were dad shoes nonetheless. Practical. Dependable. Unassuming. And . . . cool? Maybe I was just chasing the trend, but I got my own pair, and I loved them. A few years later, when I headed to the hospital for my son’s arrival, they were on my feet. For one thing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear dad shoes while becoming a dad (the very act of which, I realize, is a dad joke). But for another, I anticipated standing by the bed, running out for essentials, and doing all the other stuff dads-to-be do while their partner puts in the real work. I knew my 990’s were up to the task.

New Balance Made in USA 990v5 Core


There’s a theory, often proven true, that guys freeze in place wardrobe-wise when they have kids. My son just turned three, and my closet looks notably different now from how it looked the day he came home from the hospital. But my 990’s remain. Maybe it’s their comfort, or their endlessly malleable aesthetic. Maybe I have indeed frozen in place, just a little. Maybe the same thing happened to my dad—he found a go-to shoe, then I arrived, then my sister, and, bam, dad shoes.


For my son, the 990’s will be the first dad shoes in his life. And if he’s anything like me, he’ll reject them. His loss. But maybe in 30 years he’ll find himself lacing up a pair of 990v13’s and think, Man, Dad actually had a thing or two figured out. I mean, hell, I love L.L. Bean chamois shirts and faded jeans now.


Is it time to get a pair of boat shoes?

FromEsquire US

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About The Author
Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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