Ever since high school I was always more into style than many other American guys. Going to Europe during those years was refreshing. When I first started to develop a taste in style, in high school, it was in the Neo-Prep direction. Back in the early 2000s, this style was popular and it was what spoke to me immediately. In this extreme, over the top, youthful style, I first developed any kind of taste for clothing. It wasn't necessarily refined taste. Hardly. High school boys are not known for nuance. Nevertheless it was in that general Neo-Prep realm that I started to think intentionally about my clothing.
As I got older I weaved here and there, sometimes less in the Preppy realm. When I lived overseas I dressed in a more fashion-forward younger European kind of style. Nevertheless, as I grew older I returned to my first style-home, Ivy/Prep. Yet, it wasn't until I had children that my deeper idea about style, aesthetics and Ivy/Prep broadly, became clear to me. Having children is a clarifying experience. It helps clarify what you actually believe, what you actually think. Before, often, you are playing around a bit. I sometimes say you have preferences but not really beliefs. You have beliefs of course, but they aren't like your beliefs or feelings once you have children. It isn't just you anymore, you are thinking about someone else, and it isn't only your wife. It is your children, your responsibility.
When I became a father to my son, the social-cultural aspects of style and aesthetics - and specifically our style and aesthetics - became more real. Style became less about fabric and detail, more about values and culture. The story of man and culture, life and living started to take over more. The responsibility of communicating culture and a certain way to your children became my life as a father, a life that I didn't have before. Before, when you are single, rarely (unless you are very unique) do you think vertically. You think horizontally. You might think in aggressive horizontal cultural terms but more likely than not, in this world, you probably think more about everything in terms of preference and individual choice. Having kids, to put it simply, forces you to care more drastically about things of greater direct impact. You have to (because no one else will) care what you want your kids to learn, what culture you want them to revere, what values you want them to believe, what ideals you want them to aspire to and what world you want them to inhabit. The responsibility is no one else's, it only yours.
What does it mean to teach your son to wear a tie? What aesthetic values do you teach to your son when he sees you in a sport coat every day? What ideals does he internalize when he sees his father take care to present himself with dignity? What image of adult man does a son learn from his father? What does culture mean? How does style relate to culture? Teaching your son how to polish his shoes, teaching him how to iron his shit, teaching him why we dress ourselves the way we do. Why do we? None of these questions and answers are shallow or trite, these are deep. These are questions related to culture and style, transmission of values across generation in the visual and non-visual realm. It is the act in the present for the sake of the future. This is the job of a father.
I think a great revealing reward of having children is the revelation of what one actually believes. It is being pushed up against the wall and having to make a choice, it is having to really act out what you believe and if there is a discrepancy, having to rectify that to the best of one's ability (no one is perfect). I think when it comes to style, it was a great anti-materialist feeling that came from this. This clarification helped toss aside all the pointless materialism and surface obsession and helped reveal the truth underneath. This clarification helped toss aside the things you claimed to believe but you really just imagined because you were being nice (in your thought).
I am talking about style of course, but also I am not. This is all true about life. Having children robs you of one youthful naivety and then gives you back another kind of deep naivety. That which you are robbed of is a naivety that is young and simple, the naivety which you receive in return is a gift of wonder and beautiful smallness and greatness. The smallness is not a smallness in the sense of atheistic-depressiveness, but smallness in a sense of understanding that you will never understand the mysteries of this life that God blesses us with. It is a smallness of knowing that you don't know everything, you cannot know everything and that is how it is supposed to be. And there is incredible beauty in that. The greatness comes with knowing your responsibility and the stakes. And that these stakes are higher than you understood before, and that while you now understand how little you know in one way, you also understand what you really believe and how much you know in yet another way. There is an incredible revelation of smallness and greatness that comes with becoming a father, knowing your responsibility is one that was shared by the multitude of ancestors that all came before you. Time stretches out, your wonder is expanded, your role is made greater and action more important.