Daniel attempts to teach his 'dadcore' to an unimpressed Varsity fashion editorDaniel Hilton

I count myself lucky that our beloved terrorising TikTokers of Cambridge haven’t quite evolved their content enough to subject me to a ‘fit check’. Having my (excellent) music taste shunned in their comment sections is something I can deal with, but my lack of fashion sense is perhaps indefensible. After all, Varsity’s own fashion editor (only a pathetic four pints in) once told me I was “channelling dad-core” and that my loyalty to the quarter-zip jumper wasn’t in line with what’s apparently fashionable these days. But I had the last laugh as I watched her try to navigate the damp path to the Eagle without getting her frankly unrealistically long flares wet.

“Dressing like a 40-year-old one pint away from a mid-life crisis has become a part of who I am”

Despite destroying any notion of mine that my quarter-zip was the peak of fashion, this chat has ended up being a bit of a road to Damascus moment for me – dressing like a 40-year-old one pint away from a mid-life crisis has become a part of who I am, and I quite like it. In a sea of white tank tops, Doc Martens, and ‘stylish’ moustaches, dressing like a dad is a safe haven between the Sidge runway and the NASA t-shirt-filled Physics department.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely not trying to argue that I look fashionable. I do not. But the magic of dressing like this is to be inoffensive: to roam the streets of Cambridge in a happy middle ground where the better dressed among us won’t bat an eye, and the perhaps less creatively dressed don’t break their concentration as they process lab data on their 12-kilogram behemoth laptops. The quarter-zip is a cloak of invisibility – you’re dressed sensibly enough to chat to your college Master, yet also excitingly enough to go to the Met Gala, (so long as you stay behind the fences and blend in with the other hangover-breath-ridden burned-out journalists).

A pitiful attempt by a Varsity fashion editor to imitate Daniel's styleLeo Kang

However, despite it being a key item, the quarter-zip jumper isn’t the only weapon in the arsenal for my fellow prematurely-aged students. Far from it. The quarter-zip is more dagger than bazooka - the real big guns are scarves and socks.

“The quarter-zip is more dagger than bazooka - the real big guns are scarves and socks”

The scarf is perhaps the most expressive piece of clothing a not-dad can wear, it fits with everything in your wardrobe and can make your middle-of-the-road outfit morph into something from Christian Dior’s wildest dreams. What transforms the simple scarf from a practical way to fend off the winter wind alone is its pairing with your trusty quarter-zip. The helpful neck flaps of the garment already protect you from the elements, so the scarf sitting atop then becomes the purest form of fashion – one without any purpose. Not only that, the scarf also tactfully adds in splashes of colour and exciting patterns to the often depressive and anaemic block colours you’ll find in the menswear department. The scarf, then, is a transformative item, performing alchemy on your basic outfit and turning it to (almost) gold.


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The pièce de résistance, however, of my wardrobe, as well as anyone who inexplicably wants to emulate me, is the sock drawer. It is here that any not-dad’s most fruity displays are found. A plain navy suit can be paired with black socks, but what’s the point of being so boring? The socks, like the scarf, add a splash of excitement with their colourful spots, rainbow stripes, and - my personal favourite - dumpling pattern. More than that, the socks also help us remember who we’re dressing for – I’ve, much to my displeasure, never been asked to show off my exciting socks, but that never stops me from finding my own joy in wearing them. I’m emancipating myself from the societies of control that fashion can often have, and instead focusing on what makes me happy and what makes me comfortable, whether or not it would be seen on the front cover of Vogue.

Ultimately then, ‘dad-core’ is about embracing the awkward middle ground between high and low fashion and making it your own. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously as you carefully craft the most inoffensive outfit known to man. It’s about perfectly mismatching your socks and knowing your uncuffed jeans won’t show it. And most importantly, it’s about cherishing the single time that a lady in Pret compliments your scarf.