Style

TV sitcom-dad style: A timeline of looks better than the unofficial dad uniform

From George Jefferson and Dr. Seaver to Rogelio and Appa, these TV pops have us taking a second glance.

From George Jefferson and Dr. Seaver to Rogelio and Appa, these TV pops have us taking a second glance

(Source, L to R: Warner Bros. Television/ABC; Thunderbird Films/CBC; Poppy Productions/CBS; Embassy Television/CBS)

TV sitcom dads have been appearing on our screens since around the time of Father Knows Best in the 1950s. Something father did know best, apparently, was that the standard dad uniform consisted of a button-down shirt and pants.   

Throughout the decades, from Home Improvement's Tim "the Toolman" Taylor to Phil Dunphy in Modern Family, sitcom dads have mostly sported the unofficial dad uniform, unless they were sporting actual uniforms, like Carl Winslow's police garb in Family Matters

As both style and sitcoms have evolved, some things really haven't changed for TV fathers fashion. It took a unique character to bust out of the sitcom-dad style mould! And their quintessential looks are worth revisiting. Here's a look at some more memorable sitcom-dad style, and when these more fashionable fathers and father figures arrived on TV.

1970s

(Source: Embassy Television/CBS)

George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) from The Jeffersons was the family patriarch, who was always in a sharp three-piece suit, and on his snazziest days, with a fresh carnation affixed to his lapel. At home, the dry-cleaning tycoon was no less stylish, relaxing in smoking jackets and ascots, naturally.

 

(Source: Tandem Productions/CBS)

The father of the family on Good Times, James Evans Sr. (John Amos), did appear in classic plaid button-downs — but he sported a much groovier wardrobe of velour shirts, corduroy pants and newsboy caps too.

 

1980s 

(Source: Warner Bros. Television/ABC)

On Growing Pains, Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) worked as a psychiatrist out of his home, so his wardrobe always seemed business casual: patterned sweaters, pastel-coloured button-ups, and turtlenecks under blazers. He looked cozy, but always ready to duck into his home office to treat a patient. 

 

(Source: Michael Jacobs Productions/NBC)

Sorry to Paul Reiser, but Greg Evigan's character Joey Harris was the stylish draw in My Two Dads. As one of the possible biological dads raising Nicole (Reiser's Michael Taylor being the other), Joey, an artist, had a flair for fashion, as illustrated in wildly printed shirts, bright colours and layered outfits. 

 

(Source: Miller-Boyett Productions/ABC)

Straight man Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) was indeed the actual father to D.J., Stephanie and Michelle in Full House, but their father-figure uncles, Jesse (John Stamos) and Joey (Dave Coulier), shone on the fashion front. Jesse was the cooler, hair-obsessed rock-and-roll uncle in leather, while Joey was the comedian you could count on to appear in vivid patterned shirts and sweaters.

 

1990s

(Source: NBC Productions/NBC)

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Philip Banks (James Avery) was dad to Carlton, Ashley, Hilary and Nicky, and a father figure to his nephew Will. As a lawyer and, later, a judge, he sported well-cut suits. At home in his Bel-Air mansion, he'd wear polo shirts, cozy sweaters and sweater vests, and the occasional track suit. 

 

2000s 

(Source: 20th Century Fox Television/ABC)

Modern Family's Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), father to Lily along with husband Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), might have been at home in button-down shirts — but not the same ol' variety. Sometimes seen in paisley shirts, other times in a shirt with contrasting cuff or collar, he served up a surprise in place of the usually staid "dad shirt."

 

(Source: Universal Television/NBC)

30 Rock's Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) was outlandish and erratic and the father to sons Tracy Jr. and George Foreman, and daughter Virginia. While at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, he could be found sporting a giant gold chain with his initials, oversized sweatsuits and puffy vests. 

 

2010s 

(Source: Poppy Productions/CBS)

Jane the Virgin's Rogelio De La Vega (Jaime Camil) was a telenovela star, and the father to Jane and Baby — maybe even in that order. The stylish, selfie-ready Rogelio was always turned out, knew he looked good in lavender, and that he did not pop in peach. 

 

(Source: Wilmore Films/ABC)

On black-ish, Dre Johnson knows he's got style and the coolest streetwear and sneakers in the game. Dre wears all colours, patterns and styles because he's confident in almost any look. And it runs in the family: the entire Johnson crew — wife Rainbow and kids Zoey, Junior, Jack, Diane and Devante — are style icons in the Los Angeles neighbourhood they live in. 

 

(Source: Steve Wilkie/Not A Real Company/CBC)

The move from fashionable New York City to Schitt's Creek didn't change Johnny Rose's habit of wearing an impeccable suit. Without the family's riches, David and Alexis's dad (Eugene Levy) still sported pinstripe suits, perfectly pressed shirts, and pocket squares — even when working at the quite humble Rosebud Motel.

 

(Source: Thunderbird Films/CBC)

We may be looking at a plaid button-down shirt here, except instead of a dad uniform, it's a work uniform for Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee). As he's working in his store, Kim's Convenience, the shirt is open, his eyeglasses are around his neck, and a T-shirt underneath is mismatched. It's a utilitarian but comfortable outfit of choice, perfect for hours spent stocking shelves and serving customers who receive his standard farewell: "OK, see you."


Kelly Boutsalis is a full-time freelance journalist, based in Toronto. She is Mohawk and grew up on the Six Nations reserve. In 2019, she was named the first recipient of The Narwhal's Indigenous Journalism Fellowship. In her work, she aims to highlight accomplishments made by Indigenous people to carve out a positive space for them in media.

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