dad's army

US editor of Mr Porter, Dan Rookwood, has one-year-old twin girls. Here, he gives us an insight into life as a parent, and his feelings about father's day

dad's army

Image: Brock Elbank

What did you learn about style from your father?

My father taught me that style is about far more than just the way you dress – it's about how you present yourself. My dad has real warmth of character, a sense of correctness and old school dapperness. I associate the smells of Old Spice aftershave, Brylcreem and shoe polish with him. He has always been the type to wear a collar and tie, even on his day off. His shoes are always polished, his handwriting is always copperplate but he also has the ability to surprise. We had breakfast together today and he turned up in a suede jacket. He's 77, and that's the first time I've seen him wearing a suede jacket. He looked good.

And what would you like your children to learn from you about style?

I would hope that they, too, come to appreciate good style and value good quality, but enjoy the freedom to develop their own eye and sense of individuality. I'd like them to have fun with fashion and express their personality through what they wear. I think that's especially important with twins, who can so often be dressed and treated the same.

How have your children changed you?

My 20s were all about me, me, me, so I'm a lot less self-absorbed than I used to be and more appreciative of home life. I also suffer from FOMO less than I used to. Yes, I often hanker for a beach holiday – but I'm happy to be with all my girls. I'm also more efficient at work these days because I know I have to be out the door at 6pm to get back for bath and bedtime. And I'm better able to multitask on autopilot. I'm trying to be OK with mess but that can be hard. It's also not easy finding time to exercise so the one change I am resisting most is the onset of 'dad bod'.

Do you dress differently now you have children to look after?

I probably don't wear things that are dry-clean-only as often, and I'm now in the habit of checking my shoulders for tell-tale milky dribble. I've learnt the hard way that it's better if I shower and dress after I've given the twins their breakfast. (It's a bit of a food fight these days.) But the main thing is, I'm much more decisive in my wardrobe choices. Time is at a premium in the morning, so changing outfits several times before leaving the house is no longer an option.

What piece of advice would you like to have given yourself as a child?

Not to over-emphasise academic pursuits at the expense of learning valuable life skills. For example, I gave up art at school because I couldn't guarantee getting an A-grade and now I wish I'd stuck with it because I find it frustrating that I'm not able to effectively communicate my visual ideas through sketching. Also, I'd probably waste less time playing computer games.

Do you enjoy buying and picking out clothes for your children?

Love it. I am child number three of four so I only ever wore hand-me-downs growing up. These days, there are so many cute outfits for little kids that it's fun picking things out for them. My wife and I don't really buy them designer clothing although we're very happy for their godparents to do so – but there's something a little vulgar and ridiculous about spending a fortune on things they will grow out of within a month or two. We try not to dress them too matchy-matchy so they very rarely, if ever, wear identical outfits, but they will somehow co-ordinate – same but different. At least until one of them requires a change.

Do you have any style heirlooms you would like to pass on to your children?

In this digital age, proper handwriting is an increasingly rare and dying art. I come from a long line of letter writers with neat script and I modelled my own handwriting on my father's – our script is similar. I have a special fountain pen that he gave me that I hope to use for life. And I’ve also inherited my grandfather's Omega Seamaster watch, which I plan to pass down one day.

What does Father's Day mean to you?

It means a huge amount. There was a time when this day was quite painful for me because we were struggling to have kids and I feared it might never happen. In the end we went down the IVF route. So I'm grateful but also mindful that Father's Day can be tricky for some people. Last year was my very first Father's Day, and it also happened to be my birthday – a twin celebration in every sense.

Are you hoping to receive any particular gifts for Father's Day?

I'd love to hear the word 'Daddy' for the first time. I've been coaching the girls fairly relentlessly when my wife isn't around and they're definitely close. I'd also love a lie-in. In terms of physical gifts, I recently lost my keys so I'd love a smart new keyring, ideally monogrammed.

In a dream world, what would you like from Bally for Father's Day?

A framed original Bally poster by Bernard Villemot, please. I already have the Bally Blonde but I would love the Bally Orange. And I wouldn't say no to a new Barwick weekend bag, or a pair of white Herald slip-on trainers with the red and white Bally stripe either.

What's the most surprising thing you've learnt about fatherhood since becoming a dad?

That it is actually possible to survive on minimal sleep. And I have discovered that necessity is also the father of invention: when you have no choice but to just get on with it, you can cope – even when both twins and their mother have norovirus at the same time – for a couple of days anyway.

What do you think makes a great dad?

A great dad has enough time and energy to spend with his children. He tells them he loves them every day and shows it. He sets a good example as an adult but hasn't forgotten how to be a big kid. He is someone his children can be proud of and whose character will live on in them.