Photograph via Getty Images

I am daddy…”

Daddy’s been everywhere, from telly and social media to porn. But what does he mean to the men who embody him and why do we keep saying yaass to daddy?

2019 has been the year of David Beckham’s hair. I know, I know. Every year for the last 25 years has been the year of David Beckham’s hair, from cornrows to buzzcuts and that mohawk. But this year, at the very dawn of it, Beckham unveiled perhaps his most significant look yet: grey hair. The tabloids declared him a silver fox, his kids took the mick, and the biggest ambassador of male grooming placed himself firmly into a new bracket. This year was the one that David Beckham went daddy. 

In 2019, Daddy is everywhere. He’s Brad Pitt, 55, who does great work for A‑list daddies at the box office and maintains a body that hasn’t fallen too far from its Fight Club glory days. On the telly, Fred Siriex is also daddy, even if his budget’s as small as the speedos he dons for First Dates Hotel. Frozen fish fingers manufacturer Bird’s Eye recognised the appetite for daddy when it transformed its crusty ol’ seafaring Captain into a 56-year-old Italian silver fox last year. But whatever he’s selling, none do daddy better – or more profitably than 44-year-old retiree, father of four and marketing machine, David Beckham. 

Daddy is not a new idea, nor is writing about him. As early as 2015, he was decried over. As late as last year, it was his year, according to the New York Times. The difference is that in 2019, daddy has transcended so far into the mainstream as to have become a permanent fixture. This year, daddy is big business, from Beckham and his Haig whiskey brand (in an advert for which he first debuted the silver fox look) and Brad with Breitling, a watch brand that only daddies with coins can afford. So how did we get here? And do we all want to be daddy now?

Dan Savage is muscular, handsome and in his early fifties, so he gets daddy a lot and especially on Instagram (“I get hit on by a lot more 25 year olds now than when I was 25,” he laughs).

The US based sex columnist also works at the coalface of the daddy phenomenon, answering post from, and about, older men who have taken up the role. Some of them don’t want it, like the 31-year-old gay man who looks 45 and is horrified at being labelled daddy as a result. Others are feeling more blessed, like the 67-year-old who can’t believe there’s a market for this kind of older dude sex. Occasionally, daddies come with nuts and bolts enquiries, like the guy who wonders if he’s paying too much to play sugar daddy. 

  • Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”  Daddy: It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.” 

For those living under a rock rather than knowing how daddy The Rock is, Savage is well placed to explain in diplomatic terms what the term means. It might refer to a broad spectrum of experience (sugar daddies are just the old fashioned, money for favours end of it) but it usually refers to a partner who is older, more powerful, with more experience. It’s an affectionate term acknowledging someone’s chronological advantage,” says the agony uncle. It’s like boyfriend, a term of endearment and it’s eroticised.”

Though the audience for Savage’s advice is big – his column is syndicated across the US – he cautions against taking the subjects of his inbox as representative of the wider population. 

That said, daddy is having a prolonged moment, especially on dating apps. There’s lots of people who describe themselves as a daddy. It’s a term under which you can literally market yourself sexually,” Savage notes. If you go unto Grindr of Recon or any of the gay dating apps, you’ll find people who have daddy in their handle. It’s a mantle you can wrap yourself in. And many people do for marketing purposes.” 

Daddy” surfaced in the early 1900s, as a pet name used by molls for their gangster bosses. But the slang really took off in the late 60s when gay men, emboldened by the LGBT liberation movement, explored new ways to express themselves. Clone culture eroticised a specifically masculine look combining working class style like leathers, Levi’s and boots with an emphasis on butch modes of behaviour. Gradually, sub groups like bears, otters and daddies emerged and the aesthetic crossed over; The Village People played with daddy archetypes in the pop charts and moustachioed, hirsute actor Tom Selleck became the dad of Saturday evening telly in the 80s.

The sexier, older guy wasn’t just the stuff of fantasy. Regular men, who’d come of age in the sexual revolution, wanted in on the action. People who lived through the sexual revolution, as they moved into their 40s and 50s, they didn’t want to become stamp collectors or trainspotters because sex was over for them,” says John Mercer, a professor of gender and sexuality, who has written about the eroticisation of the older man. Consequently they wanted to represent themselves as older people and see sexual representation of people who looked like them.”

  • It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…”  It isn’t any old daddy who is hot…” 

The sexy, older man has been kicking around since the 60s in this way — think Sean Connery as James Bond — but he represented more of an aspiration than an attainable goal for most men of a certain age. It wasn’t until the new millennium that daddy really took off.

Because the other thing that made Daddy happen was Web 2.0. The advent of the Internet, really busted open the myths or the prescriptiveness about what is or isn’t hot,” says Savage. Daddy was one of those archetypes that exploded. More people who were into it, could be honest about it, seek it out and more people who were that type could reassess their own sense of appeal.”

The internet has also made us more tribal, says Mercer, and this has helped reinforce certain ideas or identities, like daddy. If you think about the critical mass of people who use dating apps like Grindr, they are inevitably marking their own identities by choosing – am I this or am I that – which one of these tribes do I belong to? That plays a really important part in popularising these terms.”

The world wide web is also porous. The language used on dating apps or in porn has no borders; instead it finds its way around the internet, popping up Twitter or sliding into your DMs until finally, it’s so embedded in mainstream conversation that your dad uses I am daddy” to annotate his Facebook beach photos. 

But to be daddy in 2019, you have got to put the work in. There may be a market for daddies, but it comes with a price tag. Enter Brad and Beckham et al, to show you how it’s done. If you want to be daddy you’ll have to pay for it in beard oil. It isn’t any old daddy who is hot,” says Mercer. There’s a whole load of labour that goes into being hot.”

Male vanity is not new, but previously it was thought to be only of concern to a younger man. In his 1994 essay, the writer Mark Simpson, coined the term metrosexual” to describe the growing market for young, single, city dwelling men who spent their time and money on grooming, style and looking good. David Beckham, he declared in 2002, was the prime exemplar of the metrosexual in shopping mode.

  • You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”  You’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.” 

Simpson was right about the emerging young male consumer market. It is now a given that young men spend time, money and effort on self-presentation. And the metrosexual has never stopped spending. But he has also aged. Is he now daddy? 

The definition of metrosexuality was the male desire to be desired and that really cuts through all the product placement that has been associated with the word,” says Simpson. David Beckham’s moved into hipster daddy’ territory as have many of his acolytes. He’s probably the most famous daddy. Middle-aged metrosexuality is quite likely to adopt daddiness because there’s a market for it and you might as well work to your strengths.”

Simpson, who is in his fifties, has had the label bestowed on himself professionally. He’s been called the daddy of the metrosexual” and personally it’s no less inaccurate than anything else,” he notes. 

Daddy tends to be attributed like this, even if the recipient embraces it. Twitter followers decide if you, the object of their obsession, deserves to be called daddy. In the hit video game, Dream Daddy, players decide if Christian dad should date athleisure wear dad. 

It’s their script, not yours,” says Simpson. It’s playing by their rules, delivering their fantasies. It’s about desirability and a willingness to play a role that others want you to play. The main thing is that you have something to offer in the first place.”

Now older men have to market themselves, like the rest of us do, if they want to stay in the game. In a hyper-mediated, social media culture, [the] desire to be desired overlaps with the desire not to disappear,” says Simpson. And you’ve got to have a gimmick in this wonderful brave new world we’re living in.”

Gimmick he may be. But Daddy, by necessity, is likely to stick around a while yet. 


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