And now, for something completely different.
On Monday, The New Fatherhood crossed 10,000 subscribers. It inspired an essay about milestones: those of our own, and our obsession with those of our children. I’ll save that one for next week. Because today, we’re celebrating 🎉
I’m excited to share something I’ve been working on for a while. But first, some necessary backstory. In my late teens, returning to Manchester after an aborted attempt to start university in Belfast, I found myself on an unplanned gap year, waiting for a new September to roll around. I got my first real job, working part-time in a retail shop on Oldham Street. My colleagues, complete strangers before this point, were revealed to be a helluva good bunch of people: friends I am still close with today, our group chat an essential mental health landline in a pandemic almost two decades later. We eventually went our separate ways—as friendship circles formed in the early years of adulthood often do—as we moved to different places, working in different industries, dozens of paths slowly spreading out from a single point: one time, in one city, forever in our collective past.
I didn’t go far, at first. I started working in a record shop a few doors down the street. My friend Mark moved into another shop next door. We were retail neighbours in the proto-hipster Northern Quarter and real-life neighbours in a much shadier corner of the city. We no longer worked together, but he’d regularly come in to buy records, or text me to stash a copy of whatever the week’s hottest release might be. When our friends opened a bar nearby, we went into business on something else: Best Foot Forward, a night we ran together for the bulk of my twenties. Every Saturday night, rain or shine—mostly rain, it was the north-west of England after all—we’d bring records down, set up for 9 pm, and play all kinds of music for the next five hours. We got paid a decent amount—£50 each if I recall—but the perks were more than financial: we got to be DJs in our favourite bar, and we’d get an unlimited tab to go with it. That powerful combination led to a perfect peak of the week, the rest of which was spent working in a record shop; far from the shittiest time in my life, but undoubtedly the worst paid.
God bless the internet. I bought that domain in 2006, and I’ll keep paying for it as long as Tumblr hosts it. The site was a companion to the night, an MP3 blog, one of the first few hundred to hit Hype Machine. We’d use it to share our favourite music, a calling card for the club. It enabled us to book DJs well above our station, folks we had no right emailing. They came, they played, they stayed in sub-standard hotels. Ed from The Chemical Brothers once listed our site as one of his favourites in an interview with Jockey Slut. It was a career highlight, before I knew what it meant to have a career.
Big dad energy
The last time Mark and I got paid to DJ’d together was over 15 years ago. He left for Sri Lanka to work for a clothing company out there, as I was starting down the path into a career in advertising. We gave him a good send-off. I ran the night with a few other folks afterwards; it was fun, but it wasn’t the same. A few years later I moved to London, and that was it for Best Foot Forward.
Mark ended up starting a clothing company of his own: Far Afield. They seem to be doing well, judging by the fact I find them in another new store on each trip to London. We’re always talking, swapping music with one another, sharing the ups and downs of life. A few months ago—whilst the idea of the Therapy Fund was still embryonic, before dozens of you came together to contribute with your subscriptions and donations—we started talking about a collection of clothes. Something that dads might want to wear so they could fly their fatherhood flag with pride. But it had to be more than a range of merch to make money. We put our heads together, and decided that in a world where 10% and 20% charitable contributions were table stakes, we could dedicate 100% of the profits to help dads get mental health support. The Good Dads Club was born, better threads for screwed-on heads, with some help from designer Dan Wilson.
Last week I wrote about being a good enough dad. The Good Dads Club is a physical manifestation of this idea, a celebration for all dads out there doing their best. Want to see the rest of the collection? Of course you do. Far Afield will be taking the orders, and shipping the goods. You will be pleased to hear it—especially if you had to wait for a TNF badge whilst I nagged my niece on Whatsapp to send them—but not nearly as pleased as I am to write it. Pre-orders are live now, and we’re aiming to get everything in your hands (or ready to gift to your old man, or another dad in your life) by June 18th, Father’s Day across most of the world. I can’t promise it’ll arrive in in the US by then, but if not, it will follow soon after.
One thing we’re constantly talking about in our community is how becoming parents means losing a connection to the person we once were, back in the days before children (a time commonly referred to by historians with the initials B.C.). Pursuing our passions and hobbies—whether it’s cycling, board games, a musical instrument, gardening, anything that lights you up from the inside—is one way to keep that energy alive. Making this collection with Mark reminded us how much fun we used to have working together; the fact we get to do it for a great cause is a cherry on top. I hope you’re into this collection, and what it stands for. I’m thankful for this space, and all of you, for letting me indulge a passion of my own.
Finding more dads in need.
Last year we raised enough money to help eleven dads get therapy. This collection has the potential to help dozens more. I’ve been working hard to find the dads who can benefit from the first round of donations, and have already found three, but I’ll be honest: it’s been harder than I expected. With hindsight, I should have known. I’m asking men—a gender historically useless at seeking assistance, and reticent to talk about mental health problems—to reach out and ask for help. I’ve started chasing down other avenues: reaching out to dads who share their struggles on the nicer bits of Reddit, beginning to talk to interesting organisations who can send dads-in-need my way. It’s early days of the Therapy Fund, but I can see it’s already having an impact.
This is a very long way of saying—if you know a dad who might benefit from the therapy fund, please send him my way. Help is out there. You just have to ask.
Wrapping up with a treat for paid subscribers
Finally, one nice thing I’ve been able to arrange is a little perk for paid subscribers: a 15% discount code on anything from the Good Dads Club collection, or anything else on their site. All profits are going to charity, so you’ll donate a wee bit less to the pot, but we all love a deal, don’t we? Paid subscribers will have seen the code at the top of this email, and I’ll also be sharing it with the dads in Geneva as soon as this email goes out, and I’ll put the code in the welcome email for new subscribers too.
That’s it for this week. See you tomorrow, when normal service will resume.
So, whaddya think?
Branding and illustration by Selman Design. Clobber by Far Afield. Ankles and New Balance, not mine.
The bar tab perk was later revoked after a guest spot from a local bearded lunar-monikered DJ who drank so much it led the bar staff to question whether the system to tally drinks had gone wrong. Sorry to all the DJs that came after us. Don’t blame us, blame M*******s
I remember your BFF blog from the glory days of Hype Machine! What a time! Also that buttoned white tshirt in the Sri Lanka photo dates it hugely 😅 Great work with the clobber
That blue hat, those socks, that sun shirt thing!!