Sitcom dads often represent the gravitational center of a TV show, whether it’s Ray dealing with domestic chaos on Everybody Loves Raymond, Uncle Phil acting as the moral compass on Fresh Prince, or Hal having his back lovingly shaved on Malcolm in the Middle. Their clothes help set this tone, too: There is no better way than to signal “Dad” than with pleated khakis and polo shirts. And yet, even as “dad style” blew up in the menswear world, making rarefied fleece jackets and $300 jeans palatable to both fathers and fashion types, their sitcom avatars haven’t really caught up. While Dre on Black-ish is known for his enormous sneaker collection, a TV show has yet to go full head-to-toe in the kind of modern streetwear young dads wear today. Until now. Indebted, a new sitcom premiering tonight on NBC, introduces us to a character we never knew we needed: the hypebeast TV dad.
Indebted is about a young couple, Dave (Adam Pally) and Rebecca (Abby Elliott), and we enter their lives just as Dave’s parents (Fran Drescher and Steven Weber) are forced to move into their son’s Stamford, Connecticut, home following money trouble brought on by medical debt. But this is a comedy, and the laughs come as Dave’s parents do things like show up at the young couple’s date night (a Drake concert), allow their granddaughter to do her own makeup, and generally struggle to adapt to a less lavish post-retirement lifestyle. But begrudgingly putting a roof over his parents’ heads doesn’t stop Dave, a contractor who makes good money and presumably has ample free time to shop, from enjoying the finer things in life—namely a massive collection of clothes that will make any streetwear fan jealous.
“We wanted to make it so that as soon as you tune in, you see that people look like people actually look every day, not just ‘Oh, this is middle America,’ ” says creator Dan Levy, who previously served as a co-executive producer of the hit ABC comedy The Goldbergs. And for anyone who stays up on streetwear even a little bit, Dave’s threads do indeed jump out immediately. In the three episodes NBC made available, I clocked a hoodie by Aimé Leon Dore, boots by Visvim, shorts by John Elliott (which Dave uses as pajamas), and the real show-stealer: a Carhartt-inspired canvas work jacket by Fear of God. If contractors have worn actual Carhartt for 100 years, then it’s at least plausible a contractor who grew up with the internet and lives an hour outside Manhattan would scoop up a four-figure version.
The old saying goes, “Write what you know,” but in the case of Indebted, it’s a matter of “wear what you know,” too. Levy explains that he wrote Dave as dressing like he and Pally do in real life. “Jackets, vests, and outerwear are very important to who I am as a person,” Levy says, half-jokingly. Pally, meanwhile, is something of a true-blue hypebeast. He’s a dad who lives in New York and often stresses about what to wear when picking his kids up from school. “I spend a lot of my time looking and thinking about [clothes],” Pally says. Notably, though, it’s not just because he’s likely to be a paparazzo’s subject. He’s genuinely into fashion, and so are his friends. These are not your father’s...fathers. “One of my friends works for NBC Golf, and his fits are always 100 percent on point,” Pally says. “I have a friend who’s a dentist who only wears Y-3 in the office.” Levy agrees, explaining that Dave’s interest in fashion mimics his, in that he’s not in the industry but appreciates it. A cursory scroll of Pally's and Levy’s Instagram pages confirms that the line between their wardrobes and Dave's is either blurry or nonexistent.
Of course, Indebted isn’t a niche streaming show—it’s a mainstream network sitcom. So Levy, Pally, and costume director Molly Mitchell also needed to convince NBC that a TV dad in 2020 should wear adventurous pieces from young, hip menswear brands—and that his doing so wouldn’t prevent everyone from coast to coast from watching each and every Thursday. For the most part, Mitchell—who sourced clothes directly from labels like John Elliott and Noah, and did a fair amount of shopping at Dover Street Market’s L.A. outpost—says it was a smooth process. “NBC gave us free rein to let Dan and Adam’s style dictate the look of the show,” she says, though she acknowledges that this is far from the norm in television: “Most of the time, what you see is costuming directed towards relatability, based on the amount of viewers they want to watch.” Helpfully, Dave’s looks, while advanced, don’t exactly scream for attention. “It’s upscale streetwear, but it’s very if you know, you know,” says Levy.
But while NBC was cool with Fear of God work jackets and floral printed shorts, other items required a little more persuading. Levy says a tie-dye hoodie was pulled at the last minute simply because it was a little too, well, tie-dye. Hilariously, the biggest sticking point was a pair of white Birkenstock Boston clogs. Pally was adamant they had to stay, and fought for these crunchy, of-the-moment mules. “The network was like, ‘What is he, a nurse?’ ” he says. “We pushed for them, and then within the second week of wearing them, I had camera guys asking me about them, co-stars telling me they were great. I got big, chunky Kapital socks to wear with them, and by the end of the show I had, like, three different amazing colors of Birkenstocks and they became part of the character.” For Pally, real validation for his Birkenstocks came a few weeks before Indebted’s premiere, when Kanye West was spotted wearing them while leaving his office in Calabasas. “As soon as I saw that, I texted it to everyone from the show, like, ‘I told you!’ ”
It’s worth noting that Dave’s penchant for the finer clothes in life doesn’t define his story within the show. There’s no episode where Dave, say, misses his son’s basketball game because he’s standing in line at Supreme. And while, in the pilot, he says he feels silly for wearing an OVO hoodie to a Drake concert, the big joke of the scene isn’t about clothes—it’s that his parents are also at the concert. In that way, Indebted is your typical family sitcom, and still designed to appeal to anyone—upscale streetwear enthusiast or otherwise. In other words, if you’re expecting Indebted to be the second coming of HBO’s short-lived but beloved fashion dramedy How to Make It in America, you might be disappointed. But if you’re a dad who’s got a closet full of nice clothes and is looking for something mellow and funny to enjoy on a Thursday night (in a time slot early enough to allow you to catch the second half of an NBA game)? Then Indebted was tailored just for you.
This piece has been updated to include mention of Dre's sneaker collection on Black-ish.
Originally Appeared on GQ