Before they settled into a life of making dad jokes, our papis were actually pretty fly. That’s why we set out to learn more about who our dads were before we got to know them. We put out a call on our social media channels, asking you to send us photos of your pops in their youth. And you didn’t disappoint. From images of them wearing silky shirts to accessorizing like no other, these vintage photos are gems. But what really tugged at our hearts were the stories about their patience, perseverance, and love.
In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, check out 20 pictures of our readers’ dads.
Editor’s Note: The interviews below have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
"He had (and still has) a beautiful perspective about the world."
My Pops was around 19 in this picture, just starting at Columbia University in 1979. This was taken in Harlem near the school, near an apartment where my extended family still lives.
My dad was fly because he was a deep thinker and a romantic, passionate about poetry, photography, and connecting with people. He had (and still has) a beautiful perspective about the world that shows up in his writing and daily life.
I picked this image because it shows the intensity that my dad has always carried throughout his life and work. It shows off the natural style that he had, even though he was a pretty shy person. There’s a mystery to his far off gaze that makes me think of my own future and what lies ahead, much like he might’ve been thinking at the time when this was taken. -Cristina Batista
"My father was only about 5'3" and he was resourceful in adding height."
My father was 24 years old in this picture. He had only arrived from Michoacan, Mexico one year before the picture was taken, and he had fully immersed himself in the Saturday Night Fever culture. He barely spoke any English and only had a third grade education, but he did not let that stop him from rocking those silk shirts and platform shoes like his peers. I have to mention that my father was only about 5’3″ and he was resourceful in adding height with the shoes to get to know the ladies.
I chose this picture because it is the essence of who he is, a totally cool guy, always observing, does not always say much, but when he does it’s pure gold. You know theres wisdom in his words based on his observations and life experiences. -Alva Alvarez
"My tío Jujo took me under his wing."
Here is my Tío Jujo. He wasn’t my biological papi – mine was locked up for the first 34 years of my life. My tío Jujo took me under his wing. He taught me to read, spell my first word (dinosaur), and always to set my goals high. I know that although he is no longer here on this earth today, he is always with me in spirit and I am making him proud with the work I do to promote Latinas and WOC in literature.
He was around 20 in this photo. He always knew how to have a good time. He loved to travel and made friends around the world. This was a picture of him riding his Jeep to San Felipe. He instilled in me that life was too short to not explore the world, connect with other cultures, and just be happy and have fun.
This photo shows him when he was happiest, exploring the world with those he loved by his side. -Natalie Obando-Desai
"He was the cool but silent type."
This photo was taken around 1975 in Neyba, Republica Dominicana, my dad was about 26 years old in the picture. We think our dad was so fly because he was the cool but silent type, which balanced out our fiery mami (to the left in the pic with the shades and scarf). He was a HUGE music lover and collected records, tapes and CDs. Saturday mornings he would play DJ as we cleaned up around the house and took dance breaks.
We picked this picture because we think it represents our dad’s personality: subduedly cool but arms always wide open to those he loved. We love and miss you, papi. <3 -Franchely & Misleidys Mora
"He was deemed 'Mr. Personality' in high school."
My dad was 19 in this photo. He was deemed “Mr. Personality” in high school, a ladies man for sure, and he drove a Karmann Ghia. I picked this image because it’s a bad ass photo, and just look at him… #stud. -Juanita De La Riva
"I wish I got his long legs but all I got was the hair."
I wish I got his long legs but all I got was the hair. ? He was about 30 years old. He was on his honeymoon. He traveled the world, moved to LA on his own, finished his masters, and just married a fine honey from Mexico.
This photo reminds me that he really did do it all, and it inspires me to do the same. -Julia Tabar
"I've been really lucky to have a male figure that is so warm, protective, and open."
My dad, Felix, was about 20 yrs old in this picture. My dad’s always been a character ?, never afraid of saying and doing what’s on his mind and what he feels. He’s a fortress of patience and nothing can genuinely kill his vibe. I’ve been really lucky to have a male figure that is so warm, protective, and open with his daughters. I usually hear how my friends have a tough time communicating with theirs because “men don’t understand” – but I’ve had the special experience of having a dad that has given me the freedom to follow dreams and be curious because he really knows and gets the spirit of what it is to be young and have the world at your fingertips, and I am grateful he never once tried to hide or take that away from me out of fear. Thank you, Dad.
My dad had this John Travolta/ Saturday Night Fever look all throughout the 70s and I LOVE seeing him at his “fashionista” stage because it really embodies the cool factor that my dad’s always had (at least in my eyes haha <3) and this image in particular of him goofing around is a big part of the jokester he has in him, too, not to forget that he has the loudest and most contagious laugh on this planet, and it is without a doubt one of my favorite sounds in the whole world 🙂 <3 Love you dad. -Raqueli Contreras
"Mami says he was a chulo from the isle."
Papi was 28 years old. This is 1989. Papi was fresh from Santo Domingo. Mami says he was a chulo from the isle.
I like this photo of my Papi because he is STYLIN’! I have photos of me as a baby in that hat. Mami says he always had the hat and glasses on, from the bodega to la sala. -Katrina Medina
"He had this effortless swag about him."
Unfortunately, my dad passed away last year of cancer so this will be our family’s first Father’s Day not having him around. He must’ve been around 30 in that photo. He had this effortless swag about him. He could pull off just about anything and make it look fly.
I don’t have many pictures of my dad when he was younger, so I keep this one very near and dear to my heart. -Yoli Garcia
"He was fly for many things."
My dad, Ricardo, in this picture is in his early 20’s. He was fly for many things. First, during this time he was a Radio DJ known by the name of “Your Rico the Big.” At the same time, he used to work as a bodyguard for Merengue artist Alex Bueno. Second of all, he made sure he was always dress “fresh” with the best swag. Despite coming from a poor background my dad always strived to look his best. -Carla Franchesca
"I can't even take my dad around my friends 'cause they all fall in love."
I can’t even take my dad around my friends ’cause they all fall in love. My dad, Mauro, was around 26 when this picture was taken in Los Angeles. He was, and continues to be, fly because of his style, sense of humor, charisma, and let’s be real, his Salvi genes. -Cindy Ortez
He was always able to hop from trend to trend so gracefully and authentically.
My father was 22 years old in this picture. The term “fly” to me means an innate sense of style in clothing and attitude. My father is the perfect cocktail of the two. Looking at photos of him when he was younger, I realized how through the decades, he was always able to hop from trend to trend so gracefully and authentically. He wore the clothes; the clothes did not wear him.
This image paints my relationship to my father at its core: I’m a daddy’s girl who would do anything to be like her cool father. -Christine Saldana
"Despite having reasons to fail, he was able to succeed."
The revolution in the ’70s and 80s is what led him to come to the states. He was 26, and it was 1986. My dad was so fly because despite having reasons to fail, he was able to succeed. I picked this image because my dad’s smile is infectious, and it was the beginning of many sacrifices he made for me. -Signe Espinoza
"By 1982, he and my mom had three kids and opened up his own business."
This is my dad Edmundo Mondragn in 1976. He was 24 years old. My dad perfected the balance between being a wild party animal and making sure to fulfill his responsibilities in order to better himself. He came to the US from Mexico City in 1971 at 19 years old, and by 24 he was killing it in Rosenberg, Texas. By 1982, he and my mom had three kids and opened up his own business, which is still going strong 36 years later.
I love the way he’s looking at the camera in this photo. His rad shirt and pose are pretty great, too. -Laura Mondragón
"He is patient and allows others to explore who they are free of judgment."
My dad was 26 in this photo. My dad is fly because he understands how the world works. He is patient and allows others to explore who they are free of judgment. He is also an honest man and has always told us, “If you have truth on your side, you have nothing to be afraid of.” His truth has always been doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.
I love this picture because my dad is straight up from el rancho (Andocutin, Guanajuato) and he’s looking so calm and cool on the cliffs of Santa Cruz County in California. He has a humble ’70s style going on and he just looks bad ass. -Emelia Leon
"Everyone says he looks like Chayanne."
My dad, Jesús Martínez, has always looked pretty fly! Everyone says he looks like Chayanne. Maybe it’s the smile? He’s my best friend, and a cool, modern papá who’s always supported all my goals and dreams.
Papi was 28 years in this picture, the same age I am today. This was in 1991. He has always been fly because, besides looking like a version papá of Chayanne, he’s also managed to stay young in the way he sees the world.
I picked this image because his smile is very genuine, and because although I’m a grown-up woman, he still hugs me with all his love whenever I need it. -Lorraine Martínez
"Yes, he caught that alligator with his bare hands."
My dad was about 33 years old in this photo I’d say. One year after I was born in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. My dad was great with his hands. He built houses by himself, held my head high when I was sad, and yes, he caught that alligator with his bare hands.
He came from nothing to something. He was a lover. He loved life. He was a great dancer, singer, builder. He was taken too soon. RIP, legend. -Victor Bill
"I love this picture of my papi porque parece artista."
Here is a picture of my papi, Cesar Agusto Mejia. He was in his mid-20s in this picture and just arrived from Nicaragua to set roots in San Francisco. I would guess this was taken around 1958-1960. I love this picture of my papi porque parece artista. I also love his beautiful penmanship and the fact that he dedicated this to his beloved mami.
My papi was born fly. He had a strong work ethic and always took pride in how he presented himself. Siempre bien peinado, bien perfumado, y bien vestido. And he although he had many to choose from, he picked the most beautiful woman to be our mami. -Carmen Mejia
"He was just out there doing what he knew was best for himself and his family."
Here is my papi, Nahum, looking muy guapo c. 1997, at about age 29. He is from Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico and is mostly Zapotec. He immigrated to the US and met my mom and had me. I am so incredibly grateful to him for all his hard work, and for providing me with so many opportunities that he did not have, like a college education. He was and is so fly because he was just out there doing what he knew was best for himself and his family, plus look at those grunge clothes.
I chose this photo because he just looks so free and content in front of the Atlantic Ocean, and because most of his other vintage photos involve him doing something embarrassing, like playing the saxophone. He has an incurable form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma, and is currently recovering from a stem cell transplant that will hopefully push him into remission for many years. I can’t be with him this Father’s Day, because I am in Mexico doing research, but I want him to know I love him so incredibly much. -Daisy Donaji Matias
"My grandpa was just as fly."
I was 1 when this photo was taken in 1993. It’s in our genes to be fly. My grandpa was just as fly. I was raised with a Mexican lifestyle in an American country, and music was a huge factor in my upbringing. -Giovanni Lopez