My father's wardrobe

You don't dance like him, but do you dress like him? A father's choice of clothes indelibly informs a grown man's style. And for a generation traumatised by an eclectic parade of wide-lapelled suits, weekend budgie smugglers and camel slip-on shoes, dad's influence is particularly strong. It seems the 1970s dad has provided the ultimate guide on how not to dress.

Well, to a point.

"Dad had one set of casual clothes for 20 years," says Tom Elliott of father John, the prominent businessman, Carlton footy tragic and former Liberal Party president. "Flared camel trousers with a navy polo shirt that he bought in 1970 and kept buying. Worn with business shoes."

Elliott says his father, 71, wore suits (with elephant-patterned ties) all of the time.

The younger Elliott, 45, the drive host for 3AW in Melbourne, dresses either very casually or very formally - nothing in between. The former stockbroker channels the old man in more than looks.

"I don't like 'smart casual'. It's either shorts and t-shirt or a handmade suit," he says. "Dad's horrified I wear shorts to do radio."

Andrew O'Keefe's taste in clothes is far more colourful than his onscreen styling suggests - and certainly more colourful than that of his father, Barry O'Keefe, OAM, who was a judge in the Supreme Court of NSW.

"Dad was a barrister, an ardent Catholic and conservative by nature and for him it was all about the well-tailored suit," says O'Keefe, presenter of Channel 7's Deal or No Deal. "I tend perhaps to a little more flamboyance in colour than he might."

O'Keefe jr, 41, - who also had a stint in the law - has to see bright colours, "like crayons", when he opens the wardrobe. "I never go for the brown," he says, citing a "peach-infused" jacket from Feraud and a stripy jacket in hues of blue as current favourites.

It is a predilection he is able to indulge in his role as King Herod in the Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular. It was also shared by his uncle, the king of Australian rock 'n' roll, Johnny O'Keefe.

Yet his father expressed a covert flamboyance in his choice of detail. "Every barrister has a row of charcoal pinstripe suits but if he could go with a purple stripe, he would," says O'Keefe. "He wasn't adverse to the mustard jacket at the weekend and I have a wonderful collection of his seventies ties. They're six inches across at the corner of the diamond."

O'Keefe says his father, now 79 and an adjunct professor of the Sydney School of Law, abhors "dressing like a sharp". "And I'm slowly getting sharper as I get older. I don't know if it's a sign of a mid-life crisis of a man without a motorbike."

The father of Ed Halmagyi - TV chef "Fast Ed" - is also prominent in his profession: Dr Michael Halmagyi, AO, is head of neurology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. But while the younger Halmagyi is a smart dresser, wearing handmade suits and sporting pocket squares outside the kitchen, he says his 64-year-old dad has little to do with it.

"Dad has a true 'mad professor' sense of fashion," Halmagyi says. "His style really hasn't changed in any way in the last 20 years. It's not just the same style, it's probably the same suit, right down to the gold buttons."

Halmagyi was most sartorially influenced by his late grandfather, Denis Halmagyi, a Hungarian war survivor who forged a remarkable career as a medical scientist in Britain, US and Australia.

"He was a clotheshorse," Halmagyi says. "He did very well for himself and he insisted on clothes that carried that message." His suits, shirts and even ties were handmade by Sydney's finest tailors. And today 38-year-old Halmagyi frequents a 15th-generation tailor of Lebanese-Jewish heritage who works from his own patterns. "It does take a while but the suits are impeccably put together; they really fit you."

Elliott says his mother had the greatest influence on his fashion sense. "All Dad taught me was to wear only one thing with stripes - whether it's shirt or suit or tie - and to wear any colour shoes and socks as long as they're black." Andrew O'Keefe's mother has his measure. Last year she gave him a metallic lilac jacket "that fits like a glove".

Where does this leave dad? Waiting, perhaps, to instead share his special style with grandchildren.