David Michael Perez sat on his fashionably low couch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, rocking his infant son in his lap, and crying “upsie-daisy.” Beside him, August Heffner, said “so cute” and kissed his own son on the forehead.
Mr. Perez and Mr. Heffner may not seem like revolutionaries, but they think they have a revolutionary project: a magazine that, according to its Web site, aims to “present a thoughtful dialogue about fatherhood that is missing from our cultural landscape.”
“Before I became a dad, everybody was saying how hard it would be,” said Mr. Perez, publisher and editor-in chief of the magazine, Kindling Quarterly. “When he was born,” he said of his son, Amon, “nobody told me I’d actually enjoy this.”
The gathering, late last month, was a party of sorts marking Kindling Quarterly’s first editorial meeting since its premier issue came back from the printer. Mr. Perez and Mr. Heffner, the magazine’s art director as well as its co-founder, were looking over a copy.
The magazine seems to seek young, urban creative types, both as subjects and as readers. It is bound like a book and opens with an essay by Mr. Perez about his “desire to explicate the creative project that is fatherhood.” There’s a fashion spread of Christopher Cole, a co-owner of the Brooklyn Fabrication metal construction company. He is photographed wearing a Coos Curry cardigan (retail price: $420) and carrying a chocolate brown Lotuff leather tote ($750).
If all this might seem rather precious, don’t worry. Mr. Perez and Mr. Heffner have heard that before.
“We actually said at our first meeting that if we make this pretty, somebody’s going to accuse us of being hipster dads,” said Mr. Heffner, 32, whose long beard and thick black glasses, and his borough, might well qualify him as a hipster.
“This whole hipster thing seems like an empty demarcation,” said Mr. Perez, also 32, who studied contemporary history and theory at the University of London.
Most of the fathers in Kindling Quarterly’s first issue live or have lived in Brooklyn. They grow their own food, describe cooking as “an immediately satisfying creative project,” and use the word “source” as a verb.
Yet beneath the hipster sterotypes, Kindling may be an expression of a new type of fatherhood. Many younger men seem ready to lay aside not only traditional roles while avoiding becoming the hapless, and often helpless, stay at home father lampooned by Michael Keaton in the 1983 film “Mr. Mom.”
“There’s a strong community of engaged dads that are no longer bashful or embarrassed by taking on domestic roles,” said Robert Duffer, editor of the dads and families section of the Good Men Project, a Web site. “Times have changed.”
In this new view, it matters less which parent changes diapers or earns most of the income, so long as work is evenly shared. What matters is that men pay attention to their children, and to their evolving identities as fathers.
“Each issue is about how men rebuild themselves around being with their kids,” Mr. Perez said.
That means eschewing articles on toilet training tips. And you will not find editorials on vaccinations or attachment parenting.
“We have this idea that parenting is all dirty diapers,” Mr. Perez said. “But being with my son is amazing. It’s dealing with all my anxiety or weird issues that’s the real challenge of being a father.”
If fatherhood prompts a desire to enter therapy or makes one, like the contributor Scott Wilson, question the continued relevance of Michel Foucault, then Kindling Quarterly might be the right thing.
“If they’re talking about the positive aspects, the discovery of the joy in the hard work of parenting, then I think that’s good,” said John Badalament, 44, who directed a documentary called “All Men Are Sons” and wrote a book called “The Modern Dad’s Dilemma.”
“Maybe this younger generation of dads is onto something.”
Mr. Perez, who up to now has been a freelance writer, certainly believes he’s found a good business model. Copies of Kindling will sell for $14 apiece. Mr. Perez and Mr. Heffner, who is a creative director at J. Crew, paid for the first print run of 1,000 copies themselves. They are currently mailing copies to independent bookstores, where Kindling will be the only publication aimed directly at fathers.
“There’s never been a magazine about fatherhood,” Mr. Perez said. “Nobody’s done it before.”
Actually, someone has. In his office at the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi journalism school, Dr. Samir Husni keeps a stack of magazines including American Dad, Fathers and Dads. Each opened with at least a modicum of fanfare.
All quickly died.
“The biggest problem is that American dads don’t think of themselves as dads. They think of themselves as men,” Dr. Husni said in a telephone interview.
“Which means there will be no advertising. None. If I want to reach an upscale dad who reads Esquire and GQ, why wouldn’t I advertise in Esquire and GQ?” (Actually, Kindling did have a few ads in its first issue, including one for the Brooklyn Brewery.)
And then there’s the sleek urban tone. “In New York, that’s normal,” Dr. Husni said. “But if I work with a guy who says he’s seeing a shrink because he has a baby, in Mississippi we all him crazy.”
That said, Dr. Husni agrees with Kindling’s strategy of charging a high cover price, offsetting the possible dearth of advertising. The magazine’s supporters say it may yet transcend the hipster dad label.
“They’re new dads,” Mr. Duffer said. “If they look hipster disheveled, they’re probably genuinely disheveled.”