In my last article we looked at how to dress in your twenties and as it turns out, it was quite easy. It’s a time of waltzing into a store, knowing most pieces are designed to fit you like a glove. I also preached the value of moderation and restraint – and it’s here, as we turn the page into the thirties, that these values become yet more valuable.
As the big three-zero arrives, a man should know what image he is trying to display, even if he cannot put a name or category to the image. By now preferences will have been formed and key items will have been well-worn. Unlike the twenties, in this article I won’t be discussing the image that clothes bring and the like because by now you should have a firm grasp of what works with your body type, skin colour etc. and what you like and don’t like.
Instead, in this article we’ll be looking at how the thirty year old male can look his best and what should be to hand from the wardrobe. Once again it’s important to note that these are general suggestions and are not for everyone. Whilst being a cross country phenomena and influential art form, fashion boils down to being something extremely personal. So be sure to wear things for the right reason – because you like and feel confident wearing it.
All this talk makes thirty seem like a time for heavy herringbone jackets and freshly polished walking-sticks, but we all know how young thirty is in this day and age. Men are interested in fashion like never before, there is increased emphasis on working out and looking good, and generally we are much more receptive to grooming products and regimes that keep us looking our youthful best for much longer. For many of you well into your thirties, I am sure that you still get mistaken for much younger – hell, you may even LOOK younger now than when you were in your twenties.
Again, this emphasises the point that we can only give you general advice – YOU will know your own look, body and youthfulness better than anyone. Remember that if you feel comfortable in something that might be classed as ‘young’ then keep rocking it! Staying comfortable will keep you confident – which has always been your best accessory. Just remember there is an extremely thin line that you need to be aware of when clinging to items or looks that no longer suit you. Just use common sense.
The counter argument to this is that even though you may still want to dress like a twenty something and could easily get away with it, a maturer wardrobe can actually gain the wearer sartorial brownie points and have them looking the best they ever have. You may even find your influence rubbing off on younger guys you interact with, who start integrating touches of your own finely honed style into their look. When you were younger, you were probably following the trends and experimenting, now you are setting them and creating your own individual take on them.
The lookbook below showcases a variety of looks. Unfortunately, with the majority of fashion campaigns being aimed at younger males, most have extremely young guys in them that makes it hard to imagine what you would look like in similar pieces. You can also argue that any of the looks below could be worn by a twenty-something. This is absolutely true, the only difference between you and them would be that they are likely to still be experimenting and following trends. You should already know who you are and the ‘type’ of look you like to wear regularly.
However, notice that patterns, colours and textures are all still fair game – and when paired with timeless pieces, they are actually encouraged in order to individualise your look. The days of wildly experimenting with multiple cuts, colours and silhouettes has gone, so stick to classic pieces and use key detailing in order to give yourself the edge:
Every man should own a suit – and by the 30s, it should be a good one. Time to say goodbye to the glitter-ball suit that used to pull all the girls, you should now be considering cut and detailing much more carefully. Investing in timeless pieces with interesting twists (such as the McQueen jacket below) will give an old classic a modern and youthful edge, producing both sartorial praise and an overall youthful appearance. Why not try experimenting with lapel styles (a shawl collar perhaps?), buttons (a continental one button version?) or the detailing (a piped collar or a checked pattern?) in order breathe new life into your wardrobe.
Remember that your tailoring should also now FIT PERFECTLY. Through the twenties you were probably buying stuff off the rack in your closest size and thinking that it ‘will do’. However, once you have had a blazer or pair of trousers altered professionally to your specific needs, I defy you to EVER go back. Even if you are not as comfortable with money as you thought you might be at this age, you can still buy high street versions or rummage vintage shops and get them altered to have them looking much more expensive than they are. This goes for everything – from your full suits to simple casual blazers.
Tailoring is an excellent way to inject some colour into your outfits without having to opt for the brash neon hues and geometric patterns you used to incorporate. Bold yellows and striking reds may be out of the question once you progress through your thirties, but key autumn shades such as burgundy, olive green and camel are much more subtle and look great when tailored correctly and teamed with a basic shirt and slim trousers. The injection of rich colour keeps your classic look contemporary and bang up to date.
Whilst we are on the subject of tailoring, new materials and textures will give you variety and also show that you know about the latest trends, without being a slave to them. Tweed, velvet and mottled/flecked wools are all worth consideration, and will give any of your current smart-casual looks that injection of life that shows you still know how to make a statement when you need to.
The lookbook below showcases a range of tailoring that adheres to the principles set out above. Different textures, subtle colour changes and an increased focus on the finer details is what is going to set you apart and create variety for your every day looks without needing to try hard:
I’ve written about fashion for some time now – and have been enthusiastic about it for a lot longer – and in this entire time one item I’ve found to be most adaptable, most age flattering and always meriting the adjective ‘chic’, are the white jeans. Our own Mr Allinson has already sung their praises in his article on coloured denim and I would like to continue that praise for the thirties age group.
As you are likely to see them being worn brilliantly by a twenty-something, these jeans will give you that young edge and equally brilliant look – if worn correctly. At 30+, the white jeans can be worn casually or not, much like in your twenties. However, gone are the days of a striped t-shirt under an open shirt – leave that to the youngsters.
Instead wear white denim with a fitted, blue denim shirt (normally looking best when tucked in) with either a knitted tie or the top buttons undone. A pink shirt under a slimming blazer and classic boat shoes/loafers is another look that will take you from business meeting to the Mayfair bar seamlessly.
By the time you have progressed through your thirties, you are hopefully now a lot more financially secure and maybe even a key player within your organisation. Don’t worry, I am not going to patronise you and say you have to go out and spend as much money as possible on all your clothing, but you should be looking to upgrade certain aspects of your wardrobe.
With you having already developed a signature style and a wardrobe full of the classics, it would be a shame to spoil your look through poor quality finishing touches. You already know by now that accessories are so important when it comes to individualising a look – so make sure yours are of the same high quality as your personal style.
Leather items are a great place to start, as it is a material that naturally gets better with age. So think about upgrading your bag collection – a leather holdall is the perfect size for the gym, overnight business trips and a weekend away with the missus, whilst a high quality leather briefcase is an item all professional men should own within their thirties.
Belts are another key item that often get overlooked, as a high quality belt can take your looks to the next level. Remember that you only need to upgrade a couple of these key items in order to really make a profound difference to your wardrobe – they are ‘special’ in that respect and as such you should be spending good money on them.
The great thing about items like these is that you will get continued daily use – they are REAL investments that will serve you well. Spending £100+ on a belt might seem extortionate at the time, but when you consider the pence per wear it suddenly becomes a much more attractive proposition – plus you will not understand the impact it has on your overall appearance until you start to incorporate it into your current outfits.
The same thing goes for your clothing and footwear. Choice of material and high quality construction will upgrade any piece in your wardrobe instantly. 100% wool trousers, cashmere knits and hand-made brogues or boots from traditional shoe makers like Loake will make all the difference and justify the higher price tag. You should already have a wardrobe full of timeless and versatile items that can be mixed and matched, so spending good money as and when you can is appropriate if you want to develop your style further.
Of course, not everyone can afford to completely change their purchasing habits once they hit thirty – you may have other commitments (such as a family) or are having to deal with the current economy as a whole. In this scenario, considering your high street purchases carefully will help develop a much more individual and maturer look.
The majority of young guys who are into fashion probably own a pair (or multiple pairs) of Topman chinos – in fact, Topman themselves have come out and said that their mustard chinos were THE number one top seller this year. They are easily identifiable – the white buttons and the cut are a dead give away. And this is why we just need to consider our purchases slightly more if we want to come away from that ‘follow the trends’, typically ‘young’ look.
Why not try expanding your horizons when it comes to shopping the high street? Gap, Burton, New Look and the like will all produce clothing of similar style and quality, whilst if you can afford to invest slightly more than when you were on minimum wage – why not try the top end of the high street in stores such as Reiss, UNIQLO, Austin Reed, Urban Outfitters or AllSaints? Topman and Burton have also both started releasing limited edition pieces of clothing (much less likely to be seen on every teenager walking down your high street), whilst their speciality collections such as Topman ‘Harris Tweed’ and ‘Made In England’ or Burton ‘Heritage’ all show extra attention to detail and an increase in overall quality.
Whilst we are considering purchases, try to not focus on brand and instead on quality or cut. You don’t need Ramskull logos and the like adorning your clothing anymore in order to make a statement or to have your friends thinking you are ‘cool’ – in fact, it can be quite the opposite and come off as trying too hard to look younger. For example, AllSaints do some great knitwear, trousers, tailoring and outerwear without the logo on the front – so why not leave the ‘obvious’ tees behind and instead invest in some well cut plain basics from UNIQLO or American Apparel?
Modifying your clothing will also help to completely reinvent an item. The same Topman chinos mentioned above can have their buttons changed quickly and easily and will make yours stand out from the crowd as an individual piece. The same goes for shirts, blazers, polos and everything else you can imagine (see our DIY article here for an example) – with some small modifications by yourself or a tailor, the quality and look of your clothing can be increased dramatically. Not only that but those subtle touches showcase some real personality and what ‘you’ are really all about.
Today we have looked at some key considerations you should be making with regard to your wardrobe and buying habits as you move into and through your thirties. Tomorrow we will be discussing how you can develop your own signature style and trademark, take a look at a couple of guys at both ends of the scale who get it right in very different ways, and we will also discuss some items or looks that should be avoided as we grow older.
For now though, please get involved in the comments and share your personal experiences, tips and general wisdom about the adjustments you made as you got older and how your personal style has developed as well.
As this article is over a year old, the comments are now closed.
If you have a specific question about one of the points raised in the article, why not join our free fashion & style forum and start a thread? The FashionBeans community will always do their best to help you out, and our writers also frequent the forums regularly.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with us on our contact us page.