“I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”
Do you live by Francis Bacon’s motto?
Whether you do, or whether you’ve been paying into a pension fund even before you got your first mortgage, your style should reflect where you are right now in life. Although your actual chronological age is definitely worth considering, this is more about your lifestyle, your priorities, and just how you want the world to see you.
Given that we all mature at varying rates – both biologically and behaviourally – we’re going to sidestep a simplistic, and slightly ageist, rundown of decade-based style diktats, and serve up a few thinking points instead.
Dressing Too Young
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age,” wrote the French literary great Victor Hugo.
Growing older doesn’t have to mean dressing boring. There’s no hard and fast rule that you need to swap crew neck T-shirts and leather jackets for knitted polo shirts and bland cardigans once you hit fifty, provided you’re taking proper care of yourself. Still, there’s a fine line between admirable irreverence and desperately clinging to your youth.
You might be dressing too young when:
You’ve been shopping at the same shop for the past ten years – or longer
It’s worth regularly re-evaluating the brands you buy. As your disposable income increases and your taste becomes more refined, you should be swapping fast fashion for high quality, stylish investment pieces that are anything but a flash in the pan.
Could it be time for that expertly engineered trench coat, that luxurious cashmere jumper, or those suede monk-straps you wouldn’t have dreamt of owning ten years ago? We’d hazard a guess that, yes, yes it is.
While we’re all for smart high-low combinations – an inexpensive white T-shirt with premium selvedge denim, for example – as you mature, so should your wardrobe, and that means no more sourcing entire head-to-toe looks from high street chain windows.
It’s time to stop dressing like high street shop mannequins and develop your own signature style
Your movements are restricted by the fit of your clothes
Comfort is something that becomes increasingly important as we get older. Clothes that are too tight/obstructively baggy, or those that make you feel too hot/cold just aren’t worth it – no matter who says you should be wearing them.
Just as you’ll no longer queue for hours to get into a club, you shouldn’t accept uncomfortable clothes. Demand perfect fit, find yourself a tailor and start reaping the benefits of having your clothes enhance your qualities.
A professional tailor will do wonders for your look and comfort levels as you get older
Your favourite store doesn’t carry your current size
If you’ve seen several twentysomethings buying the same pair of jeans you took half an hour to get in and out of, you might be trying too hard to hold on to your former self.
It’s no secret that certain brands and retailers target their wares to highly specific demographics, and if those you usually buy from are cutting for teens rather than men, we hate to say it – but it’s probably time you moved on.
Instead, take your custom to stores that know your form, and design well-fitting clothes for it too.
Looking to leave the likes of Topman, New Look and ASOS behind? There are retailers on the high street that offer slightly more mature pieces while still allowing you to introduce trends into your wardrobe – think the likes of Zara, Reiss, Ted Baker and J.Crew, along with traditional gentleman outfitters such as Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M.Lewin.
It might be time to swap youth-focussed brands for modern gentlemanly outfitters, like Reiss (above)
Dressing Too Old
According to American poet Ogden Nash, “middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn’t for you.”
Whether or not you’re mature (or jaded) for your age, dressing considerably older than you are doesn’t do you any favours – often resulting in you looking like you’re playing dress-up rather than coming off as established and in control.
You might be dressing too old when:
Your sales associate calls you “son” or “young man”
There are plenty of inspirational things about our fathers, but shopping at the same places as they do thirty years before it’s necessary really isn’t one of them.
If your wardrobe consists chiefly of scratchy oatmeal cardigans, blandly-cut corduroy trousers with elasticated waists and ‘sensible’ shoes, then it’s time to turn back the clock. Stop taking style cues from your father’s generation, and start taking advantage of your youth – carpe diem, YOLO, etc. etc.
It’s worrying when you and your dad dress alike. Image: Charles Tyrwhitt
Your parents or in-laws get it right when they buy you presents
Some of us have a fairly uneventful adolescence with little to no rebellious acts of teenage defiance, choosing instead to bow to family convention and missing out on the most important style-defining stages of life.
If you’re one of those guys who’s never made a bold style move, there’s still time: make a list of five items you’ve always wanted to try your hand at and go for it.
Distressed jeans? A biker jacket? A bold coloured suit? Style it up and enjoy your first rebellion. Not sure exactly how to pull it off? That’s what we’re here for.
Now’s the time to push your style boundaries and experiment. Image: De Fursac SS15
Your partner and friends look like they could be your children
This is the male equivalent of a woman being told she’s ‘glowing’ when she isn’t pregnant.
She’s probably wearing too many empire line dresses and voluminous tops, but what about you? Pleated chinos, dated glasses, sloppily fitting shirts and sleeveless jumpers?
Thought so. The solution? Swap pleats for slim-cut flat-front chinos, stale for modern frames, swathes of fabric for smartly darted shirts, and sleeveless knitted vests for ribbed knitwear.
It won’t even matter if your coat is a bit old-fashioned or your shoes are slightly on the old-school side, you’ve just turned the beat around by updating your core staples – those pieces that set the foundation of all your looks.
Something as simple as changing your frame style can be just what you need to bring your look up to date. Image: Tiger of Sweden
There are plenty of ways to bring your style bang up to age, without turning your back on your personal aesthetic.
How old are you? And how old is your style? Do you aim to dress older than your age or is staying abreast of trends what keeps you feeling young? Do you think there should be set rules for men as they reach a certain age?
Get involved in the comments section and let us know your thoughts and opinions.