Ageing (Dis)gracefully?

We have all seen them in the malls and clubs – men in their thirties and forties trying to recapture the style of their youth. Or, even more commonly, engaging in a vain effort to appropriate “a look” for themselves from one of the seemingly endless and eclectic array of looks (“it” and otherwise) paraded around by today’s youth. A “tragic” sight made all the more so by the fact that many of these abandoned sons of dignity seem painfully unaware of how ridiculous they look.

Of course, irrespective of whether their manifest lack of judgment is a result of simple nostalgia; a desire to make themselves more attractive to younger women; a gross misinterpretation of the insistence, popular in the self improvement literature, that we not simply be ourselves, but our best selves; or even some combination of the three; it raises the important question of age appropriate dress. Albeit, not in the predictable – and I will venture to say somewhat banal and redundant – sense of debating the merits of advocating some sort of uniform conservatism in personal style for all but the young. (So feel free to emit that well justified sigh of relief).

Instead, what it prompts us to do is consider the subject of age appropriate dress in the more important, productive and relevant context of dynamic living; which, when it comes to fashion, centers around two things:

1) a simple and inescapable acknowledgement of the fact that, as much as we may hate to admit it, we are all ageing, and

2) a personal commitment to looking our best at every stage along the way.

Consequently, the question becomes just how one might go about embodying such a commitment? And, quite naturally, any attempt to provide a blanket response or answer is met with an objection that is as obvious as it is well justified. Namely, that outside of broad, general trends, which those of us with more refined and fastidious tastes have no interest in being a part of, what is “stylish” becomes a relatively subjective affair – and in fact needs to be! After all, “the first step in the development of taste is to be willing to credit your own opinion.”

Nevertheless, there exists a simple and useful way to guide or supplement our subjectivity. And that is to begin to think of fashion and the lifecycle in terms of a dynamic spectrum, which ranges from being the embodiment of “youthful style” or “trendiness” at one end through to being an increasingly refined pillar of sophistication at the other. With the idea being to progress along the spectrum as imperceptibly as possible over the course of your life – becoming ever more sophisticated, and hence less trendy (at least in the popularly understood sense), as you go.

And, if you find yourself feeling like this idea has something of an intuitive appeal to it, there is an obvious reason:

It is totally congruent with the way wider-society has been conditioned to gradually alter its perception of, and consequently the way it interacts with, us as we age. That is, when we are young, we are seen as the cool friend, work mate, and free and easygoing subordinate for whom being trendy is almost a natural and expected part of being. As we move into middle-age, on the other hand, and move onwards and upwards in our chosen profession, we become the senior manager or boss whose power, authority, and personal presence command respect, deference, and a visible aura of sophistication to match.

Of course, intuitive appeal aside, in practice thinking about fashion in terms of a dynamic spectrum requires the ability to determine just how and when to alter one’s look. And while for some people this ability is almost innate, in most people it needs to be consciously cultivated and calibrated. Fortunately, if you find yourself among the members of the latter category, so long as you can be honest with yourself, with a little patience, vigilance, and research, there’s no real reason this can’t prove a relatively painless process – especially if you bear the following useful, and somewhat axiomatic, ideas in mind:

First, trial and error are inherent in the concept of calibration. Consequently, beating yourself up psychologically over each and every faux pas you make in the pursuit of a more dynamic sense of fashion and style is as senseless as it is counter-productive. Instead, determine to surmount your self-pity and the unnecessary damage it causes to both your self-esteem and self-image, and to profit from your perceived failings by treating them as invaluable feedback.

Second, missteps on the road to developing a more dynamic sense of fashion and style are by no means unidirectional. Quite the contrary, they can, and all too often do, cut both ways. For, just as we advance through life and ever-so-gradually develop traits that are inimical to the style of our youth, young people who lack the physical maturity, sophistication and presence for certain types of clothing can come off looking pretentious and magnifying their personal flaws. An almost caricaturistic example being the young professionals who try to pull off the solid corporate grey and blue suits in conservative cuts favoured by many of their older counterparts, but somehow end up wearing them too loosely fitted. For, it’s almost as though their unconscious mind is symbolically acknowledging that they literally haven’t grown into them yet!

Third, while your personal motivation for developing a more dynamic sense of fashion and style should extend well beyond a paltry desire to gain the praise and approval of those around you, a steady increase in the amount of compliments and female attention you receive will provide a useful indication that you are on the right track.

Finally, whether you possess an innate ability of think about fashion in this way or need to spend a little time cultivating it, remember to enjoy the ride. After all, over and above the renewed sense of dignity that a dynamic sense of fashion and style can bring to our lives, it frees us to try new things and experience the full spectrum of men’s fashion in all its nuanced glory. And this is clearly a very liberating and invigorating prospect.

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  • Jono says
    I pray I never end up 60 years old, with a Porsche, fake tan, gold chain and a 20 year old girlfriend!
  • Nos4R2D2 says
    Everyone is different and even these people help to make life varied and unusual. The world would be a boring place if everyone was the same.
  • Peter T says
    Great article. I just want to age gracefully. Too bad your only young once.
  • Jonathon says
    Wow - some strong comments and generalisations there. a couple of further for the discussion - what about comfort and laziness?. Lets be hnonest guys find a style of clothing and stay with it. It doesn't matter what the time period is - guys finf something they like and wear it always. I think this is related to self esteem. A guy loks good - it works - stick wit it!

    It takes a lot of effort to get an older guy to reform his wardrobe. The best thing to do - is one piece at a time. Like giving up a bad addiction. Going cold turkey is hard but by making subtle changes men can get it right!
  • nathan says
    Women do this and they are made to be some grate thing called a couger. so whats the differance. Go the old blokes in the club get the young girls
  • Bobby says
    Wow that' a long article.

    But really everyone is so different, in self esteem and everything else, to look good is highly subjective to yourself. One of the greatest pieces of advice in clothing and to be comfortable in it. Then the look and style - that's for yourself to decide.
  • I'm glad the article finally says "enjoy the ride" at the end, because to me that is what fashion and dress sense is all about....

    I've gotta say that I didn't understand a lot of the fancy words and analysis in the above article...and no offence intended to the author but I wouldn't mind betting he is a youngster in his 20s. I am in my mid-thirties and as I've aged a bit I have come to realise that what I wear isn't really about being cool or stylish or trying to's just about wearing what is right for me and my personality...(and what is comfortable ;)) return, I don't pay anywhere near as much attention to what OTHERS are wearing as I used to when I was younger.

    So to me, I don't care if a 40 year old wants to wear a gold chain and track pants with his boxers others he might be trying to recapture his youth, but to him he may just be being himself and feeling good about it. After all, that's what life is all about..."enjoying the ride"...
  • Laurelle says
    It's these guys that end up with the "Hot" girls if you ask me. Fake and plastic, they match each other perfectly haha.
  • Hippynz says
    Be yourself dress the way that is you. do not try to look like someone else, but also do not let others dictate the way you dress etc, just be you and be proud of it even if that may be odd.
  • natedogg says
    Dont act like a git, if your old then act your age, some ladies like mature men. getting old isnt a license to flaunt your beer gut, pull your pants up past your navel or wear socks and sandals unless you want to be old and single. if you were like my old man you would go for walks and work on the car or the garden

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