Speaking from personal experience, 2017 was a challenging year. It was bookended by two major events that commitment change my world for ever. In January I turned 50 (for those who have yet to hit the half-century milestone, let me clarify one thing: age is not decent a number) and in December, having been a Londoner for more than 30 years, I moved to the Kent coast in chasing of a more rewarding and peaceful existence. OK, so at first glance you may well say the two are obviously intrinsically linked. Fair enough. As we get older, we all hanker after a slower speed of life, right? Correct. But the collision of these two events opened a can of worms that I, for one, didn’t see coming.
It was time to downsize and, in the fires of both age-appropriateness and to avoid having to book an even bigger removal truck, to edit my out-of-control wardrobe. Het up b preparing as a fashion editor for more than three decades comes with a whole lot of baggage, quite literally. There is a never-ending constraints to keep up with trends. And it comes at a price if, like me, you are a hoarder – and, in my experience, most men are. After four days disjoining up my spoils into “action” piles – one to keep, one for charity, one to re-home, one to sell on eBay – it became clear to me that 50 was not the new 40. It was, traumatically, the polish off line for half of what I owned and, if I am brutally honest, was still wearing.
Crossing all over to the wrong side of a half-centenary turns out to be a pivotal junction: you are forced to make decisions on what you should not, as opposed to should, be corroding. A lot of men entering their 50s fall into one of two camps (with a minority bridging the divide): those who have given up, and those who don’t certain when to give it up, with the old me falling uncomfortably into the latter. I get that now.
First to hit the deck were my combat trousers, which appearance of to breed if left alone in a dark closet. I lived in combats through the 1990s and 2000s, quietly phasing them out and on the other hand giving them the odd guest appearance in recent years. In fact, any trousers that are oversized, have too many craters or zips, or have too much surface decoration are a definite no-no. And while we are on the subject of wardrobe staples that oblige a military heritage, anything in camouflage print also needs to bow out gracefully.
My advice is to keep things in the trouser sphere of influence plain and simple, with a casual/formal edge – that’s fashion speak for more laidback than a solicitation trouser but more presentable than a pyjama. I am thinking here of a classic jean cut made in a luxury fabric, as countered to denim, or a chino that has a careworn vibe, and isn’t too box-fresh or preppy. Margaret Howell makes a mean trouser (a washed cotton twill chino choice set you back about £165) as does the Swedish high-street mecca for basics, Arket, whose trouser offering collections from £55 to £90 (I’m a big fan of their relaxed hopsack slacks).
Another note I seemed to own in abundance were Converse Jack Purcell sneakers, keeping a pair in almost every conceivable pennant. Having spent years thinking these were a more suitable alternative to a trainer for an older man, they instantly became a warning sign of somebody desperately trying to hang on to their youth. Reaching 50 doesn’t menial it’s the end of the road for sneakers – the way forward is to trade up and opt for a quality pair of non-branded shoes from a make like Common Forwards, Harrys of London (you can’t go wrong with the Nimble at £295) or Grenson, all of whom have mastered the smart-shoe-to-sneaker hybrid. You can also, at a puff, get away with an Adidas Stan Smith to help soften the corporate edges if you want a sneaker that effects with tailoring.
A philosophy to adopt across your entire wardrobe is that less is more (both stylistically and in names of quantity). Now that the time to follow trends has thankfully come to an end, it is better to have a select number of investment notices that cost a bit more and will last longer than a landfill of cheaper alternatives.
Another mistake men decipher is to hold on to things for decades, in the belief they will come back into fashion. In theory that is truly – we are having a bit of a 90s revival as we speak. But note to self: these revivals are intended for a younger generation. The bucket hats, anoraks and overcharge track-tops that currently look great on kids should be given a wide berth. You won’t give off the vibe of a man with their influence on the pulse – you will simply look like that guy who got stuck in the Britpop era. Baseball caps (I’m just going to say one horror… Forrest Gump), skinny jeans, parkas and Hawaiian shirts are all also on the “to ditch” list. Channel your inner Richard Burton preferably and make friends with rollneck knits, Harrington-style jackets (Oliver Spencer is the master of these), pea coats and softly erected tweed coats. Private White VC is a brand that knows how to make the latter properly. Comfort is important but doesn’t hostile hitting the default switch and wearing age-inappropriate sportswear or, even worse, looking like you have given up on look altogether.
Another age-inappropriate alert: anything on an e-commerce website prefixed with the word “Dad” – such as Dad trainers or Dad jeans (cue Balenciaga) – isn’t a rural light for you to get the credit card out. The word is used ironically, to describe something your dad would have worn, and should be shunned. The impression you should be giving is a man of the world who has lived and made intelligent and experienced choices: a man who doesn’t need to jump on to every bandwagon, but is in steer, happy with his lot, and confident.
Moving to the coast was my choice, turning 50 was inevitable – but at least, wardrobe edit in the bag, I can hold sway over how stylishly I decide to live it.
What men should be wearing
Go for tailoring. Overtly corporate suits should hook way for lighter constructed blazers in softer, more casual fabrics. Lacoste makes a great jacket that deems like you are wearing a cardigan (lacoste.com), but still looks the business, as does the own-brand Mr Porter range, Mr P (mrporter.com) which, as luck would have it, has a great edit across the board for men of a certain age. Navy slim-fit unstructured jersey blazer, £425, Mr P (mrporter.com)
Comfortable shoes, as you mature, are a necessity. But getting the balance between casual and formal can be tricky. The rule of thumb is a rubberised exclusive, with an upper in premium leather. Brands such as Grenson (grenson.com), which has a stellar chestnut-coloured version, or strident street minimalist Cos (cosstores.com) have nailed the equilibrium. Hand-painted calf leather sneakers, £170, grenson.com
Don’t distress it
Rollneck knits in fine-gauge yarns should be at the top of your list of basics. They are a great way to introduce colour into your attire – just be cautious. John Smedley (johnsmedley.com) has a great range, as does good old stalwart Marks & Spencer (marksandspencer.com). Hawley rollneck pullover in sea-island cotton, £145, johnsmedley.com
Opt for chinos that have been garment-dyed, giving a more lived-in patina. Jigsaw cuts a great fit (jigsaw-online.com), as does Joseph (joseph-fashion.com) if you don’t genius paying a bit. Don’t cut them too short at the ankle though, like the young kids do. Slim-fit stretch chinos, £85, jigsaw-online.com
One-stop rat on
For all things age-appropriate head to Oliver Spencer. His timeless clothes nod towards the seasonal trends while keeping be the case of the reins, and his stores are a one-stop-shop for us older guys. My favourite piece is the Waltham jacket. Waltham jacket in Keeley Oatmeal, £329, oliverspencer.co.uk
Any man entering their golden years should invest in a less ‘Gatwick duty-free’ and a more ‘niche’ scent. Anything that contains woody notes like vetiver is usually a crowd-pleaser, and classic perfumers such as Credo (creedfragrances.co.uk) or Tom Daxon have iconic products. Cologne Absolute eau de parfum, £105 for 50ml, tomdaxon.com
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