I wonder how much time you spend thinking about what you’ll wear? Maybe you don’t. You just bung on the old favourites – jeans, T-shirt and trainers or deck shoes because that’s what you always wear: the de facto uniform.
The working week is generally the easy bit: Monday through to Friday, it’s the suit. You may be lucky enough to work where ties are a thing of the past, so the big choice each day becomes simply, ‘is it the white, blue or dusky pink shirt?’ Job done!
I know from experience that the real issues start at the weekends. You get an invitation to a smart dinner party or a fancy restaurant where jeans and a T-shirt just isn’t going to cut the mustard, let’s not even mention the deck shoes!
Often the ‘what do I wear’ anxiety is compounded by the complexities of age: a slight widening of the girth, confusion as to what your style is, what’s appropriate for a bloke your age. Perhaps it’s just as simple as lack of precious time to go shopping. I know from lots of my mates that shopping for clothes isn’t top of their list of favourite pastimes!
Be warned: Barack Obama went from hero to zero about two weeks after leaving the White House, after being spotted wearing a leather jacket and ‘dad jeans’! What hope do we have if we get it wrong?!
So gents, to help in our sartorial conundrums I recently met with the fabulous stylist and personal shopper Sarah Gilfillan (www.sartorialab.co.uk). I wanted to know from an expert what blokes should wear and, just as important – what not to wear, especially once we are past the first flush of manhood and perhaps not quite the gym bunnies we once were…
Sarah says that “middle age doesn’t mean you have to be boring or avoid colour.” She adds “wear slimmer cuts and tailored trousers, which will flatter. Avoid trousers that will keep your armpits warm. Nice dark jeans or slim-fit chinos can look great with a blazer, although avoid the gold buttoned variety if possible”. I asked about T-shirts and can they be worn past 30? Sarah says, “Plain well fitted T-shirts can look great, just avoid huge logos and this goes with all clothes.” Good advice – I always think giant logos scream midlife crisis! Sarah went on “You can happily mix what are traditional fabrics like tweed with contemporary designs. I love tweed jackets worn with a beautiful 3 buttoned long sleeved John Smedley polo.”
I asked Sarah about the most common mistakes blokes make and she was rather emphatic: “Men often just get boring and dull. They don’t spend enough time on the fit and then tend to buy too big. Men really need to look at their bums when trying clothes on, it’s not just the preserve of women. Guys, if there’s a handful of material back there, they don’t fit!”
As a purveyor of floral shirts, I felt it was incumbent on me to ask about shirts and what her take was on the humble shirt. “Colour can be so invigorating and enlivening, floral can be fabulous of course. A nice fitting shirt with jeans and a lovely soft suede jacket is a winner every time. It’s the ultimate smart casual look.” I dared mention the Obama issue with Sarah: “Yes, I am afraid biker jackets have to be dealt with very carefully indeed if you are a mature man.”
I have to confess at this point that I still have an old leather biker jacket and yes, I do still wear it!
Personally, I love boots and shoes – much of the money from my Saturday job as a youth was spent in Revels Shoes in Romford! Needless to say, I have quite a collection of footwear and I was surprised to hear Sarah say: “Men often forget shoes and how important they are. Shoes and boots really tie a look together. Brogues go with everything, you can’t go wrong with them. But also think about boots, Chelsea boots work equally well with suits or jeans. And guys, consider your socks! Wear nice socks, don’t go and ruin it with novelty pairs, think Argyle and you won’t go far wrong.”
I asked Sarah about accessories and whether this something men should be thinking about. “I showed a client of mine a beautiful belt, it was part of an outfit I had put together for him. He said to me ‘Why would I want a belt? I have one.’.” Sarah says “There’s a world of beautiful belts out there and don’t be afraid to wear them. Plains, woven, etched and they don’t have to cost the world. Also add a layer with a simple scarf. Whether it is lightweight for summer or a warm cashmere they look good with any outfit at any time of the year.”
Keeping an eye (no pun intended) on your glasses is also a consideration, Sarah observes, “The wrong frames on your glasses can be ageing so keep a look out for the latest trends and colours. Many opticians do great deals where you can get 2 for the price of one – go for different styles and coloured frames. It’s amazing how different frames can alter your look and keep you youthful.”
Sarah was kind enough to share her top 10 tips with us, please see here. And I will keep an eye out for you on the 18th… maybe it will be the scarf or those cool glasses that give it away?!
Tips on what to wear for older guys:
Try out new shops – even if you think a shop might be too young, take a look and you could be surprised.
Make sure if fits – especially the length of the cuffs on jackets which is one area a lot of men don’t bother to alter. Try on a size smaller – a lot of men tend to wear their clothes too large.
Embrace colour – as we age, our colouring fades, which often means softer colours might look better but don’t turn into ‘beige man’!
Remember accessories – this is what sets some men apart from others and expresses your personality – you are allowed to have more than one belt/scarf in your wardrobe!
Look at your view from all angles – remember the side and back too when trying on clothes.
Be patient – you might not find the perfect thing in the first shop – be persistent.
Keep the silhouette up to date – men’s fashion moves slowly but at the moment the overall silhouette is a slim cut.
Learn what suits you – if you can identify specific details about the things you love, you can replicate that in future to achieve success.
The more worn in your face the less worn in your clothes should be – leave the ripped jeans and raw hems to the young kids with perfect skin!
Have some structure to your clothes – I find a lot of guys need this as they get older and perhaps their bodies have a little less structure!
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