Walk into the men’s section of any department store and one of the first signs you will see is the “Young Men’s Fashion” section. As a gentleman over 50, I have always wondered why there is no “Old Men’s Fashion” section, and perhaps there should be.
We probably shouldn’t try to put our hair in a man bun, wear board shorts, or sport the four-day-beard, but before you settle into life with a closetful of cardigans, a few fashion tips will make a mature guy look a little less like grandpa, and a little more like Prince Charles, without having to spend a fortune.
The best thing about being a man over 50 is that we can get away with things that younger men cannot. A 19-year-old college freshman in a blazer and a fedora may look a little pretentious, but a 55-year-old college professor simply looks distinguished wearing the same thing.
Anything other than jeans and tee-shirts
I live in the Industrial Midwest, where men purchase their entire wardrobe from Tractor Supply Company. We complain bitterly when our wives and girlfriends walk around in sweatpants and big tee-shirts, but we think nothing of walking around ourselves every day in poorly-fitting, butt-crack showing dungarees, a 20-year-old tee-shirt with a sports logo on it, and a bill cap that says “John Deere.”
We men of a certain age do tend to be reluctant to spend money on wardrobe, but we can take a lesson from women of that same age, who love to hunt for bargains at places like Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls, where they often find unadvertised, name-brand items at half off. Recently while my wife was at Kohl’s hunting for a good price on a Coach purse, I wandered into the Men’s department, where I found a Michael Kors herringbone blazer – which I had seen at Macy’s a few weeks earlier for $200 – on clearance for $22. Like my wife, who never tells anyone what she really paid for her Coach purse, I never tell anybody what I really paid for that stylish blazer.
Hats aren’t just for covering your bald spot
Men who were born in the ‘50s grew up in a time when men still wore hats. When John F. Kennedy was campaigning for office, despite his great ideas and the inspiration he gave the country, one of the most common observations about him once he took office was that he was the first president who didn’t wear a hat. I remember my father saying, “Who is this young guy who doesn’t wear a hat when he goes out? What is he, some sort of beatnik?” And that made me like JFK even more.
Young hipsters are starting to bring back the style, but perhaps it’s time for us over-50s to reclaim it, as well. Besides having the positive effect of covering up our bald spots, it’s just a wonderful way to easily add a little style to our everyday wardrobes. Of course, by “hat,” I don’t mean baseball caps, I mean a real hat – a fedora, a Panama, a straw boater, a Homburg, or my favorite, the trilby – the type of shorter-brim hat Don Draper wore in the quintessential 1960s retrospective TV series, “Mad Men.”
No, really, it’s not a purse
If you’re planning to be out and about all day, especially in a big city where you’re not driving a car from place to place, you probably have a lot of items you want to carry with you – smartphone, wallet, keys, tissues, over-the-counter medicine, notepad for jotting down all those great ideas (yes, some of us still do use paper notepads), water bottle, and endless small items you may pick up along the way. One way to go is to wear cargo pants and jackets with dozens of pockets, which get stuffed quickly and have the result of making you look lumpy and perhaps ready to go on safari. The backpack may offer a spacious alternative but makes you look like you’re trying too hard to be 20 again, and has the undesired result of smacking people behind you in the head if you turn around too quickly in a crowd. Then there are fanny packs, which were never a good idea in the first place, and makes you look like you are longing for your disco days. Or, there is the option of just handing everything to your wife to put in her purse, which is just plain wrong.
While living in a big city in Southeast Asia, I noticed that a lot of locals, as well as Americans, carried around what is sometimes known here as the “man purse.” I bought one and found it to be the most practical item in my entire wardrobe, and still use it today. Although some of my fellow Midwesterners – the ones in the poorly fitting dungarees – may laugh behind my back, I don’t have to fish through a dozen pockets, or worse, my wife’s purse, to find my cell phone.
According to Roman Kowalski, of TravelGearLab.com, “The city bag, man-purse, murse, metro bag, or satchel is a stylish and practical option for confident men. These are becoming a common item, especially in larger American cities, and add a dash of style and personality to the overall wardrobe.”
Accouterments and scents
As a child in the 1960s, for Father’s Day, I would always buy my father either some two-dollar drugstore cologne or a pack of white handkerchiefs, which he would fold up into points and put into his jacket pocket. The “pocket square” concept is back in style and looks great with that $22 blazer I bought at Kohl’s, but we over-fifties should not resort to the overly spicy, heavy colognes favored by the generation that preceded us. Even now, many colognes tend to be far too heavy and don’t go well on an older body.
Cologne brands like ‘Bulldog,’ ‘Diesel,’ and ‘Stetson’ have always puzzled me. These are all things that don’t smell good. Who would name a cologne after a dog, fuel, or a sweaty cowboy hat? Lula McKee, from MensGroomingLab, weighed in on the scent issue: “A somewhat lighter scent often works best – I prefer almost any Calvin Klein scent, or Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio. Both are decidedly masculine without being too overwhelming, and balanced with just a hint of floral and citrus without being girly.”
If we’re out of the office, the blazer with a button-down shirt with no tie look works wonderful, and sometimes for fun, I’ll add my vintage cuff-links. The only problem there is that every men’s store seems to sell cuff-links, but nobody sells shirts with French cuffs!
Photo credit: Flickr/Nicolas Alejandro