Outrageously Good Style Advice From Mr John Waters
Mr John Waters at the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, 19 May 2005. Photograph by Mr Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
“Ageing gracefully is the toughest thing for a rebel.” So says legendary film director, artist and author Mr John Waters, a man who’s managed to turn life-affirming non-conformity into a celluloid art form through films such as Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.
So how does a rebel of a certain age continue to look his absolute best? In his book Mr Know-It-All, the Comme des Garçons-loving, pencil moustached so-called Pope of Trash offers a few typically provocative fashion and beauty tips.
But can you really learn anything from a man who describes his signature style as “disaster at the dry cleaners”, who draws on his trademark ’tache with eyeliner because it’s easier than maintaining the real thing and who loves anti-perfumes because they smell of nothing and vanish from the skin? Turns out you can.
Here are five practical fashion and grooming tips from the man you might call the Serial Killer Of (Conventional) Style.
“Turtlenecks should be a staple of the wardrobe of anybody who isn’t a teenager.”
One of the most versatile items of knitwear a man can own, the turtleneck or rollneck is a staple of Mr Waters’ wardrobe. He often teams plain black ones with outrageously patterned jackets to make sure they pop. They’re smarter than crew necks (fine-gauge ones are perfect for wearing under suits when shirts feel too formal, while chunkier knits go well with bomber jackets and overcoats), they can make your neck look longer and will help keep it warm in the winter.
These are not the reasons why Mr Waters suggests a rollneck should reside in every mature man’s closet, however. “Filmmaker Nora Ephron was right to feel bad about her neck, as the title of her book [I Feel Bad About My Neck] admitted,” he says. “And so should you as you mature.” Bottom line? A turtleneck is the perfect way to hide a turkey neck.
“There’s no such thing as good plastic surgery if you notice it. Good would mean no one noticed it.”
A youthful appearance should be like a magic trick. Everyone should be impressed with the result, but not quite know how you got there. You’re not supposed to notice a nose job or clock a bit of facial contouring. You want people to think it’s all down to your judicious use of retinol and AHAs. Only Human Ken Doll Mr Rodrigo Alves actually wants people to see the work.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a few nips and tucks if you want to, just that you should err on the side of subtlety, have a full, in-depth consultation with your surgeon beforehand and ensure they know what they’re doing (checking with organisations such as the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons to see whether they’re a registered surgeon helps). Mr Waters may well have created a character called Hatchet-Face for one of his films, but you really don’t want that character to be you.
“Skinny jeans on anyone over 20 years old are a no-no. You’ll look like a loser in a Ramones Halloween costume.”
Whole books could be written about whether older guys can get away with wearing skinny jeans, but it’s a no from Mr Waters – a man who could himself no doubt pull them off.
Your choice of fit is better based on your body shape than your personal preference or age (check out our guide to finding the perfect jeans for your body here), but it’s worth opting for tapered fits if you’re at all nervous about squeezing into skinnies, especially if you’ve got big thighs. Should you happen to be 20, be a ringer for a Ramone or it’s the night before Halloween.
“A breeze is your hair’s enemy, no matter how much you have left. Windswept and ageing gracefully definitely do not go hand in hand.”
What man, young or old, thick or thin of thatch, hasn’t feared a hairdo horror courtesy of an unexpected gust of wind? Thankfully, there are ways to make your hair windproof.
For starters, use a firm-hold product such as Le Labo Hair Styling Concrete, which contains added moisturisers to combat the dehydrating effects of wind and keep hair flexible. Apply it at the roots where support is most needed, then fix your style with a product that inspired a cult film – hairspray. Hanz De Fuko Style Lock provides extreme hold and gets extra points for sounding like a character from one of Mr Waters’ films.
The legendary filmmaker does have one other tip for avoiding an unexpected, gale-influenced hair calamity: avoid open-top cars. “I use a little gel on my hair, but even with that I wouldn’t be caught dead in a convertible,” he says wisely.
"If a diet fails, wear something weird on your face and feet and nobody will look at the middle.”
Almost all the good guys in Mr Waters’ films (and invariably the good guys are bad guys) have one thing in common. They make the most of what life, and the occasional faulty gene, has given them. They turn bad points into good points by embracing them – a lesson for us all. If flaunting a burgeoning belly by wearing a crop top is an act of affirmation too far for you, it’s time to use Mr Waters’ handy distraction technique.
A pair of brightly coloured shoes (Mr Waters is a fan of Comme des Garçons’ kicks) is guaranteed to catch the eye just long enough for people not to notice your assorted lumps and bumps.
Facial hair serves the same function. What do you think of when you think of Mr John Waters? Yep, the moustache. After you think of the famous dog poo scene in Pink Flamingos anyway.
Mr Know-It-All by John Waters. Image courtesy of Little, Brown Book Group