You Asked: Am I Dressing Too Young For My Age?
Illustration by Mr Paul Hempstead
Should a 50-year-old man wear streetwear? What next for the knitwear completist? And are bumbags a thing all over again?.
We had our Christmas party at MR PORTER earlier this week. The dress code was the open-to-interpretation “stylish cocktail”. Turns out roughly half of the men (including yours truly) interpreted that as “whatever you do, wear a rollneck sweater”. And with good reason – it’s a versatile piece of knitwear that should form part of every man’s wardrobe, regardless of age. (Plus, I could stash mine easily enough in my work bag to change into.) In this week’s column we touch upon all these areas – essential knitwear, work bags, and age-appropriate dressing.
I’m in my fifties and was recently told by my daughter that I dress too young. What is appropriate/inappropriate for a man of my vintage?
From Mr Hugh Symons, via email
Being in your fifties isn’t the style purgatory it used to be. As we stay more stylish and health conscious for longer, there is more emphasis placed on continuing to make an effort not to undo the top button on life’s trousers and, well, give up.
However, if a more mature man dresses too young it can backfire and have an ageing effect. As we get older, it’s advisable to think more in terms of timeless style and much less about overt trends.
Steer clear of anything that is either too tight or too baggy – a flattering fit counts for a great deal. (And clothes always look much better on older guys who are in good shape.)
Avoid bold prints, edgy proportions, big logos and any elaborate embellishment. The fashion forward likes of Gucci, Givenchy, Vetements, Off-White and Raf Simons are going to be tricky to pull off. Likewise anything that feels too “youth” – skatewear hoodies and the like. (That said, this story about cult New York brand Noah is all about how older guys who grew up with streetwear can continue to mix it into their looks.)
There are still loads of suitable options open to you and I suggest adding the following brands to your favourites filter: Paul Smith, Todd Snyder, Anderson & Sheppard, P. Johnson, Thom Sweeney, Richard James, Tom Ford, Hackett, Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana. Mr P., too. If you head to The Essentials section of the site, you won’t go far wrong.
More specifically, I asked our style team to suggest some key items for a man in his fifties and they suggested straight-leg selvedge jeans and cords such as these from A.P.C. A field jacket – try this one from Club Monaco or, at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Tom Ford. Logo-free jerseys will always work. And elevated sneakers such as these from Brunello Cucinelli or these from Lanvin. Nothing to embarrass your daughter in that lot.
I am trying to rebuild my wardrobe with staples and my knitwear collection is the next thing I need to focus on. As a foundation, I am trying to have one of each style in a staple and versatile colour, so far I have: a mid-grey lamb’s wool cable knit crewneck, navy and white Breton-striped, fine merino wool crewneck and a petrol blue fine merino wool long-sleeved polo. Please could you recommend a colour for a fine merino wool rollneck to invest in and perhaps another style I should look at next?
From Mr Oliver Newton, via email
So strategic! Love it. Yes, I’m glad you also got the rollneck memo. Looking at your current assortment, I would suggest going for one in burgundy which would go well with a navy or grey blazer or top coat. There are great versions here from Lanvin and P Johnson, but if, like me, you find rollnecks can get a little itchy after a while, consider one like this from Folk, which is made from cotton jersey instead of wool.
Then I’d say you are missing a camel-coloured fine-gauge knit, probably in a crewneck, which could be worn under a suit in place of a shirt or with jeans. I love the way this John Smedley one hangs (straight down) and since it’s a silk blend, it shouldn’t pill.
I think you’re also missing a cardigan or two. Consider a chunky shawl-neck navy number like this one from Dunhill that could be worn as a blazer, and maybe a thin charcoal grey cardigan that could be worn with a tee or as a layer underneath a blazer with a button-down and knitted tie. I like this Thom Browne version in particular.
I like to read a book on my commute. I am not required to dress formally at work so can you suggest a small bag that I can use to carry my book (and maybe a phone charger) that isn’t too office-ish?
From Mr Luke Jacobs, via email
I’d be wary of choosing too small a bag like a pouch – it could look like a purse. One of our Buying Managers, Mr Sam Lobban, seems to be on a one-man crusade in our office to bring back the bumbag, aka the fanny pack, which he wears over his shoulder like a messenger bag rather than around his waist. Not to everyone’s taste.
My first suggestion for you would be a tote and I’d choose one in olive green canvas, such as this Nonnative one. Or if you can see yourself carrying camo (geddit), perhaps this navy Valentino option.
If you prefer to walk hands-free, you’ll be better off with a backpack but again I would stick to canvas and leather which is versatile, robust and timeless so it will work with most things you wear and will last you years. These two from Filson are my favourites.
Such a bag reads: urbane, cool. Much like someone who sits on the commute to work with a good paperback rather than making do surreptitiously reading the person-next-to-them’s freebie newspaper/magazine. Perhaps you will even make it on to this Instagram feed.