You Asked: How Do I Dress My Age?
Photograph by Mr Jonathan Daniel Pryce
This, and other pertinent questions, answered by the MR PORTER team .
The clothes we wear – and how we choose to style ourselves – can often take years off us, but they can age us, too. This week in our style advice column there just so happens to be a loose theme from our correspondents. One gentleman wants to know how to dress appropriately for university and doesn’t think suits are quite right (he is correct). Another is still wearing the same old stuff from when he was at university several years ago and needs an age-appropriate update. Finally, we have a reader who seems alarmed by the sudden emergence of grey in his beard and wants to know what to do about it. Read our advice below.
Email your style and grooming questions to email@example.com or send them via our social media channels and we’ll answer three more next Friday.
I’m 25 and work in a busy government job. Over the past few years I’ve built a solid work wardrobe of suits and shoes, but it has been pointed out to me that my off-duty clothes are a mix of things I’ve had since university and conservative (or, as my female friend put it, “boring”) pieces influenced by my sometimes much older colleagues. What can I wear to fit in with my friends whose work and wardrobes are less formal?
Mr Lorcan Dunne, via email
For busy men who work in formal offices, it’s often helpful to have a uniform of a suit to wear during the week. They’re on autopilot and think getting dressed requires little mental exertion beyond picking out the right shirt and tie. (We’ll come on to that.) It’s often at the weekend that, suddenly left with free choice, men can come unstuck.
If you’re still wearing the same things you wore at university, and that was four to seven years ago, then your wardrobe is in need of an update. It sounds like you’re a fairly conservative dresser by nature, so I wouldn’t prescribe too drastic an overhaul. And I’d be cautious about suddenly embracing bold trends.
You need to weed out those garments that aren’t doing you any favours. Donate them to a charity shop. This should produce a few gaps in your assortment that need filling. You may well find what you need in what we call our Essentials.
A 25-year-old should be dressing youthfully. Rather than wearing your work shoes at the weekend, try some brown brogue boots or chocolate brown suede Chelsea boots for smart-casual, and some evergreen sneakers such as Vans and Converse for more casual outfits.
Jeans should be slim-fit, but not too skinny. Avoid dad-jeans at all cost. Go for indigo selvedge denim with minimal wash, worn with a substantial brown leather belt. Consider also cords and chinos in navy, olive green and grey.
On the top half, resist the temptation to pair a work shirt and blazer. If you wear a blazer, do so with a round-neck T-shirt (you’ll need fresh white, grey, navy and some Breton stripes). Switch out the blazer for a bomber jacket, denim jacket or chore jacket. Instead of cashmere V-necks or cardigans (which, while lovely, can be quite ageing), incorporate a grey jersey sweatshirt. And rather than dress shirts with spread collars, try fitted button-down Oxfords in white and blue chambray/denim. Buy a versatile coat. I’d recommend a navy peacoat. This is all intentionally quite safe territory in terms of style and colour palette.
Next, figure out some winning combinations (your friend can help here) and even take pictures of these ensembles to keep on your phone. When in doubt, search for the item on MR PORTER and see how our stylists have put it together.
Finally, a quick word on your work wardrobe. Just because you’re wearing a suit, it doesn’t mean you have to look fusty. Make sure the fit of the suit is flattering. You might need to find a good alterations tailor to ensure the trousers aren’t puddling over your shoes and that the jacket has shape and suits your frame. Your choice of shirt and especially tie can make or break the suit. Only tie four-in-hand knots, no Windsors. And switch out shiny silk ties for more matte knitted, wool or flannel ties in muted colours.
**I barely want to admit that ageing happens, but my beard is turning salt and pepper. What should I do? I know opinion is split between electric and manual razors. Where do you stand?
Dr Alessandro Peschechera, via email**
Facial hair can be ageing, white whiskers especially so. You have three options: shave your beard off completely, dye it or live with it. My advice is black and white. Step away from the Just For Men (despite what Mr Tom Ford might say) and embrace the grey. Styled right, salt and pepper looks cool and distinguished. You just have to face up to it.
As for the clean versus electric shave debate, I use only a beard trimmer once or twice a week. But I have asked my barber to show me how to use it properly (ie, what grade of clipper for what area of the face) so it looks neat and tidy without any harsh lines. The only thing I miss about clean shaving is the shaving set, which looks cool on a chrome stand in the bathroom.
In order to age well and with grace, you can keep the years off by dressing well (see above), staying in shape, following a careful grooming routine and getting a haircut that suits you.
Now that university is starting again, what to wear that looks good but doesn’t seem out of place, like a suit, especially for those 9.00am lectures?
Mr Abdulla Alkhaja, via email
Well done on making it to the 9.00am lectures. And if you’ve had time to think about what you’re wearing, you’ll be doing better than those who have just rolled out of bed and are trying to keep a low profile (and their bed hair in check) by wearing a hoodie.
You’re right to avoid a suit (although I used to do all my university exams in a suit and tie because I felt it sharpened my mind), but if that’s indicative of the way you’re thinking, then you could embrace the preppy collegiate look. For a literal interpretation, try a varsity jacket over a sweatshirt, or a cable-knit sweater over a Ralph Lauren button-down, worn with rolled-up chinos or back-on-trend cords and white tennis shoes or suede chukka boots. I’d be wary of dressing up in an Ivy League “costume”, but you could incorporate some of these elements into your look.
Golden Bear is the classic choice when it comes to varsity jackets. I like this navy and white one, which would look cool over this AMI sweatshirt. Cable-knit is very on trend for this winter, and I especially like this cream sweater from Norse Projects. Mr David Beckham’s brand, Kent & Curwen, also mines this collegiate aesthetic in a well-worn feel.
Don’t forget your accessories. You’ll obviously need a flowing scarf when you’re pootling around on your bike. Try this cable-knit one from Oliver Spencer. And you’ll have to equip yourself with a nice pen and notepad to go in your messenger bag for lectures and, if you’re short-sighted like me, a pair of tortoiseshell-framed glasses. My picks would be this Thom Browne pen set and co-ordinating notebook, this J.Crew canvas and leather satchel and these round-frame glasses from Cubitts.