Style over 50: why rules are made to be broken

Stephen Doig
George Clooney, the poster boy for over 50s gentlemanly style - This content is subject to copyright.

In the age of outrage, a recent article by former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman taking a dim view of 50 year old model Helena Christensen wearing a lace bustier has fed the social media shark chum. Smelling blood in the water, everyone has piled on to defend Christensen, including a range of A-listers.

For what it’s worth, I think Christensen looks great too. It highlights the tricky business of ascribing style “rules”, particularly when the thorny issue of age is thrown into the mix. It’s especially charged in the world of menswear which has changed remarkably in the last decade - clothes that men wear today are not the clothes of their father’s era; office, formal and off-duty dress codes are a different beast entirely.

burton shirt

Grandad collar shirt, £20, Burton

So consider this column the ‘anti rules’ of men’s style for gentlemen of a certain age. Look again at the ‘youthful’ items that once would be relegated to the back of the wardrobe as soon as you hit 50 - there are modern versions which are just as viable in your sixth decade as they were in your carefree 20s, it’s perhaps just the haircut (and maybe the waistline) that’s changed. All the items you consider too ageing? It’s time to regard them in a new light too.  

First up, the polo shirt. The item, originally created by Rene Lacoste to be as an easier version of the shirt for playing tennis, maintains an uprightness if you feel a T-shirt is too casual for you. The collar gives form, as does the cotton pique, but it’s more peppy than a shirt. Long sleeved variants, particularly in merino wool, can work as a more up-to-date version of a sweater.

Oliver Spencer

Coram jacket, £310, Oliver Spencer

While we’re on the subject of knitwear; the item that’s most maligned as grandad-appropriate attire - the cardigan - is worth bringing out again. Grandad 2.0 - who’s just as likely to be doing yoga and Instagramming as he is sedately slumbering in an armchair - regards the cardigan as a good halfway house knit, but will most likely opt for lightweight and lean cut versions, which look sleeker and more modern. Pair with a grandad collar shirt for a more modern take on shirting; it’s less corporate.

Consider your jacket, too. Trusty old tweed might be the cover-up of choice for a certain demographic, but an easy work jacket in this fabric will look less “done up” than a blazer.

And don’t rule out trainers; yes, they might be the attire of your son / grandson, but there’s no reason that the over 50s can’t wear their latest iteration, which is a more elevated form of trainer in minimalist designs (no racer stripes, etc) in leather and suede. A Baby Boomer you may be, but that doesn’t have to mean anyone has to be suffocated by rules.

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