I’m going to let you in on a little secret about the Feminist Agenda™: we’re not actually too bothered about equal rights and bodily autonomy and all that other guff. No, what we’re really interested in is equal misery. We want to make men suffer. (Why else do you think they were called the suffragettes?)
You can imagine, then, how my heart sang when the Observer published a piece over the weekend called “What not to wear if you are a man over 50”. Finally! Progress! After centuries of women being given rigid rules about how they should dress and behave in order to be “age-appropriate”, men are finally getting the same treatment. Welcome to hell, fellas! We’ve got a very strict dress code here.
Weirdly, the Observer’s sage sartorial advice didn’t go down well with a lot of guys. Judging by the comment section, readers seemed to object to being told that wearing a pair of Converse after 50 is a “warning sign of somebody desperately trying to hang on their youth”. Nor did many readers react kindly to the notion that baseball hats and combat trousers were on the “to ditch” list for the self-respecting older man.
Similarly, there did not seem to be much appreciation for the observation: “A lot of men entering their 50s fall into one of two camps … those who have given up, and those who don’t know when to give it up.” Really, it’s a shame the piece didn’t make clear that uncouth language doesn’t suit a man of any age, because the general response to the article appeared to be “fuck off”.
I understand that being lectured on how to dress “age-appropriately” is a little irritating, but we all have to face harsh biological truths. The fact is, the body of a 25-year-old man is extraordinary. The body of a man of 50 is not extraordinary at all. It is even less extraordinary in cheap footwear and a baseball hat. I don’t make the rules, I’m afraid, that’s just the way the world works. It’s sad so many men got hysterical over an article that was only trying to make them look a little less hideous.
The body of a man of 50 is not extraordinary at all. It is even less extraordinary in cheap footwear and a baseball hat
As far as I’m concerned, the Observer article didn’t go far enough in policing men’s clothing choices and planting age and appearance-related insecurities. As it turns out, however, capitalism and our image-obsessed culture is already doing a pretty good job on both those counts.
Male grooming, for example, is rising dramatically. There has been an explosion in skincare and anti-ageing creams for men as more guys grow increasingly concerned about their wrinkles; more than one-third of American dads say they care about preventing the signs of aging, according to a 2018 Mintel study. And men also seem to be increasingly self-conscious about their body hair; according to Kantar data, hair removal products are the fastest growing category in the toiletry market for male shoppers, up 25% year-on-year in the UK. Body image issues are also growing among men, with studies suggesting that men are as unhappy with their appearance as women are.
We seem to be marching very quickly towards a future in which men and women are equally plagued by unrealistic expectations about how they should look that have been concocted by the fashion and beauty industries. While it seems to be taking us a very long time to close the gender pay gap, we’re doing a great job in closing the appearance-insecurity gap. Something to feel cheerful about, I suppose!