I saw it again yesterday and it makes me sad every time I see it – a man wearing a style of clothing or a label that is clearly not flattering or age-appropriate.
We men are vain creatures. We say we aren’t but we are. And, just like “the ladies,” I believe we struggle with body issues and aging as much as they do. The thing is, they talk about it and support/help one another. Together, they come to grips with the realities of life.
We men do not, which is probably why I saw a gentleman in his mid-fifties sporting an A&F logo “hoodie” yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I myself wear hoodies frequently but not one that was designed for a tight-bodied twenty-something. And that is where men derail in the fashion arena.
Most men’s fashion houses design for male bodies that look like this:
when, in reality, most male bodies – mine included – look more like this:
So, this is where the problems really begin. Now, I am not suggesting that all men wear loose, button-down shirts and pleated khaki pants but guys, really – we need to be honest with ourselves, maybe take a minute and objectively consider our “fashion realities.”
Women have so many resources to help them; men are more limited in fashion style guides. Beyond GQ and Details, guys have few places to reference for style guidance. So, in the spirit of helping my brethren, I humbly submit my own fashion timeline/guideline for your consideration. Here are my thoughts on a few national brands that most men should be familiar with – I have arranged them in an age-appropriate format so you can easily see what I believe is the fashion evolution we all are destined to follow…
Under 18 – Hollister – This body-conscious, beach-identified brand is best worn by boys who have yet to experience puberty, with shoulder, waist and hip measurements all about 30″. Once you develop facial hair, say goodbye to this label.
18 to 21 – American Eagle Outfitters – Once you get your driver’s license, you graduate from “beachy” Hollister to the bit more grunge-y AE. Flannel shirts, oversize cargo shorts with eleventy-million pockets, flip-flops and woven leather bracelets create the AE signature look.
21 to 21 – A&F (Abercrombie & Fitch) – If you like clothes that look like they came from a thrift store – meaning distressed, faded and full of holes – then A&F is your brand. This brand has made millions on $50+ graphic tees. BTW, the window to wear this label is so short because all the clothes are so tightly-fitted that, should you breathe, they will explode at the seams.
21 to 24 – A/X (Armani Exchange) – Now that you are old enough to drink, you’ll want to start wearing this “I’m-hot-n-horny, looking-to-get-laid” label. The first label that made men feel like sex objects, A/X is well known for plunging V-neck tees with metallic A/X logs all over them.
24 to 30 – Express Men – The first fashion chain offering both professional and casual attire, the Express Man has a penchant for rainbow-colored shirts with no breast pockets in stretchy fabrics expertly paired with color-coordinated skinny ties and crazy, contrasting socks.
30 to 35 – Banana Republic/The Gap – These two fashion labels have blurred into the same aesthetic in my mind: lean, tailored silhouettes in muddy colors. A bit more refined version of Express Men, these two offer over-priced basics in boring, corporate colors.
35 to 40 – Brooks Brothers – The “mid-life/career” shift has begun and we move from the body-conscious styles of our youth to the more professional, slightly more relaxed fit of this venerable style house. The Brooks Brothers golden fleece logo speaks to the pricing at this chain.
40 to 45 – Jos. A Bank Clothiers – As our careers gel, we continue our fashion evolution at Joe Bank, where tailored, affordable suits live alongside cool golf duds. This is the window when polo shirts enter our lives, suitable for wearing on “Casual Fridays.”
45 to 50 – Casual Male XL/Casual Male Big & Tall – As our careers blossom, so do our waistlines and we are forced to seek out stores that cater to our more, um, “fulfilled” lifestyles. This could well be the bracket during which we purchase – gasp – our first pair of pants with a hidden, adjustable elastic waistband. Shudder.
50 and up – Regrettably, this is where most men derail, fashion-wise, because there is no label/chain for this age, and beyond. Sure, most of us will probably trade-in our Joe Banks polos for camp shirts from Tommy Bahama, but this really is where men’s fashion “falls apart.” This is when we need each other the most…
Hopefully by the time we all reach fifty, we will be confident enough in ourselves and secure enough in our skins to not be seduced by clothes that promise to make us feel young. I ask all my brothers to help one another – don’t fall prey to vanity. Share your thoughts with your male friends. Let’s help one another.
When you see that fifty-year old white guy in a logo starter jacket or worse yet, saggin’ in a pair of oversize jeans, make a mental note of that image and remember it. And maybe hope/pray that guy passes a mirror and really “sees” himself.