If Google is an accurate barometer of our collective consciousness, a good portion of humanity seems riddled with anxiety about entering diff erent decades of life in inappropriate outfits. Type “how to dress for your age” and the search engine offers more than 15 million results, many categorised by decade – what to wear in your 20s, 30s, 40s and so on. A quick perusal of the articles suggests a common thread: That young people should look professional (while being somewhat daring), while older folks should look stylish (without being too daring).
Now I generally consider myself pretty liberal when it comes to fashion, and my philosophy is that people should wear whatever they feel good in, age-appropriateness and public opinion be damned. That said, despite pooh-poohing the copious “dressing for your age” articles that pop up ever so often in magazines and online, I wasn’t quite prepared when my internal clock suddenly sounded the alarm on shortish frocks.
It started the same way I began spouting utterances like “music in my day was better” and “kids these days” – out of nowhere. (Oh, all right, it was probably after passing my mid-30s in recent years.) One moment, I was happily going about my business in dresses that hit well above the knee; the next, I was in front of the mirror, looking critically at my reflection, clad in a flared checked dress that ended at mid-thigh. Instead of seeming jaunty and fresh like it always had, the dress felt – talk about the worst of both worlds – mildly indecent and, worse, childish.
(RELATED: 8 new men’s summer 2017 smart casual looks.)
When dress shopping online these days, I tend to refine my selection by clicking on “knee length” rather than the “mini” category that has been my default since I discovered e-commerce. But that does not mean that I’ve suddenly embraced the tenets of conventional fashion wisdom: Lists of “must-have items for a woman in her 30s” often include a little black dress and sensible black pumps. I couldn’t think of a more depressing style purgatory.
Rather, staying true to yourself simply means not following other people’s rules when it comes to getting dressed – whether it’s how you should dress for your body type, or your age. (That is, unless you want to. Then my tip is that a little structure in clothing goes a long way in concealing middle-age lumps and bumps.)
If you are comfortable dressing more outrageously or revealingly as you get older, go for it. In an online guide for men in their 40s, for instance, international man’s magazine GQ advises that “you might not be able to bust out the full-on print shirts without looking a little try-hard”. We think some of our most stylish readers would beg to differ. We have spotted aesthetics doctor Chan Kok Weng in various items with full-on prints – shirts, trousers, jackets. (Relax, he doesn’t wear them all at once.) Even when the 48-year-old man about town is clad in a black tux, he tops it off with his signature accessory: a pair of colourful spectacles.
“I like colours and textures, and even with classic pieces, I like to jazz things up with a modern twist,” says Dr Chan, whose favourite labels include flamboyant brands like Tom Ford and Givenchy, as well as traditional artisanal names such as Berluti and Pierre Corthay. Describing the way he dresses as “adventurous, funky and different”, the good doctor reflects on how his personal style has evolved over the years: “I find myself daring to try and explore more. It probably comes with age and confidence.”