Fashion For Old Guys


It’s hard being age-appropriate, you know? It’s a moving target. It’s hard in every area of life. But, it’s easy when you’re young. As a kid you go to an amusement park, there’s no wondering if a roller-coaster is age appropriate, there’s a cartoon character sign with his hand raised saying, “You must be this tall to ride this ride!” Everything from toys, to puzzles, to Pampers, to food is labeled for age-appropriateness.

Even the movies tell you if you need “PG” Parental-Guidance, or whether it is “R” rated, which basically means, “If your parents are too stupid to tell you you can’t see this movie, we will.” It may be time for a reworking of the movie rating system. I’m recommending a couple of new ratings: SA and CCR, which means if you’re a Senior Adult or a Conservative Christian Republican, you might want to pass on this one. Even for me, sometimes, today’s movies shock my sensibilities, and my standards are pretty low. I’m not a fan of graphic violence, super-hero-special-effects, and casual f-bombing for f-bombing’s sake, or movies starring Matthew McConaughey (It’s not personal, Matt).

For today’s post, I want to focus on one area of tricky age-appropriateness: How To Dress.

I believe I mentioned that I have a good excuse for struggling in this area; besides the fact that I’m an aging, softish, white guy, and we all struggle with this (or we just don’t care anymore). While I was still in my own adolescence/teen years/first coming-of-age, I started working with teens, first, at a junior high school in a counseling program as practicum for a college course. From there, I started in “youth ministry”—working with teens in a church setting. I continued that into my 50s and my second-coming-of-age.

So if we were to meet, and if I were to do something age-inappropriate, keep in mind, it’s not that I’m necessarily emotionally immature, just generationally confused. To this day I am much more comfortable hanging out with young people than I am with people my own age. I’m sure retired high school teachers and coaches can relate (unless you hated kids, which seems to be the case for a few teachers and coaches).

All of this contemplating age-appropriateness started when a sweetheart of a girl from the old youth group days sent me a link to an article about a reinvention of the famous and enduring Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star sneakers. She said something to the effect of: “I could see you wearing these.” I replied something like: “Heck yes! I need a pair.”

But then it dawned on me, should I be wearing Chucks, or is it time for the Rockports and Hush Puppies?

And, not just shoes. What about sock color, or socks at all? Should any man past puberty wear a tank top in public or anywhere other than a basketball court, regardless of physique, or one’s personal, unrealistic view of one’s own?

At this point in my life, only a couple of wardrobe issues are settled for me: boxers over briefs, and this: I just don’t feel comfortable in polo shirts. I do have one. I wear it to this place where I play my semi-annual golf game. They require it. That’s a problem because a lot of the old guys I know that look pretty dapper most of the time seem to do the polo shirt thing so well, most of the year. Somehow when I put on a polo and khakis, I feel like I should be selling TVs at Best Buy.

For many years I have been at my most comfortable in blue jeans, a long-sleeved shirt (sleeves rolled up) and loafers (no socks) in spring, summer and early-autumn. Once the frost is on the pumpkin, the sleeves roll down or I pull over a sweater and switch to socks and chuka boots. Why I’m worrying about clothes choice is beyond me. Why our obsessions?

I guess I still care to the point that I don’t want to look like an old-guy cliche. You know; hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, sandals with socks. Here’s the thing, a lot of guys pull that off very well. It’s like they are so comfortable in their own skin that whatever they wear on that skin seems very authentic.

I also don’t want to appear to be struggling to hang on to some desperate sense of youthfullness. It’s not my fault that chuka boots have come back in to style (I think). I’m not some metrosexual wannabe.

Mostly though, I don’t want to embarrass my grand-girls. When I get home from a fun day out with them, and I look in the mirror and see that on my t-shirt that reads: “Medicare: Bring It On”, is a stain from the yogurt we had at Orange Leaf, and a smudge of grease from the pizza we had at Chuck E. Cheese, will I be embarrassed or will all that just be reminders of a wonder-full day?

At least my feet won’t hurt, because the new Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars I’ve been wearing have extra cusioning and arch  support. Thank you Paula Moore Gresham for the tip and for believing I can pull it off.

So, to all you grandkids and wives out there: any advice for us old guys? Keep this in mind: one thing I know for sure, I don’t want to look like one of those guys whose wife laid his clothes out for him.