There are plenty of minimum age limits (drinking, gambling, Quentin Tarantino movies), but bar driving, nowhere near enough maximum ones. It’s alarming, given that letting septuagenarians loose on streetwear can result in an equally horrific car crash of the mutton-dressed-as-lamb variety. Not that we’re ageist, mind. In fact, we regularly celebrate the likes of Bill Nighy and Jeff Goldblum as some of the best-dressed around. And of course, these are merely guidelines, to which there are always exceptions. But it’s usually Pharrell, who doesn’t seem to be subject to the same process of organic decay as the rest of us. The advice is simple: while dressing for your body shape and personal taste is paramount, it’s also stylish to know when you’ve unwittingly past certain buy-by dates. These are they.
Under 25: Ripped
Despite it being a popular trend, some would argue that ripped jeans are only ever cool if you’ve earned the holes. One thing that can be agreed on, however, is that like a rock star or skateboarder, they’re only ever cool when you’re young. Even then, understand that your dad will quip: “Can’t you afford to buy new jeans?”
Between 25 And 35: Distressed
By this age, your old man has stopped satirising your style choices and instead started surreptitiously pressing cash into your palm while saying, “If you need anything, let me know.” You’re too old to hang out at the half-pipe, but not so beset by responsibilities that you can’t dedicate half a year to developing some sweet fades on shuttle-loom Japanese selvedge.
Over 35: Plain
Aggressively faded jeans merely advertise that your glories have too, so any wear and tear on your denim should, like that on your face, be kept to a minimum. By this point, you may even have fathered one or more children, depending on just how tight those ripped skinnies were. In which case, good luck trying not to wash your selvedge for six months.
Under 25: Slogan/Band
Unless you spend your weekends rescuing cats for local animal shelters, a T-shirt that says ‘Pussy Patrol’ is never okay. But a less explicit graphic example is permissible, as is vintage band merch, even if bought new from a high-street retailer. Your youthful idealism also excuses the wearing of political views, even if you’re about as woke as the Pepsi marketing department.
Between 25 And 35: Logo
Getting a job and scrabbling for a toehold on the property ladder has probably made you more conservative, while the new ‘vintage’ band T-shirts on the high street depressingly feature groups that you listened to when they first came out. But you can still rock a lit label’s logo to show that you’re down with the work experience kids. And say “lit”. Just.
Over 35: No-Go
You’re thinking about how to wangle work experience for your kids, logos are no-gos, and vintage band T-shirts make you look like a roadie. Stick to plain examples in good-quality fabrics like Supima cotton that hug your figure flatteringly rather than suffocate or drown it. The only bands on your T-shirt should be stripes – white or not.
Under 25: Hype
This is the age when you fall completely and irrationally in love with things, and also when you can get away with looking like a teenager, even if you’re not quite one any longer. So if you feel compelled to blow your student loan on the latest chunky trainers – and camp out overnight for the privilege – then fill your boots, snowflake.
Between 25 And 35: Contemporary
It’s unbecoming to queue for the newest drops, not to mention impractical, what with work and all. But you haven’t got so many better things to do with your life that you can’t scour eBay for a rare colourway, or stump up for designer collaborations and argue that the superior materials and craftsmanship make them totally worth the hiked-up price tag.
Over 35: Classic
If you’ve successfully staved off a dadbod, then a knitted trainer might still fly. But you should be leaving the latest releases un-copped in favour of traditional styles such as Stan Smiths, Converse Jack Purcells and the less adolescent Vans, plus swerving bright colours for muted tones or white. As a rule, your kicks should have stood the test of time for as long as you have.
Under 25: Ironic
Either you don’t care about watches yet, or you’re counting down the minutes until an elderly relative kicks the bucket and bequeaths you a Patek Philippe. So, for now, something bright and plastic or with a calculator function will suffice as a placeholder that you don’t mind breaking or losing on a drunken night out.
Between 25 And 35: Pretend
You have places to be, and punctually at that. You’re also eyeing up watches. But while you’re dressing for the job you want, you don’t have the earning power for a grail watch, and the old codger is alive and ticking. On the other hand, at least a quartz fashion watch or minimalist Scandinavian wrist candy will prove that you’re not an old-timer.
Over 35: Proper
Some will insist that if it’s not mechanical, then it shouldn’t touch skin. Many more others won’t clock that you only spent £150 on an archetypal dress or sports watch from a respectable non-Swiss brand. If you want to hold your wrist up high in certain circles, though, or hand what’s on it down to your offspring, then add a zero.
Under 25: Skinny
You’re still able to squeeze into suits cut so sharply that they could draw blood, or certainly restrict its flow to parts of your compressed anatomy, so enjoy it. Thin lapels and jackets cropped to your armpits all signal that you’re wearing a two-piece as a fashion statement, not because it’s stipulated in an employee handbook.
Between 25 And 35: Slim
Even if you can still fit into the eye-wateringly tight tailoring of your youth, you’ll likely look like you’re going to the prom that you probably bought it for, or a bad nightclub. So shed the schoolboy aesthetic and graduate to a cut that demonstrates in more ways than one that you’re yet to hit middle age – but have a bit more substance about you.
Over 35: Classic
Having witnessed one or two swings of the fashion pendulum, by now you’ve realised that, whether they’re too thin or fat, lapels that stray too far beyond the safe zone of three or so inches will date even the best suit horribly, and you by extension. Bumfreezer jackets and trousers busting at the seams, meanwhile, are anything but elegant.
Under 25: Steezy
Ask any grooming expert worth their weight in serum, and they’ll tell you that hands are the biggest giveaway of age. That’s not just down to wrinkles and brown spots, though, but also what’s at the end of them. While father time is on your side, keep your paws encumbered by handles and earn some serious street cred at the same time with wearable luggage.
Between 25 And 35: Sensible
If anything proves the shifting sands of menswear, it’s bags. Cross-body styles, once a staple of dads-on-tour, are now exclusively for the spry. And backpacks, provided they are cut from premium fabrics and finished with sturdy hardware, are more club menswear than after-school club.
Over 35: Serious
Your third decade doesn’t have to come with too much bag-age, and certainly not a shopping trolly. However, it is smart to cart your kit to work in something that looks the business, particularly if the business you are carting it to is yours (make sense?). A soft-body briefcase in leather or canvas is and sleek, modern version of the old-school classic.