Style Column: Can Your Wardrobe Choices Hold Off Middle Age?

Our resident style columnist Jeremy Langmead on the rise of the 'YoLos'

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Are you old? Perhaps you’re not sure. After all, it’s hard to tell these days. Whether you’re 25 or 45, the chances are you wear the same clothes, frequent a gym, party a little too hard on occasion and think a lot about work. And spend a large part of your life worrying what that work might afford you: satisfaction, success, apartment in the right part of town, nice car, far-flung holidays and a retirement age when you can technically still shag (even if it means using a blue pill).

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Because most of us eat well, exercise, moisturise and keep our hair in shape (above and below the waistline), we look younger for longer. And if we’re lucky, we feel fitter, too, thanks to statins, juicers and fitness bands. Your age is no longer the number of years you’ve been alive, you tell yourself, it’s the number of years you feel (or can get away with posting on your Tinder/Grindr profile).

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Is this good news? Mostly, yes. As long as you really are as fit as you feel. But you have to be self-aware: aware that however many wrinkles you’ve zapped with the Botox needle, your coronary arteries still know the date written on your birth certificate, aware that you don’t want to be grandpa disco at the party (never be the last to leave), aware that hangovers take longer to repair and aware that if you’re over 45 and you fall over, it’s no longer called a fall it’s called “having a fall” and it hurts.

And whatever that Harley Street surgeon tells you, men should never have plastic surgery or dye their hair. Look at pictures of Burt Reynolds or John Travolta. It doesn’t work for fellas. Mind you, a survey by researchers at University College, London, revealed that older-feeling adults were about 40 per cent more likely to die than younger-feeling adults of the same age. So if you feel younger than your age, you’ll live longer. Hoorah: the key to living longer is poor eyesight, dark rooms and self-delusion. Easy.

Of course, we’ve tried to give a name to this “younger for longer” generation: middle youth is the most frequently used, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re called YoLos. But really there’s long been an appropriate name for it: middle age. It’s just that middle age is more all-encompassing than it used to be: it’s drainpipe jeans and sneakers or pipes and slippers. Both qualify. You can be young with an old heart: think Manny in Modern Family or Andy Barbour in The Goldfinch; or older with a young heart: think Keith Richards, Johnny Depp or, er, Bruce Jenner.

The reality is that the YoLo (told you it was only a matter of time) has the best of both worlds: he still looks good, and yet knows more and cares less (what others think). The two Cs (entwined like a Chanel logo) that you greet with joy as you journey into middle age are Confidence (whatevs) and Consequence (told you). Annoying for others, admittedly, but so heavenly to so often say exactly what you think and nearly always be right.

The reason I mention all this is that the menswear world seems rather fond of its elders at the moment. Street style blogs savour snappy middle-aged dressers such as Robert Rabensteiner of L’Uomo Vogue and menswear retailer turned designer Nick Wooster; many of the ad campaigns at the moment feature handsome, grey-haired old-timers such as John Pearson or Aiden Shaw; and Selfridge’s has swapped its annual Bright Young Things campaign for one called Bright Old Things where a number of artists, designers and musicians from their late forties to mid-eighties have been given their own windows to design and their own space to sell their products in-store. Selfridges, explaining the campaign, said that “old is as subjective as it is irrelevant”.

Meanwhile, who’s the gun-toting hero of Matthew (X-Men, Kick Ass) Vaughn’s latest film Kingsman: The Secret Service? Not the teenage trainee spy, but Colin Firth’s grumpy, middle-aged, Savile Row-suited secret agent brandishing a killer umbrella. (And if you like the pinstripe suit he wears in the film, Vaughn and mrporter.com have even launched a high-end tailoring collection called Kingsman.)

I was having a drink with a handful of friends in someone’s flat recently, one Tuesday evening, when Lindsay Lohan turned up fresh from the theatre. Even though I knew the evening had the possibility to be a fun one, it was a school night and so I sensibly left at 11.30pm. “I’m sorry to be so rude and leave almost as soon as you get here,” I said to the actress as I made my way to the door. “It’s not rude,” replied Lohan, puffing on a cigarette at the window, “just boring.”

LiLo put this YoLo right in his place. And I didn’t give a jot.

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MORE LANGMEAD:

What You Should (And Shouldn't) Where To Bed
What To Wear To A Gay Wedding (If It's Yours)
Jeremy Langmead On Wardrobe Management
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