How to Avoid Letting Your Clothes Make You Old

The author decided to eschew baggy pants and try skinny jeans

Very often, when we hit our middle years, we feel as if we suddenly have to dress the part.

Guys buy ghastly “dad dungarees,” which only come in one size: Big And Ugly.

Or they give up altogether and buy those dreaded pajama jeans, which were only invented to make the dad dungarees look better.

And women get haircuts so short and sensible, they look like they’re auditioning for the lead in the remake ofYentl.

So, my question today is, is this really necessary?

Are there laws stating, that in midlife, you must start dressing like a total square? The answer, of course, is no!

So let’s discuss this rationally, people — before you guys buy pants that require a 55-inch belt. And before you women cut your hair off, get gold spectacles and start belting out, Papa Can You Hear Me?

The concept is simple. If it’s strange, colorful or shocking? Wear it! You’ll feel better immediately.

Rad Fashion of the Past

We now know that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. To do any calculations after that, I think you need knowledge of logarithms and a T-square. But, my point is, we’re not our parents. We grew up during a wild time, of both behavior and dress. A time of multicolored hair, stacked heels and glittery nail polish. And that’s just the guys.

OK, fellas, you can’t go around looking like David Bowie anymore. Such fashion wouldn’t fly on Wall Street or in the boardroom. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still wear some of your crazier things. That’s why weekends were invented: for pocket tees and leather jackets — and ladies, for low-cut Crocs that display the Hello Kitty tattoo on your ankle.

So what should you do when it comes to fashion? It’s simple. Allow yourself to have fun.

Bringing the Funk Back

Let me tell you about my personal epiphany of coming to my senses about this age-appropriate clothes nonsense.

Last fall, I had a date with Maggie, a lawyer. We were on our way to a relaxing brunch on a Saturday, without the time-constraints of the working week to bother us. Everything seemed great. But as we passed a store with an outdoor mirror, we stopped suddenly. I was wearing baggy corduroys, loafers and a cardigan. Maggie had on a tartan skirt, stockings and shoes, that with some tweaking, could be called “orthopedic.” We looked like Ozzie and Harriet in Here Come The Nelsons.

Luckily, the town had noise statutes. Or we’d never have stopped screaming.

We weren’t old or overweight. We weren’t going to The National Yahtzee Championship and then heading home to watch The Hallmark Channel. Maggie and I ate brunch, but boy were we depressed. I felt so ancient, I almost ordered stewed prunes and a cup of Postum. Nobody had done this to us. We’d made ourselves old because of what we’d been wearing.

My reflection was just the shock I needed. I knew if I didn’t act, pretty soon I’d give up completely, buy a pair of suspenders to hold up my pants, put on a Naval officer’s hat and tell everyone to start calling me “Old Cap.”

So after Maggie and I parted, I went back to my place and made some changes.

Something Was Missing

Due to years of exercise, my skinny jeans still fit. On they went. I found a Metal T-shirt with enough satanic imagery to get the Parents Music Resource Center to reconvene. I put it on. But something was missing. It didn’t take long to realize what.

I had four small holes in my left ear that hadn’t been filled since that fateful day at The Galleria. Back in went the four studs that had been in a drawer. After all, what were those holes for? Draining pasta?

I looked at myself in the mirror. The years had melted away and I was ready for something exciting. Like a cup of coffee-with caffeine!

I’ve been taking it from there, ever since.

Dear reader, you can do the same. The concept is simple. If it’s strange, colorful or shocking? Wear it! You’ll feel better immediately.

No, there’s no reason to thank me. We’re all in this together, right? Consider this a public service announcement. My way of giving back. Now go find those funky old Chuck Taylor sneakers. And rock on!

By Peter Gerstenzang
Peter Gerstenzang is a humorist, video director and journalist.

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