The Wall Street Journal recently published a smart style piece by Terrance Flynn on the pitfalls of men over 40 trying to look “young.” I appreciated the article and agreed with it for the most part. Between the sneakers, t-shirts, hoodies, skinny jeans, flip-flops and baseball caps, it’s disheartening to see grown men dressing like they get style inspiration from the kids on “Stranger Things.”
Somewhere along the line, men in our culture lost interest in looking like adults. One could counter-argue that these men are rebelling against the traditional rules of how grownups should dress, doing everything in their power to not look like the fathers they hated or resented. Not long ago, men usually outgrew that impulse by their early to mid 20s, maturing into men who looked like they were in charge of something (or at least aspired to look like they were in charge).
Now we have young new-money billionaires in Silicon Valley who built their respective empires when they were still shopping the sale rack at Urban Outfitters, launching a new generation of power players in sneakers and hoodies. These frumpadellic bros pull such influential power levers that at Allen & Co.’s annual Sun Valley Conference in July, some of the old-school moguls disingenuously shed their custom tailoring and grooming and dressed down to the super casual t-shirts, sleeveless fleece zip-ups and dad jeans so they could get jiggy with the tech kids. The sartorial turnout was a boner killer.
What I liked about Flynn’s piece in The Wall Street Journal was that he wrote about his own personal journey with his own style as he matured from his 30s, through his 40s and into his 50s. The lesson wasn’t about abandoning one’s personal character and dressing like a vintage photo of grampa. There was more of a balance involved, with an interest in upgrading to a more age-appropriate yet modern aesthetic and not looking like a grown man clinging to lost youth. In my own gay circles, I’d describe the distinction as looking “cute” vs. looking “handsome.” As a 46 year old gay man, I think it’s in my best interest to pursue the latter.
However, the article turned on me at the end when it curated three suggestions of different casual looks for a mature man. The looks themselves looked pretty good. But the price tags for the pieces in each of the looks were crazy. I’m getting really irritated by newspapers, magazines and blogs that whore out for the luxury industry and presume their readership is part of the 1% or even the 5%, disregarding the rest of us who don’t have superhuman spending power. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a class war, and there are people out there struggling who appreciate good taste and need workable solutions. The complete lack of editorial perspective on what people are able to afford is staggering. To those magazines, newspapers, editors, fashion directors, influencers and everyone else who shamelessly bends over for the luxury agenda while offering no solutions to the vast majority of men who like to look nice but aren’t rich… I say, with all due respect, fuck you.
Below are the three curated looks from the original article, including the brands and the prices. Beneath each of them, I assembled alternate solutions for a fraction of the cost. (There are certainly more choices of different brands out there, but my time was limited.)
Anyone with money or access can acquire. When people create something wonderful with limited resources, things get much more interesting. Fortunately, we’re in a time when really good brands are finding ways to deliver quality and style by skipping the middleman and the subsequent markup. “Cheaper” isn’t always a better solution and can sometimes mean a compromise in quality. But on the same token, “expensive” shouldn’t be equated with “better,” either. There are workable solutions, and we can raise the bar without raising the budget.
Look No. 1
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Look No. 2
Look No. 3