Adrressing Dressing

When it comes to budgeting I bet there’s one element missing from a man’s budget that many women would never omit: personal upkeep. You know, clothes, hairdressing, personal grooming, stuff like that.

I certainly have never maintained a personal budget for such frippery. Not only does buying clothes not excite me, saving money to buy clothes doesn’t excite me either. Buying clothes is a necessary hassle, a bit like shaving except I don’t have to face doing it on a daily basis (and the only reason I haven’t grown a beard is I suspect there’s an upkeep to that too once you’re over the itching stage.)

I do think I thought a bit about clothing when I was younger, but middle age soon put paid to that. Work meant a suit Monday to Friday and anything outside of that was bought for comfort and utility, nothing else. Appearance? Who gave a toss? I’d better things to think about.

As I’m growing older though, I’m beginning to think a bit more about the mental approach to ageing, and I’ve found recently that clothing might be an important part of that. In one of the magazine supplements at the weekend, I skimmed an article written by a fifty-something woman going about how good she and her friends looked for their age. She put this partly down to the sheer number of skin treatments, health care, diet advice, hair extensions, fashionable and affordable clothing and so on available to women these days. While making this point, she remarked that while her friends looked fantastic, their husbands (when they still had them) in comparison looked, frankly, like shit. Stooped, balding, fighting a losing battle against their middle aged spread and dressed like a sack of tatties, many of them looked as if they were out on the town with their daughters.

That barbed comment got me thinking. Men do take pride in some things relative to appearance. Their cars, for a start.Their gadgets. Their prowess at five-a-side footie, or how good their new bike looks. All of these relate to self-esteem and I can see that. But, for some reason, I don’t think many blokes spare much thought about their clothes outside of the utilitarian aspects of them. If they did, the majority would go nowhere near lycra for a start.

In our defence, we don’t get much training or direction in this aspect of our lives. At work, we either wear a suit to the office or the appropriate gear for the job we do. We really don’t have to think about what we wear much at all. Outside of work, the same applies. A pair of jeans or chinos, a casual shirt and jacket. Sorted. And we don’t have one massive pressure to contend with – what other men think. We all know that women dress primarily to impress other women but men dress for themselves.

Or do they? Whenever I occasionally browse men’s magazines like GQ and Esquire, it never ceases to amaze me at how many pages are devoted to men’s fashion. Who even looks at this guff, I wonder? In my life, I can number on one hand the conversations I’ve had with friends about clothes. I don’t think I’ve read many thoughts from Mr Money Moustache on the subject either, although I do remember Jacob Fisker once going on about paying decent money for quality footwear (referencing hiking boots that he fancied would last him about twenty years or something.) I do understand that side of the coin – we’re always thinking about “value for money”, and fashion often seems to be diametrically opposed to that concept. But splashing the cash for a decent, warm winter jacket or hiking boots, well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Is this important though? “No”, would normally be my unthinking response to this subject, but once I do start thinking about it I’m not so sure. Clothes and how you dress play a significant part in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. As I set these thoughts down, I realise that in my employed days when I worked from home, I’d generally get up, wash, shave and dress casually for the day ahead. I didn’t lounge around unshaven and unwashed in my pyjamas. I don’t think I could have focused on work sitting in a dressing gown at two in the afternoon. I once read that if you have an important phone call to place to someone, you should stand up to make it. It’s a psychological trick, but it works. Clothes are, in a way, a psychological trick too.

What’s this got to do with retirement then? Well, one of the things about retirement that is talked about – especially for men – is the potential drop in self-esteem and lack of purpose that might come along when employment falls away. The psychological approach to retiring and the latter decades of life is an important aspect of it. Perhaps men should think more about their outward appearance more as they grow older, as well as their internal mental and physical health. I’m not saying here that “dressing younger” is the answer, as there’s surely nothing more tragic than men and women who choose this route and get it wrong. To be honest though, other than starting to think about dress sense, I have to say that I’m not sure I have much, if anything, more to say about it. This is because if there’s a surfeit of information for women on the subject there is virtually nothing for blokes. As for blokes over fifty, there’s almost less than nothing. Once we’ve stopped going to work and going out on the town, how should we dress for our age? I’ve no idea. “Whatever’s comfortable” is how I still approach the subject, thinking as long as I bodyswerve slip-on shoes and elasticated trousers I’ll probably be okay. But perhaps I should start looking at clothes and appearance in a different way, through the prism of them helping to create a positive retirement persona that’s different to what went and (hopefully) worked before. And, while I think about it, I’ll just reach for my pipe and settle into my slippers.

23 thoughts on “Adrressing Dressing

  1. > In one of the magazine supplements at the weekend

    This is where you’re going wrong, it’s advertising 😉 OK so you got a good post from it and the writer has a point, guys can look crap as they age sometimes. I’d say much of it is about how they are, not what they wear. The middle aged spread, the red veiny stuff in the face from drinking too much, the multiple chins. We all know what to do about that, drink less and eat less.

    Funnily enough I find retirement is the best time ever to grab that issue by the balls and sort it. I aim to have the same weight and hopefully waist measurement I had at 21, though it will take time. But it’s easier do do as a retiree, travelling for work in particular was a bear to eat well on.

    I’m lucky enough to still have all my hair and 95% of it the original colour, but guys, if you are losing yours then whatever you do don’t Trump it is another big win.

    However, it probably is the psychological issues which add to the look. In Gail Sheey’s Passages (albeit from surveys in the 1970s) midlife turning is particularly different for women who have raised children and are then on an upswing with the empty nest, whereas men, who were outwardly focused on work and career and had an easier ride across the 30s/40s can take a downswing when that source of validation stops. If guys feel down they walk slow, their shoulders droop and all that – again, it’s not all about the clothes.

    I do look forward to the jaunty pic with the motorcycle and leather jacket!

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    • The article did get my goat for some reason! There’d have been an outcry if a bloke had written that about fifty-something women. I agree with your points though, I’ve lost weight, eat better and am much more active than I was when working. I just hope I can keep it going.

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  2. don’t shave, terrible waste of time, money and bad for your skin
    get a good set of clippers and trim stubble/beard once every 2 weeks on a ‘0’ setting
    for extra points get a 2nd set of sheep-shearing ones and use them – proper manly..
    you will look more rugged and adventurous like a modern day scott or shackleton, not like some pre-pubescent boy-band loser
    I shaved for the last time in spring 2013 and my life has been improved immeasurably by this simple act.
    I cannot recommend this course of action highly enough
    let me repeat, lest my point is still unclear – shaving is for complete idiots, plain and simple – don’t be one of them..

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  3. I’d say for both sexes the trick to ageing well is getting enough exercise. Drinking a fair bit of water might well also help. The skin creams etc that the weekend article mentioned don’t matter a damn (I think). If you’re in good shape and good health then (most of the time) dressing comfortably will look fine.

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      • there is one skin cream that if used (when sunny) for your entire lifetime will keep you looking a bit younger

        sun-cream (factor 30)

        reduce the probability of you getting cancer too so prob worth the outlay

        PS not a beard, stubble (short to long over the 2 week period), I’m not advocating being a hipster..

        please, for the love of god, take my advice, and stop shaving – it is a bizarre, futile and ultimately moribund pursuit

        you’ve got to start making some changes in your life man, let this one be the first..

        oh and do the sun-cream thing as well..

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      • “…Even on your face.” hahaha – touché. I can’t argue with that. I graciously accede defeat on the matter…

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    • From my own experience, I’d agree with Cathy. Looking around the office, the women in the 40-50 bracket (and I include myself here) are slim, do regular exercise and look after themselves. That’s not to say we’re all clean living – most of us probably still drink too much! However, the men in the same age bracket – well frankly, they’ve just all let themselves go, look years older and delude themselves into thinking that doing a few bicep curls at home can cancel out the daily fry up breakfasts.

      As you frequent the gym and generally take care of yourself, you would be an exception in our office – keeping fit seems to be reserved for the younger lads, which makes the ‘old boys’ in the office look even older.

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  4. I’ve had the same hairstyle since I was twenty-one, shaved (now bald) with facial hair graded with the hair once a week. MY best investment to date was my graders!
    I’m 45 and still work out, vegetarian and dress in semi-fashionable clothes. I do believe good quality clothes can make you feel and look more confident with a bit of grooming in there too.
    In my opinion, older men in England do tend to look like shit when I visit and seem to take less care as they get older, but then again I’m from a working class area and most people haven’t got a pot to piss in. As Paul Weller says “to either cut down on the beer or the kids new gear, it’s a big decision in a town called Malice”.

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  5. I’ve been wrestling with these very problems recently. Blokes of my generation (I’m mid 40s) have largely had a life of uniforms. School uniform followed by suits for the office – with only a brief pause to dress as a “Tramp by Army Surplus” while at university.

    Outside our uniformed existence, we’ve dressed for our activities, hobbies, and sports. And as my primary activity is now gardening I find myself putting on the same labourer/woodsman clobber every morning. I’ll add trouser clips for cycling.

    And shaving! Mrs SDG seems to have managed to veto a beard but I really can’t be arsed with daily shaving any more. So I leave it for an indeterminate period of time until either itchiness or Mrs SDG prompts me attack it – whereupon I clog the razor with what are effectively twigs.

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