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ALPHA MALE: How To Dress Your Age

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Age-appropriate dressing is a matter of being self-aware without being self-conscious. Here are some ways to get there. Photo: GANT.

A lot of the time, we discuss the basics of your wardrobe; What items should make up your closet, the fits of your clothing and how to mix and match fabrics and texture. But a question I am often asked by guys who are trying on items in my store is, "How does this look?" or the more specific, "Does this look appropriate on me?"

It is an important question because no one wants to feel like the odd man out at the party or stand out for the wrong reason in the business meeting. The way you dress says a lot about you and it needs to say the right things. And it starts by having a wardrobe that is as appropriate for your age as it is for the occasions for which you dress.

Most of the brands and products I sell tend to skew to a specific type of guy—one who is confident and aware of his appearance, though not overly fussy or sensitive to the critique of others. This guy could be a twenty-something student at Rhode Island School of Design looking at the latest Fall deliveries or the 45 year-old businessman who wants his first pair of raw, premium denim. What these guys have in common is they both want to look good and they both wish to look appropriately dressed for their age. The latter concern can be a little more subjective to the individual, but there are some basic rules to which all guys can subscribe and which we will discuss.

Classic Always Looks Appropriate

Regardless of your age, the classics can always make you look good. Trousers and a tennis shoe are not just for grandpa. Slim straight, flat front chinos or clean, unadorned denim jeans on the bottom and an Oxford shirt are "can't-miss" items. Paired with a dress shoe, chukka boot or clean white or black tennis sneaker, these items look right on every guy. The trick here for looking your age is color or patterns. In your 20's, do what you want. Mix, match, dare. This makes the basic uniform interesting and separates you from the family man.

Know When to Wear a Blazer

In today's menswear, blazers are once again a staple. But the stodgy and stuffy look and feel of yesteryear are gone. They are cut trim, soft in the shoulder to hug your frame and made in every fabric from cotton chino to worsted wool or tweed. For the younger guy, this can bridge the gap in your wardrobe from casual to professional and vice versa. A heavier cotton chino or twill to ground your look is great. For the older gent, the blazer should be in constant rotation with several weights, fabrics and patterns appropriate for the season. In your 30's, know your limits. A blazer and blank crew neck or V-neck T-shirt is a great look for drinks with your pals, but leave the T out of the workplace and opt for a sport or dress shirt.

If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

Your shoe game needs to go beyond the Vans or workout sneakers and one pair of loafers you bougth on sale as your "dress shoes" for work. Step up your game and spend the money on a great-fitting pair of dress shoes from a brand like Allen Edmonds or Alden (both made in the USA). Unlike your sneakers, a dress shoe is versatile and can be "dressed up" or "dressed down". Once you find a pair that fits you well, you will be amazed at how you can pair them with most of the items in your wardrobe. I mentioned above tennis sneakers as part of a classic look. Like a great dress shoe, the clean white or black sneaker can be appropriate across ages and occasions. In your 40's step outside the box and try a pair of clean white kicks with a suit on a night out with the Mrs. This subtle change is a great way to loosen up without feeling outside your comfort zone.

Age-appropriate dressing is a matter of being self-aware without being self-conscious. Know your comfort zone, stretch it a little and, as always, read the situation and occasion. It is always okay to stand out for dressing well, but do not get caught looking out of place or inappropriate for your age. And regardless of what you wear, you should always act your age. You might be surprised at how your wardrobe will follow.

Robert Babigian is owner of WHARF Clothing & Wares, a menswear retail boutique located at 212 Westminster Street in Providence, RI. A native Rhode Islander, Rob started WHARF after 2 decades in marketing and sales to fulfill his desire to combine his loves of consumer branding, small business and style that would fulfill a niche for desirable men's clothing in the Providence market. The apparel and accessories found at WHARF reflect Rob's own personal aesthetic—a combination of traditional New England staples mixed with modern fits, construction and fabrics blended together with a touch of European style. For more tips or to shop the store, stop in and see Rob and his staff or reach them online at shopwharf.com.


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