Think You’re Too Old For Fashion? Tan France Says You Should Think Again

03 March 2020
Fashion, Advice, Tips, Tan France, Ageing
Image: Illustration by Michael Hoeweler
Ageing yourself out of fashion is no longer in vogue

I’m 36 years old. I don’t hide my age, ever. But I did have a crisis of conscience when I turned 30. I realised: I wasn’t 18 anymore. I wasn’t 21. It was time, I thought, to dress more “appropriately”. I should steer away from the trends, and lean into a wardrobe that felt more classic, with some tighter, more sensible, sartorial boundaries.

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Eventually (and thankfully), I came to realise that age doesn’t matter. I should be able to embrace fashion. I daresay you know this but… fashion is fun. It shouldn’t be taken so seriously – even though the industry usually insists that it must. Fashion brings a joy that makes me feel a certain way. I’m all in on that, even if it means pushing back against the narratives we tell ourselves about style and age.

A few years ago, one of my colleagues was hitting 40. With the new decade upon him, he decided to start clearing out his closet – clearing it to ensure he dressed more “age-appropriate”. He asked me for help. And don’t get me wrong: some of the items in there were heinous. But I refused to get rid of things for the reason he wanted to.

If you’re using fashion purely for covering your body, sure, you might think that people ought to “dress their age”. However, as you’re reading GQ at this very moment, I’ll assume you’re embracing fashion from an angle like mine: that you see style as an extension of your joy and identity, rather than just a means of covering your body.

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That’s why I get so frustrated when guys, everywhere, age themselves out of fashion! It’s nonsensical and, seriously, it’s just unnecessary.

The hang-ups we face about style and age are so individual, they’re impossible to list. I’ve heard men say everything from, “I can’t wear high-tops anymore” to, “leather jackets are for guys in their twenties”. And look, maybe you’ve seen a 21-year-old rocking a crossbody bag or dad sneakers, and envied their style. My advice? Try those pieces on. Yes, you might get comments. But if you feel strongly about it – if the dad sneakers call to you the same way they’ve called to millions of men (myself included) – who cares?

No, I’m not delusional, or so full of love and acceptance that I’m blind. Okay, a high bowl cut probably wouldn’t work with the hair of a 55-year-old man. But could he rock a gentle fade on the sides? Probably!

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At first glance, every fashion trend seems to skew super-young and inaccessible. But, there’s always a way to make it work for you. Animal prints are back, reimagined as head-to-toe uniforms. If you’re in your forties and not feeling a head-to-toe statement, you can (and should) rock a leopard print under a jacket, or use it in a sock. Think about it as using just a kiss of a trend, rather than making it a hero piece in your ensemble.

But again, if you’re an older man, I can’t encourage you enough to challenge old preconceptions about the way you have to dress. We’re enjoying a golden era of menswear, and more than a few older men have cottoned onto this, and unleashed looks destined for Pinterest boards and best-dressed articles.

Are we going to have a conversation about Jeff Goldblum? Because we need to. He’s 67 years old, and I feel increasingly certain that he pulls-off runway trends better than most of the twentysomethings lingering outside shows in Paris and Milan. He looks as at home in head-to-toe Saint Laurent as he does on a movie screen. I still remember how, a few years back, he leaned into the Prada shirt trend super hard – they were so loud, so gaudy, but he carried it with such confidence and ease that it just worked.

Head to Instagram and peek at the style of Eric Rutherford – he has a knack for taking trends from runways and 21-year-olds and making them his own. I see him around all the time and he’s always dressed with cool and ease, and all topped off with a brilliant head of salt-and-pepper hair.

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If you’re familiar with my television work, you’ll know that I spend a great deal of my life encouraging men around the world to be more unabashed about their style – to see the joy of dressing well and giving yourself permission to express yourself. That advice isn’t just for aimless college students and newlyweds. It goes for everyone. So, next time you’re admiring a pair of high tops, or a Saint Laurent leather jacket, or a handsome Bottega crossbody – and maybe worrying that you’re a little too old to pull them off – resist the urge to exclude yourself. Your style has no shelf life.