I am a balding man of 51 years old who nonetheless still wears jeans. What is the last age when this is acceptable? (I know, I know, do what feels comfortable, don’t follow silly rules – seriously, though, what age?)
PB, London, N8
My favourite correspondent, how wonderful to welcome you back to the page, PB. Judging from my records – and in this post-NSA age, you surely know that records are kept of everyone’s movements – you have been corresponding with this column for more than eight years now and your steadfastness doesn’t just warm my cockles, it roasts them. Send in one more question and I’ll fork out for a free meal at Nando’s, how about that? Truly, US Vogue wishes it had this column’s levels of chic.
Yet as I lean back, enjoying the sensation of my cockles being roasted, a cloud crosses my brow. But wait, I cry, jumping up, sloshing my martini all over my Chanel couture. If PB has been reading this column for nearly a decade and he nonetheless asked this question, that must mean I’ve failed because HE STILL DOESN’T GET IT. And at that point, only the promise of one day learning Karl Lagerfeld’s thoughts on Pippa Middleton’s hypothetical future wedding dress saves me from doing something drastic.
PB, PB, PB: to learn that you still believe that there are rules about ages in fashion after all this time would be like God discovering that the Pope still doesn’t quite get the whole Trinity thing. This is the basis of our entire belief system! Do not feel abashed, faithful correspondent, for it is not your fault. It is partly my fault, of course, for having, at some point, failed you as a teacher. But it is mainly the fault of the terrible end times in which we live, when people are made to feel ashamed of their age as opposed to proud of it – proud that they have survived however many decades of living in the same world as inane glossy magazines and something called the “anti-ageing industry” without actually throwing themselves off a cliff.
But in this case, I must confess that you are right: there is an age limit for men and jeans and that age is, as I shall exclusively reveal, 57. And so, on your 57th birthday, as your wife gives you a kiss and your cherry-cheeked children hand over a pack of birthday socks, there will be a knock on your door. You will find a pack of coppers backed by the staff of GQ on your front stoop with a giant burlap sack, ready to confiscate all your denim items. This happens to all men, but is a secret, like the actual existence of Santa Claus, so I’d appreciate it if all of you would keep this to yourselves.
Seeing as I’ve already broken the fashion ranks by revealing the Great 57th Birthday Denim Swag Haul, I shall further anger my style overlords by confessing I strongly disagree with this rule. In fact, I think it’s downright insane. There are no age rules in fashion: none. Nada. Zilch. I know many wish there were, because it would make things easier. It’s nice having a rule to cling to, to assure you that you will never look daft, never get hurt, never age, never get fat and never die and plunge into oblivion. Something you can follow unthinkingly without having to engage your own brain. The same human need to believe in religion, to give a hoot about what Gwyneth Paltrow or Beyoncé have to say about carbohydrates, or to spend £400 on a dodgy facial is the same one that longs to know the age at which one must stop wearing jeans. But I’m afraid that just as Gwyneth’s insights into nutrition don’t amount to a hill of mung beans, so there aren’t any actual age rules in fashion, and just because fashion magazines claim otherwise does not make it so.
Why don’t people have more faith in themselves? I wonder this often, when I see them rushing from one crackpot diet to another, from one celebrity “guru” to the next, from one fashion age limit to another. People, have faith that you know better than anyone what foods should go in your body and what clothes look good on your body, and just because some diet or fashion items suit one person does not mean they will suit you. Yes, it would be easier to go through life with a list telling you what to eat, wear and believe. But you know what? Life would also be pretty boring. Such is the price of living in the free world, one in which a 51-year-old man could walk down the street on his hands in a clown suit, should he so please. It’s scarier to have to trust oneself, but ultimately it’s also more satisfying.
So wear your jeans until they bore you, PB, or until they just no longer feel right. Should there come a point when they no longer suit you, trust yourself that you will know. Until then, wear them with panache and pride. To quote one of the all time great films, Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs, “the Schwartz is in you – it’s in you!” That’s a quote that only those of us of a certain age will know. Proof that age truly does equal wisdom, wisdom that means we all deserve to wear whatever we want whenever we want.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.