I recently landed in a European city and was enjoying the rush of experiencing the new and different that one always feels when travelling to new places. My diary entry for that first weekend included this phrase: “never have I seen so many stylish middle-aged people.”
Okay, so stating that Europeans can be stylish is hardly a breaking news flash, but this city was not Paris or Milan or London, places synonymous with style.
It was Munich, Germany. Now Munich is a prosperous place that is often cited as one of the world’s most “livable” cities. So no doubt this helps by giving the inhabitants the funds to dress well. And it’s no stranger to style being the home of BMW as well as a number of important museums and palaces. But still there are other prosperous places that don’t necessarily cry out “style!” Phoenix anyone? (I wish I took more and better photos to make my point, but I’m not quite comfortable as a Vivian Maier type street photographer yet)
And my key point is that it was all the stylish midlifers that impressed me.
When you think of fashion centers like Paris, Milan, London and New York; and for that matter the fashion industry itself with its attendant magazines and other media, the underlying commonality is youth. So to see a classy city full of comfortably stylish middle-agers was a revelation. Of course, not everyone fit the mold I’m talking about but there were fewer fashion faux-pas, and more “pretty darn goods”, that I am used to seeing on city streets. And absolutely no 48 year olds in garish t-shirts struggling to contain a bulging gut hanging over camouflage shorts and neon Nike runners.
Yes, there are stylish people in cities over here, but just not representing as large a proportion of the people out on the street. That’s what really struck me – most people paid attention to how they presented, and they presented well. Even on a Saturday in October at the market.
So what makes them stylish? I am hardly a fashion expert so can’t bring an expert’s eye or jargon to this. But I think the overwhelming thing is that they weren’t trying to dress like they were 20-somethings. But nor were they dowdy seniors. They looked comfortable and well put together. Clothes fit well but weren’t skin-tight. Let’s face it, the twenty-somethings still have the bodies worth emphasizing. By middle-age, that should not be the focus.
Rather, quality materials, muted colours that work well together, modern cuts that follow but don’t hug the body, and good shoes – these are the things that make good style, I think. And man, do scarves work well – for both men and women.
Yes, I picked one or two up on that trip – in Sienna to be exact. No-one does scarves as well as the Italians.
Again, I know, not a news-flash.
Some tips from people who know what they’re talking about:
British GQ: How to dress in your 50’s
RealMenRealStyle: Style Advice For A Man Over 50
Art of Manliness: A Man’s Guide to Dressing Sharp and Casual in his 50s
Bellatory: Fashion Tips for Women over 50
LiveAbout: Fashion For Women over 50