If Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old interior designer, model and actress can rock a look that would be bold on a woman seventy years her junior, then I think that we can slide into middle age with the confidence to try something new, don’t you?
Of course, while nothing beats slouching in front of the TV in a pair of loose-fitting jogging bottoms (christened my ‘leave me alone’ trousers by my elder son) and a well-washed cotton hoodie, tweaking your usual look with one or more of these tips could take years off – and I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get…
5 accessories you should invest in
Get a hat
I’m not a huge fan of hats in general but when it gets cold I love my Tilley Classic Winter hat. Made from tweed and cut loose, it is formal enough to wear with a formal Chesterfield coat and informal enough to look good with my smelly old Barbour Bedale. You’ll usually want to choose one that’s a bit bigger than your normal hat size but it’ll shed rain and snow from here to eternity – and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Few things look better with a nice shirt and a pair of chinos in the summer than a Panama hat. Of course, a good one will cost you a tidy sum but it’ll roll up in your suitcase and will last you a lifetime.
Finally, baseball caps. I wear them occasionally when I’m shooting or messing about in the boat but I would never dream of wearing one backwards. After all, we are not American.
Buy clothes that actually fit you
I slid slowly into a state of mind that insisted my upper body should be hidden behind clothes that were too big, and my legs should be sheathed in trousers that bagged fashionably on my shoes. As a result, I looked like a shambling, pale-imitation of Boris Johnson. That is not a good look.
All that changed once my wife persuaded me to buy shirts and jumpers a little bit tighter than I was comfortable with. That’s not to say that I look like Daffyd Thomas in Little Britain, but wearing a top that actually fits you properly can be remarkably slimming. I know; who’d have thought?
It’s the same with trousers. The old advice is that they should break on the top of your shoe and I think this holds true, even now. You will probably think they’re a bit short, but they aren’t - and there is nothing wrong with flashing a brightly coloured sock as you strut along (more on that very shortly). If they need taking up then you can either sew them up or use iron-on double-sided tape , which is remarkably effective and easy to apply.
Instantly slimming looks
Change your jeans every few years
While Levi 501 jeans are a design classic, even they get tweaked every few years. My old pair were almost a boot cut (or flared, if you listen to my children) and the modern look is for a tighter, straighter leg.
I know, there are years of life left in your old pair but trust me; when you hit fifty you need to take a lot more care to get your jeans just right and you’re aiming to channel the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, not Bruce Forsyth.
Oh, and rolling your jeans up to reveal a hint of sock is a look that works very well if you’ve got the confidence to do it without feeling self-conscious. Elvis loved blue suede shoes, and so do I - especially with a classic brothel creeper sole.
My Clarks Desert Boots
Wear more suits
I am reliably informed that a good suit is to women what fine lingerie is to men; if so, then I can’t for the life of me understand why we don’t wear more suits…
I used to have a very good tailor in Leeds who would knock me up a suit in a material and style of my choosing for not much more than an off-the-peg suit from Burtons. This encouraged me to try a number of different looks including a fetching tweed number; a bold, in-your-face chalk-stripe that, with hindsight, was a mistake; and a rather attractive Prince of Wales check.
However, facing more impoverished times, I now haunt eBay in search of vintage suits. I rarely pay more than £50 for one, and figure on paying the same again for alterations. The beauty of this is that suits made thirty years or more ago are so much better-made than the sort of rubbish made today that sells for ten times the price. SO much so, in fact, that even when the gamble occasionally goes wrong (moth holes that weren’t mentioned, a musty smell that won’t go away, etc.), I’m still ahead.
A splash of colour
Whether it’s a pair of bright socks, a dazzling handkerchief peeking out of a pocket, or a contrasting scarf, nothing lifts a look - and your mood - like a splash of colour.
It works better if you limit your palette to just two or three toning shades, reserving the final flourish of colour for your inner peacock. Be bold, and if you can’t be bold then ask your partner what they’d like to see you wearing and give it a try. After all, if it all goes horribly wrong they can hardly blame you, can they?
By the way, I don’t need to tell you that novelty ties and socks don’t count as a splash of colour, do I?