10 Essentials for the 40 Year Old

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I have just about eight years to go before hitting the forty year old mark, so I am not sure what to expect, but here is what I hope to have going into that year, in my virtual suitcase.

1. A gym membership. Used often and well (most trainers recommend at least 3 times a week, heavy exertion) this is worth much more than 1000 bespoke suits.

2. An heirloom quality watch.
Whether you are going to pass it on to your oldest son with some well chosen words of wisdom, or whether some distant relative is going to pry it off your cold, dead wrist, this is worth having. You are a man of experience in the world, and your watch should reflect that.

3. A really good cardigan. Yeah, you are a grown man, not Michael Moore. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look sharp though. These days, the slim, smartened up cardigan is a good alternative to a sports jacket when you are out on the worksite, or smartens up the weekend shirt and jeans. I like this one from Fillipa K, available from Context in Madison, Wisconsin, where a lot of professors would do well to be shopping.

4. Flat front pants. Just because you are forty doesn’t mean that you need folds and folds of cloth draping on your legs. I hear a lot of reasons in favor of pleats, and they definitely have their place. However, most men wear them because they are fat. Since you have eaten well and exercised, and generally kept your body in good condition, a pair of slim, but not trendy skinny, flat front pants flatter you even more than they would a younger man. I personally like the Polo by Ralph Lauren pants made for the European market, which can be had from YOOX.COM.

5. A good haircut. Whatever looked good when you were 30 probably looks crap now, unless you were blessed to have no hair loss through the marriage and the kids and the jobs and the mortgages. Or unless you had already cropped your hair fairly close. The Roman Senator hair, some people call it. The Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Of course, if you have really bad luck in the genetic hair loss lottery, you should just have a completely shaved head. Whatever you choose, there is one rule: no combovers. They fool no-one. Never have, never will.

6. A classic belt. Choose the belt when you are at a good, healthy weight. You will put this belt on the middle hole at least once every week. You will work your wardrobe around the belt, if you must. So make sure that it is a good, subtle, classic design and in the best leather you can find. If the belt does not fit on that hole, you will adjust your exercise and diet regimens and wear that belt every single day until that belt fits the middle hole again.

7. Sunglasses: Get a good pair of Persols. A tortoise shell horn rimmed model, maybe. Wear them outside only. You’ve earned the right to wear them on a boat with a linen shirt, shorts and boat shoes, and not be “that guy.” Just don’t be “that guy”. Otherwise, no one will cry if you accidentally slip off that boat and leave all your money to the twenty year old you met just a month ago.

8. A terrific entertainment system. I know nothing about entertainment systems. However, I plan to learn about and have a really nice one by the time I am 40. I will tell my kids that “Dad is working in his library, and not to be disturbed” and listen to music that was cool in 2003, maybe watch some TV.

9. A grill. If you are cooking for a hundred, you may want the Fire Magic Monarch natural gas model. Even if you have a lesser animal, (which, honestly, most guys should have,) you will be able to press the steak and say “Hrm, a couple more minutes should do it,” and have a drink with your friends who do not look as good as you do because they did not get the gym membership, the good haircut, or the classic belt. You would tell them about these essentials, but do you really need to rub it in?

10. Integrity. If you haven’t got that by 40, there may be very little hope for you.


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Fok-Yan Leung can be found discussing men’s style at Styleforum.net.