Style is evergreen. It is the leaf that never browns, never wilts and never falls from the tree. Throughout the seasons of our life we can be reassured by it. So many in life will look to the shining light of youth for inspiration. The temporary beauty of youth is so intoxicating that we sometimes forget how little it has seen and how little it knows; the ‘blind confidence’ belies the naivety within. I believe in the power of youth, but I also believe in wisdom through aging. Especially where style is concerned.
Tom Wolfe, the American novelist and noted New York dandy, is a perfect example of the inability of time to ravage all that a man is. He is older, and probably weaker, but his magnificent clothing acts as armour to all the slings and arrows. Impeccably attired, usually in a white suit, Mr Wolfe is a reminder that novelists do not always need to be scruffy and disorganised in appearance. Though the most-photographed people of our generation will always be younger every year, more fashion conscious and more modern, there will always be these statuesque reminders of the past.
Much can be learned from the older generation. I remember speaking with my grandfather recently about waistcoats. We were at a formal family function and I was experiencing some discomfort as my waistcoat was refusing to remain in place. He told me to find a private space, remove my jacket, undo my waistcoat buttons, put on my jacket again and then button up my waistcoat. It was fantastic advice. The weight of the jacket pushed the waistcoat into place – and it was then secured.
I think that people quite forget that our older generation has seen, and worn, most of the clothing available for purchase today. Their selection of styles is also fascinating. Those interested in clothing are usually perfect at picking styles which flatter them physically and suit their personality. The late Gianni Agnelli was brilliant at achieving a freshness and crispness in his appearance, with a few eccentricities thrown in for good measure. His white hair, slicked back and his tanned skin glowing against the blues and whites of his favour, reminded me of the unassuming yet formidable qualities which older men possess. The most important quality I believe being a lack of fear.
Ralph Lauren, often referred to as the ‘American classic’ designer, although who actually bases a lot of his designs on English fashions and tailoring, is the perfect example of a man who has ceased to be afraid. His designs are considered conservative in the extreme by the fashion world, but Ralph just does not care; his collections, and his own style of dress seem to say ‘I know, but this is it. I’ve seen the world, and let me tell you – this is the best of what it’s got.’ He never limits himself to anything, but he doesn’t flaunt absurdity because it’s different. He designs what he designs and he wears what he wears because it looks good.
I think many men still in the glow of youth have a lot to look up to. The older style-men should be trusted; they know what they’re talking about. They’re not sad, pale reminders of a world we once knew. They are self-secure, confident and bold; no longer worried what noises the world will cough up in response to their existence.