Why do fathers insist on dressing like their teenage sons?
Fathers who refuse to dress their age, instead aspiring to the fashion of their teenage sons, have created a new breed of middle-aged ‘kidults’ according to fashion designer Joe Farage.
"Your average inner-city man over 40 is more likely to be wearing Edwin skinny jeans, a Deus T-shirt, Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie, Le Coq trainers and a trucker cap," Farage says. "Out in the burbs, it's basically the same outfit, but the jeans will be Lee, the T-shirt will feature a V8 Supercars logo, the hoodie will be Everlast, and the trainers will be Nikes."
Clothing historian Dr Sally Gray says men of a certain age have always wanted to look and feel younger.
"They have always wanted to look like they still 'have it'," she says. "It's just that now they have the spending power to do so, and there is a market out there waiting for them."
Artistic director, musician and legendary fashionista Ignatius Jones agrees.
"It all started in the 1960s with the cult of the teenager and people revolting against their parents. Suddenly it wasn't cool to look like dad anymore."
Fifty-three year old Jones believes 'kidult' fashion is driven by a burning need for 40-somethings to hang onto their adolescence. "These baby boomers have tried to preserve their childhoods forever. It's all to do with the quest for eternal youth."
"I've always strongly believed that one should dress in the style of the decade when one was born. Hence I dress exclusively in the 1950s, the last time a man's suit was really sharp."
So what are some of the most obvious examples of age-inappropriate male clothing?
Well, most pundits agree that wearing jeans so tight that they show your religion is probably at the top of the list.
"Skinny jeans are ridiculous at the best of time for any age," Jones says. "They are uncomfortable. They squash your testicles and they emphasise any expansion of girth."
Jones recommends that post-40s stick to a timely classic – the Levi 501.
Manufactured since 1890, the 501 became the world's best selling clothing item, and famous wearers include writer Jack Kerouac and rocker Bruce Springsteen (but don't let that put you off).
Farage concurs, "Skinny jeans are just awful. You're best to go for a classic Levi. More importantly buy a jean that suits your body shape.
"Or team a classic chino with a polo shirt for a casual, but smart look. And avoid pastel coloured chinos if you are the wrong side of 40."
Speaking of pants, three-quarter length trousers might be the hottest thing on catwalks around the world, but take a look at the male models, most are stick thin and pushing 20.
"Best to avoid this look completely," Farage adds.
The T-shirt is another fashion staple that some consider inappropriate for post-40s, especially when it comes adorned with pithy sayings, garish logos or the names of fake universities.
Advertising guru Tod Samsom, has made the witty T-shirt his trademark, especially when appearing on the Gruen Transfer or The Project. (Someone has even created a Todd Samson T-shirt archive). However at 39-years-of age, he just slips through the net.
"Keep your T-shirt simple," says Farage. "A T-shirt with too many prints and logos starts looking a bit odd when you are beyond 40. Get something in black and white from American Apparel or Gap. Both do good quality basics."
Another much maligned item of clothing, popular with baby boomer males is the hoodie. The problem with hoodies is they are often associated with the types of people who want to climb through your window and steal your DVD player.
Farage believes hoodies are only appropriate if the 40-something wearer is a fit, exercise-focused type.
"Keep it simple and sophisticated to reflect your age, so no Ed Hardy for starters," he says. "Country Road does a nice basic hoodie in navy."
Ditto when it comes to trainers.
"Yeah, maybe if you are a fit, sporty type, but I wouldn’t wear them unless you choose a classic like Converse. Of course, stay away from the gangsta rap look."
Jones also chooses Converse.
"I'm very fond of the high-tops because I have spectacularly painful arthritis in my ankles from 30 years of dancing."
When it comes to attire in general, both Jones and Farage agree that men over 40 look much better if they stick to classics for their wardrobe.
"Don't go looking to 20-year-olds for inspiration," says Farage. "Understand your personal style and try to build a wardrobe with classics and give them a twist to suit your personality. Team a straight jean, with a white shirt and a black blazer. Keep it timeless."
Ignatius Jones’ Top 6 fashion tips for the over 40s gentleman:
- Your T-shirt should never have a higher IQ than you.
- Avoid long-toed shoes that make you look like you're from a 16th Century Van Eyck painting.
- Hoodies are only useful if you live in Vancouver.
- Mambo dog-fart T-shirts have their place: In Surfers Paradise or on a cruise ship. Choose a 1950s rayon Hawaiian shirt instead.
- Shorts have their place: In Surfers Paradise or on a cruise ship.
- Never dress like somebody who works in advertising.