When should a man hang up his jeans?


It’s difficult to imagine the Top Gear Team ever retiring their denim.
By Phil Guest from Bournemouth, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s always best to withdraw gracefully from clothing options that suit younger men, but when it comes to denim, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. That’s because more people continue to wear jeans into older age – think Daniel Craig, Jeremy Clarkson and the legendary Keith Richards. But is there an age when you should stop squeezing into jeans? Let’s find out.

Wear or avoid?


Have your skinny jeans reached the end of the road?
Image source: Anthony Tori on Unsplash

According to research published by the Daily Mail, “we should all put denim back on the shelf at the age of 53”. But you’ll be relieved to hear that we see no reason to consign your jeans to history. However, once you hit 40, or even 35, you do need to pay attention to which style of jeans you choose and how you wear them.

From your mid thirties onwards, the only place for ripped, bleached, patched or distressed jeans, is in the bag destined for the charity shop. Likewise figure-hugging skinny jeans, because as Real Men Real Style say:

You may be willing to make certain compromises for your style – but it’s not worth letting your lower body “suffocate” inside very tight clothing.

It’s also fair to say that for the more mature man, the range of occasions for which jeans are appropriate, narrows considerably. But that’s OK, because the good news is you can still knock ‘em dead with your classic style sensibilities.

What jeans should older gents wear?


Smart, indigo, straight fit jeans look good with a blazer
Image source: Ben White on Unsplash

Go for dark jeans – blacks and indigo work best on older men. They help to slim and elongate bigger fellows, and give every gent, no matter what his proportions, a smarter, more sophisticated air than your standard blue jeans. Pair them with a smart casual shirt and blazer or tweed jacket for evenings out with friends.

Alternatively, raise the style bar by twinning dark jeans with a figure enhancing turtleneck sweater and a tweed or cord jacket. Accessorise by slipping a copy of Sartre’s Nausea in your jacket pocket and you’ll look every bit the French existentialist intellectual. This look will do for a smart casual dinner party, but that’s as far as jeans will take you.

Not quite ready to chuck your lighter blues? Don’t worry, just save them for casual occasions – like when you’re working in the garden, walking the dog, or splitting logs. A plaid shirt and a chunky knit jumper completes the “man at work” theme – a good outfit to wear when you’re stopping off at your local.

As previously mentioned, do avoid skinny jeans. Lankier chaps can still get away with slim fit. Bigger blokes look better with a regular straight cut. Whatever kind of jeans you go for, make sure you can pinch at least an inch of fabric before you touch skin – any less and they’re too tight.

What’s the alternative to jeans?

If your wardrobe has always consisted of work gear and jeans, making the transition to other kinds of smart casual and casual trousers can be daunting. All it takes to remedy the situation is your credit card and the quest for three new alternatives to jeans:

1. Trousers


A pair of grey wool trousers will take you anywhere
Image source: Samuel Windsor wool rich trousers

You need at least one pair of grey wool mix or flannel trousers. It’s like Real Men Real Style say:

“Think of them like you used to think about blue jeans: default pants for every situation, to be dressed up or down as needed.”

Wear grey trousers, a dark navy shirt and contrasting cardigan, and you’re all set for after work drinks. A pair of Chelsea boots completes the look. Alternatively, dress your strides up with a crisp white or pastel shirt and classic navy blazer, and you’re good for more formal nights out.

2. Chinos


Chinos are incredibly versatile – dress them up or down
Image source: Samuel Windsor chinos

The team at the Idle Man say:

“Chinos strike a balance between smart and casual extremely well and can also be worn outside the office, for drinks down the pub with your mates or for an evening out with your partner.”  

Wear yours with a polo and boat shoes, or for slightly smarter occasions, slip on a sports jacket and you’ll instantly lift the look. And don’t forget, when it comes to chinos, beige is far from your only colour option. Try blue, olive or brown.

3. Cords and moleskins


Samuel Windsor moleskin trousers are similar to jeans, but with a dignified straight leg cut
Image source: Samuel Windsor moleskins

Grouped together because they perform the same function, cords and moleskins are for the more casual end of the smart casual curve. Think country pub lunches, walks with friends, a trip to watch your local ‘am dram’ performance.

With its luxurious soft touch fabric, moleskin in particular makes a wonderfully cosy winter trouser. Wear yours with a long sleeve t-shirt and a heavy corduroy shirt, and you’ll exude an air of relaxed ruggedness.

When choosing cords, do consider the ridges or the “wales”, as they’re called. The wider the wale, the more casual the trouser. At its absolute smartest, a needlecord suit is a glamorous item on a par with velvet. But for daily wear, match your cords with tattersall and country shirts, and fishermen’s or Nordic style sweaters. Wearing cords? Go for brown brogue boots.

Being over 40 doesn’t mean you can’t wear jeans, it just means it’s time to refine your choices. Leave the young to follow the fads – you’re a gentleman, and it’s time to look the part.

Posted in Men's style guides.