If you're a short, mature man who wants to dress well, this post is for you!
Despite the title of this post, I'm not saying that being 40 or older means that you're “old”. After all, age is partially a state of mind.
Plus, the way you dress is influenced by your lifestyle. What kind of work do you do? Do you follow a specific dress code on a daily basis?
So it wouldn't make sense to say “men over 40 should dress like this…” and “men under 40 should dress like that…”.
But for most older men, age does play a role in personal style. You don't want people to think you're trying to look younger.
This is even more complicated for older, shorter men. One of the big issues you run into is the difficulty of finding clothes that fit.
Unfortunately, many of the brands that happen to make clothes that flatter the shorter body type are targeted at younger men – or even teenagers.
If you're an older gent and want to wear “younger” clothing, that's totally fine! But if you want to dress in a more traditionally “age appropriate” way, this post will help.
First off, here's a quick list of specific things to avoid, assuming you don't want people to think you're trying to look younger:
- Distressed jeans (any kind of tears, fading or stains)
- Graphic tees
- Sandals or flip flops
- Baseball caps
- Clothes with visible logos/branding
- Hooded sweatshirts
- Denim shorts
- Basketball sneakers
- Trendy hairstyles (like the undercut or “man bun”)
- Tight fitting clothes
- Baggy clothing
Come to think of it, most men should avoid most of the things on that list. But some things (like distressed jeans) are especially inappropriate for older, more mature gentlemen.
For example, look at Robert Downey Jr., who is 5'8″ and 51 years old (at the time of writing). He likes to wear sneakers with suits, which could be an attempt to look young and hip.
But it has the exact opposite effect, making it look like he's trying to be something he's not.
It's like when a little boy wears a suit and tie. It just emphasizes how young and small he is.
So what should you wear? To figure that out, let's look at six examples of shorter men in their 40s, 50s and 60s (and older) who are doing it right.
Example #1: George Stephanopoulos
Age: 56 / Height: 5'7″
George is a well known television personality, and he understands how to dress the part.
When he's working, George often wears suits (which are likely custom, or at least tailored for a better fit).
George's style is safe, sharp and age appropriate. It comes off as self-aware but effortless, and he's a great example of how older gents can dress.
Example #2: Ralph Lauren
Age: 77 / Height: 5'6″
Ralph Lauren is one of the most famous fashion designers of all time. He's 77 years old at the time of writing, and he happens to be 5'6″.
Ralph loves classic American prep style, so you'll often see him in dark suits, blue blazers and worn in jeans.
He doesn't shy away from double-breasted jackets or light colors – two style choices that short men are often told to avoid.
Lauren also prefers classic silhouettes (i.e. straight leg pants), and he's a great example of older gents wearing blue instead of grey for a more youthful look (more on that below).
Example #3: Daymond John
Age: 48 / Height: 5'7″
Daymond John, founder of FUBU and my personal favorite shark, knows a lot about fashion and business.
His style stems from hip hop culture, but these days you'll usually find him wearing impeccably tailored suits.
One thing I really admire about Daymond's style is his attention to detail. For example, over the past few years, slim ties and small knots (like the four in hand) have been all the rage.
But Daymond wears wider ties (and lapels) and uses bulkier knots (like the half Windsor), which compliment his broad neck and chest.
This is a great example of ignoring a trend that younger men may be tempted to get on board with, especially when it doesn't suit your body type.
It's these small, seemingly insignificant choices that can take your style from good to great.
Example #4: Scott Schuman
Age: 49 / Height: ??
Also known as The Sartorialist, Scott Schuman is the fashion photographer that made street style photography so widely popular.
He's been documenting real style “in the wild” on the streets of NYC and around the world on his blog for years, and he's become pretty famous for his work.
But his own style is pretty remarkable too, which is dually impressive since he stands well below average height. How tall is Scott Schuman? I'm not exactly sure, but probably somewhere in the 5'3″ to 5'5″ range.
Scott's style is mature and understated. His color palette is simple and relatively neutral, and his clothes fit properly. What else do you need?
Example #5: Peter Manning
Age: ?? / Height: 5'8″
You'd expect the founder of the most popular clothing brand for ‘not-so-tall' men know how to dress well, and he does.
I had the chance to meet Peter Manning at his Brooklyn showroom, and I noticed that he radiates this youthful energy.
His personality has a lot to do with this, but I think his style choices also help.
For example, he'll take a relatively safe and mature outfit – dark jeans, button up shirt, navy blazer – and add some youthful flare by stacking a few casual bracelets over a colorful nylon strap watch.
Or, he'll throw on some colorful socks or trade his leather shoes for a pair of classic Converse sneakers.
These small choices are a subtle way of showing people that you know your age and are okay with it (i.e., not living in the past), but you still like to have fun.
Example #6: Nick Wooster
Age: 56 / Height: 5'6″
Last, but definitely not least, let's look at fashion industry legend Nick Wooster.
Here's a man who has deep knowledge and understanding of menswear. He knows all of the rules, and he loves to break them.
Wooster is constantly pushing the envelope with his style. Even his more traditional getups are characterized by one or two bold elements.
Here's the thing: I'm not saying you should try to dress like Nick Wooster.
I just wanted to include him because he's a great example of having fun and expressing yourself with what you wear.
At the time of writing, he's 56 years old. Sometimes he dresses the part, and sometimes he doesn't, and that's what I love about him.
Style is inherently personal, so make sure to do what you want with it!
How to Look Younger
Having said all that, there are a few subtle things you can do to add a youthful touch to your look – without being blatant about it.
#1: Wear Blue
First off, you can wear navy or blue instead of charcoal or grey. This especially applies to suits. Blue is appropriate for any age, but it's a decidedly younger color than grey (see Ralph Lauren above).
#2: Pops of Color
You can add small “pops” of color to your outfit. They can be as subtle as Peter Manning's red socks or as bold as Nick Wooster's yellow shoes. Either way, you're showing people that you're not just a boring old man.
Feel free to go wild with accessories. Get a trendy new pair of glasses from Warby Parker. Add some funky ties and colorful socks to your collection.
This is one area where you can get away with less traditional choices.
#4: Groom Better (or Different)
Been clean shaven for a while? Try the scruffy look. Had a beard for the past few years? Shave it all off!
And make sure to take care of your face. Use moisturizer with SPF and anti-aging cream. Trim those eyebrows, nostrils and ears.
Above all, have fun and be yourself!