Paul Galvin: Growing up
Are you in your 30s and not sure what you should be wearing? Never fear, Paul Galvin is here with his age-appropriate style advice
I don't know what mithers my mother more -- my brother's taste in clothes or his fondness for tattoos. He once arrived home with a new tat and my mother proclaimed: "If another tattoo or another cardigan walks in this door, I'm leaving."
Now, come on mom, really. Walking cardigans? They don't even have legs. Still, he really should grow up and be more considerate, and stop embarrassing his mother like that, or she'll start hiding his clothes on him like she did to me.
Speaking of growing up, I've recently begun the process. Or, more precisely, my dress sense has. It's called dressing age appropriate. I think I've worn my last cardigan. Until I reach my 50s, that is. Then, I'll wear chunky, warm ones like proper uncles should.
So clothes can grow up. The man doesn't necessarily have to if he doesn't want to. His clothes can do it for him. It's a funny process. Subtle. Insidious. It's as if my dress sense began growing up without telling me.
I've had this sense of leaning towards wearing clothes I'd never normally wear in the past few months. A little more 'Esquire', a little less 'FHM'. It's intuition, I guess. Like trends. You get little subliminal indicators that you try your best to ignore, yet they consume your thinking to the point of distraction.
A friend asks you what you thought of Eurovision and you reply: "I really don't understand people's problem with gingham." A boat shoe catches your eye in a shop window as you pass, where once you saw only the slogan T-shirt. A few metres down the street, you double back to check out rolled-up chinos and think how well they would go with those same boat shoes. And some nice socks. And a polo shirt.
Shirts become very interesting. You develop a deep appreciation for gingham all of a sudden. You're preoccupied with finding a good, strong, protective cover for your iPhone. You enviously eye up one of your dad's overcoats. You walk into Topman and feel like an adult in a sweet shop. Your wardrobe is full of shirts you'll never wear again and high tops you wish you wore just once before it was too late.
Before you know it, you're not only embracing your inner geography teacher but you've joined a book club with your inner English teacher too. Welcome to your 30s fellas, fashion's halfway house: halfway between the club and the pub; between college and kids.
Not to worry, all is not lost. You can still keep it cool and age appropriate. In fact, the fun of restyling yourself is only beginning. First, my wardrobe needs an overhaul. Some tees, shoes and hoodies are going to charity.
Cardigans, I'm not sure about. My dress sense will inform me on what to do with them in due course. Maybe some skinny jeans. The ones I've ripped. A man in his 30s can never wear ripped jeans. Tralee is going to become world famous as the birthplace of 'homeless chic'. I shall dress the poor. The process needs to be carefully considered. It needs to be subtle and progressive.
Now, there's no way I'm going from skinny jeans into dockers or chinos like a librarian. But I've started wearing skinny slacks and rolled-up chinos. It's more grown-up, but still trendy. Plus, you can incorporate socks to add more individuality and distract people from your transformation towards becoming your dad.
I'm also wearing more shirts, but I refuse to wear collars. I cut them off. And I never wear full-length shirt sleeves or short-sleeved shirts. Three-quarter length is for me; buttoned at the top and open at the bottom. That way you can add some layers or pops of colour underneath to keep it young.
Jumpers and polo shirts are growing on me. I bought some from Lyle & Scott recently -- it's a great label for younger thirtysomethings. For me, now, dressing is a case of balancing what I want to wear and what I need to wear to dress my age. I've always been a big fan of blazers. The right fit is vital and they allow you to still wear trainers, but in a grown-up way. Shoes are key. Brogues are a perfect way to keep your swag.
Investment pieces are important as you get older. A quality, bespoke suit will make a lot of sense. Older guys tend to go for darker colours, but I prefer to contrast with a dark jacket and light trousers.
Grenson William brogues, in collaboration with my-wardrobe.com, are £289, if you can afford them. In two-tone grey with split suede uppers and finished with typical Grenson attention to detail, the shoes are just what I would look for in formal footwear. Interesting and versatile, they can be worn under a suit or jeans.
Jeans are still a key piece for me, along with leather jackets and blazers. So transitional and, again, versatile. It's important to have references in your wardrobe; staples to guide you. The rest you can play around with. You might feel like wearing a watch, or a nice belt, using a wallet, buying some quality sunglasses -- all of these accessories can give you some individuality.
So if your style is changing, then your shopping habits are too. You may have to look beyond the high street to the department stores. Fred Perry can be your friend. He has just arrived in Arnotts and is worth a look. The navy jersey marl shoes and sports jackets are made for thirtysomethings.
BT2 is full of great labels that bridge the gap for those who are not young, but not yet old. Lacoste is smart-casual, Farah is no longer just for your dad, Penguin is cool and Scotch & Soda isn't just a drink.
Personally, I feel outdoor wear is the way forward for me at this inbetween age. I had a look in Patagonia of late and was very taken with how wearable the clothes are.
The outdoor look is quite grown-up, but its design team uses great colours and design features to make its clothes worthy of more than just the countryside.
Gilets, which I'm loving, and trendy overcoats are perfect for me to weather the storms of style purgatory. Lots of nylons, too -- a fabric I'm a big fan of.
Wherever your dress sense takes you, be sure and keep calm. You'll find your niche as you go. So sit back, relax and enjoy the journey from kidulthood to adulthood. Your mom's gonna be so proud. Your dad might want his overcoat back, though.
For all those retro heads out there, the Farah tradition hopsack trouser, the kind your father wore, can be ordered from www.stephenallen menswear.co.uk. They cost £37.50 per pair or £75 for two. Available in six colours