Style doesn’t stop at 60

It was way back in 1981 when I made what I consider to be my first proper fashion purchase, a two piece grey suit from the Daniel Hechter flagship store in Bond Street for a wedding I was attending. I felt a million dollars in it and the £100 price tag was the most I had ever spent on clothing.

Until then I had always been interested in my “look” and the clothes I wore, but I was ignorant of what the fashion world had to offer beyond hand-me-downs from my elder brother, a clued up independent clothes retailer in my home counties home town and the normal run-of-the-mill high street chains.

In my early teens it had been shrink-to-fit Levis, leather soled loafers, Stapress trousers, tonic suits, Ben Sherman shirts, silk lined Crombies and Harrington jackets with their distinctive tartan linings. In hind sight it was a mix of semi-mod and semi-skinhead and it went along with the Motown and Reggae music which was the backing track of that time. In my mid teens my taste evolved through Oxford Bags into baggies with high waist bands and the widest leg you could buy. Platform shoes were superceded by “Spoons”, almost clown-like in their appearance (I remember wearing a white pair to school one day where the strict uniform code stipulated sensible black shoes). There were cheese cloth shirts which shrunk so much they were two sizes smaller within weeks, tank tops and jumbo collars, all signposting my haphazard route to style maturity.

Despite my brief foray into the West End for that wedding suit, I didn’t have the income to justify regular additions to my wardrobe, but with time came success, a more inflated income and subsequently my discovery of quality. I say quality because I’m not an admirer of “labels” but I do appreciate good quality tailoring, materials and finishing.

I remember vividly going shopping with my then business partner for some garb for a very important new business meeting for our fledgling advertising agency. It was 1988 and we had a small office just off Oxford Street, so it wasn’t hard to find inspiration within a short walk. My first purchase was a 100% navy cashmere single-breasted jacket from Paul Smith in Covent Garden. As soon as I tried it on I knew I had to have it; it felt like a million dollars and the £350.00 price tag seemed like a million dollars too. From there it was down to Burlington Arcade, between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street, to visit New & Lingwood, a traditional outfitter that had become super-cool at the time due to Tom Wolfe’s novel Bonfire of the Vanities, which I had read on my daily commute into London. There I made my second purchase a plain white traditional double-cuffed Egyptian cotton formal shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons and the longest tails I had ever experienced. It was hand made in England and smelt of quality.

The outfit was completed by some grey flannels, Loake shoes, Tiffany & Co silver buckled belt, silk knot cuff links and a hand printed silk tie from an artisan designer in Soho. I daren’t imagine what I had spent in modern terms but the result was a complete makeover of my look and an unexpected boost to my confidence.

From then on I was hooked. Slick, quality tailoring was my hallmark. More comfortable in a suit and tie than a sweatshirt and trainers, perhaps even hiding behind the persona that my “look” created, I’ve always been traditionally well groomed with that little bit of an edge brought by an injection of colour through a shirt or a tie.

Don’t start me on cuff links or pens!

Fast forward 30 years or so and nothing has really changed for me. Despite the loss of hair and the silvering of what hair I do have, I’m as conscious of my style as I’ve ever been. I may not be attending daily business meetings or attending social events but I still maintain that eye for style and quality and take pride in my appearance. I see no reason to give up and regress to “comfortable” shoes, fleeces, slacks and non-iron shirts, which appear to be the uniform of the middle aged and elderly. I won’t shop at M&S or from catalogues, but I will buy quirky gold label garments from TKMaxx, have bespoke suits made by my tailor and buy Turnbull & Asser shirts that are still made in England. Many would say “What’s the point at your age?”, but my point would be that my clothes, demeanor and general appearance say everything about me. That I still care, I still have something to say and I still have a place.

In 2018, exactly 30 years from that first Paul Smith jacket, I had my tailor make me a very similar jacket in navy blue cashmere. I wear it regularly as a day jacket. It’s classically styled, unimaginably comfortable and totally practical – the only real difference is that it cost a lot more than that £350 in 1988.

#stapress #harrington #tonicsuit #bespoke #loafers #levis #tiffany #paulsmith #bensherma #baggies #60andstylish #maturestyle




How soap keeps my ageing skin soft and smooth

Credit: J J Jordan – this is not a photo of me!

I may be lucky with my genes but I’ve always had good skin.

When I was young I could play without a shirt in the sun all day long without burning, my body gradually tanning to a lovely golden brown, and its not because I’ve got any Latin, mediterranean blood in me. My wife has always referred to my skin as “dingy”, which is a bit unflattering, but I know what she means.

As I’ve grown more mature (I prefer not to use the term “older”) my skin has definitely become dryer and less elastic, particularly in the winter when I spend more time indoors and in central heating. It can become noticeably dry, almost flakey and at times itchy but not to the extent of being any kind of skin condition.

But what was I to do to stop this getting worse?

Several years ago I made the decision to switch from high street body washes and shower gels, which I knew contained all kinds of unpleasant chemicals, to natural soap. This was partly because I wanted to move away from synthetic additives and partly because I wanted to moisturise my skin effectively. Being male and not being one for elongated morning routines – my regime involved a quick shower, some deodorant and a splash of cologne – I wanted the easiest and quickest option available. Despite the warnings that soap could dry your skin, I followed my gut feeling that a product that contained natural plant oils, water and nothing else can’t be that bad for you and bought my first pure olive oil soap.

Yes, the pH of soap is high on the alkaline scale but this is far outweighed in my belief by the nourishment and moisturising effects of the plant oil. It wasn’t long before I noticed the effect on my skin, the dryness disappearing and everything feeling smoother, silkier and more supple.

The added bonus was that I could use the one bar of soap to wash my body, my hair (what little I have being a baldy) AND my face! “Soap on face?” I hear you say out loud in dismay….yes, soap on face!

The simple fact is that the natural oils in the soap cleanse, moisturise and condition and then wash away without depositing any nasty chemicals on me. My facial skin feels soft and radiant and wrinkles and fine lines are less defined and smoothed out. I have used soap (not to be confused with high street brands) for many years now and my face is smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I am particular in the soap I use though. After a lot of testing and research I have gradually whittled it down to only one or two specific types of soap, all Olive Oil based and all produced by artisan soap makers. You can feel the quality and the care that has gone into producing these soaps.

My current No1 favourite is made just outside Paris by Alepia. Although made in France they are skilfully formulated by a master Syrian soap maker, who fled Aleppo during the recent war, using ancient methods and simple ingredients. His “Aleppo” soaps which contain varying levels of Laurel Oil combined with organic first pressed Olive Oil are wonderful and have a distinctive aroma, produce a rich, exotic lather and are a delight to use.

Aleppo Soap from Alepia

They are the same soaps that have been traditionally used in Hamams over the centuries and feel like a piece of history in your hands, with their irregular hand cut form. They are economical to use too, each bar being 190g in weight (about twice the size of a normal bar of soap).

I’d recommend making the change to natural plant oil based soaps. It has proven the right thing for me and the added joy is that you can experiment by trying soaps from artisan soap makers throughout the UK and across the world to fine something that really does it for you.

Some of the brands I think are worth a try:

For your information, natural soap has been made across the world for thousands of years and its longevity suggests that it must have something going for it that we may have lost sight of in recent decades. Just a thought!