Seven steps to selecting a personal style for the older man

To develop a personal style you must change the way you think about yourself

Desmond Morris famously described mankind as a naked ape. After millenia of evolution, the first thing most of us do every day is cover our nakedness. Clothes are more than just a fig-leaf, however. Naked ape or not, humans are a social animal. How we dress and how we present ourselves are an integral part of how we interact with and are perceived by wider society.

I am taking it as a given that if you are reading this then you are interested in changing or developing your own style. Style is a deeply personal thing and no-one else can tell you what the best look for you is. However, the following seven steps should help any man who is genuinely interested in their appearance to take their appearance to a higher level.

Men being men, the best approach is to treat it as a project that can be conducted in a reasonable and logical manner. Like any worthwhile project, it will take time and commitment; there are no silver bullets on the Silver Blade.

men at work developing a personal style for the older man

Image by Sean MacEntee via

1. Why do you want to develop your personal style?

The first thing to consider is your motivation. What do you mean by a personal style? Why do you want to change it? Do you want to develop the style you already have or are you looking to change it completely and reinvent yourself? Are you doing this for self-development, to improve your career prospects, or to attract a prospective partner?
If you are going to commit to this project you need to know why you are doing it. Your motivation does not really matter, it is personal, but without a motivation you cannot expect to maintain your commitment to this or any project. The first step should be to write down what you want to do and, most importantly, why you want to do it.
Whatever your motivations and your goals, the following steps will apply in developing a new style for yourself.

personal style for the older man

Nighthawks at the Diner, Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Think about the style you want, go to a late night diner, wear a hat.

2. Think about your lifestyle

Style does not exist in isolation. It is not just a suit of clothes that you put on or take off at will. Your lifestyle is an integral part of your overall style. Your outward appearance must be integrated with the life you have. Or, if you are changing your appearance with a view to changing your life, with the lifestyle you aspire to. Before you can ask how you can successfully present yourself you must ask what or who you are presenting.
Questions to consider here should include; what do you do, where do you work, where are you going, even the hackneyed where do you see yourself in five years time? One other very important question to ask yourself at this stage is what can you afford. Your personal style will be tied to your income.

3. Research

This is where the project becomes fun!

Use the internet. You have access to a whole wide world of fashion at your fingertips. Look at other men’s style. Use social media to follow guys whose style you like. Flick through the work of famous designers and high street retailers. Investigate small producers. Study men’s style forums. Read up on the history and theory of menswear. Find out about the technical details of clothing manufacture. Learn as much as you can about where clothes come from, how they work, and how to put them together.

The more information you have, the easier it is to make informed choices.

Never stop researching. This is an ongoing project. Even the most comfortably self-possessed stylish men spend time researching. Think of your personal style as a lifelong research project. You will never reach an end point or a final, correct answer.

The internet is the perfect place for the older man to research his personal style

It’s not just cat videos! The internet is the perfect place for the older man to research his personal style. Image by Geralt via Pixabay

4. Decide on the style that suits you

And this is probably going to be the hardest part!

There are a myriad of possible men’s styles out there but, ultimately, you will need to assess all that you have learnt in step three above and then decide on a style that you like, that you feel suits you, and that you feel you can live comfortably with. Remember, this is about you. It is about how you are going to live. The secret of real style is comfort. You need to be comfortable in your skin, both physically and metaphorically. Over time, you will find yourself drawn to a particular style and at that stage you can start working on developing your own take on it. This is when you start developing your own personal style. All that you have to do is take the broad outline of a particular style and make it your own.

What will be your personal style?

How will you stand out from the crowd? What will be your personal style?
Image by mwewering via Pixabay

5. Make a list

Now we go back to the very male approach. Make a list. Make lots of lists. Once you have an idea of where you want to go, you need to know exactly what you will need to adopt and adapt your chosen style.

Start by making a list of what you have that will work with your chosen style. Your style journey will be easier if you know what you already have. Be sure to keep this list updated as you add to your wardrobe.

Now make another list of what you would like to include in your wardrobe. Then subdivide this into lists of what you need urgently, what is less urgent, and what might be considered optional indulgences. You will need to start with the list of urgent requirements and actively seek out these items.

Once you have a list or lists, you can begin to look for particular items. Remember the list of what you most need? Try and prioritise your purchases. Always keep an eye on what you have. Decide what is most important to you and concentrate on acquiring that. The advantage of keeping lists is that you will always know what you have and what you need so that if you do come across a particular bargain, a one-off item, or a limited time opportunity you will be able to seize it.

Make a list for your personal style

Make a list of what you need to achieve your chosen personal style.
Image via

6. Have patience

Pace yourself. Style does not arrive fully formed, it is an ongoing project. It will grow and develop with you. It’s not just that it takes time to assemble an ensemble. It takes time to grow into a style. As with any journey, a new style is a series of stages.

All of the above stages take time. Even when you have decided on a style you aspire to, it will take time to build up your new wardrobe. Be willing to take the time to find the right clothes for yourself. Be prepared for your choices to change as you experiment. Know that your experience of individual items of clothing will change with time. Some clothes become more comfortable over time, others less so. Finally, if you are relying on internet shopping for some or all of your wardrobe you will need to learn to wait during the interval between ordering and receiving products.

older man waiting for the perfect personal style

Have patience, finding the perfect personal style takes time.
Photo by Geralt via Pixabay

7. Make the most of what you have.

The corollary of patience; while you grow your new look, make the most of what you have. As I said above in step five, decide what you already have that works with your new style. This is the beginning of your new wardrobe, the foundation upon which your personal style will be built. Fashion has become a multi-billion dollar industry on the back of the constant pursuit of the latest, newest trends. Style, on the other hand, is about a sustainable approach. Your new style is not just about what you own; it is about the way you live. So start living. And enjoy the journey.

Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for the man trying to develop his style? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

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Sharp dressed man – Leonard Cohen

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Leonard Cohen.  His music and his poetry have been part of my life for over four decades but it was only in recent years that I came to appreciate his sartorial style.  For any older man looking for a sharp dressed role model you could not do better.For those worried about being an older man, remember that at 82 he spent more of his life over 40 than under it.


Leonard Cohen 2115


There is a great “Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium” to be read at

My personal favourite quote from the selection:

The first standing ovation was for strolling on stage and looking so good in a dark suit and fedora … (Cohen Cooler Than Ever By James Reaney. London Free Press, May 25, 2009)


Image from


RIP Mr Cohen

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam.

Little Werfel’s Shoes

Today is International Red Cross/Red Crescent Day and a good day to revisit this picture.

orphan shoes red cross

Werfel’s new shoes by Gerald Waller

First published by Life magazine in 1946 with the caption:

Werfel, a six-year-old Austrian orphan, has just received his first new pair of shoes as part of the post-war relief effort of the American Red Cross.

It’s an incredible image.  Here we have a little boy who has come through who knows what horrors, who has lost his parents, who is facing an uncertain future but is still capable of total joy.  Little things really do mean a lot.

One should always keep in mind that before fashion, before style, before choice, shoes are a basic human right.   No child needs to go shoeless in this world and yet they do.

Sharp dressed man – Samuel Beckett

Today is Samuel Beckett’s birthday and so a good day to check him in my list of style influences.   Beckett is one of my favourite writers but he also had a distinctive style.  Although no dandy, the simplicity of his dress is admirable, as pared back and unadorned as his writing.

Samuel Beckett style icon

Beckett posing somewhat model like for Paul Joyce

Of course, Beckett had two things going for him: he was tall and thin, and he had an amazing face that improved with age.  One could say that, like his plays, his dress was sparse and elegant, with the darkness lightened by the powerful humanity of his gaze.

John Minihan’s classic image of Beckett (via

Above and below, two classic images from the same shoot in Paris in 1985 by by John Minihan.  A wider selection or available on his own website.

A more relaxed image of a (relatively) younger Beckettvrelaxing in Italy below features a Gucci shoulder bag – he was carrying a man-bag over 40 years ago!

Samuel Beckett Gucci Bag

Samuel Beckett, S. Margherita Ligure, Genoa – 1971 (via

He could do formal wear too, when the occasion demanded.  Below is Beckett at an opening night in a classic combination of dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie with subtle pattern.  I also like the way he pushes his glasses up on his forehead, a habit to be seen in many photographs of him.  I know it is bad for the arms of your glasses but it is something that I often do myself.

Beckett at an opening night in 1970 by Reg Lancaster

Although Beckett’s preference seems to have been for dark tones – there are very few colour photographs of him – he did not stay exclusively on the dark side as can be seen below,

Beckett on the set of “Film” in 1964 by Steve Schapiro