Will Buying a Leather Jacket Make it Look Like I'm Having a Midlife Crisis?
Hadley Freeman on the pitfalls of wearing a leather biker jacket when you don't own a motorbike
A 43-year-old man who does not own a motorbike in a leather biker jacket: acceptable or thoroughly unfashionable and the sign of an impending midlife crisis?
I welcome your question, not just for me, but for the sake of you and all your fellow menfolk. The tedious gender stereotype is that women obsess over their clothes whereas men just throw on whatever smells least.
As Jerry Seinfeld – a young up-and-comer who I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from – once said: “Men wear their underwear until it absolutely disintegrates. Men hang on to underwear until, until each individual underwear molecule is so strained it can barely retain the properties of a solid. It actually becomes underwear vapour. We don’t even throw it out, we just open a window and it goes out like dandelion spores.” (My previously mooted plan to spend the whole of January on my sofa watching Seinfeld has now been extended.)
Now, far be it for me to doubt the wisdom of Seinfeld, or express expertise in men’s underwear, but I find that it is men who are far more anxious about fashion rules, and, specifically, breaking them. Women, in my sweepingly generalised experience, see fashion as a means for having fun; men see it as a perilous challenge fraught with the potential for humiliation. They have so little faith in their judgment about clothes that they assume anything that isn’t jeans and a T-shirt or a button-down shirt from Gap will result in mass shaming and having to wear a red F (for FASHION) on their forehead. Thus, the rules must be sought and clung to, like vines across a crocodile-infested swamp.
Your concerns about buying a biker jacket are a perfect example. You like biker jackets. You want a biker jacket. You have (I’m assuming) the means to purchase one. And yet – you doubt yourself. Do not doubt yourself. Life is made for making oneself happy, not castigating one’s personal taste. Will some of your male colleagues raise their eyebrows at your new jacket? Will some of them make jokes about a “midlife crisis”? Probably, because men are ridiculous, and they are clinging to this vine that associates leather jackets and fortysomething men with Jeremy Clarkson and mental breakdowns.
This is silly. The only purpose fashion rules serve is if they provide aesthetic – not moral – guidance. So, saying double denim looks terrible is an aesthetic guideline. But saying “don’t wear leather jackets because that means xyz about you” is absurd. (And as for the aesthetic rules – these, too, are made to be broken.)
So sod ‘em all. The point about your age, B, is not that you’re having a midlife crisis, but that you’re a big boy now, and big boys are old enough to know what they want to wear and should do just that. Live a little! And let me tell you something a teacher told me when I was eight, and it’s as true about clothes as it was about My Little Ponies: if someone teases you about something you have, it just means they’re jealous.
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