The Alternative Elder

With a generation of left field creatives hitting their 60s, cultural permission is being created for old(er) guys to copycat a new set of style codes. Crowd DNA managing director Andy Crysell advises retailers to get set for different slants on sexagenarian-plus male fashion sense, in yet another example of tribal identity extending far beyond the confines of youth culture...

On recent travels across Europe and the US, we’ve noted a rise in guys aged 60 plus dressing, well, differently. We’ll resist calling it hipster-like, but it’s definitely alternative, and it points to new cultural factors that previously did not exist for older men. A generation of left field creatives are reaching their sexagenarian years but rejecting a switch to more accepted style codes. Think David Lynch (69) and David Byrne (62) – both possessing a look which makes clear that good fashion sense for 60 plus guys extends beyond the sartorial mainstays of the stuffy ‘classic’/’suave’ look.

It’s long been said that men are more likely to copy fashion looks that appeal to them, rather than actively seek advice (ie, men are less likely than women to ask where an item was purchased) and thus this new breed of older style gent provides a fresh set of reference points, granting permission for others to follow suit. It’s a marker of a shift in cultural orthodoxy, of changing societal expectations, and we expect it to evince itself more forcibly as acceptance grows. How will this play out on the high street? We don’t anticipate Marks & Spencer dropping the comfy cardigans just yet, but a gradual adoption within more mainstream environs is bound to happen. 

It tallies with boomer generation work we conducted for a media client last year, in which we identified a wider spectrum of mindsets, interests and viewpoints among older people than previously noted (also a softening of the generation gap). Cultural tribalism, in essence, has now reached the boomers, with the Alternative Elder just one manifestation to bear in mind.