Now is the time
What better time to kick start the new you than the new year. Like most people, I am several (well more like 30) years behind on achieving any New Years Resolutions. I still carry too much weight, I could eat healthier and be fitter, these are after all, the standard and cliched resolutions for the new year and ones that for most of us rarely get achieved.
So perhaps we need to rethink our strategy for resolution making. First of all, in order for us to achieve any resolution we have to genuinely want to, as opposed to feeling the weight of societal expectation on us to do so. Secondly, we need to feel it is obtainable and thirdly, we need to stop rehashing the very same resolutions year after year.
Regardless of how long you have been single or divorced, the New Year is an ideal time to begin the evolution of the new you. Sure, the process can easily begin at any time, but the new year can act as a starting point, new calendar year, Christmas Season has been and gone ( Plus in my case so has my post Christmas, Birthday.) and for many it can signal a return to work after annual leave or time off. The "New You" is however not an instant thing, but part of a process of evolution, something that you may have already began without actually knowing. However, lets make an effort to make the new year, the time in which you make the conscious decision to begin your journey to make the changes in yourself you wish to make.
In other words, it is not so much about making a a New Years resolution, but rather a conscious decision to work towards making changes. Start with little things, perhaps you may decide to wear less short sleeved shirts and instead roll up your long sleeves in hotter weather ( a far more stylish and mature look), you may decide that you wish to begin delving into the scary world of online or speed dating. The bottom line is, it is simply a great time to signal your intent to yourself.
Beginning the process.
Well you have decided that the New Year is a great time to kick start the new you. So what now?, Where to from here? Well the first step is to figure out just who the new you really is. This is not necessarily a quick and easy step, it is however one that on a sub-conscious level you have probably been formulating a concept of. I have written an earlier post titled; Who am I? Rediscovering your single self dealing with that very issue. This will enable you to work out for yourself what things about you, you would like to make changes to. Bear in mind that this is not a quick fix, but the start of an ongoing process of evolution.
So what then are some areas that you may want to address? To answer this I must look to my own journey of reinvention and mention some of the areas that I myself felt I had to begin to change, some of which I have and some are still ongoing. The obvious one for me was my dress sense, I felt that my attire was no longer reflecting who I was as a person, I can say now that even though I do make my own fashion mistakes at times, my clothes better reflect the new me. I also wanted to make changes that would see me improve myself socially and as a person. To that end, I began speed dating and dating in general as well as making a conscious effort to get out in the world and not to hide away in my own little shy world, something that I was all too prone to doing. The result has been going to more social events, comedy shows, gigs and seeing someone beyond a first or second date for the first time in years.
So call it what you will, A New Years Resolution, a Promise of Intent to Yourself or whatever. But the start of a new year really is the best time to push that reset button and start the process of change. By having a date of commencement, it makes it easier and more real in your own mind. Without my making a very conscious decision I certainly would not be in the early stages of what could be my first relationship after my divorce. We all know just how hard it is to initiate change, we as men have a tendency to resist change at all costs, often to our own detriment. So use the new year as impetus to make change, use it as the beginning of your journey. Yes, we all want to lose weight and get fit, but surely beginning a process that will see you become happier about both life and yourself is a priceless step to make.
So I have discussed the easier and more basic accessories in part 1 of this blog post, so now it is time to step up your game. All the best dressed and most stylish men know how to incorporate the more advanced accessories into their look. These items are the ones that really add that pop of colour, that contrast of texture and most importantly allows you to express your individuality with the subtlety needed to remain stylish. Each and everyone one of these accessories, has the ability to step up your style game from smartly dressed to the sharpest dressed man in the room.
Aside from having your clothes tailored or at least altered to suit, very few subtle things can impact your style game as much as the advanced accessories. But beware, such items as these need to be worn with an editing mindset, in other words, its not just the actual items that create the impact but how you wear them. It is all too easy when first delving into using these types of accessories to go over the top and wear them all. This instantly takes you from stylish to try hard, a look that impresses no one. I speak from experience, as, like many who are delving into the world of accessories, I wanted to wear all my favourite new pieces at once. Remember, these really are the accent pieces.
So what type of pieces am I talking about? Well, there are larger pieces like hats and scarves, small pieces like tie bars and bracelets and those accessories like pocket squares that can be used to add vibrant pops of colour or contrast.
Hats. Like many of the advanced accessories, the wearing of hats by men can have the effect of having you look like a fool. Myself, I like to wear flatcaps with my casual dress and own a few different ones. I have lightweight ones suited better for the warmer summer months and thicker woolen ones that work well in winter. I have tried other hat styles but for the most part, I find that they don't suit me that well.
So lets look at some of the hat styles available without going into too much detail, or we will be here for days. I've already mention the Flat Cap which I feel to be so much classier than caps like Flat Caps, Golf Caps and Trucker Caps. They can be worn with smart casual attire and suits but pulling that look of can be difficult. The most well known of the wide brimmed hats are the Fedora,Trilby and Panama, there is also the more formal Homburg but this is rarely worn today. The Fedora and Trilby have become the hat of choice for many a 20 something festival goer, the result of which is the proliferation of cheap Fedoras everywhere. This in turn means that for the most part, wearing a Fedora or Trilby is associated more with 20 somethings and are no more considered stylish accessory for the 50 year old gent. However, a good quality or vintage Fedora can rise above the mediocrity and can be a great addition to your wardrobe. Add to the list styles like Western/Cowboy, Newsboy, Pork Pie and Stingy Brim and there is a vast array of styles to choose from. My advice though is to buy quality and try every hat on before buying, as you need to find a hat that suits you.
Scarves. Scarves are a wonderful way of adding both texture and colour to your outfit. Obviously the primary reason for scarves are warmth, but they can also be used to add an extra something to your attire. Scarves can be quite thick or very lightweight and may come in vibrant colours or neutral tones. As a general rule, choose scarves that do not have long tassels on the ends as they look more feminine. There is quite a few ways to wear a scarf, The blog Real Men Real Style has a wonderful infographic on tying a scarf. It is well worth checking out their blog.
Jewellery items. So what do I mean by Jewellery items? Well this includes things like rings,cuff links, tie bars, necklaces and bracelets. I myself at the moment, am not a big wearer of jewellery beyond bracelets, the last ring I wore was my wedding band.
Cuff links and Tie Bars, really only belong with a suit, I have both but rarely wear a suit. The things to remember with tie bars is to never wear a bar that is wider than your tie and that its main purpose is to pin your tie to your shirt.
Like all jewellery, rings and necklaces need to be worn using the KISS principle, do not over do it. The Mr T look was ridiculous in the 80's, so do not try to emulate it now. Think of the size and chunkiness of your jewellery pieces in comparison to your own size. A thick , chunky gold chain will look ridiculous on someone with finer features.
Bracelets. Bracelets are one of my favourite style accessories and come in a variety of styles both hard and soft. I will be honest here, I have not spent much money on my bracelets, there are many sites online where cheaper bracelets can be purchased. However, bare in mind that I am not going for a high end look of luxury. There is 4 types of bracelet that I wear and I will generally mix and match them. There are the softer Rope and Anchor/Hook, Braided Leather, Stainless Steel and finally Stone Beads. One point to keep in mind, is to not overload your wrist, a good rule of thumb would be to wear bracelets together no wider than your watch, if you are wearing a bracelet against your watch then keep your other wrist free.
Pocket Squares. Often referred to as hankies or handkerchiefs, pocket squares are small squares of material worn in the top pocket of your suit jacket or sports coat. I like them as they are very much an accessory you can have a lot of fun with. I purchase mine online for less than $10 each, often as little as $2. The only real rule would be to not wear a matching tie and pocket square set together, rather use your square as a contrast.There are many ways to fold a pocket square, some more formal than others, I myself push my finger up through the centre, then invert it so that all four corners are poking out of the top of my pocket( As can been seen in the photo in the pocket of the jacket on the right) . Once again Real Men Real Style have a wonderful infographic on folding pocket squares.
Wearing accessories can take confidence, do it well and nail your style and confidence will come naturally. Feel free to experiment and develop your own style. Start small, buying inexpensive pieces before you know fully what works for you, but most of all enjoy.
Using accessories to add pop to your outfit is a great way to personalise your attire. But knowing what accessories to wear, without going over the top can be tricky for a beginner. So what do I count as accessories? Well a good basic description would be your accent pieces. Think along the lines of the brightwork on a car, the chrome pieces certainly add to the look of the car without necessarily any other function, the same can be said for style accessories. Some are functional, whilst some are simply there to add subtle detail.
For many, the idea of adding accessories to your outfit may seem confronting, confusing or leave you feeling like a Christmas tree. But what if I was to tell you that in all likelihood, you have already worn accessories and that there is a good chance you are doing so now? A watch, a belt or a tie are among the most common of fashion accessories for men and I count them as the Basic Accessories. The ones that are a good starting point and are familiar and easy to use. A second group is the non wearables, which includes items like your wallet and phone. Items that a smart dresser never overlooks. So what then of the others, the more Advanced Accessories? These are the types of accessories that can make a huge difference to your style but must be worn with a less is more approach. These include, tie bars, cufflinks and pocket squares, items that used with restraint can turn a nicely dressed man into a Stylish and Sharp Dressed Man, (Cue the ZZ Top song. ) and will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog.
These are the accessories that you will already be familiar with and no doubt wear already. That doesn't mean that you can't step your game up a bit. Unlike the more advanced accessories, these basics can be worn at the same time. As a general rule these are everyday accessories, which means that you should have multiple options for each, at the very least, a casual and dressier option.
Watches. Watches are no longer the necessary timepiece they once were, our use of the smartphone has seen us use them as the most common way to know the time. Watches, whilst still a wonderfully usefully timepiece are often more of a style item now. (Although I do hesitate to include the ubiquitous fitness tracker as an item of style.) Watches of course come in a variety of styles and the prices can be the same as that of a family house. The world of watches is a complex one and best left for a latter blog. The rudimentary thing to remember with watches as style accessories is that they match your outfit. An informal fabric banded watch will not work with a suit just as a formal watch will look silly when worn with shorts and t-shirt at the beach. For this reason it is best to have at the very least, a formal and informal watch option. As you evolve your accessory and watch collection you will develop a feel for specific watches for specific situations.
Belts. Every man should have a variety of belts in their wardrobe. Much like watches their are formal and informal styles. A general rule of thumb is that formal belts have smaller buckles and tend to be narrower than casual belts. The finish on formal belts will be better too with the edges often stitched. There are other rules for wearing belts, match your belt to your shoes, this applies mostly to leather belts and shoes. A black belt with Brown shoes and vice versa is a definite style No-No and doing so will mark you out as someone with no dress sense whatsoever. Have a look at your pants, if there are belt loops, you must wear a belt to do otherwise will make any outfit look scruffy.
Belts come in a wide array of styles and materials, for the most part however there are 5 styles that should comprise your minimum collection of belts. Leather belts in both formal and casual styles in both Black and Brown and a casual canvas or woven belt. If however your need for formal belts is occasional at best, a good quality leather reversible belt can cover both black and brown. My advice is to buy quality leather belts, never skimp and be tempted to buy cheap vinyl or bonded leather belts, not only do they look cheap but will appear tatty and frayed after one or two wears. Look to spend between 50-80% of the price of a good pair of jeans and your belt will outlive all the pants in your wardrobe. The other thing to remember about leather belts, is to maintain them. A good quality leather treatment or polish regularly will keep them smart and fresh.
Socks. At the moment, socks ( or lack there of) are very much an on trend item. Socks are an interesting item to put in the Basics category. Loud socks with very bright colours can make a huge difference to your outfit, but are perhaps not for someone beginning to experiment with colours and style. My advice is to start with a more classic approach. The rule of thumb is to match your socks to your pants.This allows the lines of your footwear to not look deformed and the lines of your pants to flow. So this should be your default if you are unsure.
The current trend however is for more vibrant colours to act as a contrast between your shoes and pants. I would avoid novelty socks and stick with striped, argyle patterns or block colours. Novelty socks tend to look more juvenile and so not very becoming of someone in their fifties. Feel free to experiment but remember you are trying to look stylish and not look like Crusty the Clown.
Another trend at this point in time is the sockless look. A couple of points to keep in mind if you wish to try to pull this look off. Firstly, have a look at the cut of the pants you intend to be wearing, to achieve this look without looking ridiculous you need to have either skinny or slim cut pants. ( Personally, I think skinny cut looks ridiculous on most people anyway). If the diameter of your cuffs are too large then the sockless approach just looks sloppy. Secondly, keep hygiene matters in your mind, your feet will sweat and without your socks to absorb it, your shoes and feet will smell. There are a few ways to combat this. The best way in my opinion is to find invisible socks, socks that are so low cut that they cannot be seen when wearing shoes. Invisible socks come in a range of cuts and are not suitable for every shoe type. Another option is to rotate your shoes, if you have enough pairs of shoes to do so. For every day you wear a pair of shoes sockless, don't wear them for 2 or 3 days. The third option is to use foot powders or sprays to keep your shoes and feet smelling fresh.
Ties I myself rarely wear ties, I feel my lifestyle is more casual than the look that is reflected by wearing a tie. Having said as such, I do have some ties and wear them on occasions. So not being a tie expert, I will only briefly mention a few pieces of advice. The first thing is that ties go out of fashion, that tie you wore to a wedding 10 years ago will not do you any favours wearing it now. Stay away from those hideous novelty ties, as, much like socks, just make you seem immature. The last thing I will say is about quality, to the uninitiated a cheap tie looks OK, but to those in the know, they look cheap and nasty especially when paired with an expensive suit. A moderately priced off the rack suit or jacket can work with a moderately priced tie, but if you have invested in a quality suit or jacket its best to buy a similar quality tie.
I should also mention the bow tie. Yes a bow tie can be seen as a bold piece of attire. But, as an accent piece they can work very well. I have on a number of occasions worn a bow tie, but be mindful not to wear too many statement pieces at once, as it will come across as trying to hard and look rather silly. I will mention more about statement pieces in part 2 of the blog.
Sunglasses. Nothing says I don't really care about my appearance more than generic sunglasses bought when refueling your car. Look after a quality pair of sunnies and they will last a lifetime. Some Style bloggers will suggest that you have multiple pairs for different occasions, but as I wear prescription glasses, my sunglasses are a prescription pair and therefore a bit pricier it is not a school of thought I subscribe too. A quality pair of sunnies will certainly compliment your look.
The Non Wearables
For many, when talking about style accessories, the mind only thinks of items that are worn. However, ensuring that your non wearable accessories are up to scratch can make a big difference in your appearance. Remember, accessories are about the finer details and so if something seemingly minor is tatty, all the effort made becomes irrelevant.
Wallet. Your wallet is something that you will carry with you at all times and as such usually cops quite a beating. I myself, prefer the use of a micro wallet, in my case a small credit card sized aluminium wallet with an inbuilt money clip, called The Ridge Wallet. However, before I started to use a micro wallet I had two wallets. The idea being I had an everyday wallet which contained all my cards and money and was usually found bulging and misshapen( with loyalty cards not money) and a quality leather wallet that I used when going out. When heading out I would transfer my drivers license, credit card and cash to my "good" wallet, so as to keep a slim line appearance.
Mobile/Cell Phone. Another forgotten item that is usually in full view by all and sundry is your mobile phone. Again, I find the best approach is to have at least two cases for your phone. An everyday one and one that is used for better occasions. In fact I would recommend having a few options on hand dependent upon the occasion and what you are wearing. i.e. having a case that has a more formal appearance reserved for more formal occasions.
Another thing to add when it comes to your phone case is that many phone case incorporate slots to hold cards. So take your credit card and license out of your daily wallet , put them in your phone cover and use a money clip for your cash.
Keys. We all carry keys, be they car keys, house keys or both. Keys can be a really bulky item and keeping them in your pants pocket can result in an unattractive bulge. I myself use a metal key holder that has a much simpler and more stylish appearance. The thing to remember is that you are after a stylish and streamlined appearance, something that a loose set of keys will never be.
For many, Christmas is about family, but what happens when your family has been separated by divorce? Often, what has been your Christmas tradition for many years is now off the table. Divorce will all too often see a dramatic reduction in numbers of those you call family and friends. Many married men count the husbands of their wife's friends among their closest mates and divorce will often see them alienated as they break ties with their ex. Not to mention the loss of your ex's family from within your inner circle. Of course, the hardest part is having to split your children's time between you and your ex. It matters not if your children are young or grown up with families of their own, not being able to spend Christmas with them, hurts.
The Festive Season can be a time where many people will feel alone, with feelings of worthlessness and depression creeping in. It is also a time for socialising and work/office parties, a time when you may well be talking with people that you only see once a year. People like, colleagues from other offices/sites, the partners of workmates and friends of friends, people that may not know of the changes that have taken place in your life over the past year ( or so). These once a year acquaintances, in an attempt to be sociable, may well ask after your ex without knowing of your divorce/separation. Such situations can bring emotions to the surface, emotions that you had thought were under control, but now find yourself battling with. Many men having gone through divorce will try to abstain from socialising in an attempt to avoid questions of their relationship, however, during the festive season there is often a sense of obligation for you to attend. Combine all this with the presence and consumption of alcohol and it can become a dangerous time for anyone dealing with emotional issues. Alcohol and depression do not work well together, so if you are finding things tough this Christmas, watch how much you drink.
Dealing with a smaller social circle over Christmas
With divorce comes a reduction in the size of your social circle. A breakdown of a marriage or relationship will see a division and separation of assets and while most think of this only from a financial point of view, it is important to understand that in most cases there is also a separation and division of your social circle. Your ex's family will for the most part, tend to break of social ties with you, ( This doesn't necessarily mean they don't like you) and while it is quite understandable, it can still be hard. However it is the loss of the friends you shared as a couple, that can hurt the most. Unfortunately for all concerned, these common friends will often feel obligated to choose sides between you and your ex. It is an unfortunate fact that for the most part, your married friends will tend to side with your ex. The reason for this is actually quite simple. Think back to when you were happily married and imagine if you, as a couple, had to make that decision about some friends. Say what you will, but your wife would opt to stay friends with her "bestie" and whilst you could argue the case that you could remain friends with the husband, your wife would see it as betraying the trust of her friend. So, given the choice between your wife and her "bestie's" ex, the wise man chooses his wife.
The festive season is a time when we will feel the loss of these friends. Especially when it comes to those who you regularly saw at specific times. For instance, you may have, for the past 15 years spent Christmas Eve at a social gathering with a particular couple. Your ex remains very close friends with them and most likely will spend Christmas Eve with them again. So now, your left with not only a loss of some friends, but with the realization that you shall not be going to their houseparty again on Christmas Eve.
My advice is to accept that your Christmas Eve tradition is a thing of the past, move on and start a new tradition. This however does not mean you have to break all ties and civility with your friends. By all means send them a Christmas card, keep in touch via social media and even give them a quick call or text to wish them all the best for Christmas and New Year. Sure, they may no longer be part of your inner circle, but there is usually no need to cut ties as friends completely. They no doubt miss your friendship as much as you miss theirs.
The situation can be more complicated when you were very good friends with members of your ex's family. Again, for the most part there should be no harm in at least sending a Christmas card.
Sharing your children at Christmas after divorce
This is when it gets really hard. Like during the rest of the year, it is crucial that you never use your children as pawns in your battles with your ex. For most men in their 50's, their children will likely be adults and living a life of their own out of home. In this case then things are a little less complicated, much of the decisions on when you are to spend time with your children will be dictated by them. Many though, will have a partner of their own and so will be wanting to spend time with their partners family as well.
If however, like me, your children are younger and still at home then you will need to discuss seeing your children, with your ex. My teenage child lives with their Mum and so I am thankful that even though she has remarried we remain on good terms. For many of us without custody of our children, the festive season and particularly Christmas morning can be very difficult. I myself am a shift worker which makes scheduling visits even harder. The way you go about arranging to see your children over the Christmas period will very much depend on the relationship you have with your ex. My advice though, would be to speak with your children about what they would like to do and to not expect to have your children every year for Christmas day. One compromise that has worked for us, was for me to have my child until Christmas morning. This way both parents got to spend some of Christmas Day with them.
Something else that can get forgotten, is your family. Don't forget that your family will no doubt want to see your children over Christmas as well, most especially your parents. So please remember to allow your parents to see their Grandchildren over Christmas. I mentioned earlier that I had my teenager on Christmas Eve, what I didn't mention was that we spent that night at my parents. This gave my entire family the chance to see them and share gifts with them on Christmas morning.
Reboot your Festive Season
So what do I mean by "Reboot your Festive Season"? Your Christmas period is now going to be different to that of recent years, your divorce has made certain of that. So now is the ideal time to make the changes you want to make. Sure, you may not get to spend the season exactly how you would like, but then again, who actually does? So push that reset button and make the most of the opportunity to change. I myself love Christmas time and it is a wonderful family time. Now, ( if I am not working) I get to spend Christmas with my family and not having to share my time with my ex's family too. For those of you with Grinch like sentiments of disliking the whole Christmas thing, your single, make your own choices, book yourself on a cruise, go on a holiday, the choices are endless and yours alone to make.
Allow yourself to enjoy the season, don't hide yourself away at home. Go to those work parties, put up Christmas decorations and don't wallow in self pity. ( Plenty of time for that during the rest of the year)
Just remember though, not to go overboard with the Christmas spirits. Now that you no longer have a partner to watch how much you drink, remember to drink wisely. If you are still having a hard time dealing with the breakdown of your marriage, keep in mind that alcohol can make depressive thoughts much worse. So keep your self respect and dignity intact whilst enjoying this Festive season.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.