'Peacocks' are redefining older men's fashion, study shows

A researcher who undertook a first of its kind study into older men’s experiences of fashion says an emerging trend of 'peacocks' are pioneering a new generation of image-conscious men in the third age.

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Ania Sadkowska and participant Paul Gidley

A researcher who undertook a first of its kind study into older men's experiences of fashion says an emerging trend of 'peacocks' are pioneering a new generation of image-conscious men in the third age.

Ania Sadkowska, a PhD researcher from Nottingham Trent University's School of Art & Design, says former 'mods' and 'rockers' - now in their late 50s and 60s - are rebelling against the stereotype of older heterosexual men by refusing to tone down as they age.

There have been many academic studies of older women's experiences of fashion, but until now older men's experiences appear to have been overlooked as no literature exists which documents it.

"Men entering mid-to-later life today in the UK have been through very different courses of fashion compared to other generations," said Mrs Sadkowska, whose study, Third Age Men's Experience of Fashion and Clothing: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, is published today by academic journal Age Culture Humanities.

"From the 1950s onwards menswear has been especially exuberant and many older men today have a very distinctive attitude to their appearance and use it as a way to communicate their mature masculinity.

"In many ways they are like peacocks. They are replacing the old fashioned type of masculinity, often represented by their fathers, with new appearance-conscious forms of masculinity.

"Fashion is playing a significant role in the way they are growing old and, as similar to their youth, they see themselves as pioneers of fashion and are constantly renegotiating their evolving identities."

Rather than try to look like mods or rockers, the participants of the study said they choose to wear modern clothing, including brightly coloured designer suits with flamboyant ties and complimentary socks.

They were all keen to distance themselves from older people who wear clothes that belie their age, who they consider the male equivalents of 'mutton dressed as lamb'.

During interviews all five responders said they were willing to sacrifice their physical comfort in order to achieve the right look.

One interviewee said he would be willing to wear a corset beneath his clothes in order to fit into them, while another said he had a numb toe from historically wearing fashionable shoes which were unavailable in his size. Another participant also admitted to wearing trousers so tight that he had to unpick the seams and re-sow them around his legs in order to get them on.

"Many of them have earned good money during their careers and like to indulge themselves. They want to look great; but they want to look their age. What they are showing other people is that you can be older and fashionable," says Mrs Sadkowska, whose research was supervised by Professor Tom Fisher and Dr Katherine Townsend, of the School of Art & Design, and Dr David Wilde, of the School of Social Sciences.

"They were among the first generation of fashion-conscious young men, and now see themselves as among the first generation of fashion-conscious older men.

"Their memories of the days as mods and rockers are something which they reflect on with pride and use it to justify their often-rebellious attitudes towards the current fashion system which actively discriminates against older people."

'Peacocks' are redefining older men's fashion, study shows

Published on 30 September 2015
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Art & Design

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