This Is the Golden Age of Old Guys Selling New Clothes

Some people say 30 is the new 20. But, if you’re the business of selling clothes to dudes, you’re likely thinking that 50, 60, or even 70 is the new 20 given the spate of famous elderly pitchmen being tapped to rep luxury clothing brands and streetwear labels.

Boomers and Gen-X-ers, clad in their comfy walking shoes, quietly strode to the forefront of menswear campaigns over the past couple years, despite the campaigns’ target audiences likely being upwards of two generations younger.

Consider Hedi Slimane lensing 82-year-old musician Bob Dylan in a black CELINE leather earlier this year and LOEWE recruiting 85-years-young actor Anthony Hopkins for the Fall/Winter 2022 pre-collection.

These labels primarily tap K-pop stars and buzzy young singers to sell their $4,700 jackets and $800 sneakers, remember.

The lynchpin of the aged model movement, really, is KITH.

Ronnie Fieg’s 12-year-old retailer has taken great pains to overhaul its in-house clothing line ever since its Spring 2020 runway show. Season-on-season, KITH clothing has grown evermore sophisticated and so has its casting.

KITH lookbooks typically feature the painfully handsome Lono Brazil for instance, but the main event is always the seasonal campaigns.

Therein, KITH brings in 50+-year-olds actors known around the world, including Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrian Brody, Jerry Seinfeld, and, most recently, 77-year-old Succession star Brian Cox.

As KITH’s list of senior celebrity alumni has swelled, so has the attention; every social media post featuring one of its famous aged models rakes in engagement.

KITH’s six Instagram posts about its multipart Marvel collaboration, for instance, all earned a solid number of Likes, ranging from 22k-39k, and upwards of 500 comments apiece.

Compare that to KITH’s single slide showcasing Brian Cox wearing its Fall 2023 collection, which raked in nearly 70k Likes and almost 600 comments. A single Bryan Cranston post reaped over 222k Likes.

Jerry Seinfeld’s mug engendered KITH’s most viral campaign ever, with the sole Instagram post notching over 283k Likes, 7.7k comments, and memes across social media.

The elderly models have also ensnared heightened numbers for the aforementioned luxury labels: Anthony Hopkins for LOEWE, 71k Likes. Bob Dylan for CELINE, 36k Likes.

Despite KITH and labels like CELINE or Yves Saint Laurent ostensibly operating within different markets — “streetwear” as opposed to “luxury,” as if those signifiers mean anything — they’re all aiming to tap the same immediate appeal offered by the co-sign of a famous, venerable actor or musician.

On one hand, there’s the lived-in, world-weariness that comes from a wizened model. They give the clothes they’re wearing an air of authenticity.

It’s why those Aimé Leon Dore Ma & Pa New Balance-inspired ads are immediately appealing and why it’s so striking to see Neil Young wearing a Supreme Bogo.

This is less about the clothes and more about the models wearing them, how these signifiers of youth culture are reframed as mature, “real” clothes once a mature, “real” person wears them.

But there’s also the instant “Hey, look at that” factor afforded by any appearance of a familiar face, doubled by seeing someone associated with movies or music wearing stylish duds, tripled when that person is an older actor not necessarily linked with luxury clothing.

This is, primarily, a recent menswear phenomenon.

Sure, Joan Didion lent her talents to a headline-halting Céline campaign back in the Phoebe Philo era but that was a novel case wherein a famous literary talent made sense as muse for the progenitor of quiet luxury.

Similarly, it was a Big Cool Deal when Marc Jacobs instigated Christy Turlington’s return to the runway back in 2019 but it followed a similarly logical process: famous ’90s supermodel and famous ’90s (and ’00s) designer reconnect at a point of reinvention for them both.

These famous older dudes working with luxury labels nowadays are less aligned with their brand partners and more along for the ride. That’s no criticism.

Like, who cares whether or not Anthony Hopkins actually wears LOEWE or that Brian Cox knows what a KITH is: the novelty is itself a means to an end.

Especially now that brands have seemingly grasped the inherent value of bringing a familiar, aged talent on-board, it only seems likely that we’re entering the golden age of old dudes selling us new clothes.

Now, it’s worth slowing down to point out that ageism in fashion remains a real issue.

Despite an apparent effort to cast more diverse models — in terms of age, race, gender, and beyond — the industry perpetually lags behind where you’d hope a trillion-dollar market would be in terms of representation, even if we’re solely discussing older models.

During the Fall 2022 season, for instance, a mere 0.52 percent of runway models were reportedly between the ages of 35-50.

These campaigns aren’t a singular solution to the issue but they are, if nothing else, a welcome change from staid beauty standards.

Speaking of, let’s also get some mature models of color cast in these campaigns.

Like, it’s crazy to think that Sam Jackson has only been in a single ad for suits in the past decade and that no one has tapped the photogenic James Hong to wear their fancy clothes. These are national treasures we’re talking about here!

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