They say that with age comes wisdom, an adage that is tested to the limit if you buy into the idea that America is a gerontocracy. When it comes to style, however, it’s safe to say that most people – even those elderly folks who can pretty much find a way to argue about anything – would hold up their hands and agree that such a take doesn't really apply.
There are, however, exceptions to every rule. Look how Steve Harvey broke the internet last week.
These exceptions take many forms and span decades – from the septuagenarian style connoisseur to the freshly bus-passed sartorial senior. What they all have in common, though, is the ability to put together a fit that transcends the age gap without coming off as try-hard or giving even the faintest sign of "How do you do, fellow kids?” Honestly, I’m 31 and I’m not entirely sure if I can always make that claim.
With that in mind, let us now introduce you to nine senior citizens – style elders, if you will – who not only have it together, but who probably have it down better than you, me, or any of us.
You couldn’t write this list without Larry David. The preoccupations of his Curb Your Enthusiasm character – funnily enough, some crotchety comedy writer named “Larry David” – with shoes and shirts of various kinds can be traced back decades to those same obsessions in the project which is probably still paying for that wardrobe now: Seinfeld.
It isn’t just in the world of auto-fiction where David’s borderline obsession with clothes manifests, though. It’s very much a part of his everyday life and his everyday looks. There’s a reason that multiple articles honoring the style of TV’s favorite grouch exist across the internet.
Not only is Larry David – like his friend and erstwhile collaborator Jerry Seinfeld – a confirmed sneakerhead of noteworthy game, his on and off-screen looks have made him an icon of casual fashion. A passion for the unconstructed blazer, the plain white tee, and what one might fairly call “ugly shoes,” have seen David dressing like 2021 fashion students since before they were born.
What do you think of when you hear the name "Danny DeVito?" If your answer is something like “a short man, shouting with the voice of a very large man,” then you’re probably not alone. But you are missing something vital: that short man with the large man’s voice also has incredible style.
The skeevy second-hand car salesman from Matilda – a kind of budget Gomez Addams – in his ostentatious wardrobe of check suits and odious hats is a kind of style icon all of its own. The real DeVito, however, has a collection of resplendent shirts, souvenir dad caps, and a pair of statement bold-frame glasses that make him instantly recognizable – not only as Danny DeVito (I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t need the clothes for that), but also as someone who knows how to throw a fit together.
If you know Diane Keaton, then this inclusion shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: the Academy Award-winning actress isn’t so much an unlikely style icon, but a certified one.
No one has ever worn an exaggerated bowler-style hat with the kind of sartorial aplomb that Keaton manages. There is, after all, no greater talent or compliment than the ability to turn an accessory so maligned into a signature look. In fact, Keaton’s hat game, in general, is so strong that she has practically saved the reputation of the fedora.
Frances McDormand is — as much as someone so instantly recognizable can be — a Hollywood iconoclast. Much time and effort, both on her part and the part of the journalists who have spoken to her in recent years, has been devoted to her views on age and aging. Or more specifically, on aging gracefully. Most of these focus on her face — the “roadmap” of our lives, etc. — but few acknowledge her enduring, evolving, and unique sense of style.
McDormand, you see, applies the same philosophy to her clothes as to her work and, I assume, her life in general: that what other people think isn't worth shit. She doesn't wear heels on the red carpet, but she knows her designers. Who else would, or could, combine Birkenstock's and evening-wear like it was the most natural thing in the world? Probably the same person who'd wear a T-shirt and jeans to an Oscar’s lunch.
Most people would agree that David Lynch has coined a whole new method of visual storytelling in his movies – the expression “Lynchian” exists in chronic overuse for a reason. But cinematic cues aren’t the only visual language that Lynch has developed and perfect over the years: it’s almost impossible, especially these days, to picture the filmmaker in anything but his perfectly-tailored black suit jacket and buttoned-up white shirt that looks like it wouldn’t know what a crease even was.
Beyond even the suit, though, Lynch has cultivated – in his look as in his persona – a sense of effortless cool. Long-sleeved shirts, unstructured blazers, and a well-tailored pair of pants are the secondary signifiers of Lynchian style. And, as always with all things Lynchian, it’s a style you can imitate but one which you can’t so easily replicate.
On the face of it – though, of course, we know this very rarely to be true – it seems that a lot of designers have an enviable work-life balance. That is to say, in their own time, a great many of them dress like they bulk-bought their clothes from a dog-eared catalog that advertises fishing waders next to sneakers next to lightbulbs. (I won’t name any names, because it’s not that kind of article.) What I will say, however, is that this does not apply to everyone. And that, thankfully, one of those exceptions is the always-put-together Yohji Yamamoto.
Here is a man who practices everything that his designs seem to preach: a minimal, quasi-goth, and demi-punk fusion that hinges on clean lines, unusual silhouettes, and a color palette that could best be described as “black.” Yamamoto’s signature longline coats, structured hats, and silver accessories are as much a calling card of his own style as they are for the clothes he sells with his name attached.
Hayao Miyazaki is a beloved enigma. We know him best as the man who, time after time, captures our hearts with enduring and emotive storytelling through stunning visuals and sprawling, magical worlds. On a personal level, there's a lot we don’t know about Miyazaki — the Studio Ghibli pioneer keeps himself to himself and lets the work speak for him.
What we do know, though, is that the man can dress. And, while he knows how to go full black tie when the occasion arises, it's the workwear chic that remains Miyazaki’s trademark: a crewneck sweater or simple cardigan, layered over an unbuttoned shirt, collar poking out asymmetrically like it just woken from a lengthy hibernation — all, more often than not, capped off with an artist’s smock. The work, after all, is what really does the talking.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson is cool. That's a fact. An undisputed fact. From cult classics like Pulp Fiction to somewhat less beloved outings like The 51st State, it's Jackson’s effortless charisma that carries so many of those scenes.
But that unique sense of individual magnetism isn't contained to the screen: his style is as natural and as naturalistic as anything Jackson brings to his movies — probably even more so, given that, you know, it's Real Life. No one wears purple like SLJ. No one wears velvet quite like SLJ — or a slouchy beanie, or a turtle-neck sweater, or a pair of sunglasses. Hell, he can even rock a kilt.
Individually described, Jackson’s style sounds like downtime wear: the pieces are loose-fitting, relaxed, louche even. Together, though, it's so clear that each piece has been chosen by the hand of a master sartorialist — for its material, its wearability, and its complementary quality to every facet of the fit.
To say that Rei Kawakubo is stylish feels stupid. Kawakubo isn't stylish. Kawakubo is style: over the course of half a century, with her work at the helm of Comme des Garçons, the Tokyo-born designer hasn't just influenced the fashion narrative of the 20th and 21st Centuries — she has effectively written and rewritten it, time and time again.
In her own signature style, she is irreverent — consistently non-conforming, adopting biker jackets (almost always in black, but sometimes in red) and floor-length monochromatic two-pieces as her consistent look of choice. What Kawakubo wears doesn't change with the seasons or with the trends they bring — it's a clear representation of her CdG “anti-fashion” philosophy — in part because she understands better than most what it means to know yourself through your clothes. But also, in no small way, because those trends are at her whim — her mercy, even — and this is her conductor’s uniform.