As a guy closes in on 30, there often comes a time when he looks in the mirror and realizes his face is different, yet familiar. He opens his closet and finds that the reason that face looked familiar is that he's turning into his father. He leafs through the button-down collar shirts, wool slacks, looks down at his Wee-juns and sighs--gray hair must be just around the corner.
Referred to as "Generation Xers" by some sociologists, these aging twentysomethings have grown beyond the grunge look, yet are not ready to give up their youth. For those who have found they've got nothing to wear to a nice party but the uniform of an accountant, there are alternatives.
Slacks made with a "crepe" weave could become the standard for those trying to fit into a younger look.
"This is really going to span every age group," says Mark Schell of Mark Schell Designs for Men in Corona del Mar. "You can wear a shirt and pair of slacks made of a crepe fabric, and it will stand out. It's a hot young fashion item; it's fashionable yet understated."
Gen-X neckwear also tends to be understated and muted--even to the point of nonexistence. "Keeping the top button closed is still a popular look when you're wearing a nice shirt," Schell says. "It's been a fashion statement for a while, and guys are still doing it."
Those who want to be more casual can experiment with the "immigrant" look, says Keli Sullivan of Structure in Costa Mesa. Like the "peasant" clothing popular two decades ago, it's simple and loose-fitting. "You can wear collarless shirt, known as a band collar, along with blue or black jeans or corduroys," she says. "Then dress it up with a leather vest."
If you're sticking to the true Gen-X style, stay away from bright colors. "Browns and grays are big, especially for fall and winter," Sullivan says. "Plaids are also back, and plaid flannel shirts are still in. However, they're more fitted, and a lot of guys are tucking in the front to show off their belt buckles and leaving the back hanging out."
The layered look has also returned, which means you might want to get a few thermal undershirts to wear in winter, along with some simple suspenders to complement them.
While teens may gravitate toward the imposing Doc Martens, Xers tend to prefer suede or leather rugged work boots, again in brown or gray. Birkenstocks can work, but only with dark socks.
To top off your reach for a youthful look, try growing a goatee. "Almost any facial hair is really in right now," Sullivan says. "As well as hair with a 'tousled' look, like the guy in the Diet Coke commercials."