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The Shape of Things to Come: How Our Bodies Change and Evolve Our Style


It’s easy to allow time to have a big impact on our lives. After all, in many ways, we are prisoners to its passing and perhaps this is never truer than in a fashion sense. How often have you looked back on footage of your parents — mine in the 1970s or 1980s, for example — and felt grateful that you were born into a different age?

History shows that the same generations we ridicule threw scorn on their own parents. Our mothers and fathers believed themselves to have finally achieved a trend that was always going to be relevant, rather than being, as it often proves to be, a craze that is simply passing through, just as we do through time itself.

We’re the same with hair as we are with fashion. Look back on the bowl cuts of the 1990s and you might burst into squeals of laughter. We move through these instances of reflection blind to the almost certain knowledge that our own children will one day look back at the dead trims of the year 2021 and double-up in fits of giggles just the same.

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Does fashion apply differently to those of a different age, though? Just as teenagers would look untypical with a receding hairline, men in their 60s are hardly renowned for their long, lustrous locks. Do clothes stick to specific age demographics ? To an extent, yes. If we were to wear a three-piece suit as a preadolescent, we might be accosted for rocking a briefcase. Wear shorts and a tank top as an octogenarian and the average stranger might cross the street.

Time is the common factor in terms of both the changing trends of fashion and our own advancing age. Last time I went to buy clothes, I decided to alter my perspective and consider my style for the year as a whole, rather than just the summer months. [Read: Goodbye, Seasonal Threads; Hello, Year-Round Style.] It’s a move that really paid off and I’m genuinely feeling much more confident about what I wear these days. Even I have to admit, however, that my body shape and the passing of time have influenced my wardrobe through the years.

When I buy clothes, I look for what will suit me, but that’s not just a matter of seasonal trends or considering longevity; the clothes need to suit me. I’m tall with wide shoulders and overly long legs compared to my torso. What might look good on me wouldn’t suit a broader man with a lower center of gravity (i.e. someone who doesn’t exactly trip over a staircase in the dark).

Over the years, my form has changed as much as anyone’s. I mean, I was once a gangly teenager with a haircut heavier than several of my crew neck t-shirts. Recently, however, I entered my 40s with the same waist size and a completely different body shape. I've filled out more and bulked up a bit. Short-sleeve shirts look better on me now than they did twenty years ago, but I do up two more buttons these days.

Sweatshirts that accentuate my chest more than my trunk are good. V-neck tees that are simple and clean rather than crowded with logos look classier. Long cargo shorts feel more appropriate than short, tight ones around my thighs.

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As anyone over the hill will tell you, your body changes in ways that are both good and bad. Weight is harder to shift and certain areas of the body — thigh, quad, and pectoral muscles — become parts you have to work out to maintain, whereas the simple existence of youth did that for me without any physical exertion on my part. But, overall, you feel more comfortable in your own skin and it makes many of your body’s evolution (or devolution) endearing and attractive.

Likewise, clothes that once suited you won’t do so forever, but it’s only by accepting that fact that choosing the right apparel in the here and now becomes easier. So, whatever your shape, and however you want to change it, you’ll feel a lot more confident if you do so by wearing the right clothes at the right time. I know I do.

— Paul Seaton

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