Middle-aged men and their sad self-regard

Orange permatanned chest? Too-perfect teeth? Hair transplants? Yuk! Matthew Bell prays he'll never fall victim to these 10 fashion crimes

Matthew Bell
Sunday 10 February 2013 01:00 GMT

Personalised number plate

Everything you need to know about Chris Huhne was summed up in four letters (and two figures): H11HNE. It was the clue that gave him away all along. He may as well have raced down the M11 yelling: "GET OUT OF MY WAY, I AM VERY RICH AND IMPORTANT AND RULES ARE FOR LITTLE PEOPLE!!" One would expect more from an ex-environment minister with a first-class degree, but then, they don't teach good taste at Oxford. So let's spell it out: having your name plastered on a 4-litre BMW says one thing about you – but it uses a different set of four letters.

Click here to view the gallery of middle-aged men and their fashion crimes

Statement facial hair

Simon Le Bon enjoyed a brief, Antonia de Sanchez-style revival last week, but not because he holds a candle for David Mellor. He got into the papers by sporting a handlebar moustache at a party. Apparently he grew it for charity in November, and his wife liked it so much he kept it. Well, that's his story: some suspected a whiff of look-at-me theatrics. Simon, there are better ways to prove you have a personality than moving hair round your face.

Simon Cowell neckline

Tony, love, put it away. We know you're mates with Silvio, and have made loadsamahney yourself, but we're not in Sardinia now – this is London in February. Ever since he stopped being PM, Blair's preferred way to wear a shirt has been to undo as many buttons as possible. It's a way of revealing his tan, his toned pecs, a gold chain (qv) and chest hair, and saying "I'm a laid-back metro-millionaire, yah boo to Myrobella." Point made, now cover up.


David Beckham has a good body, we all know that. But does he really need to hammer the point home by parading it for an H&M advert, "directed" by Guy Ritchie? He's already sprawled all over buses for Giorgio Armani, the traditional outlet for footballers keen to show us their pecs (see Cristiano Ronaldo). It's faintly desperate, when you're approaching 40, to start modelling for any old pant-house as an excuse to flash your abs. You've been to the gym – well done. Do you want a medal? (That goes for you, too, Tom Daley).

Orange skin

Black, white, olive or brown. Any skin colour is fine, except Haribo orange. We live on a wet, windswept island off the edge of northern Europe. It is not the Caribbean. So, Gordon Ramsay, you are fooling nobody by spray-painting yourself like an egg-glazed pasty. By all means, go to Sandy Lane and get a tan. But if you want it year-round, it would be better for everyone if you stayed there.

Perfect teeth

There's something creepy about men with Colgate smiles. Nobody wants to see a row of sawn-off stubs, but the opposite can be almost as bad. There is a third way: just brush your teeth twice a day, as matron taught, and everything will be fine. Martin Amis spent £20,000 getting his fixed, and we all know in what moderate esteem he holds himself.

Signet bling

Even if you are the heir to Wiltshire, there's no need to wear your coat of arms on your pinky. Signet rings were once useful for sealing letters, now they just scream Fulham and insecurity. Pinky rings are just naff. If you are a full-time rapper, and only then, it's OK to wear some bling, but there has to be a nod to irony. Gold necklaces are just sleazy (see Tony Blair), and anything that's out of sight – Evan Davis, Prince Albert – should stay that way.

Advancing hairline

We'd all love to have a thatch of Pantene's finest across our foreheads for ever. But some of us must learn to accept, aged 15, that our hair is only going in one direction, fast. You can get away with a messy comb-over for so long, provided it's not too Donald Trump. But there comes a time when you have to embrace the slap. Weaving back in what nature cast off is, frankly, weird. And at £30,000 a head, expensive, and puts you in the company of Gordon Ramsay and Shane Warne. I'd rather go bald.


A good idea; trouble is, they're like chocolate peanuts – one is never enough. You can't just staple the wattle back and hey presto. Gravity keeps pulling and bits come unstuck. Nicky Haslam swears by his, but, for most, it's better to do a Samuel Beckett and let the crags tell a story.

Dyed hair

If in doubt, watch the last few minutes of Death in Venice. The black dye dribbling down Dirk Bogarde's collar is tragic, for so many reasons. Better to go grey.

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