Jeff Cairns in His Own Words: His Ageless Style
The Age of Fashion is in itself ageless–it is contemporary, modern, classic, and for those of us who care enough–it is available.
My Journey to Style
It was 1973, and I was 16 years old when I had my first professional paying job– it was in Men’s Fashion retail. I worked through university, studying Art History and layered in a modelling career in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and continued with retail.
Spring 1984, I joined one of the men’s fashion store in downtown Toronto– it had just started–and 36 years later, I’m still there on weekends. I was a buyer and visual merchandiser, a sales associate, and a manager.
Then in 1995, I added event designer and art director as another career; I divided my time between my positions and remained just as involved in Fashion Retail. Ten years into this, I added in teaching Visual Communication at Sheridan College. I was working seven days a week for 24 years with few regrets. Earlier this year, I left the Special Event Industry. However, I continue to teach History of design and an online Fashion Illustration class, and of course, still very involved in the Men’s Fashion Retail.
Style–A Visual Résumé
It was early in the retail career that I observed a fact that still holds–men generally think of clothing as they do tools.
A wife remarked to her husband, “look at this belt; it’s beautiful–you have to get it !”
He looked at her in dismay–”but I have a belt.”
The underlying sentiment was when his hammer breaks, then he will get a new one– “I can’t use two at once.” Albeit to a lesser degree, this view still holds for many men. It’s important here to point out that clothing and Fashion are different for me. Clothing is simply the tool, but Fashion is how you use it.
Fashion is our style and expression – the blend of lifestyle, utility and personal statement. It’s how we present ourselves to the world – our visual resume!
Fashion Challenges with Age
I have tracked over time that generally men when in their 20’s, aspire to a specific lifestyle–a particular brand of a car, watch, home, and fashion label or style. Often when this look is achieved, many men plateau and stop evolving, generally in their 30’s to 40’s. Their life responsibilities have changed, and they tend to de-focus on Fashion and tend to “hold” on to a look.
The older we become, challenging it is for us to change, and Fashion can become intimidating. To refer back to my “clothing as tools” analogy, if we think of technology in the same way, men generally stay informed about the advancements in tech tools and gadgets. We should remain informed about Fashion – both are important to career and life..
Fashion Today is More Diverse
Both modelling and Fashion are huge global industries – simple supply and demand rules apply.
With social evolution and education, the market is much more demanding and understanding in terms of inclusiveness– mobility challenges, body shape, ethnicity, gender identity, including Age. In my early modelling career of the ’80s in Toronto, even with many different ethnicities represented to a degree, there were still many not expressed. Today, there is a much broader demand and supply of models and Fashion to meet the diversity of society.
Fashion is Available To Everyone
We are a long way from living in a world that doesn’t revere youthfulness, and this idea goes far beyond the fashion world. Given the nature of the industry, it does seem to be the most prominent than any other sector. But, I am not trying to look young, my interest in Fashion is about pleasure and appreciation of style, and a desire to look current and vital. It [definitely] is not about intimidation or conformity, because to live this way would be missing out on the soul of Fashion.
Synthesizing our style, body shape, life experience, inspiration and Age with Fashion is the essence of keeping vital. The choice is available – perhaps even more now than before, as the fashion industry is acknowledging this more and more. This means that we can forge a path with less external friction from others who may be inclined to give in to the notion of Age defining/limiting Fashion.
Fashion does not leave us behind, but we often let ourselves grow out of Fashion– we have to evolve and grow with our new realities.
We can still stay true to ourselves and our style identity, but we have to stay informed and engaged, and as we have always had to – interpret Fashion to meet our style.
Let Fashion evolve and grow with your Age.
Fashion Has No Expiration Date
There are misconceptions about a person’s “shelf life”–I reflect on this as I hit my milestones. Each season, year, or a decade is the opportunity to introduce new ways to express “myself.”
I reflect on my style evolution and development by putting together a “Then and Now “images–an acknowledgement that Age does not limit style and Fashion. And I reject the idea that everyone’s story is the same and must conform to standards. I’ve had hair to my waist, later a full handlebar moustache, and today I am enjoying a white hair and beard.
Part of my photo story is an expression of the evolution of Age–some things remain the same but many changes, and I learn to embrace those and work with them.
There is no expiration date to looking good–ageless style is about demystifying Fashion. It is about making it accessible and not intimidating. It’s about whether you can care enough to continue to dress stylishly.
The fashion industry may be known as youth-centric, or that changes are driven by pop culture, and that the whims of designers and the world are seemingly becoming more polarized. But, in my view, Fashion is proving to be the opposite– there is an embrace of diversity in body shape, gender, race and yes–Age.
We don’t age out of Fashion. Style is how we present ourselves, and our story and our relationship with Fashion is life long.■
Follow Jeff Cairns on Instagram for a daily dose of inspiration @cairns.jeff