by Beth Hammarlund
Fashion has always been pushed as a younger person’s game. Over the years it has been tailored to young women’s bodies with low body fat, perky body parts, and the naivety that comes with youth. But due in part to the rise of street style blogs and books over the past decade (and also perhaps because of that photo of Helen Mirren in a bikini), a new generation of women are becoming the fashion industry’s most inspiring icons.
Advanced Style, a street style blog by Ari Seth Cohen, captures men and women of a certain age in New York City. Their styles range from demure and dapper to over-the-top eccentric. (Feathery orange false eyelashes, anyone?) These vivacious risk-takers and unapologetic genteels have created a forward-thinking and unrestrained clothing community, perhaps the most inspiring in street style culture.
Last May, Cohen released his first coffee table book, also titled Advanced Style, featuring the very best of his thousands of photographs. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, he has also begun editing hundreds of hours of video footage into a documentary that’s certain to become an instant cult classic. (Uptown Theater, if you’re listening, this documentary’s opening night is a perfect excuse for a stylish soirée.)
The advertisements on his website alone speak for the success of his campaign to highlight the styles of our older tastemakers. American Apparel runs an “Advanced Basics” ad, featuring a wispy-haired older beauty in a soft yellow polo. An ad for Coach eyewear from Lenscrafters and canes from Omhu are are also prominently featured, without a hint of irony.
That’s not to say that this movement is solely due to Cohen. Last January, MAC Cosmetics released a limited-edition collection designed and inspired by fashion icon Iris Apfel, truly one of the most stylish women living today. The collection was a runaway hit, with several shades of lipstick (including her signature flamingo pink) selling out online in a matter of days. These ladies are like the titular heroine of Harold and Maude, but with Manic Panic hair dye and a sizable budget set aside for turbans.
Much like the gentlemen of the Congo, the extreme commitment to fashion and uncompromising grace that these men and women possess is enough to make even the laziest twenty-something reconsider his or her sartorial choices in the morning. If impoverished men in the war-torn Congo and elderly New Yorkers with hip replacements and glaucoma can be bothered to pull themselves together to face the world with optimistic creativity, we can probably manage to wear a well-hemmed pair of pants and shine our shoes before stepping out the door.