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OPINION: ‘Am I too young to wear M&S clothes at 45 - or not?’

PUBLISHED: 06:30 19 September 2020

Masked & Spencers - Nick ready to explore the M&S menswear department after 30 years away. Picture: Nick Richards

Masked & Spencers - Nick ready to explore the M&S menswear department after 30 years away. Picture: Nick Richards

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Our columnist was left confused by a trip to the high street department store recently - who are they aiming their men’s fashion at?

'Slim fit with stretch' trousers in M&S. Picture: Nick Richards'Slim fit with stretch' trousers in M&S. Picture: Nick Richards

I’ve been a fan of M&S ever since Percy was a piglet.

Last week, charged with supplying a meal for my wife and kids who’d been out for the day, I nipped over to M&S and invested £12 in their Dine In meal deal, added a few more bits and... happy days.

Best of all was the fact that the lovely member of staff thought I may have been under 25 when I was putting through a bottle of wine in the self service tills.

“I think you’re just over,” she said. “You’ve got a young face.”

Not just any old compliment.

But, is there a more divisive brand in Britain than good old Marks & Spencer? I say divisive as I am split in two when I think of Marks and Sparks. I love the food with a passion, there’s no better place to shop on the high street in my view. It may be slightly pricier, but boy do you get what you pay for – and, of course, the flattering staff are great.

But my loyalties to M&S are seriously challenged when it comes to their clothes. OK, hear me out. I, like many children of the 70s and 80s, was raised wearing Marks & Spencer clothes to school.

Long before Primark, Aldi, Tesco and Sainsbury’s got on the scene, I always got my school trousers from there and had a grey sweatshirt that infamously appeared in my yearly school photo for far too many years.

Bomber jackets in lots of plain, dark colours in Marks & Spencer. Picture: Nick RichardsBomber jackets in lots of plain, dark colours in Marks & Spencer. Picture: Nick Richards

I guess in the days before online shopping and supermarkets selling cheap clothes, my mum would save time by kitting out the whole family in the patron saint of practical and well-made clothes, St Michael.

But when I got to about 13, I, like many others, ditched M&S for something a little different – the back of the market in Norwich, Top Man, River Island, Sweater Shop... anywhere but Marks & Spencer. That was where your mum shopped.

And, as I was getting my meal deal the other week, I thought more and more about this and realised that I hadn’t purchased, perused or even contemplated buying an item of clothing from M&S for more than 30 years.

I even realised I hadn’t actually been upstairs in the Norwich branch and explored the menswear since John Major was in his infancy as PM. So I went up for a wander. Why? Because my argument is that, if we all leave Marks & Spencer behind when we hit our teenage years, when do us men go back?

I believe at 45 I am their target age. Rightly or wrongly, I can sense that my fashion boat is, in the next year or two, supposed to be gloriously sailing back into their Blue Harbour.

After an escalator ride up through the brightly coloured womenswear, I arrived at the men’s section and clearly the winter range has arrived. My eyes were drawn to a bright red gilet, a real loud and proud fashion statement for a man of any age. Hiding behind it was a wall of bomber jackets – grey, brown, dark blue, light blue, black. There were V-neck pullovers, V-neck tank tops and cardigans all in the same dark colours.

I did notice some big boasts about the fabric used in their clothes – within seconds I was being informed that these clothes contained extra fine lambs wool or merino wool. Clearly M&S like to make their customers feel, above all else, that they are getting something a little extra special.

There were denim jackets, polo shirts and rugby shirts, which were all very solid and practical, but no dynamic colours or patterns, and certainly I can’t see myself wearing these clothes. Not now, probably never.

I noticed there were posters in the store featuring men probably in their 30s wearing the clothes – did that mean they were for that age, or was it a trick to make potential purchasers think they were buying something a younger person would wear?

A quick look at my fellow customers confirmed there seemed to be nobody under 50 in the menswear department.

But M&S sell thousands of items of clothes a day that must appeal to millions of men in the UK and if you are one, please don’t be offended, I’m really don’t know at what age I am supposed to bring in a little Magic & Sparkle to my wardrobe.

As I left, I spotted a pair trousers costing £22.50 with a sign above them describing what I consider a mantra for what most men over 45 are trying to achieve with all their clothing choices – slim fit with stretch.

What do you think? What age are the clothes in M&S aimed at? Comment below


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