“I am and will be a lifelong Pleats Please fan,” writer, model and all-round influential thinker Naomi Shimada tells Vogue. “Growing up in Japan, I’ve seen older women wear Pleats Please all my life and those women are actually my biggest style icons to this day.”
And Shimada isn’t alone. Thanks to the youth-driven, comfort-core movement that made Patagonia fleeces and ergonomic velcro sandals chic, we’ve entered a style realm usually inhabited by the over-65s. Retirement-wear is having a moment among the under 35s, which makes it highly likely that at some point this summer you’ll be opting for the same elasticated, easy-to-wear pieces your grandma is also wearing.
Let’s break down the retirement-wear look. What does it entail?
The retirement-style aficionado ruled out skinny Nineties sunglasses as soon as the revival first surfaced on Instagram in 2017, preferring instead to wear large wrap-around shades (of post-surgical proportions), see Scandinavian stylist Sophia Roe, and a tinted Perspex visor. On a day-to-day basis, the ‘retiree’ sports immaculately pressed, white or pastel unisex T-shirts and stretchy ankle-length, straight-leg trousers (no zip), revealing a pair of ribbed aerobics socks and New Balance 608 trainers. A zip-up hiking fleece is optional, but we’d suggest pledging allegiance to British designer Ashley Williams’ ‘Retired and Loving It’ slogan sweater or grandad tanks.
Why is it suddenly fashionable to dress like you’re retired?
According to a report by CapitalOne “retirees have never had it better, with more health, wealth, and time to enjoy life without the constraints of work”—an enviable state of affairs. But could this thinking also apply to Millennials? Those born between 1981 and 1996 have a self-motivated entrepreneurial streak that looks to non-traditional lines of employment which, coupled with the rise of self-care culture, has overhauled the formal workwear dress codes that applied to Baby Boomers.
Unsurprisingly, the emergence of a retirement-wear trend has a lot to do with comfort (high fashion’s most underrated quality), which is a priority for Millennials who travel more than any generation before them and run blended work and social lives on the go, via the smartphone in their crossbody Prada messenger bag. On the subject of efficient packing, actress Juliette Labelle echoes Shimada’s praise that Pleats Please “takes up no room in your bag and is light AF”. Labelle and her friend, Canadian artist Chloe Wise, are rarely spotted out of Issey Miyake’s cult basics.
Comfort is the sentiment behind Copenhagen-based label Saks Potts—arguably the apotheosis of Millennial (and Gen Z) chic, counting both North West and Cardi B among its dedicated followers—partnering with fellow Danish brand Ecco (at the latter’s invitation). The forthcoming footwear collaboration includes cowboy boots and ‘SP’ logo knee-highs, which are all—you guessed it—exceptionally comfortable and reassuringly ‘extra’.
“We always focus a lot on the materials, but the comfort is the most important thing for us,” Barbara Potts explains. “Especially for Danes, they love comfort,” adds co-founder Catherine Saks.
The pair, who have a penchant for shocking pink and holographic co-ords, are candid about the perks of working with a brand that’s particularly well regarded for its expertise in designing for older feet: innovation.
“Ecco creates hi-tech fabrics for Apple and Louis Vuitton,” Saks tells Vogue. “Their know-how means that if we wanted to make a leather that glows in the dark, we could,” she explains, hinting to that much under-explored characteristic of the retiree’s wardrobe, wisdom. At a time when Millennials are navigating a future for fashion built upon sustainability, the tried-and-tested wardrobe of our seniors may have more to offer than just aesthetics.