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Crazy, Sexy, Cool: How Gen X Does Gray Pride

From Shalom Harlow to J.Lo, Gen X is changing the game when it comes to aging. It's gray pride with nary a gray hair in sight.

As someone who regularly looks at fashion magazines and online shopping sites, it’s evident that I do not see many women my age. And though I may still be under the spell of an industry that insists that younger always looks and sells better when it comes to style, I’m ready for some radical change.

As I’ve worked on casting for beauty and fashion, I’ve noticed a place for women over 50 but they are almost always typecast to be some version of long-haired yoga mama who would look more at home in Sonoma than Soho. And though those women are exceptionally stunning, and I’m so glad they’re out there, I don’t relate to them and I don’t think I ever will. I imagine that I will keep my hair red or brunette until the bitter end, so the whole earth-mama natural thing is not my vibe, and I suspect for many women it’s not theirs either. So, who’s out there fighting the fight to represent women of a certain age with nary a long gray hair or wrap sweater in sight?

Who’s out there fighting to represent women of a certain age with nary a long gray hair or wrap sweater in sight?

If you saw the recent cover of LA magazine, you would know that 56-year-old Paulina Porizkova is naked and sexy as hell on the cover, talking about the new “gray pride” with nary a gray hair in sight. Yes, there are gorgeous crow’s feet. And sure, you may see a peek of gray at the roots but look at that iconic body and see how sexy 56 can be. 

But not every woman of a certain age is naked for sexy’s sake. Take another model from back in the day, Kristen McMenamy. If you are a fashion nerd like me, you’ll remember her from the ’90s gaggle of gals who were everywhere. Kristen stood out for her non-traditional beauty, with just the right amount of crazy rebelliousness to be super-duper cool. Now she’s back and on her terms on Instagram, where she is mixing high camp with high fashion and high art. Her art project of a feed gives me life, and whether she’s taking the piss out of influencers half her age (she’s also 56) or knocking on the doors of designers who should be clamoring to put her in their advertising, she’s the most. And I love her wacky approach to style because she’s having so much fearless fun with it. And yes, her hair is gray, but it’s got an indie, middle finger attitude I just love.

Kristen McMenamy for W Magazine. Photographer: Tim Walker

Now on to my favorite of late, and that’s Shalom Harlow, aged 47, posing for the September issue of Bazaar.  Along with Amber and Linda and other household first names of the supermodel varietal, Shalom is an absolute fashion icon and looks cooler than she’s ever looked. For me, cool is transcendent and age has absolutely nothing to do with it. The story shot by Cass Bird is everything I love. Androgyny, suiting, short hair, attitude. Show me a cooler woman than Shalom. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I am obsessed with this look and am bringing this story to my hairdresser this week when I get a fresh chop for fall. She is emblematic of where I’d like to park my midlife duff when it comes to style.

Shalom Harlow for Harper’s Bazaar. Photographer: Cass Bird

You must admit that Gen X is changing the game when it comes to aging

And even if you’re not nerdy for supermodels, you must admit that Gen X is changing the game when it comes to aging. I often think my generation has an almost iron-clad youthfulness, and we’re not going to age on anyone else’s terms (screw that graceful noise). Think of what Gen X women are doing to change the way we talk and think about menopause and you’ll see that we are using our voices to change the conversation around aging in general. And according to the LA mag article featuring hot Paulina, the stats are there to support something new. According to the piece, “folks over 50 — and there are 113 million of them in the US — own 70 percent of the wealth, purchasing an estimated $5.6 trillion a year in goods and services. Together, boomers and Xers — let’s call them Xoomers — buy more cars, spend more on luxury travel, and own more electronics and homes than any other age group, accounting for a whopping 40 to 50 percent of all consumer spending. And their dominance over the marketplace is only expanding. Sometime over the next decade or two, people over 65 will start to outnumber children under 18 for the first time in US history.”

So why are so few brands hollering at us? Though we may no longer be the cool kids, we’re still cool. Jennifer Aniston still wears her brand of California cool better than most women. J.Lo seemingly gets sexier by the second, as does Mary J. Blige. And as for crazy, well, I know there’s not much love for that term in modern life, but think more Kerouac’s “mad ones” than Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and you’ll get the drift. We’re a rebellious lot through and through. Incidentally, both photographers who shot Paulina (Jill Greenberg) and Shalom (Cass Bird) are women in our gang. That’s promising.

So, I’m asking my sisters and brothers (I see you, dudes. Owen Wilson is 52 and looking cool as hell on the cover of September’s Esquire), let’s get crazy. Let’s stay sexy. And let’s be cool. Even if the advertisers ignore us, we still have each other. And think about how we can redefine all the above for our crowd and, hopefully, the next generation behind us will thank us for paving the way. We’ve come a long way, baby. Cheers to the road ahead. XO

7 COMMENTS

  1. Well my Mother fought aging every minute of every day all the way to 102. Her last day on Earth she dressed like she was heading out to lunch or one of her earlier in life speaking engagements: jewelry, MAC red lipstick, hair done, mascara, rouge, perfectly ensembled outfit, the whole nine yards. She never gave up. She would look in the mirror incredulous that she looked old but hey she was a beauty warrior….Super Bea!

  2. Sheri Radel Rosenberg, I love reading your articles. As an XGen (Xoomer) I am fighting aging to death. Even though I am not as into following fashion, (however, I love IG No More CropTop) and definitely have more of a Jen Aniston vibe, I love fitness. I worked with athletics for 20 years and still feel like I can take on any 20 year old in an endurance race. And isn’t that a sign of us Xers.. endurance! What I love about being 50+ is taking on what works for me and leaving the crap behind, not worrying about what others are doing or say. I recently started painting again, and then decided to go BIG, design a website to sell my art.. No time to waste on 2nd thoughts anymore!! Stay Well!

  3. There’s something about this article that really annoys me. OMG yes women of 50 are still attractive! Well, for a start, women of 50 or even 56 are hardly old. They still have relatively youthful faces and figures. And all the women you talk about were or are models so of course they are still gorgeous when they are a bit older. What about talking about actually old, like in their 70s and 80s, or even just 60s? And women who are not models? Secondly, you seem to have this stereotype of older women that is just wrong. I am in my 60s and most of my friends are urban people who are fit, attractive and stylish and even edgy in their own way, whether grey or still dyed (I am in the dyed category myself). I certainly think about my clothes etc as much as I ever did, and make an effort to look nice. To think that women don’t do that as they get older is just nonsense.

  4. Seven years ago, at age 62, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post where I declared graceful aging a bore. In 1994, artist/musician Kim Gordon created her streetwear clothing line X-Girl. A year later when she opened her first New York City shop on Lafayette Street, I bought a simple red A-line mini skirt that I adored so much that I purchased it in black as well. If I still had them today, I would wear them…with grace.

  5. Paulina looks lovely, but let’s be honest. By her own admission: “… the look was achieved with two hours of professional make-up and hair, body makeup and excellent lighting by an [sic] talented photographer.” When we look at this cover and compare ourselves, we still need to be aware a lot of work went into making her look like this, even though there was supposedly no digital retouching.

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Sheri Radel Rosenberghttp://sherimavenblog.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg has spent a life in advertising. Currently she's a freelance writer focusing on women at midlife and the power of reinvention. She regularly writes on her own blog and also works with brands to develop content in the areas of women's health, wellness, fashion, and beauty .She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a ten pound ball of doggie fluff called Khan.

 

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