Define for me, dressing “age appropriate”\"/nexium\ t-shirts2Life’s contradictions are making my head hurt. Never, ever give up. – vs. – Let go of what you can’t change. Our lives are subject to God’s will. – vs. – Our decisions determine our destiny.

Anything worth having is worth waiting for. – vs. – Don’t wait for perfect moments, create them.

And one of my personal favorites: Act your age. – vs. –  Age is of no importance, unless you’re a cheese.

Okay, okay…maybe the last example is not as profound as the others. But it is the only one where I clearly know where I stand.

See the T-shirts in the picture above? They’re mine. I bought them this year. They break all the rules I’ve seen written by columnists about how to dress “age appropriate.” Apparently, message T-shirts are supposed to reach retail retirement at age 30. I’m 43. I’ve always laughed at the clever and sarcastic Tees I’ve seen in catalogues and store windows. I’ve admired the people who had the audacity to wear them without fear of judgment. I even gifted them to others. But it wasn’t until recently that I’ve had the guts to say “screw it” and sport them with confidence.

Typically, my style has been to play it safe. For years I had sought the expertise of others in beauty magazines and books to be sure I dressed appropriately. In fact, I read the book How Not to Look Old a few years ago. I wanted to be sure I aged gracefully. Using the book’s guidance I sought to rid my closet of remnants from past trends and adapt a classic style associated with the likes of Audrey Hepburn or Lauren Hutton. The book’s list of forbidden fashion items for women past age 30 includes collegiate sweats, boy shorts, go-go boots, Crocs and anything tie-dye. On the “Top 25 Clothes That Just Gotta Go” list are: holiday sweaters, mommy necklaces that tell how many children you have, souvenir T-shirts, ripped jeans, cargo pants and . . . T-shirts with meant-to-be funny sayings on them. So I purged.

Among the sacrificed were softball shirts from pub sponsors, a well-worn Drake sweatshirt from college and my favorite T-shirt that parodied Jeopardy with a contestant asking “May I have something I can relate to for $1,000 please, Alex?” Yep. It was a sad day. In the effort to be “age appropriate” I had parted company with pieces of my personality. I took the cookie-cutter approach and filled my closet with the chic essentials of crisp white blouses, tailored trousers, and basic black cardigans and sweaters – all things void of personal style. It wasn’t until this past year, after I saw a fellow parent and friend at my son’s cross country meet, that I was inspired to once again speak my own style with message shirts.

He wore a T-shirt that said “I’m awesome.” This responsible father and husband wore this shirt that flew in the face of maturity. It made me laugh. It made me happy to think how much the shirt reflected his personality. It showed his style and I was reminded, isn’t that what a wardrobe is supposed to do? Even our casual T-shirts?  I decided then and there that if people make their judgment of me in the blink of an eye, I was at least going to give them a good hint so it’s relatively accurate.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s deemed “age appropriate” in anyone’s wardrobe is subjective. It’s really left to the eye of the beholder. The people who know me will find that the messages on my shirts are perfectly appropriate for me. They know that I’m quirky, a bit nerdy and have a sometimes strange sense of humor. They know that I’m young at heart, believe growing older is different than growing up, and that I enjoy moments of immaturity if they result in smiles and laughter. And, truthfully, at my age, I don’t mind if others I meet find this out about me as well. In fact, I think it’s only appropriate that they do.

Whether you own message T-shirts or see them in stores, what does your favorite one say? Let me know by leaving a reply.

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