On Youth And Expertise And Slowing Your Roll

One of my former employers once told me that he first knew he was old when every athlete competing in the Olympics was younger than him. Then, when every friend’s wedding he went to was for a second marriage. And finally, when he was no longer embarrassed to speak openly about popping Viagra like it was Pez.

In retrospect, it was totally weird to talk with my elderly boss about his boners (or lack thereof), but at the time it seemed like an eye-opening glimpse into adult angst. And given my impending birthday, adult angst is something with which I’ve become familiar.

I thought about this recently when I went to a fashion-related event in New York and literally every blogger who was there was younger than me. Like, considerably younger. Like, diapers in the mid-90’s younger, and not just Pull-Ups for older toddlers who still wet the bed because their dads scare the shit out of them. These kids were in full-blown Huggies in 1995.

Part of this is to be expected—we’re in a youth-obsessed culture. Come on, Sacagawea’s baby made it onto actual US currency and that little punk just chilled out in a papoose for months on end while his mom did all the heavy lifting.

And of course, fashion is a youth-fixated industry and blogging is a youth-oriented field. So good for these kids for embracing the platforms available to them, chasing their dreams and wearing crazy shit that only 20 year-olds can get away with. And even better for them when they do their research on fashion from bygone eras and the origin of trends, or dig deep into a Google Image search for how to wear their culottes in the most historically accurate manner whilst taking selfies on somebody else’s rooftop. Godspeed, dudes. Live your life and let your weirdo, freak flag fly.

But, when it doesn’t stop there is when I feel most like a premature member of the AARP—when my reaction to these youths reaches ultra-crotchety levels. Because some of these guys aren’t content to just blog about things they like or things they’ve lived and experienced. Sometimes, they take it further, fancying themselves menswear experts and prancing around like mini Jim Moores of Bushwick, decreeing what not to wear and announcing who is relevant and what is Good with a capital G versus what is Bad. And when that happens, it’s definitely time to slow your roll, homies.

I am still in my twenties, albeit my late—and increasingly later—twenties. And therefore when I write, I write about things that are either happening around me currently, or happened around me at a time when I was cognizant of them happening. And most importantly, I never profess to be an expert.

You can’t be an expert on anything in your early twenties, except being born of a generation that expects to go from A to Z immediately, skipping over B through Y for no reason other than thinking you deserve to. Fine, you can be an expert on which bars don’t ID at the door, too. But that’s it, ok?

You can’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t wear. You can’t be an authoritative voice on which designer is better than another or which trend is relevant, or which job is desirable or prestigious or legitimate. Just because you think something and believe something doesn't mean you know best. Because you don’t know best. And you’re not supposed to know best.

So, have all of the personal opinions you want and all of the fashionable quirks you want and get your photo taken by your friends to amass your Instagram likes and pin it on your Pinterest board or whatever the fuck you’re doing these days. And in doing so, fine tune your taste levels until you have a unique and consistent point of view and one day, maybe, if you stick with it, you will have enough experience to actually be considered an expert.

But until then, you are a novice. A well-dressed novice with aggressively strong opinions, perhaps, but a novice nonetheless.

And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed, as it is nearly sunset and I’m getting up early tomorrow to put on my tracksuit and take laps around the mall.

Steve Dool is a writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.