“I recently got hired for a more manager position. My problem: I’m 36 and got a babyface. Even when I wear the occasional fitted suit, I look like a young investment banker intern. My goal is to look older/more masculine to reflect my new position. Any advice?”
Benjamin, I feel your pain. I, too, am “cursed” with the Paul Rudd forever young gene.
And while having a babyface this might be great in most cases, I understand the desire to look older and present more authority, especially when it comes to your career.
I had a client a while back in the same predicament. J works in the entertainment industry and was looking to be taken more seriously. When I first met him, the problem was literally staring me in the face. I gave him the cold hard truth:
“If I walked into a room and saw you, I would make you for an intern!”
First impressions matter, for good and bad. They are fine when you like someone on first meeting; they are not so fine when the first meeting is negative. Positive first impressions lead to social cohesion; negative first impressions lead to biases and social prejudice.Psychology Today
Imagine going to a restaurant whose food you’ve heard amazing things about, and you’re greeted with dirty tables, broken chairs, and a rude waiter.
That food’s going to need to be damn near Michelin level for you to get over your bad initial impression.
And that’s what’s exactly happening to you when people interact with you.
Luckily, controlling that initial vibe we give off by harnessing our style is super easy. I mean, look at what it did for J.
So if you’re cursed with a babyface and want to look older, more mature, and get taken seriously, here are the steps you can take.
1. DIAL IN YOUR FIT
My number #1 style rule applies even more here.
Looking older and more mature is all about looking like a man that has his shit together. And nothing says, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” like a man that can’t buy the right sized clothes.
How to fix this: You don’t need to memorize your measurements or a hundred different fit rules. Download my fit cheat sheet to learn how clothes should fit you in 10-minutes.
2. REFINE YOUR GROOMING
When I work with a new styling client, the first thing we do is get his grooming in order. It’s a quick fix that can have a huge impact on your vibe. Like baggy clothes, unkempt hair makes you look sloppy. Tighten up your grooming game if you want to be taken seriously.
For starters, avoid haircuts popular with kids (like spiky cuts, bright colors, and patterns shaved into your scalp). Opt for clean, classic styles.
One of my styling clients, David, had a similar problem as Benjamin: his style, especially his haircut, said “college kid” more than successful small business owner.
My recommendation for him was grow out the top a bit more, switch up to a classic side part, and be consistent with using hair products. (The results above speak for themself!)
“I recommend guys grow out their hair more, especially on top. It just gives you [and me] more options.” says my personal barber Mr. Bee.
And do what I do and schedule your haircuts in advance, so you always look clean. My hair is relatively thick and grows fast, so I like to schedule a touch-up every 2 weeks at the same time. Just make a note of when you notice your hair looking a little sloppy after a cut and go from there.
If you want some solid hairstyle recommendations for all types and lengths of hair, check out the tips in my Spring / Summer Style Guide.
3. AVOID GRAPHICS, LOGOS, WILD PRINTS
When it comes to looking more mature, all you really have to do is avoid what the average college kid is doing. And when it comes to your clothes it means avoiding graphic tees, logos, wild prints and trends.
Solid colors and graphic/logo-less clothes make you look more refined and mature.
The great thing is that this change is simple to implement. This goes for your accessories like beanies, scarves, socks, and even underwear.
4. BUILD THE MAJORITY OF YOUR LOOKS AROUND MEN’S CORE COLORS
To piggyback off tip 3, avoid ultra colorful looks and focus on putting together looks using colors like navy, black, grey, white, olive, and camel. (What I like to call “Men’s Core Colors”)
Notice how refined and professional outfits using core colors look (left) versus the jarring, sometimes silly colorful outfits on the right.
The best part about core colors are is that because they don’t overpower one another, you can mix and match any of them with one another infinitely. They’re self-working!
5. BUILD YOUR WARDROBE AROUND TIMELESS CLASSICS, NOT TRENDS
Trends are a great way to add some excitement to your style, but you have to proceed with caution.
The mistake most men make is putting together a closet filling it with mostly with trendy pieces. I don’t blame them: most magazines and stores push trends because people like new and exciting things!
Trends should be used sparingly. Think of it like a sauce, you don’t want to drown an entire dish in sauce and overpower the meat and sides. You just want enough to give it the right flavor kick.
If you want a good primer on building a wardrobe around timeless classics, check out my post on putting together a minimalist wardrobe.
6. SWAP YOUR TEE FOR A COLLARED TOP
A simple fix you can do immediately is swap in your tee for a collared top, like a polo shirt or a button-up.
People equate collarless tops like tees and henleys with casual looks. Reaching for a collared top subtly tells people you’re trying a bit more to “dress up”.
If you work in a casual or business-casual environment where an oxford dress shirt might be too formal, a button-up work shirt in a casual fabric like chambray is a great alternative. It’s a masculine style that can easily pair with everything from wool dress pants, chinos, and denim.
7. SWAP YOUR SNEAKERS FOR DRESSIER LEATHER SHOES
While I believe minimal white sneakers can be a part of any modern man’s wardrobe, you can easily change the vibe of your look to something more mature with a pair of refined dress shoes.
8. REFINE YOUR ACCESSORY GAME
Accessories can really help you mature your look. The first place I start with clients is upgrading their work bag.
A smart messenger/briefcase hybrid with leather details (top) is the perfect upgrade from your college backpack.
When you want to get more serious, look into investing in an all-leather briefcase. (For recommendations, check out my post on the most stylist work bags for men here.)
If you like wearing things on your wrist, leave the long leather bracelets to college kids who shop at H&M and go for a simple cord.
When it comes to watches, go for classic styles that aren’t flashy. If you’re new to watches, a great place to start is Todd Snyder’s Timex line.
Many of my clients love their Apple watch and wonder if they should exchange it for a “proper” watch. I actually don’t mind Apple watches. I recommend slapping on a classic leather or metal band and saving any colorful sport bands for the gym.
9. GROW OUT SOME FACIAL HAIR (IF POSSIBLE)
Avoid being cleanly shaven, as it just emphasizes babyfaces. If you can grow at least some facial hair, do it.
I use a beard trimmer (this is my favorite) and go for the 5’oclock shadow look. You’ll need to experiment with the settings to find the right number, but for me, it’s somewhere between a 1 and 2mm.
Shape your shadow to emphasize your jawline, shaving clean any facial hair on your neck (sorry, no neckbeards here!)
If you have a beard or plan to grow one out, the same rules for your hairstyle (Tip #2) apply here: keep your beard regularly groomed.
Trim, shape, and groom it to avoid looking like the crotch of a 70’s pornstar (trust me, this is what people think when beards go wild.)
I always recommend my clients with facial hair to use a combination of beard oil (to keep your beard and skin hydrated), beard balm (to tame strands and style your beard), and a beard wash and softener (which is essentially a leave-in conditioner which helps soften beards)
My clients love Beard Brand’s products, and they have a great guide on grooming and caring for your beard and thick mustaches here.
BONUS: 10. GET IN BETTER SHAPE: PUT ON SOME MUSCLE / DROP YOUR BODY FAT
You can honestly apply those first 9 tips in less than a month and completely transform your vibe from babyface to boss.
Now let’s talk something a bit more long game: fitness.
Two things you can do in terms of your physicality to make you look older, more masculine, and more mature: Drop body fat and gain some muscle mass.
While genetics plays a role in those babyface cheeks, dropping bodyfat will undoubtedly help improve your face shape by reducing your cheeks and chiseling out that much-coveted jawline.
Packing on more muscle will help you break out of that boyish, frail-looking frame.
Is this going to take some effort? Sure, but as someone who’s gained a substantial amount of muscle mass and dropped 50+ lbs before, you can see significant improvements in 3 months.
Here’s what’s worked for me:
• Hire a professional (at least to point you in the right direction): If I could give one piece of advice on embarking on a fitness transformation, it would be to hire a professional to create a gameplan for you.
The hardest part about transforming your body is knowing what diet and program you should follow. There seems to be a billion random people on the internet with a billion opinions. Shortcut the line and get yourself some expert help.
If you have the budget to hire someone for a few months to adjust your program and work out with you, do it.
But even if you can’t hire someone full time, spending a few hundred dollars for a professional to create a diet and training program for you saves you MONTHS of frustration and hundreds of dollars doing a bad routine you chopped together. I recommend John Romaniello and his trainers, they helped me get in shape for my wedding.
• Track your macros: Tracking macros (carbs, protein, fat) is a gamechanger if you’re looking to change your body composition.
It’s slightly more complicated than tracking pure calories (which helps you drop bodyweight but won’t necessarily help you look ripped.), at first, which is why I recommend hiring a professional to set your numbers for you. The benefit is you can work in foods you love and you can really fine tune your program to hit fitness goals.
• Meal prep for the week: Tracking macros (weighing foods and entering nutrition info) can take up a lot of time. For someone busy like me, it’s much more efficient to plan my meals for the week and cook in bulk.
Every Saturday, I go grocery shopping for the week, and every Sunday I meal prep. I do about 6lbs of chicken in a crockpot, and stock my fridge and pantries with things like bread, eggs, greek yogurt, prepackaged veggies, berries, and protein powder, so it takes me less than a minute to make my meals every day.
• Eat foods that you already like: As of today, I’ve cut 13lbs of bodyfat eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, chicken thigh tacos, and Ranch Doritos.
Eating foods you enjoy almost guarantees you’ll stick to your new diet. If you hate fish, don’t try to add tilapia to your diet cause some fitness guru eats it. The great thing about tracking macros is that you can create and fit foods you enjoy into your diet and hit your fitness goals.
• Lift heavy weights at least 4x a week: You can’t build muscle if you’re not lifting. Muscle helps you shed body fat faster, and will make your body look more aesthetically pleasing as you drop fat. So make sure your fitness program includes lifting.
• Get some cool workout gear: For a lot of my clients and me, we’ve found that getting cool new workout gear gives us a mental boost and motivation to hit the gym. When I put on my all black gym gear and strap on my neon Nikes, I feel badass, and it helps fight that lazy side of me that doesn’t want to lift heavy things. For some stylish gym, gear recs, check out my post here.
• Weigh yourself every day and go by average weekly changes: Everyone has different opinions on this, but I like to weigh myself every day and go by the averages.
There are a ton of factors that can affect a weigh-in (how dehydrated you are, how much sleep you got, how much salt you ate.) As long as the trajectory is going in the right direction (down), that’s all that matters. The scale I use to track weight and body fat is by Escali. Two great apps I use to keep track of my trajectory are Apple’s stock Health app and Happy Scale.
• Take a shirtless photo of yourself every week: Scales don’t tell the full story, especially when it comes to body composition. Track your visual changes by taking a shirtless pic at the same time on the same day every week.
• Focus on consistency using tiny habits: Sticking to a diet and training program is HARD, mainly because we’ve been approaching building habits all wrong.
My goal is to just go to the gym every day.
Not “doing 30 mins on the treadmill” or “Increasing the weight by 10% on Workout A.” My goal is to simply get dressed and show up.
95% of the time, I do my whole workout. But the rare occasion I’m exhausted from work or just feeling lazy, I sit there and stretch or even (gasp!) fuck around on my phone. No matter what I do at the gym, I consider it a success.
This is an example of a Tiny Habit, a technique developed by BJ Fogg. BJ heads the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. His book Tiny Habits is the result of over 10 years of research and 40,000 participants on how people can successfully build habits. If you’ve always struggled with sticking to a fitness routine, I highly recommend you check out Tiny Habits.
IF YOU WANT MORE STYLE TIPS TO LOOK OLDER, MORE MATURE, AND PROFESSIONAL
Check out my ultimate guide to business casual style, where I share a ton of recommendations and outfit ideas for the professional man.