Now that I am at a new office and among a new set of coworkers, I can officially confirm my suspicions that the generational divide between 20-something and 30-something men lies at the belt line. To be specific, men 30 years of age tuck shirts into their jeans while men under 30 do not.
Like other cultural phenomenon, such as goth or Jersey Shore, I cannot confirm why this exists or where it comes from. I can only hypothesize that the final glory days of network television, which impacted the style of now-30-somethings, supported the notion that tucking shirts into your jeans is stylish, a la Friends and Seinfeld. The proliferation of the Internet in the last decade, which has impacted the style of 20-somethings, opened Middle America up to an awareness that revealed the insensibility of tucking cotton into denim. Of course, 20-somethings continue to wear beards – as they have throughout history – simply because they can.
The belt line is but only one generational divide of many: Men over 40 years of age sport goatees. Men over 50 years of age sport ear hair.
What’s most interesting is how these generational styles transcend races, but fortunately – in the case of goatees – do not transcend genders. Women have their own thing going on to define their age. I learned from my Mom that I ought not to comment on a woman’s age, so I won't here. I also learned from my Mom that whatever hairstyle Katie Couric had going on was the style of the day throughout the 90s and 00s.
I’ve found that this awareness of generational divides has been particularly useful when meeting new people. If a guy has his shirt tucked in and no goatee then it’s time to talk new babies and how Van Hagar sucks. If he has a goatee then I need to reach back to Led Zeppelin and whatever keeps his mind off his daughter and her impending boyfriends. If he has ear hair then we talk Beatles and I ask him where his daughter is going to college (for Sergio).
I know why 30 is the year when the shirt gets tucked, of course. A lot of people say 25 is the year when your metabolism goes to hell and I think that’s true. I also think your metabolism goes to a deeper level of hell every year after. It’s tougher and tougher to keep the six-pack from turning into a beer belly.
My former coworker who shall remain anonymous (whoops) is a victim of his age and frequently tucks his shirt into his jeans. His defense:
"There is a time and a place to tuck. When a shirt is too long or I need to dress ‘up.’ I tuck! You’ll see. One day. You will tuck."
Yes, that’s true – but after I’ve turned 30.