Wearing Graphic Tees After 50: I Say Yes, With Caveats

Casual Vendredi: Graphic

casual outfit with graphic tee

Another of those age-related “rules” that I’m ready to chuck is the one that says we shouldn’t wear graphic tees after 50. I say if you like them, wear them. Still have that Clash concert tee hiding at the bottom of your drawer? Go ahead. I’m still kicking myself for tossing my Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings And Food tee a few years ago. While logo’d tees are all the rage among the Street Style Set, I rather like this more understated style from Clare V.

Above: cardigan | scarftee | earrings | bag | jeans | bracelet | shoes | fragrance | lippie

I think graphic tees work best when the rest of the outfit is kept simple. I’ve created a casual look with jeans here, but you could also wear this type of tee under a blazer, with slacks or a skirt, or switch out the flats in the outfit above for some heels. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. My personal preference is to avoid a print that’s too on-the-nose or twee, and a fit that’s too snug. Think a little loose, but not oversized.

And if you’re short-waisted like I am, look for designs that aren’t so large or long that they go past the waist.

It’s been a busy week chez nousLe Monsieur had an outpatient surgery on Tuesday (yes, Happy Valentine’s Day to us…) to move/repair a nerve in his arm that has been causing his hand to have tremors or freeze up. He’s not in a lot of pain, but has limited motion and can’t drive yet. We’re bracing for another big rainstorm today, hoping we don’t find any more leaks in the roof!

Do you wear graphic tees? If so, do you have a sentimental favorite?

A note about these collages: I generally choose items that I think work best for the visual story I’m trying to tell. These aren’t my personal items (though I may own some version of what’s shown) but are collected from retailers’ websites. I also try to use items that are still available. Sometimes the best item for the look I’m going for is an expensive one. Whenever I’m able to find something similar at a lower price I’ll include it in the widget below.

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  1. Robyn
    February 17, 2017 / 3:04 am

    I like graphic tees too! Especially if some of the proceeds go to causes I support. I don’t follow age rules. As long as I look respectful and ” tastefull” – a word my mom used all my life, is all that matters to me.

  2. Susan
    February 17, 2017 / 4:09 am

    When I think of all the concert tees I got rid of years ago, I want to cringe!!!!!

  3. Lori
    February 17, 2017 / 5:14 am

    Oh dear, do they say that about being wearing graphic tees over 50? I was kinda wondering. I just this week ordered a Christmas one with a quiet religious message on it [“Love Came Down”], thinking I would wear it under a cardigan next winter. I like the understatedness of it, trying to keep away from the “ugly sweater” look, which I actually kind of enjoy – but maybe now will wear those just with the grandchildren. 🙂 I have a couple of those sweaters that are cozy and fun.

  4. Argie
    February 17, 2017 / 5:18 am

    I don’t wear them. I think they look great for when you are washing the car but I don’t want my torso to be a billboard or sign.

  5. Tracy
    February 17, 2017 / 5:51 am

    I don’t wear graphic tees mainly because tee shirts don’t fit me properly. I do have several pieces of “spirit wear” from my alma mater and will wear those if I’m going to a game (infrequent). That said, I did order a “Nevertheless, She Persisted” t-shirt and I’m hoping it fits me. If it does fit, I don’t know where I’ll wear it! I’ll probably end up giving it to my daughter.

    • Wendelah
      February 18, 2017 / 10:49 am

      They don’t fit me either. I had no idea that they were frowned on by the fashion police for over-fifties. I hope the T-shirt fits!

  6. February 17, 2017 / 6:04 am

    Hah! I had a vintage Grateful Dead Tee- worth a fortune!! Sold it and went on a beach trip! Don’t just toss those concerts wantonly- could be used to make a car payment!!!

  7. Brit
    February 17, 2017 / 6:23 am

    I have a couple and agree they are ok, with caveats. One I read said never where a concert tee for a band you don’t actually listen to. Makes sense!

  8. February 17, 2017 / 6:47 am

    Last fall in Paris, I picked up a white T-shirt with “Flâneuse” written across the chest, and I love wearing it with jeans and a navy or a camel blazer. . . . I don’t love fixed rules about dressing at any age, but I would agree there’s a danger in anything that smacks of “wannabe” or of trying too hard — Seems the test, once again, is of a certain integrity at the core of one’s style… That integrity, though, might include a seriously honed sense of irony about all things, in which case the “wannabe” aspect might be undercut. I know, overthinking it, right? But I think that’s the kind of nuance those pronouncements ignore. . . (thinking of the way Melanie, at Bag and Beret, flaunts such rules, and makes a convincing style of her own out of the flaunting. . . not for me, but it definitely works on/for her).
    And you, Sue, no question you could elegantly rock a concert Tee — even in Paris! 😉

    • Susan B
      February 17, 2017 / 8:22 am

      Frances, you bring up a very important point. Whether something is “on trend” or not, it has to feel authentic or it will come across as trying-to-hard. I love the idea of a “Flaneuse” tee!

    • February 18, 2017 / 5:32 am

      Don’t worry, nobody will take you for either Baudelaire or Walter Benjamin.

  9. Pink Azalea
    February 17, 2017 / 7:07 am

    No, I would not wear them. This is just not “me”.

  10. February 17, 2017 / 8:09 am

    You can do it, Sue. You could probably don sackcloth and ashes and look chic.

    Even when I was a young thing, I wasn’t built to properly display graphics on tee shirts. I haven’t worn them since I was in my 30s, except for a few baseball shirts. I do like school sweatshirts for casual Fridays when I’m teaching but otherwise, I use my front as a blank canvas for jewelry or scarves.

  11. Cindy
    February 17, 2017 / 8:30 am

    I take my “Hotel California” tee out of the drawer occasionally and just hug it and remember fondly. Maybe now, I should bring it out for the world to enjoy with black jeans and a great cardigan!!! Do you think Glenn Frey would approve…

    • Kellee
      February 18, 2017 / 5:25 am

      Glenn Frey would love it! I am tired of all these can’t do rules for over 50s. I see kids wearing tees from bands that they will never see (or probably appreciate) and no one bats an eye. I, too, wish I had my old concert shirts. oh well…

  12. February 17, 2017 / 9:14 am

    I gave away my Pink Floyd and Wrigley Park t shirts a few years ago because I never ever wore them, and that is the sum total of my graphic tees. I stopped wearing a GAP t shirt some years ago because someone thought it said OAP (old age pensioner) and I definitely wasn’t! I think graphic tees don’t quite work on bustier ladies because the graphics stretch!

  13. February 17, 2017 / 9:20 am

    I haven’t worn a graphic tee since my 20s, but just purchased Everlane’s “human” tee.

  14. Duchesse
    February 17, 2017 / 10:19 am

    You may like these: deeply local, well-designed, not mass market and very well priced- and available by mail:

    • Susan B
      February 17, 2017 / 10:21 am

      Oh yes, those are cool! 🙂

      • Kellee
        February 18, 2017 / 5:28 am

        Check out Raygun too – they are local here in Iowa and have amazing tees! Great fabric and really cute! I am buying the Elizabeth Warren one for my highly political daughter.


    • February 20, 2017 / 7:48 am

      Those are lovely. Note that some are in Toronto (Roncesvalles, the red streetcars), not Montréal. They need more women among the philosophers and writers.

  15. Beryl Meiron
    February 17, 2017 / 11:40 am

    Haven’t worn graphic tees in decades, but just bought one subtly representing a positive message in these highly-charged political times. I just couldn’t help myself. Thanks for the great post reminding us that it’s the fit that counts most. Short and short-waisted, my mantra is “fit, fit, fit.” Have to get my tee-shirt shortened.

  16. Nancy K
    February 17, 2017 / 11:56 am

    I haven’t worn a graphic tee in years. Age isn’t really it, but my DD size bust is. It works better on a smaller bust I think.

  17. Sisty
    February 17, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    Alright, women, let’s get a grip! Surely that’s a typo in the headline, because the common “wisdom” is that no one over 30 should wear a graphic tee. That’s 30, not 50. (At least that’s what comes up when you google “graphic tees over….” — 30 pops up automatically.

    Of course we all agree that no person should be able to dictate to another person what he or she wears — at least if the one being dictated to is over five years old.

    But aren’t there SOME things that women of a certain age probably shouldn’t wear? Surely not everything goes. Case in point — low rise pants. I don’t care whether you are thirty or seventy, low rise pants do not look good when compressed flesh is spilling out over the top. We must accept that, because of age, our skin loses collagen and when a waistband is cutting into the fleshy part of our torsos, it doesn’t look good. Some things should be left to the younger, firmer and slimmer among us upon whose bodies this does not happen.

    I feel the same way about graphic tee shirts, by and large. This is for 2 reasons: 1) concert and other graphic tees are almost always crew necks, which is not a flattering look on anyone with a crepey neck or a big bust. Sorry, but twenty-something women don’t have crepey necks, and that’s why they look better in these; and 2) they are a young person thing, directly tied to a time of life when you are using your t-shirts to send messages that your self-conscious young psyche will not allow you to do directly. They are cute on young people, but definitely not chic, and definitely not dignified. There, I said it. Can’t we just embrace the dignity that comes with our mature status, higher earning power, and the confidence that comes with experience?

    • Susan B
      February 17, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      Back in the day I used to cut the neckband out of my concert tees, and hem the edge. 😉

      And can’t we have both? Enjoying the dignity of age AND having a little fun now and then?

    • February 20, 2017 / 7:17 am

      Not everyone has a higher earning power at sisty than at tirty. Older women workers are the group least likely to find another decent full-time job after a layoff, meanng cobbling together “jobbines”, contracts, freelancing etc or taking a job far beneath our qualifications. But we can still have dignity.

  18. Sisty
    February 17, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    “back in the day” is the operative part of that phrase for sure — was that deliberate, or a little Freudian slip? 😉

    And dignity and fun are not mutually exclusive! That’s part of the problem, I think — thinking we can’t be having fun unless we’re wearing and doing the same things we wore and did in our teens and early twenties.

    It’s personal, but I want to be that woman that someone says “she’s the classiest dresser in the office” about, not the woman that someone says “she looks pretty good in that T-shirt for her age” about.

    • Susan B
      February 17, 2017 / 2:45 pm

      “Back in the day” was more a reference to the fact that I haven’t been to a concert in quite some time, at least not the kind that sell tee shirts.

      I’ll always advocate that women wear what feels authentic and comfortable, regardless of age. It’s not about trying to recapture youth, it’s about wearing what appeals to us and expresses who we are today. Everyone has different style and comfort zones.

  19. Jennifer
    February 17, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    My inner geek is just so happy when I wear my Game of Thrones t shirt – with nice jeans and a simple black cardi. Not to anyplace sophisticated but maybe to brunch or similar event. And it brings a smile to me, which is so good for the health in these stressful times.

  20. Lori
    February 17, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    I will wear a graphic shirt when exercising! I have worn one that was just black and white with a blazer over the top and a nice necklace. The message became just a print and no-one was staring at the stretched out message! I am a bit busty with a smaller torso, so anything form fitting seems a bit too rude, but if I pop a cardi/blazer/jacket over it, my outfit becomes perfectly decent and you can still tell I have a shape. I think a graphic tee can still be tastefully done at any age, as long as you resonate with the message.

  21. Donna
    February 17, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    I love the 100% human tee!! No, I don’t wear them… I’m 63 and have felt they aren’t really appropriate, but am definitely open to the idea. I’ll give this a try.. This is one reason I follow Susan and other bloggers. I want to expand my horizons and not be stuck in some preconceived idea of what I should be wearing! Thanks, Susan, for your forward thinking and challenging us to be open to new ideas.

  22. February 17, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    Still proud of my black Foreigner tee with red heart and lyric “I want to know what love is.” A reminder of a wonderful outdoor concert.

  23. Joanna
    February 18, 2017 / 3:07 am

    I never wore a graphic tee. Wearing a statement on my chest was not my thing when I was a teen/twenty something and certainly isn’t now. I’ve always loved a simple, fitted tee. But, for those that like them…..rock them!

  24. February 18, 2017 / 6:21 am

    I don’t tend to wear graphic tees, but I do have one I am enjoying so much lately. A few months ago, the school I work at came out with a new line of school tees. The front has a good sized print of our school logo–a stylized tree in a painterly circle–and the back has the name of our school and one of our favorite quotes: “Childhood is a journey, not a race” in smallish writing. They had the women’s shirts printed on American Apparel tees in a really flattering cut–slight scoop neck, and a slight tunic fit. Lots of good base colors; I chose charcoal grey. It looks great with jeans or a black leather pencil skirt or whatever.

    By the way, my choice to not wear graphic tees is not because of my age (same as yours, Susan) but just aesthetically, I don’t really like most of them, preferring plain shirts or occasionally painterly sorts of designs.

  25. Helene Harris
    February 18, 2017 / 7:39 am

    I love graphic tees. I’m 62 and wear them mostly with jeans or black pants, usually with a dark colored cardigan similar to the one you picture above.

    Here are the T-shirts in my regular rotation:
    John Lennon portrait
    Hellfire and Dalmations T-shirt (i like puns and jokes)
    I Heart NY
    Lucky Duck (duck reclining swimming in pool)
    Never Forget (with a picture of a card catalog box from the library)

    Just purchased yesterday – Grateful Dead Skull and Roses !!!!

    I’m not a fan of downer message shirts at any time.

    Thanks for asking!

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