My biggest fear during the 29th year of my life was that it would be my last summer of wearing cutoff jean shorts. In retrospect, I assume (or at least hope) that my frivolous concern had more to do with symbolism rather than vanity. After having spent my early 20s on an ever-swinging pendulum between who I should be and who I want to be, I had only recently grown entirely okay with my real self: my offbeat personality, my often unstable career as a freelance writer, and a style so basics-driven that I could easily get dressed in the dark. Denim shorts, worn not as weekend gear, but almost as a warm-weather uniform, paired with linen button-downs and Converse sneakers, felt like an emblem of this self-acceptance, which made the thought of retiring them at the age of 30 feel hasty, unnecessary, just flat-out wrong.
I realize that there is no longer a rule that dictates a cutoff age for cutoff denim—or any other youthful clothing item, for that matter. I’m aware, technically, that 30 is about coming into your true self, about having amazing sex, about blossoming into a real woman in the best sense of the word. And yet, sometimes all it takes is yet another profile of an over-accomplished young mother-slash-entrepreneur-slash-style-icon showing off her impossibly chic existence (as satirized in this brilliant Julie Houts illustration) to experience an urgent call-to-action to grow up in every realm of life. Or is this mindset a result of living in America, in a culture driven (and often, misled) by quantitative results? Are Europeans, particularly the French, who are known to celebrate the process of getting older, less fixated on age as the barometer of one’s life (and wardrobe)?
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