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Silver fox or not: Are men now also doomed to pursue eternal youth?

It seems that these days, being a handsome man over 50 equals having smooth skin, abundant hair, youthful outfits and a few tattoos

Sean Connery
Sean Connery, one of the most famous examples of a man who managed to remain a sex symbol without trying to hide his wrinkles, gray hair or baldness.Getty Images / Blanca López
Miquel Echarri

The last edition of the Cannes film festival was, to paraphrase Tatiana Siegel, one of its most perceptive chroniclers, a parade of aging male movie stars. On the red carpet and the posters of the films submitted to the contest, we could see Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matthew McConaughey – a bunch of men born before the oil crisis. The youngest, McConaughey, is 53. The oldest, Ford, just turned 80.

Siegel believes that this “geriatric drift” comes from the fact that, in the last 10 years, Hollywood has not been able to consolidate a batch of young actors with enough pull at the box office. For every Timothée Chalamet, there are at least half a dozen silver foxes who stubbornly resist retirement and whom the audience just loves. George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas, Samuel L. Jackson, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Jeff Goldblum, Daniel Day Lewis, Mark Ruffalo, Antonio Banderas and Jeff Bridges come to mind, along with the six champions of eternal youth mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Of course, there is something that almost all the members of this silver aristocracy have in common: they strive to look much younger than they are, resorting to solutions such as abdominal liposuction, restorative surgery, hyaluronic acid injections, blepharoplasty (a procedure that removes excess skin on the eyelids), teeth whitening, anti-aging serums, hair implants, dyes, pre-teen hairstyles, brand-new tattoos, fancy sneakers, chino pants, youthful suits and more.

Jack Nicholson, bearer of the most famous receding hairline in Hollywood, poses in Los Angeles in 1993.
Jack Nicholson, bearer of the most famous receding hairline in Hollywood, poses in Los Angeles in 1993.Donaldson Collection (Getty Images)

Any resource is valid to hide the ravages caused by the three horsemen of the biological apocalypse – gray hair, baldness and wrinkles – including optical illusions that mask flaccidity, such as fake chest muscle shirts or the so-called booty pants that enhance the rear.

The current (and growing) generation of silver foxes, states The Guardian writer Wendy Ide, is being denied the right to age with dignity, as Paul Newman or Sean Connery did in their day. If Nicolas Cage has to become Dracula (in Renfield) and sink his fangs into the jugular of Awkwafina – an actress 25 years younger than him – it is imperative to rejuvenate him at least a decade, even if this implies resorting to the increasingly reviled practice of digital de-aging.

Sean Connery retired from acting at the age of 73, after starring in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Until his last day, in the opinion of the Irish journalist Margaret Jennings, Connery embodied the ideal of masculine beauty, with his gray hair, his sculpted, wrinkled face and a case of baldness that he never tried to correct with undignified procedures. In 1984, at the age of 54, he gave up playing James Bond because he felt “too old and too conventional” for the role. Still, 15 years later, at the age of 69, he was named the sexiest man alive by People magazine. Jennings believes that the Scottish actor, both in his work and in his life, gave the world a real lesson in “dignified” aging.

Brad Pitt in 2023, at 59 years of age.
Brad Pitt in 2023, at 59 years of age.Tim Goode - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)

Faces sculpted by time

To talk about dignity and mature beauty, we turned to Abraham T., a 61-year-old image consultant who does not want to provide his full name “because it is such a delicate issue.” Abraham claims to have “relapsed again and again into the worst extremes of a middle age crisis that has become chronic over time.” He has worn a toupee, undergone a hair graft, dressed “like a late teenager,” whitened his teeth and started dyeing his hair many years ago, as soon as the first gray hairs appeared.

Today he is beginning to see all that effort “as an absurd war against my body and the passage of time,” and reclaims the right to “look for any resource that lets you feel comfortable in your own skin.” Still, he admits that he would like to reach “a state of acceptance; to look in the mirror and say, just like that: ‘this is me, this is what time has been doing to me, and it’s fine.’” After all, as he himself says, today he feels more attractive than ever; his unexpected success on Tinder has made him regain faith in his erotic potential. Abraham has confirmed that silver foxes have become a new fetish. In recent years, he has had “fruitful” dates with people half his age. Being bald and having wrinkles and a big gut do not exclude you from the sentimental market; there is beauty in the faces sculpted by time – and people willing to appreciate it and find it on dating apps.

Sylvester Stallone at a premiere in 2021. He was 75 at the time.
Sylvester Stallone at a premiere in 2021. He was 75 at the time.Axelle/Bauer-Griffin (FilmMagic)

Alternatively, we turned to Raquel, a 34-year-old lawyer, addicted, as she humorously admits, to silver foxes. About two years ago, Raquel read an article that stated that middle-aged men are increasingly taking better care of themselves, turning to cosmetics and worrying about fashion. It also claimed that online searches for terms such as “silver [or gray] foxes” and “DILF” were skyrocketing, as heterosexual women became increasingly interested in older lovers.

She decided to give it a try – also through Tinder – and says that, although no Brad Pitt has crossed her path (“because there is only one Brad Pitt”) she has found a series of men who are “learned, serene and with interests,” capable of making a more or less conventional date worthwhile. She does not idealize them; she just describes what she has found. Compared with much younger conversational partners and potential lovers, Raquel’s silver foxes have turned out to be “good conversationalists, with a lot to tell, willing to listen and capable of enjoying a pleasant evening without anxiety and without rushing.”

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