A Brief History of the Distinguished Gentleman

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Getting older ain’t exactly easy. The good news is that, as a guy, it definitely has its perks. Like someone using the word “distinguished” to describe you. But has looking time-tested always had such a good response? We took a look back to find out.

Ancient Greece: Obsessed with their own mortality, the Greeks valued youth above all else—with one notable exception. Sparta, the city-state known for throwing less-than-ideal baby boys into a pit and training the rest to be brutal soldiers, harbored a deep respect for men who lived long enough to show any signs of wear at all.

The Roman Empire: With the average life expectancy at just over two decades, anyone older than that was viewed with a mixture of envy and resentment. Somehow, Caesar made it to 55. Just in time to be assassinated.

The Dark Ages: The plague sweeps Europe, wiping out nearly 60 percent of the population. Suddenly, looking like you’ve survived a thing or two became a very desirable trait. For humanity’s sake, that is.

The Renaissance: Inspired by the classics, artists return to idolizing beauty over age. Michelangelo crafts his masterpiece, David, as an homage to youthful vigor. Greying men everywhere collectively sigh upon its unveiling.

Victorian England: Steered by the same ideals that labeled women with exposed ankles as indecent, a new appreciation for the well-established emerges. At the same time, Oscar Wilde pens The Picture of Dorian Gray, essentially equating beauty with sin. Suffice it to say, looking a bit worse-for-wear reigns supreme.

Post-WWII: Thousands of soldiers returned from war, reinforcing maturity as a hot commodity. Case in point: Ernest Hemingway. Weathered by years on the front lines, along with, you know, alcoholism, the man married lucky wife number four in 1946 after proposing to her on their third date. If that’s not a sign that age was in, who knows what is.

1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid premiered. A 44-year-old Paul Newman makes a strong case for middle-age, rivaling boyish 22-year-old co-star, Robert Redford, for America’s heart. Jury’s out on who won.

1988: Rogaine is invented after it’s discovered that the high blood pressure medication minoxidil has the unintended side effect of reversing hair loss. +1 for looking young.

1997: A clear sign of the times, Titanic becomes the highest grossing film of all time, helmed by a fresh-faced Leonardo DiCaprio, the same year *NSYNC releases their debut album.

Early 2000s: One word: Clooney. Grey hair returns to the heads of leading men, as long as it’s accompanied by a dash of charm and a winning smile.

Today: Nearly twenty years since his youthful debut, Leo endures some gruesome shit to win his first Oscar. He’s older now, and it shows. The world cheers anyway.