"Call it the Anderson Cooper effect," says David Neal, a Duke University psychologist. "Certain age cues are actually really good, and others are not so good, and you can strategically dial things up and down."
This might explain why the 22-year-old associate on your team wears those professor glasses. But it also explains why the 45-year-old EVP shouldn’t come to the company happy hour in a tuxedo T-shirt. While no one wants to look “old,” looking “older” helps communicate competence.
There's a growing body of evidence that women prefer a silver fox—72 percent of women according to one survey. In fact, product lines like Just for Men, once synonymous with clinging to your glory days, now include hair dyes designed to leave some of the gray in.
Celebrity silver foxes abound, from George Clooney and John Slattery to Ryan Lochte—who had his stylist bleach his hair white. (Unfortunately, in his case, the look didn’t translate into maturity and wisdom.)
Struggling to find that balance between sexy dad and crusty hobo? Touch up your gray on top, but leave it at your temples—where it first appears in many men. Informally, we like to call this move the Josh Duhamel.
Most surprising, facial wrinkles don’t just make you look wise—they actually help you read other people.
"There's a dialogue going on between your face and my face while we're talking," says Neal, who has researched emotion and facial expressions.
That dialogue depends on our ability to imperceptibly mimic the other person’s facial movements. We do this with tiny contractions of our own facial muscles to help us figure out stuff like whether a smile is fake (just a grinning mouth) or authentic (smiling with the eyes).
And guys who’ve had Botox? They can’t perform this “micro-mimicry.” Neal’s research has found that a smooth, motionless, Botox-ed face actually gets in the way of your ability to accurately read others.
"Your ability to interpret in real time partly involves your ability to mimic in real time," he says. "You're getting a little slant of the eye from someone and you think, wait, is that seduction or is that suspicion? You don't want to get that wrong."
And if it is seduction, and you can tell, maybe those crow’s feet are worth it.