Style & Then Some

Turning 25? Don’t panic, here’s what 25 impressive people were doing in their mid-twenties


I’m turning 25 this August and it’s on my mind. In fact, I’m choosing to release my freaking out energies slowly over the next five months to make it more manageable when the big day arrives.

Why am I freaking out? First of all, I (wrongly) believed that my Young Person’s Railcard runs out the day I turn 25 and so got it into my head that this should be the day I begin to grow up. Then there’s the fact that when I left uni I made myself a Four Year Plan which inevitably won’t get completed by August.

But to make myself feel better that I haven’t become fluent in French or mastered photography yet, I decided to look up what some Style & Then Some approved heroes from fashion, pop culture, politics and the arts were doing when they were 25 – or thereabouts. It’s a bit of a strange/eclectic list but hopefully you’ll be surprised.

1. George Orwell
When he was 25 in 1928, Eric Blair (his real name) was living in the Rue du Pot de Fer in Paris, what would become part of Down and Out in Paris and London, one of my favourite books. Living in lodging houses and washing dishes (probably to get material), the book itself wasn’t published until five years later in 1933 but Blair did have his first professional article published in the political and literary journal Monde in October 1928, a few months after he turned 25.

2. Christopher Bailey
Now Chief Creative Officer at Burberry and designing some of the most beautiful yet globally appealing collections to show at London Fashion Week, Christopher Bailey completed his Masters from the Royal College of Art in 1994 (aged 22/23) and spent the next two years as a Womenswear Designer at Donna Karan. He didn’t join Burberry until 2001 when he was 30.

3. Alexa Chung
Alexa modelled from the age of 16 but never made it to the catwalk – more like teen mags, Sony Ericsson and Tampax ads and music videos for the Streets and Westlife. She quit four years later before co-hosting Popworld and at the age of 24 going on to present Vanity Lair, a reality show about beauty, which she’s reportedly a bit embarassed about now. At 25 she went stateside with It’s On with Alexa Chung which ran for 7/8 months before being cancelled – but by this point she was modelling again for Antipodium and Oxfam.

4. Beyonce
If Beyonce is to be believed that she’s only 31, that means that by the time she was 25 she’d already announced a hiatus from Destiny’s Child, struggled through depression, starred in a couple of films and released her first solo album Dangerously in Love. She released her second solo album B’Day to coincide with her 25th birthday – OK this example isn’t hugely reassuring but there is a chance she could be lying about her age at least…

5. Jonathan Goldstein
If you haven’t heard Jonathan Goldstein’s radio show WireTap, check it out now – it’s funny, strange and just brilliant at finding interesting stories from asking the right questions. But the author, producer and host got a pretty late start – he didn’t join the equally brilliant This American Life until he was 31. When he was 25 we’d have found him working in telemarketing after doing a Masters in creative writing, attending readings and working on his writing on the side.

6. Louise Mensch
This woman annoys me a little because she always seems so smug but the author turned MP turned fashion journalist wasn’t selected to stand for Corby until she was 35. At 25, she was writing books like Career Girls, her debut chick-lit novel which was published the year before.

7. Barack Obama
At 25 Obama was the director of a community organisation called the Developing Communities Project based around Catholic churches on the south side of Chicago. Impressive but not exactly earth shattering for the future President – he went to Harvard Law School and became an attorney before being elected to the Senate at 34/35.

8. A. A. Gill
The widely published food critic and feature writer (Sunday Times, Vanity Fair etc) spent most of his twenties realising he wouldn’t become an artist. He’d studied at Central Saint Martins and Slade but told Lynn Barber that he signed on (for the dole) and tried to paint until he was about 30.

9. Mary Katrantzou
A Style & Then Some favourite, Katrantzou was graduating from an MA at Central Saint Martins when she was 25 – the Greek designer opened the 2008 graduation show with gorgeous wood and metal jewellery and those trompe l’oeil prints. Her first LFW collection was S/S 09.

10. Anna Wintour
Having worked as a editorial assistant at Harper’s Bazaar (Harper’s & Queen) in London and fighting with its then editor, Wintour moved to New York in her mid-twenties with a boyfriend. At 25/26 she got a job as a fashion assistant at the US version of Harper’s Bazaar but was fired after nine months as her photo shoots were too crazy.

11. George W.Bush – flying with the Texas Air National Guard
12. Boris Johnson – leader/feature writer then European Community correspondent at The Daily Telegraph
13. Julia Child – copywriter for a home furnishing company
14. Hillary Rodham Clinton – studying at Yale Law School
15. Jorge Luis Borges – published his first collection of poetry aged 24 and wrote for journals in Buenos Aires
16. Natalie Massenet – began her career in fashion at Women’s Wear Daily aged 27
17. Geoff Dyer – lived on the dole in Brixton after studying English literature at Oxford
18. Caitlin Moran – on TV, having already published a novel and got a column in The Times in her teens
19. Kanya King – TV researcher and booker for Radio 2
20. Nick Hornby – taught English to foreign students while writing reviews for Time Out
21. Stella McCartney – graduated from fashion design at Central Saint Martins
22. Bob Dylan – released Bringing It All Back Home
23. Dylan Jones – editor of i-D magazine
24. Grace Wyndham Goldie – studying at Bristol then Oxford
25. Virginia Woolf – recovering from nervous breakdowns and meeting the Bloomsbury Group

Anyone who has turned 25 and lived to tell the tale, please share your stories of growing up or not growing up. And if you’re much older, please don’t get mad at me.

Image credit: Faraz Pourreza-Jorshari (who else?)


4 comments on “Turning 25? Don’t panic, here’s what 25 impressive people were doing in their mid-twenties

  1. beplastic
    March 10, 2013

    This is awesome! I am about to turn 25 in June and I have the exact same feelings. I think, what we can learn from your list that we can compare ourselves as much as we want (there will always be people seemingly better or worse of than ourseleves), in the end each one of us has to go their own way. 🙂

  2. sophiecha
    March 10, 2013

    Thanks. And that’s exactly what I was going for – lots of different options including being on the dole, getting fired and just continuing to study…

    Oh and sorry that I included George Dubya on the list, I just knew he was a very late starter in politics.

  3. blondekatie
    March 10, 2013

    Some of these people were enviously successful even in their twenties 😦 At about age 25 I decided what I actually wanted to do (ie become a writer) and so far I’ve achieved 20% of that goal since I do that one day a week. I’m now 28, so by that logic I should be there in about 12 years… I think you’re doing great SophieCha and shouldn’t worry about a thing.

    Lots of people I know only realised what they were really passionate about and wanted to do in their twenties and some still haven’t decided. A worrying trend I noticed is that people who didn’t have a clue decided to do a PGCE ie not out of love for teaching.

  4. Helen Coakley
    March 13, 2013

    Great article Sophie! Irony is I have a penguin onsie just like the one in the pic and I’m 24 going on 25 :D. I always have these big massive pipe dreams about where and what I want to be doing by a certain age and to be honest, I think all I actually crave is to be consistently content.

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