style hero sarah jane adams doesn’t care about ‘age appropriate behaviour’

Meet the 61-year-old model living out all your Instagram fantasies.

by Jonno Revanche
13 May 2016, 12:54am

Photography Jonno Revanche

Where do the rules of age and style come from? Who said little girls need pigtails, mums need awkward perms and grandmas blue rinses? While heroes like Madonna are proving age is nothing but a number that you can choose to ignore, the fact remains we are still held by the invisible ties of "age appropriate behaviour".

Sarah Jane Adams never let things like that bother her; and after a life of going her own way and dressing how she pleased, she's been rewarded with a cult following at 61. Less than two years ago, Sarah lived out the dream of countless creatives when her Instagram caught the attention of influential photographer Ari Cohen—founder of Advanced Style. Within 18 months of appearing in his book, Sarah had amassed a league of fans.

As it turns out, a silver mane has only proved an asset in the world of fashion. The London born, Sydney based model explains she has always worn clothes as a shield: a way to express and protect herself. It's an approach to life that perfectly primed her for the spotlight, where she now shines.

Let's start with your relationship with Ari of Advanced Style. How has that changed your life?
Initially my Instagram page was a tool to show my jewellery collections, hence the handle @saramaijewels. Around 18 months ago I posted a picture taken in my backyard in Newtown wearing a snarl on my face and a red adidas jacket, which my daughter subsequently re-posted along with the hashtags #mymumiscoolerthanme and #advancedstyle. I had never heard of Advanced Style, but it happened that Ari Seth-Cohen was in Sydney organising promotion for his movie of the same name. Ari saw the photo, asked if he could come and re-shoot, and on his return to NYC he posted it on his blog. That was the beginning of this whole wild adventure.

Describe what happened after Ari published his photos.
The first picture of myself ever to be posted went viral. It was reposted worldwide by many, many folks-including adidas Originals! Ari is now a very good friend; I'm currently in NYC to support him at the launch of his second book, Advanced Style, Older and Wiser.

And just like that, you were a model. It's the kind of break young models lust after.
Instagram is an incredible platform—all the modelling work I have done has come from that. My page shows my lifestyle, candidly and unashamedly, and it seems that my attitude and presentation is what has got me the modelling jobs, rather than who I know or how I look.

Do you ever receive backlash for your style?
In my real daily life, no, never. When I was younger, with my wild black and red dreads, stirrups, studs, leather and flamboyant clothing people would look then look away if I caught them staring. It's like they were embarrassed to be caught out. My appearance was my protection, it actually gave me privacy, a kind of shield. Nowadays, folks will stop me on the street and say nice things! On Instagram, 99 percent of the comments are positive.

Unlike most models today, you didn't grow up with social media. Tell me how it affects you now. 
It is a happy accident for me! At the age of 61, to be suddenly in the spotlight for something I have been doing for a greater part of my life. I've always followed my own path, my own trend, my own sense of dress. At this particular moment my personal philosophy of clothing synchronises with the trends evolving in the world of fashion, something I have never felt a part of.

How does it feels to have been so quickly embraced by online culture?
Since starting to use social media I have been adopted by various groups, and causes. I have a significant band of followers, who represent many tribes, philosophies, ways of life and who have welcomed me into theirs. I have become a poster girl for campaigns that, amongst many topics, discuss ageing, and age appropriate dress. Whilst I am bemused not only by the attention, but also the labels people apply to me. These opportunities have of course, been a positive force so I am excited and inquisitive to be following this new direction my life has taken.

What's your approach to social media now?
Instagram for me started as a bit of an experiment and has morphed into a daily diary, verging on therapy, a platform to find new friends and new experiences. I am very conscious that when mainstream fashion changes direction, I may well be quickly forgotten and some other bright young thing will take the spotlight.

You were born in London but made your home in Sydney, tell me about how you've seen the city change over the years.
I arrived in Sydney in 1981 and immediately had an overwhelming sense that I was home. Newtown and Enmore in those days reminded me of my London-it really was home to the misfits and creatives. I'd lived in squats in London and Enmore was the only place I could afford to rent. Eventually I bought a house in Simmons Street, two streets from the Enmore Theatre. For most of my adult life I've been based in Newtown. Now it's completely unrecognisable from the place I fell in love with 35 years ago. Almost everything about the place has changed beyond recognition for me. I guess I've been partly responsible for the change.

I hear you're working on your own book about clothes.
I am working on a book, using my wardrobe as a reference, which through pictures, and comments, will hopefully address how we use clothing to communicate. Our clothing is a second skin. Mine has served as my home, my protector, my form of self-expression, my camouflage and my messenger.

Sarah's book is being crowd funded by a London based publisher, Unbound. You can support her work here.



Text and photography Jonno Revanche

advanced style
sarah jane adams