How Lyn Slater, 65, Became an Internet Fashion Sensation
This teacher has more than 550,000 Instagram followers
If Jack Nicholson, the epitome of cool, were a woman, he would be Lyn Slater.
Lyn Slater, also known as Accidental Icon, is a 65-year-old social media sensation. She calls herself a “fashion influencer” — her more than 600,000 Instagram and Facebook fans call her “badass.”
I first found Accidental Icon on Instagram while searching for midlife fashion bloggers. Tired of wading through a sea of beautiful, young, fresh-faced fashionistas, I was curious to find someone closer to my age.
And there she was: petite with a shock of gray hair, a steely stare (when not wearing her signature sunglasses), fierce fashion choices that break all the rules and attitude for miles. She doesn’t hide her body, wrinkles or gray hair, she embraces them. The notoriously youth-centric fashion world has taken notice of her as well. She’s been featured in countless international fashion magazines and landed a contract with Elite Models London.
Slater, a clinical associate professor of social work and law at Fordham University who intends to retire from teaching next year to write a book and continue to pursue her creative and speaking endeavors, didn’t intend to become a fashion icon; it happened five years ago by accident (hence her moniker). After being mistaken for a fashion industry insider while standing outside an exhibit, she decided to create a blog that showcases cutting-edge fashion and her own personal style.
The subject that interests her most is the relationship between clothing and identity. “I think clothing can profoundly change who you are and profoundly express who you are, better than words,” says Slater. Her blog is a thoughtful and intelligent personal narrative that touches on things she deeply cares about: culture, art, fashion and human connection. “I am grateful for my followers,” Slater said via phone from New York.
Most of her fans are young women who see her as a symbol of “anti-anti-aging.” “What I hear from these young people is, ‘You’re so cool, we want to be like you.’ They don’t want to reject aging. They just don’t want to get old in the way that’s been presented to them in the past” — a time when hitting 60 or 70 might have meant retirement. “I have potentially another 20 years of doing amazing things.” She refuses to let age define her or her aspirations.
She is first and foremost an educator and social worker, whether in the classroom or on social media. It’s never just about what she’s wearing, it’s about breaking barriers, changing perceptions that go beyond ageism, and embracing our differences. She is also quite possibly the most stylish grandmother you’ve ever seen.
Slater says she believes that her multigenerational and demographic appeal is her level of self-acceptance. “Focus on the things you like about your body — make it your strength — and forget about the rest. The importance of showing who we are on the inside and not feeling the need to adhere to stereotypes,” Slater states on her blog.
Her tips on finding your own personal style: It’s about taking risks and taking baby steps. “Before someone who’s not comfortable with their self and their body can develop a personal style, they have to work on accepting who they are.” She recommends trying one new thing — a scarf, a pair of earrings, a bold color — and see how you feel. “I think when you get older, you’ve seen a lot and the opinions of others become less important to you,” Slater says.
At an age when many women grapple with invisibility, Slater faced it head on. “I went through a process about how I was experiencing myself internally and things that were happening to my body,” Slater says. “I didn’t like it at first. At some point I had to accept the fact that aging is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to control it, so try to be the best you can be. I think that as women get older, there is a difference in the kind of attention that you may receive. So I started paying more attention to the kinds of clothes I was wearing. I always had a good personal style, but I began to use my clothes as more of a creative act as a way to express myself creatively in the world. I am in my 60s, and I am the most visible I have ever been in my entire life.”
For Slater, aging with attitude means shattering stereotypes: “It’s time for a new outlook on what it means to be an older woman.”