Retirement made me feel invisible – so I became a male model

Anthony Clark Hurd
Anthony Clark Hurd: 'It's not true that older people have nothing left to give – and finding a new path might be easier than you think' - Andrew Crowley

When I decided to retire, it felt like the right moment. I was 63, had been running my office furniture business for 25 years, and had a young family I wanted to spend more time with – without the stress of work always playing in the back of my mind.

But I didn’t anticipate that as well as losing that pressure, I’d lose so much purpose. I felt unsure of what to do with my time every day – and beyond being with my kids, aged three, eight and 15, and going to the pool or gym, I had very little going on.

For the first time in my life I began suffering from anxiety. My brain, which had been kept so active with work, was unfulfilled and bored – it was like going through a slow death. Retirement was everything I didn’t expect it to be, and I hated it.

It was a few months in that I saw an article pop up on my computer about pensioners becoming models. I thought, what fun! I’ve never considered myself as having anything like model looks, but one thing I had done in retirement was grow a beard for the first time, and a holiday to Italy had given me a decent tan. My wife took some pictures, and I thought, I don’t look too bad.  What have I got to lose?

I began sending the images to agencies, and within a week, one signed me up. It was amazing – I couldn’t believe it (and nor could my wife...).

I’m not a chiselled hunk – just an average-looking old guy, bald with a grey beard – but I’ve been pretty successful. After just over a year, I’m represented by not only several top UK agencies, but others in the likes of Spain, Italy, Sweden (where I starred as an underwear model in a recent campaign), Germany, Turkey, and others.

Anthony Clark Hurd
For Anthony Clark Hurd, modelling is a 'fabulous motivator'

I was at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year – really a crowning glory – and have done campaigns for Coca Cola, the Premier League, Nike, Reebok and many more (as well as securing auditions for BMW, Barclays and Visa). In a good month, I can make £7,000 from a few days’ work. It’s all completely surreal.

But all the glamour and excitement has also really opened my eyes up to how invisible retirement can make people – maybe men especially – and how little respect there is for older people too. I was brought up to respect my elders, and I’ve always loved talking to them, to learn more about the life experience they’ve had, and to hear the stories they tell.

But nowadays, if I go somewhere like the gym, and try and have a chat with guys in their twenties, they’ll just talk among themselves, and look at me like: what do you know? And I think to myself, I know a lot more than you do, because I’ve been around 35 or 40 years longer.

They might not value that, but coming to understand what I have to offer, putting my retirement plans in the bin and beginning this whole other chapter of my life only reinforces how wrong it is that young people think we have nothing to give.

Anthony Clark Hurd
Anthony was signed up to a modelling agency within a week of sending his pictures to different agencies

While retirement did feel like a setback at first, it also gave me the opportunity to think about what makes me happy, and what I need in life. Yes, that’s my family and taking more time to myself, as I had first imagined. But it’s also having a reason to get up in the morning, and excitement about the day ahead.

I would suggest anyone in the same boat also spends the time really figuring out what their dream is, and making it happen – with Google, finding a new path for yourself can be a lot easier than you think.

I’m now living a dream I never knew I had; succeeding in an industry I barely knew existed, and discovering myself for the first time at 64. Maybe if I played golf I would have been happy to fill my days with that, but I can’t say I would pick it over my newfound career.

When I did my first photo shoot, as one of the main faces for Comic Relief’s campaign last year, I got on the train home on a natural high unlike anything I’d ever felt. I tried to describe it to my wife, but it was hard to put words to how good that feeling was, especially after having been so down and out of sorts in the early days of finishing work.

Having now done shoots around the world, I can truthfully say that for the most part, it’s an absolute joy – you meet great people, there’s nice food and drinks, people give you shoulder massages: you’re recognised as a person, like someone special. It’s so incredible.

Anthony Clark-Hurd
Post-retirement, Clark Hurd has travelled to different countries pursuing modelling work

It’s also made me a lot more conscious of my health. Having so many photos taken of you is a fabulous motivator. I’d been going to the gym on and off for most of my adult life, but seven years ago, I remember coming home from drinks and catching sight of myself in the mirror, and being horrified.

I’d never really been overweight, but I looked puffy, and frankly rubbish, so I took a photo of myself that I could look at as a necessary reminder the next morning.

I signed up to the gym, got a personal trainer, and after six months, felt confident to continue the cardio and weights routine I do three or four days a week at the gym now.

Feeling good about myself (and looking good) also gets me more work. Recently I had a job where I had to take part in a faux protest, walking down Waterloo Bridge in London completely naked with 30 other people, with a placard covering me (luckily it wasn’t too cold...). I got paid £1,000 for the hour.

It was one of many strange jobs I’ve had, including last month playing ‘head bouncer’ of a nightclub, and a frustrated user of a software platform.

While a lot of young people might not respect older people, the amount of work I get makes me hopeful that things are changing. Modelling is so different to what it was when I grew up – now, adverts can be full of normal-looking people like me, rather than ultra-buff blokes.

And just because I’m the oldest one on a shoot, it doesn’t mean I’m in the back corner, either. During the underwear shoot in Sweden, I was told that the advert would feature one older couple, and one younger – which I thought would mean us pensioners covered up. But no, we were all there beside one another in our smalls, in a shoot that officially means I’ve become an underwear model in my mid-sixties.

I have two older children, a 28-year-old daughter and a son, 26, and he says this new career path makes me a “legend”. Maybe I wouldn’t describe myself that way.

But I can honestly say that retiring – or I suppose unretiring – has changed my life for the better.

As told to Charlotte Lytton