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Culture

Gentleman’s June

In a city synonymous with the niceties of refinement and sophistication, Jeremy Smith investigates – with typical good breeding – just what it means today to be a gentleman


"You can easily avoid this mistake by learning how to apply fragrance properly and judiciously."

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a gentleman is a "chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man". Which pretty much says what it does on the tin.

 

And certainly a helluva lot better than the following: "Gentleman - from Lat. gentilis, "belonging to a race or gens," and "Fr. gentilhomme, Span. gentil hombre, Ital. gentil huomo - in its original and strict signification, a term denoting a man of good family".

But none brings this rather archaic term up-to-date better than the always inventive and brilliantly "au courant" Urban Dictionary, which quantifies a gentleman as, and I like this:

"Something very rare today. A man who is respectful and considerate of those around him. Acts politely. Treats women with respect. Open doors for them, pulls out chairs, and is classy.

"What more guys should be. Because regardless of what your testosterone driven buddies tell you, treating people with respect and being polite doesn't make you a ‘wimp’ or whatever. It makes you a good person and will really benefit you in life".

So there.

What then are the fundamental building blocks for being a true gentleman?

According to the online Gentleman's Journal, these are the core values of being a 21st-century gentleman:

A Gentleman never tells. A Gentleman knows that anything worth having, is worth working hard for. A Gentleman knows how to dance… at least a little bit. A Gentleman always RSVPs. A Gentleman knows the difference between confidence and arrogance. A Gentleman never lies to a woman, unless to pleasantly surprise her. A Gentleman always makes the first move. A Gentleman means what he says, and says what he means. A Gentleman never judges. A Gentleman always offers to pay.

 

Now, with perhaps the exception of that very last qualifier, it doesn't seem that tall an order.

But what should every modern gentleman keep in his wardrobe?

Says uk.businessinsider.com:

If you wear a suit every day, you should at least have two. A white dress shirt for the most formal occasions and a pale blue dress shirt for your less formal occasions. A topcoat for the winter months, a trench coat for the rainier months. A cashmere sweater for layering. A pair of brown dress shoes and a belt that matches. An expensive, impressive watch that can be both dressed up and dressed down. A navy blazer. A casual button-up shirt. Casual chinos. A pair of dark denim jeans. A high-quality T-shirt that fits perfectly. Boots for after work drinks and a pair of weekend casual sneakers.

 

But clothes and sartorial elegance are just the tip of any good gentleman's arsenal. The 'dressing' so to speak. Yet if there's one area in which, woebetide, an error can lead to almost certain social ostracisation, it's in the fuzzy field of male perfumes.

According to the wonderfully aspirational artofmanliness.com "Fragrance is an invisible part of our personal style, and it has a powerful effect on how people see and remember you."

True enough, yet this fabulously louche database also points out that more than 80 per cent of men do not wear fragrance on a regular basis.

Why?

Because it says "of a lack of basic information and education" and that is certainly true.

When you are 16 and you first discover cologne, you naturally believe more is better. But thankfully as you grow older, you realise there is nothing worse than a man's scent which overpowers and asphyxiates at a 100 metres or more...

However, you can easily avoid this mistake by learning how to apply fragrance properly and judiciously.

First of all, spray perfume onto dry skin, holding the spray nozzle 3-6 inches away.

Start light. If you’re new to wearing fragrances, start with one single spray on your chest. As you become more comfortable and knowledgeable about how to wear cologne properly, you can branch out to a few more sprays in different area

Apply fragrance to heat areas. Your body heat will push the scent throughout the day, creating a nice scent trail commonly called sillage. Start with the warmest parts of your body: chest, neck, lower jaw, wrist, forearm, inner elbow, shoulder. Do not spray on all these points at the same time; start with one and then as you learn the scent, spray 2-3 other spots.

Re-spray only when required. You can add more sprays to your wrists depending on how long the scent lasts. For most this will be in the second half of the day.

Don’t spray and walk. Spraying a fragrance in the air and walking through the mist is worthless. Most of the fragrance drops straight to the floor.

Don’t spray fragrance on your clothes. In this case the fragrance isn’t allowed to mix with your oils, and hence it can’t naturally go through the stages of notes like it should. Also, the oils in a fragrance will stain many fabrics.

Don’t splash. If you are applying cologne from a regular bottle, take one finger and press it against the opening of your bottle and then tip it over gently. Dab onto the parts of the body described above.

This is all well and good, however what do women think makes a true gentleman?

Well, according to columnist Jenna Birch of yourtango.com he -

Holds the door for you. Calls when he says he will. Doesn't play games. Wants to meet your family and friends. Expresses small, public gestures of affection. Makes sure you arrive home safely. Offers you you're jacket when you're cold. Pulls the car around when it's raining. Steps in during awkward situations.

 

Which all seems very fair to me, but to maintain balance in this debate, what is it that men think are the qualities that makers a gent?

According to Esquire

A gentleman looks out for those around him and passes along expertise. He owns up. He grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not. A gentleman sas had liquor enough in his life that he can order a drink without sounding breathless, clueless, or obtuse. When he doesn't want to think, he orders Cognac. Never the sauvignon blanc. He stops traffic when he must. He can tell you he was wrong. That he did wrong. That he planned to. He can tell you when he is lost. He can apologise even if sometimes it's just to put an end to the bickering.

 

Of course, none of the above amounts to a hill of beans if he doesn't have a good job to back up his manly efforts. And this doesn't mean he needs money or high-powered executive cars (although, let's be frank here, it helps...).

No, a gentleman's job should say something about his inner nature, both uncompromising yet sensitive, charitable yet worldly, adventurous yet calculated.

And these just seem to hit that spot - Lawyer, Doctor, Architect, Artist, Pilot, Charity worker, Entrepreneur, Teacher

Naturally, there are thousands of other jobs you can pursue and still lay claim to being a gentleman but realistically speaking, it probably won't get you the girl (whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially).

But enough about what makes a gentleman; what do some some of the world's most learned individuals consider are traits of the true gentleman?

George Bernard Shaw (Irish Playwright): “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out”

Theodore Roosevelt (26th U.S. President): "Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”

Confucius (Chinese Philosopher & Politician): "A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words”

William Lyon Phelps (American Author & Scholar): "The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him”

Anthony Trollope (English Novellist): “And though it is much to be a nobleman, it is more to be a gentleman.”

John Locke (English Philosopher & Physician): “Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.”

Haruki Murakami (Japanese Writer): "A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do, but what he should do.”

William Maxwell (American Editor & Novellist): "A gentleman doesn’t have one set of manners for the house of a poor man and another for the house of someone with an income incomparable to his own.”

So get out there, strut your gentleman's credentials and let's return a little style, grace, wit and compassion to this fair county of ours.

 

- Jeremy Smith

 

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