Generation to generation, the gentleman has long been heralded as the epitome of class and overall social standard – immaculate in style and meticulous in manner. He doesn’t merely abide by the rules of etiquette but rather, he lives them. Well-spoken, selfless and charming are but a few superlatives associated with the understated debonair.
Beginning with manner, a gentleman is polite, courteous and carries himself gracefully. Good manners are a basic yet imperative principle. It is important to be punctual and to abide by the rule that if you are not early you are, in fact, late. In social settings, it is often the little details and actions that will leave the biggest impact. Holding the door open for others, taking hats off when indoors and holding a chair out are such actions we take for granted in this day and age. When seated for dinner, the most important rule to adhere to is being polite and respectful to your party at all times – do not interrupt others, do not get distracted by your phone and always give the speaker your undivided attention. Listen attentively, rather than merely acting as if you are listening.
On conversation, a gentleman always reads and stays current with world news and his surroundings. Respect for other cultural traditions is imperative; around the world, different countries and religions have different mannerisms and traditions – it is important to understand these. At no time should one discuss their personal income or value with others as to brag. Finally, whenever a woman leaves or joins the table, a gentleman should always stand.
With manner covered, the second element of gentleman etiquette focuses not on the conversation, but on the attire. First and foremost, it is important to take pride in your clothes and, therefore, to care for them. Ensure your shirts are laundered in the correct fashion and are ironed properly – this also goes for your jacket and trousers. Focusing specifically on the latter, your trouser should always have a decent pleat.
Your shoes should always be polished. Do not sell yourself (or your outfit) short with scuffed leather. In regards to accessories, your pocket square and tie should not match in pattern or colour, but rather complement each other to avoid looking too try hard. ¼”-½” (max) of your shirt cuff should extend from the suit sleeve – no more, no less. If there is a label on the outside of your suit, always remove it. A gentleman cannot be considered as such if they flaunt.
When it comes to formal events, it is important to keep in mind the dress code. You do not want to attend a cocktail party, for example, in black tie, as you could run the risk of out-doing the host of the party. Vice versa, being underdressed at a black or white tie event is a no-no. Learn the subtle nuances of dress and create the ideal looks for said events through the curation of your wardrobe. A gentleman should have a selection of appropriate dinner jackets as well as formal and casual attire to suit the occasion.
Speaking of which, there are unwritten (but well-followed) rules when it comes to jacket button etiquette. For a two-button jacket, only fasten the top button. With a three-button jacket, fasten the middle button and at no point fasten the bottom. For those who opt for a double-breast, dependent on the cut, the top and middle buttons can be done up, but once again, do not fasten the bottom. Unless you are invited to do so by the most senior person in the room, never take your jacket off at a formal event.
It is imperative not to take the importance of grooming for granted. With the accessibility social media now provides us, we are seemingly “on-show” for most of the time. This may be a reason as to why grooming is fast-becoming something gentlemen take pride in. Facial hair, when done correctly, is generally accepted at formal events. As with the majority of fashion trends, beards have fallen in and out of favour over the decades. The modern-day gentleman can be seen championing the resurgence with several grooming products seemingly in tow. The same rule regarding your clothes also applies here: it is important to take care of your facial hair. Look after it – groom well and trim often.
The phrase “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” may be relevant to the latest generation, perhaps more so than ever. The art and popularity of sprezzatura (studied carelessness as a characteristic) still leaves one particular rule untouched: never at any point should you refer to yourself as a gentleman. Only others can bestow this upon you.