man and woman dancing

20 things that make a man a gentleman

Ever asked yourself how to be a gentleman? Here's our list on what defines one, from holding open doors to a firm handshake

Trends come and go, as do some friends and some lovers — but one thing remains constant; the notion that men should aspire to be gentlemen. But what does that mean? What does being a gentleman, in our increasingly troubled, confusing modern world, even mean?

So, how do you define a ‘gentleman’?

You can’t, simply put. Not definitively, anyway. Instead, there are certain characteristics and traits that you should look to embody to become a more decent, debonair man. Here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’ve got a pretty good idea what those are — so we thought it was high time to set the record straight.

Brace yourself gents, hard truths await. Below, you’ll find the 20 most important things that make a man a gentleman…

1. A gentleman never tells

No gossiping, spreading scandalous rumours or speaking ill of others. A real gent always protects the integrity of both himself and people around him — so that means you keep any affairs or confrontations a tight-lipped secret. Because nobody likes a bad-mouth.

2.  A gentleman knows that anything worth having is worth working hard for

Shortcuts, free rides — those tiny samples of aftershave that come stuck to pages of magazines – these have no place in a gentleman’s world. Work for your luxuries, and your achievements will taste even sweeter. You only get what you give, and rightly so.

3. A gentleman knows how to dance

man and woman dancing

Not too much — no-one likes to see a grown man moonwalking at a family wedding. You need just fine enough footwork to confidently hold the floor. Romantic dances, too, are worth your attention. Master even the simplest steps and you’ll be one up from the man on the street.

4. A gentleman helps any woman with her baggage

When a gentleman spots another person — man, woman, young, elderly — struggling with something heavy, they help them with it. It could be in an airport, a train station, the stairwell in your building. Wherever. Just drop whatever you’re doing (and whatever you’re holding) and ask them if they want some assistance.

5. A gentleman always RSVPs

You should never, ever leave your nearest and dearest hanging. Reply promptly, whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. If someone has been good enough to invite you, you should be good enough to reply. Oh, and if you can make it, be sure to bring the party when you arrive…

6. A gentleman knows the difference between confidence and arrogance

20 things that make a man a gentleman

Arrogance: President Trump barrelling into this latest election without even considering he may lose. Confidence: James Bond strolling through the front door of a villain’s lair so boldly that no-one even dares to question him. Be like Bond.

7. A gentleman is open-minded

Sharp wit can win any argument, but an intelligent gentleman knows the benefits of listening to the views of others. He is never stubborn, and always prepared to learn, to develop and broaden his world view. And this applies across the board — from olives (always delicious) to unchecked market deregulation (sketchy at best).

8. A gentleman constantly proves that chivalry is not dead

Because it isn’t — especially if you look in the right places. It may be different to antiquated ideas of chivalry, but the concept is still very much around. Essentially, chivalry can be chalked up to good manners, empathy and the capacity to forgive.

9. A gentleman should go out his way to never make anyone cry

Unless it’s tears of happiness from that vintage Jaguar you surprised her with for your anniversary. (See also, chopping onions.)

10. A gentleman never lies to a woman

This shouldn’t be gender specific, really. Liars are bad eggs — full stop. The only time they are acceptable are when a) they involve Father Christmas or b) a woman has had a questionable visit to a hair salon. She knows it’s bad. You know it’s bad. She knows you know it’s bad. Say it looks wonderful, and move on.

11. A gentleman doesn't always make the first move

As we said, chivalry isn’t dead; it’s evolved. So whether it’s the first move, last move, or any number of in-between moves, it doesn’t really matter who made it. As long as you’re both fully consenting adults and you’re in the moment, just be happy you found each other.

12. A gentleman means what he says and says what he means

Don’t garble your words, gents. No doublespeak, no jargon, no having to read between the lines — a real gentleman gets to the point. And, while that is never an excuse for rudeness or insensitivity, you should appreciate that tactful honesty is always the best policy.

13. For a lady, a gentleman always offers his seat and opens the door

This time-honoured gentlemanly gesture has become problematic in the modern world. For us, it’s straight-up good manners, a spot of politeness worthy of being preserved. Some may not feel that way — but we’d rather inadvertently offend with kindness than annoy with discourtesy.

14. A gentleman never judges

Fast judgements say more about the person making them than those being judged. As the old adage goes: never judge a book by its cover — but rather hold your opinions for when you’re a couple of illuminating chapters in…

15. A gentleman is always well-presented

No matter the company, occasion or top secret mission, dress like it’s your last day on earth. If there’s something hanging in your wardrobe you wouldn’t be happy wearing forever, get rid of it.

16. A gentleman has a firm handshake and always makes eye contact

20 things that make a man a gentleman

Weak grips and averted gazes are huge no-nos. Your handshake (when we’re allowed to swap our elbow-bumps back for them) is like your signature; it tells people the content of your character immediately.

17. A gentleman always offers his coat to a lady

It’s another door-holding conundrum. But, if you’re close enough to a lady that you can see her shivering, you’re probably well-acquainted enough with her to offer your coat. And, after all, sacrificing one’s comfort is an act of undeniable attentiveness and selflessness.

18. A gentleman knows how to cook

20 things that make a man a gentleman

Being able to prepare one good, full meal should be the bare minimum. Start simply, and work your way up to more adventurous cuisine. It’s a charming skill to have — and being a Michelin-starred man will endear you to man, beast and in-laws alike.

19. A gentleman always walks a woman home

It’s not old-fashioned, it’s good manners. Take her to the door, and wait till she’s safely inside. (Standing out in the rain two hours later waiting for her bedroom light to go off: not so gentlemanly.)

20. A gentleman always offers to pay

“I’ll get this one” is one of the most important phrases at your gentlemanly disposal. Be it a date, business lunch, or catch-up with friends, be the first to offer to pay the bill. Better still, find the waiter, and settle it before it even comes to the table.

Still worried you’re not a gentleman? Here’s 30 things every gentleman should do before turning 30…

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The Gentleman

The Gentleman

The Gentleman is the mercurial editor-at-large of the Gentleman's Journal.

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