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 that remains constant is the notion that men should aspire to be gentlemen. What exactly this entails is up for heated debate. Is the new-wave playboy the pinnacle or the man who aims to channel the stiff upper-lipped charm of a protagonist in a Victorian novel?

How do you define a ‘gentleman’?

Here at Gentleman’s Journal we thought it was high time we set the record straight; did our bit, and defined once and for all the characteristics of the modern gentleman.

1. A gentleman never tells

No gossiping, spreading scandalous rumours or running others down. You’re not Alicia Silverstone in Clueless (at least, not the last time we checked) – a real gent always protects the integrity of both himself and people around him.

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

Shortcuts, free rides, those tiny samples of cologne in magazines – these have no place in a gentleman’s world. You only get what you give, and rightly so.

3. A gentleman knows how to dance

20 things that make a man a gentleman

Not too much, no one likes to see a grown man at a family wedding moonwalking and dramatically grabbing his testicles à la Michael Jackson. You need just enough fine footwork to be able to confidently hold the floor, for a romantic dance or two, with your better half.

4. A gentleman helps any woman with her baggage

Woman, man, dog – if a gentleman spots any living being struggling with something heavy he immediately offers assistance. If you suspect later it may have been a body, best to call the appropriate authorities.

5. A gentleman always RSVPs

Don’t leave your nearest and dearest hanging. Reply promptly, and 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

Arrogant: Simon Cowell when his contestant gets through to the final and he can barely contain his self-satisfied grin. Confidence: James Bond at his best, strong and admirable (minus any of the questionable 1960s sleaziness. Different times).

7. A gentleman is open-minded

Sharp wit can win any augment, but an intelligent gentleman knows the benefit of listening to other’s views and being prepared to learn and develop his world view – be this on olives (always delicious) or unchecked market deregulation (sketchy at best).

8. A gentleman constantly proves that chivalry is not dead

Not dead, but evolved. Good manners remain essential, whereas chivalry regarding practices such as “don’t burn down or destroy houses without good reason” are less pertinent in modern times.

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

To be honest this shouldn’t be gender specific either. 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

First move, last move, in-between move – whoever made it, if you’re both fully consenting adults and you’ve got it on, just enjoy the moment.

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

No doublespeak, no having to read between the lines – while never being rude or insensitive, a gentleman finds a tactful way to be open about his thoughts and feelings.

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 polite chivalry worthy of being preserved, while letting other chivalrous customs such as shooting a love rival’s brains out at dawn be consigned probably rightly to history.

14. A gentleman never judges

Fast judgements say more about the person making the judgement, than those being judged. As the old adage goes: never judge a book by its cover (accept Jilly Cooper novels with bottoms being pinched, you pretty much get what you see there).

15. A gentleman is always well presented

No matter what company, occasion or top secret mission, dress like it’s your last day on earth. If you think that means hanging around in your dressing gown drinking sub-par red wine, there’s work to be done.

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 when one gentleman meets another. Like-wise a vice-like power grip to bring tears to another man’s eyes are to be avoided.

17. A gentleman always offers his coat to a lady

Some may consider this blisteringly dated, but sacrificing one’s comfort for that of a lady is an act of attentiveness and selflessness. You may be left shivering in the elements, but you can enjoy the warm glow of altruism emanating from your very core.

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. If you can make a Beef Wellington with the lights off, god, we’ll marry you.

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”– one of the most important phrases in the gentleman lexicon. 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.

Further Reading