The age of the gentleman is again on the rise. As we surge forward through the cosmopolitan times of the 21st century, we must understand, develop, hone and take pride in the quintessential skills that make one a true gentleman. There are, of course, elements of being a gentleman that go without saying, however the certain, specific skills that fulfil the overall creation of unequivocal gentlemanly quality are seemingly rarer and rarer. Here are our top 10 skills that every gentleman ought to learn before he’s 30.
Knowing what to wear for a differing array of personal and business occasions is a definite skill to hold, and a skill that takes time to perfect. Not only must one understand the principles behind creating a look, one must also invest in the finest clothing and accessories to show a dedicated care for one’s appearance. For business, an elegant back or navy suit should be in every wardrobe. Nothing is worse than an ill-fitting suit. Make a trip to Savile Row and have one tailor made, or alternatively buy a fine suit and have it expertly fitted. Knowing the correct time and occasion to wear a tuxedo, a more colourful, garden chic outfit, or suitable attire for country forays is a skill we, as gentlemen, must have. Remember to always keep it elegant, refined and of the highest quality.
Little is as ungentlemanly as snobbery. A gentleman should always focus on treating everyone the same. Be polite, conscientious and warm to all, for this is the mark of a fine man. The ability to easily communicate with a wide range of people is also fundamental to the creation of gentlemanly status. In the words of William Horman, ‘manners maketh man,’ and we would do well to remember this in every circumstance.
A skill that has seen a marked drop in recent years is the tradition of handwritten letters. As we become consumed by technology, the very foundations of old-world traditions are slowly being lost. One must remember to take time to write letters to thank those who have hosted us, from dinner parties and afternoon tea to weddings and weekends away. Most circumstances call for a brief handwritten thank you letter, but it is often nice to write longer, personal ones too. The impact a letter can have on a loved one is paramount to gentlemanly conduct, for it not only lets people know you are thinking about them, but also actively making time to write to them personally, rather than a quick email or text. Investing in quality writing instruments is key, and none more so than a fine fountain pen. Start writing those letters, and enjoy every second of it.
A gentleman should work hard to create a strong physical condition. Not only are the health benefits supremely important and widely known, but keeping fit is also demonstrative of willpower, dedication and commitment. The release of endorphins also helps develop a sharper mental capacity, and is fundamental to the overall quality of a gentleman. So head outside, get some fresh air and build a stronger body and mind.
Taking the time to switch off, relax and get lost in the world of literature is another supremely fundamental skill to hold as a gentleman. Of course, being able to read is not the skill in itself, it is the active enjoyment and pursuit of broadening one’s mind through the words of others that is the skill. Reading widely, from the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway to Proust and Nietzsche will not only expand ones opinions and understandings to enlightened heights, it will also become a source of great pleasure.
When it comes to women, a gentleman has a lot to remember. Be charming but not arrogant, be polite but not coy, be forward but not forceful and, above all else, engage in intellectual conversation. When it comes to the fineries, remember to always treat her well; open doors, make reservations, pay for dinner, the list goes on. By treating her with respect and care, you will quickly become a well-rounded gentleman.
Wine has been a part of our culture for many centuries now, yet in recent years oenology has dropped. Not only is it vital to know the difference between Beaujolais and Merlot or Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s also imperative to know how to pair these wines with foods, other wines throughout a meal, or simply on their own. The wine industry is highly complex and takes years to master, but every gentleman should learn. Preparation is also key; how to correctly open a bottle, how to decant, how long to let red wine breathe, the correct glasses etc.
A gentleman should be able to take care of himself and others around him. There’s nothing worse than having to dote on someone. A gentleman should know how to cook, and cook well. Buy a decent cookbook and start learning some recipes to not only fuel yourself with great meals, but others too. Much like cooking, it is equally as important to know how to clean. From washing, drying and ironing your own clothes to keeping your home suitably tidy, a gentleman should never leave such tasks to others, and should actively work to become a proficiently self sustainable man.
A true skill is being able to master many different disciplines. From sporting and academic to dancing and poker, a gentleman must have a formidable repertoire and work hard to develop each element. Much like our hero James Bond, knowledge of many activities will not only make one more complete, it will also stimulate the mind to work constantly. Learn to dance, try fencing, become a great shot, go fly fishing, play poker – try many things and master them.
A skill that takes many years to accomplish yet will forever be a learning experience for a gentleman is the broadening of horizons. Much like reading, a thirst for travelling is a fundamental part of life. Alongside travelling, a definitive knowledge of culture and art is the final piece of the puzzle. Leaning about art takes many years, but they should be enjoyable years, filled with the happy understanding of the arts world. Travel and art are also significant factors to the knowledge of culture, not only our own, but foreign ones too. This will help to formulate a well-rounded opinion of the world in which we live, and will put one in the best possible position for the future.
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