Alexander Kraft’s 9 rules for living elegantly

Kraft's Kommandments: The owner, chairman and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty France on living well

Rules are made to be broken, and the Ten Commandments always seemed a little too concerned with one’s neighbour’s donkey, if you ask me. Nevertheless, in this climate of everyday incivility and dubious taste, it helps to have some diktats to live by — especially when they come from a gentleman as well-heeled as Alexander Kraft.

The first name in luxury property, Alexander has become something of a style page favourite and an enduring advocate for a forgotten era of Riviera charm — a place where one’s glass is always full, one’s sleeves are always the right length, and one’s speeches are always short and sweet (with emphasis, as ever, on the short.). Here, without further ado, are Kraft’s Kommandments.

1. Always be polite

In a world that’s becoming ruder by the second, politeness (which also includes the lost virtue of actually listening to another person) is the real hallmark of a true gentleman. It doesn’t cost you anything, is a sign of good breeding and will open many doors. Don’t confound politeness with indecisiveness though — if people try to abuse your gentleness, assert yourself and feel free to kick them, hard, into their derrière, figuratively (or literally if needed.)

2. Never wear a short-sleeved shirt.

Either wear a long-sleeved (preferably double-cuffed) shirt with the sleeves rolled up (which is by far the most elegant look), or wear a slim-fit polo shirt. Short-sleeved shirts (probably with pencils or cigarettes sticking out of the breast pocket) should be the exclusive domain of used-car salesmen or mad scientists.

3. Always travel with a solid, dark blue tie.

While a black tie is perfectly suitable for funerals and mobster reunions, a solid dark blue tie is a much more elegant option and the most universal weapon in a gentleman’s sartorial arsenal. It goes with everything, is appropriate both in the night club and Buckingham Palace, and will come to your aid in more than one fashion emergency on the road.

4. Don’t be a quitter

Everybody, no matter how well-heeled, -educated or -connected, faces obstacles in their private or professional path, no matter how easy things might look from the outside. One of the simplest formulas for success is to simply not give up. If something doesn’t work (which it almost never does) the first, second or even the third time around, try again. If it still doesn’t work, change your approach but stay focused on your goal. Just ask Churchill.

5. Never wear sandals

Be it flip flops, German orthopaedic devices or monogram encrusted high-fashion monstrosities, no real gentleman shows his toenails to an unsuspecting public. Never. Driving shoes, espadrilles or loafers are better options in any situation.

6. If you have to give a speech, make it quick and funny.

The worst part of any social occasion is when somebody rises from his chair, clutches a thick batch of printed, single-spaced pages and starts to make that sort of speech that has even the most life-affirming individual reach for his cyanide capsule. If you have to give a speech, keep 3 simple things in mind: Make it personal, make it funny and make it quick. Real pros will never use notes: better to stumble, improvise and laugh than bore the crowd to death by monotonously reciting dry facts.

7. Anthracite is not a stylish color

Blue and light gray are undoubtedly the most universal colors in any gentleman’s wardrobe. Certain black key pieces can work when skillfully mixed with other elements but all-black outfits always carry a whiff of contract killer or starving existentialist. Anthracite (= dark grey) however is neither here nor there. Far from being a safe option, it is simply bland — and who wants to be bland? I rest my case.

8. Black shoes are simply boring

There was a time when black Oxfords were considered the only acceptable footwear for a certain type of man. This time is not now. In an age where ties are an endangered species, casual Fridays last all week and suits are treated like fancy dress, even the most conservative gentleman can dare to add a little panache to his outfit by substituting black shoes with those in a dark, rich brown or a tactile suede.

9. Don’t take yourself (and others) too seriously.

One of the easiest recipes for a happy life is to not give a shit. In an age where armchair experts spend their entire, miserable lives doling out nonstop bitchy witticisms to everything that appears online, the most freeing feeling is to simply ignore them, or better still, delete and block (both on Instagram and in your mind). It also helps to not take oneself too seriously either: I am usually one of the first to laugh at myself and my antics — and, of course, my highly prejudiced commandments.

Now, find out what a Savile Row tailor will ask you when you get a bespoke suit…

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