The path to being a true gentleman is one that’s not always easy to navigate. As we’ve previously established, to be a gentleman is to embody a very particular way of life. No man can simply wake up one morning and decide he’s a gentleman; it doesn’t work that way. Gentlemanly habits and etiquette should infuse every particle of a man’s life; he should always be striving to aspire to that elusive, hard-won gentlemanly status.
But you know what would make the path to gentlemanly standing infinitely easier? A library of easily accessible, infinitely useful ‘how-to’ guides and handbooks; slim, handy volumes that can be carried around in a pocket or slipped into a briefcase, and that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice to aid the modern man in whichever gentlemanly pursuit he’s currently engaged in. So with that in mind, we’ve curated a list of the guides and handbooks every man should own, and which will set him further along the path to becoming a true gentleman.
1. Debrett’s Handbook
Would we open this list with anything else? Debrett’s is the unfailing ‘go-to’ not only for gentlemen, but for anyone who wishes to present pristine modern manners to the world at all times. Debrett’s can offer individual guides on virtually any social situation — they devote entire tomes to men’s style, the A-Z of modern manners and even ‘netiquette’ (etiquette in the digital sphere) — but if you’re looking for an all-encompassing guide to modern dilemmas, this 480-page compendium is the one for you.
480 pages sounds somewhat alarming, and it’s true that this particular ‘how-to’ guide probably won’t fit in a pocket or a briefcase; but it’s a stellar guide to keep by your bed, to ensure you read at least a page each night, or to take pride of place on your coffee table. It’ll serve as an ongoing companion to every conceivable social interaction — weddings, royal garden parties, black tie events; to say nothing of dining etiquette and mobile manners — and it’s sure to become less a book, and more a trusted, reliable friend.
2. The Well-Dressed Gentleman’s Pocket Guide
Now this is a guide that’ll fit in a pocket (as you’ve no doubt guessed); and it’s essential for any man with an awareness of — and aptitude for — style. A well-dressed gentleman is a style-conscious gentleman, and this guide will ensure you’re never at a loss when it comes to personal style and knowledge of the most stylish ensembles.
It neatly packages up the history of (and etiquette surrounding) classic gentlemanly dress; and it covers every conceivable style capsule, from shirts to handkerchiefs — and it even thoughtfully provides notes on manufacturing, tailoring and patterns, among others. No excuses now, gents; if an occasion calls for the perfect pair of Oxfords, this guide will help you know exactly where to go and which to buy.
The Well-Dressed Gentleman's Pocket Guide
3. Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2022
Gentlemen should know their wine. That’s a non-negotiable part of being a man with taste and impeccable etiquette; and when it comes to navigating the world of wine with an easily accessible, pocket-sized handbook, Hugh Johnson’s reference book is the one we’d recommend every time.
Johnson puts together a (regularly bestselling) annual wine guide; and if you were to purchase the 2022 edition, you’d be one step ahead of the wine curve. The Pocket Wine Book is now in its 45th year of publication (which is a testimonial in itself), and it provides digestible, vital information on wines around the world, together with commentary on wine growers and regions. Learn which food to match with which wine, which growers to prioritise, which vintages to source — and much, much more.
Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2022
4. How to Read Paintings
As well as wine, a gentleman should know his art. We’ve long been advocates of the need to stay thoroughly informed about — and in tune with — the art world; but if the need arises to need to whip out an instant fact that’ll cement your status as a sophisticated gentleman with an eye for the finer things, look no further than this invaluable guide to Western European painting.
It’ll immerse you in the vernacular of art; and it’ll encourage you to study a wide range of paintings in painstaking detail. Readers are encouraged to ‘read’ paintings by focusing on areas such as shape and support, and signs and symbols; and once you’ve perfected the art of reading a painting, you’ll be rewarded with an in-depth commentary on 50 paintings — commentary that trains readers in understanding the context and meaning behind famous works of art. So next time you’re on a date at an art gallery, be sure to subtly drop some of your newfound knowledge into conversation (but not too much, of course. No one likes a show off).
How To Read Paintings
5. The Good Pub Guide 2021
There’s no denying that British pubs have been in turmoil over the past 18 months; but we’re delighted to see that they now seem to be emerging out the other side — and many, such as Chelsea’s The Cadogan Arms, are sleekly refurbished and better than ever. But with so many of our beloved establishments being thrown into uproar of late, where does the British pub scene now stand?
Well, The Good Pub Guide is now in its 39th year — and with a staggering 5,000 pubs listed, we’re betting this bestselling travel guide will set you in good stead when deciding which of our nation’s establishments to frequent this autumn. It’s organised by county — and with yearly updates and reader recommendations — and when we say it covers everything you could possibly need to know about pubs, we really do mean everything. Whether you’re looking for outstanding craft beer, a pub that welcomes dogs or who’s been crowned ‘Landlord of the Year’: this guide has the answers.
The Good Pub Guide 2021
6. The Quintessential Grooming Guide for the Modern Gentleman
Have you ever heard of Captain Peabody Fawcett? The name may ring a bell for any number of reasons; but from now on, one of those reasons will be this detailed grooming guide for any man who wishes to title himself a gentleman.
A gentleman should wish to look his best at all times; and with this ‘how-to’ guide, that wish will become a regular reality. Fawcett draws on his experiences travelling around the globe — together with plenty of historical research and insight from world-renowned barbers, style experts and masters of their crafts — to bring to light centuries-old grooming techniques that can fit seamlessly into the modern day.
The Quintessential Grooming Guide
7. Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs
Photography is an enviable hobby; particularly for those who are halfway decent. But many get put off by the dense technical jargon, complex diagrams or endless camera buttons that all seem to have wildly different and utterly incomprehensible functions.
Enter: the book that makes good photography both simple and accessible. If you’ve ever fancied yourself an aspirational photographer, it’s time to stop aspiring and start snapping. It’s split into five simple sections which cover everything from exposure to lenses; and it offers inspiration in the form of iconic shots by world-leading photographers like Sebastio Selgado and Nadav Kander. It’s time to transcend your modest amateur status, and become a photography pro.
Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs
8. The Cocktail Bible
When you plunge headfirst into the cocktail world, you’re unlikely to resurface any time soon. There’s just so much to learn — and the mixology options are endless. Once you start experimenting, it seems there’s no end to which ingredients can be used in a cocktail, and how they can be fused together to create a truly delectable beverage — but it’s precisely this plentitude of ingredients, recipes and serving options that can make the world of cocktails seem more than a little intimidating.
That’s why The Cocktail Bible is a must-have handbook for any gentleman. It comes in an A-Z form (always handy for flicking instantly to a particular cocktail you have in mind — a technique we’ve adopted ourselves); and comprises a vast 200 recipes of both classic and contemporary cocktails. If you’re interested in cocktail history (and, frankly, why wouldn’t you be?) it’s jam-packed with scintillating anecdotes; and if you’re looking to push your cocktail boundaries, it’s stuffed with tips and tricks on how to do exactly that.
The Cocktail Bible
9. The Gentleman’s Wardrobe: Vintage-Style Projects for the Modern Man
From 4x4s to watches, vintage is seeing a renewed trend; and we’d always recommend keeping up with the times. So that’s why this particular, vintage-themed book is a must-have guide for any modern man: especially a modern man with a vintage edge.
In a somewhat refreshing take, this isn’t a book that lists vintage style capsules and accessories you should be looking to buy; instead, it encourages gentleman to put time and thought into their vintage efforts by crafting these vintage garments yourself. Think of it as an exercise in mindfulness (just the thing, if the rapidly reopening world is proving a little too much just now); and be sure to showcase your handcrafted vintage cravat to anyone you meet.
The Gentleman's Wardobe
10. Debrett’s Guide for the Modern Gentleman
We opened with Debrett’s, and we’re closing with Debrett’s; because when it comes down to it, Debrett’s is a guide to keep close to your person at all times if you’re looking for a readily available encyclopedia on modern gentlemanly etiquette that can be consulted at any time, on any occasion (just be sure to keep your Gentleman’s Journal magazine in a separate briefcase pocket — you wouldn’t want one or the other to get bashed around from lack of space).
While the Debrett’s Handbook is a coffee table staple, this somewhat slimmer guide (it clocks in at less than half the size of the former) has more of a laser focus on 21st-century living for the modern man. Covering areas such as sport, food and drink and work, it’ll ensure you’re never caught off guard by an unprecedented social dilemma; and it’ll guarantee you bring a debonair panache to every room you enter.
Debrett's Guide for the Modern Gentleman