A gentleman’s guide to taking a seat

We outline the rules and etiquette behind the simple act of sitting down

Take a seat. An easy enough instruction, but it has been found that the rules the surround sitting down are some of the most flagrantly broken in social circles. From job interviews to dating, hitching your trousers, unbuttoning your jacket and pulling the chair out for your date can set the tone of your meeting or evening – and directly affect your success. 

So, before you snigger and say that of course you know how to sit down, suspend your reservations and take a look at what William Hanson, the UK’s leading etiquette coach and expert, has to say on the matter.

A gentleman’s guide to taking a seat

Approach your chair confidently

There is no need to walk up to your chosen chair staring at it.  No one is going to move it.  Simply spot it, and walk up confidently, keeping it in your peripheral vision – but still surveying the room. 

Unbutton your suit jacket

Before you have taken your seat your jacket should have been unfastened.  Avoid sitting down with your jacket buttoned up as the threads holding the buttons on will stretch over time and buttons may well come pinging off when you least want them too.

A gentleman’s guide to taking a seat

Hitch your trousers

Touch the chair with the back of your calves (this is safety, not etiquette), gently hitch your trousers (this prevents the trouser material from stretching and ballooning around the knees) and then sit on the edge of the chair, shoulders back and with your spine in line.

Make yourself comfortable

If you are sitting down for some time then gracefully move to the back of the chair.  Your hands should be placed over each other on your lap – avoid fiddling with them or using them to drum, tap or gesture when seated.  If you can’t be trusted then gently clasp them.  In the UK or USA and when sitting at a dining table and awaiting food the hands are correctly placed in the lap.  In some European countries and in China the wrists wrest on the table.

A gentleman’s guide to taking a seat

Button your jacket correctly when you stand up

Finally, when rising, remember to re-fasten your jacket once standing.  On a two button suit this should just be your top button; on a three button one then just the middle one.

And, if you’re in the company of women…

Socially, it is still polite to assist a woman into her chair… unless you know she is an ardent feminist.  Properly done, a man pulls out the chair of the woman to his right, but if no man is next to the women on your left then help both – if you can.

Further Reading