I am a freelance writer, editor and teacher based in north London.
Published November 11th 2012
Trying to be more like a 'proper' man?
Times are tough for the modern gentleman. Successive periods of the 'lad' and the 'metrosexual' man have left us feeling somewhat rudderless in contemporary society.
The popularity of TV shows like Mad Men and The Hour point to a desire to return to a manlier era. A time when one was not properly dressed without a trilby. A time when men looked immaculate and acted with decorum and chivalry, rather than looking like an off duty footballer and behaving like a chimp.
I decided to set myself a quest; to find the best that London has to offer the contemporary gentleman. To see the hidden gems that were just for us guys. Places of sanctuary, sure, but also places of education and refinement. I don't want to escape the modern world. I want to approach it in a way befitting a city dwelling flaneur.
1.) Learn gentlemanly manners.
The first thing I needed was a place to polish my etiquette skills and learn how to behave in a distinguished way. The London School of Etiquette (Park Gate, 27-33 Inverness Terrace, W2 3JR) offers classes in all aspects of modern behaviour, from hosting a dinner party to succeeding in business. The great tragedy of our age is that these skills are not taught in school.
There should be a GCSE in table setting and intelligent small talk and an A' Level in posture. Until such a thing exists, I must rely on places like this to show me the way.
2.) Hire a butler (for a day)
Being a gentleman is hard work. I decided that I needed a little help in the form of a butler to support me in my daily activities. Neil Young may have sung that man needs a maid, but I believe he was mistaken. We need a butler to make insightful comments and provide witty retorts to our daily musings.
Butlerhire.co.uk allows you to hire some help for a day, whether for your party, your wedding or just to get through Monday morning. The difficulty may come when it is time to let him go and you return to the horror of a butlerless existence.
3.) Get suited……
Assuming that you, dear reader, are a man of means and that money is no object, you should take a trip to historic Savile Row, just off Regents Street. They have been making suits for the great and good since Napolean was gallivanting round Europe and they continue to hand craft each garment in the workshops beneath the stores. In fact, if you look down (pretending to admire one's custom made loafers) you can see the tailors hard at work in the little windows below.
A great place to start would be Lanvin (32 Savile Row, W1S 3PT), who could provide you with a little Parisian chic. Their suits looked modern, clean cut and, of course, of the highest quality available. Expect to pay around three grand for a bespoke suit, but don't expect to see a price tag. The rule here seems to be that if you need to ask how much it is, you can't afford it.
The professor-chic look is great for an urban gentleman.
Perhaps, like me, you are temporarily unfulfilling your earning potential. The stock market is down and you lost big on commodities. If this sounds like your story you could do a lot worse that checking out the latest designs in Topman's suiting department on Oxford Street.
You should insist on wearing your latest three piece suit out the shop, walk back to Savile Row and laugh at the guys who paid three grand.
4)…. and booted.
If you are serious, and I mean serious about men's shoes there is only one name to know. Berluti on Conduit Street (43 Conduit Street, W1S 2YJ) is the home of just about the most luxurious shoes and boots on the planet. They have dressed the feet of everyone from Andy Warhol to Sinatra to Jean Cocteau. Don't expect much change from a grand. But again, if you need to check the price, you're probably not welcome.
They have versions of all the most elegant shoes, from brogues and monk straps to high top sneakers, for around seventy quid. Still not exactly cheap, but they look like they cost significantly more. And that's what really counts.
5.) Get elegantly wasted.
A true gentleman would not be seen quaffing pints of warm lager in a Wetherspoons. He would not drink any alcohol that had been disguised to look like non-alcohol. He would consider this an evil trick. He knows his wines and, significantly, he knows his scotch. Take a whiskey tasting course at Vinnopolis www.thewhiskyexchange.com/vinopolis-whiskytasting.aspx) before heading over to a specialist whiskey shop near St Pauls (The Whiskey Shop, Unit 7 Queens Head Passage, Paternoster, London EC4M 7DY) to put your knowledge to good use.
You can learn the names of obscure highland single malts and then look disappointed whenever the barman fails to stock it. All modern gentlemen have a waspish side. This could be your chance to show yours.
6.) Develop a taste for fine cigars.
Okay, okay, we all know that smoking is bad and that cigarettes make you smelly and gross, but admit it; you like the way you look with a cigar. There is something so macho and so presidential about chomping on a tobacco treat from Havana.
Even if you don't smoke yourself, a gentleman should keep a stash of fine Cubans in his office, ready to whip out whenever a visitors comes knocking. Sautter Cigars in Mount Street Mayfair (106 Mount Street W1K 2TW) is the second home of the aficionado. Selling hundreds of cigars ranging in price from a tenner to a thousand pounds for a box set, the store has that old world, stained-leather manly aroma missing from our sanitised world.
So there you have six ways to become a modern gentleman in London. The world (or the city, at least) would be a much nicer place if courtliness returned and men started acting like our great forefathers.
The gauntlet has been set by previous generations, but I honestly believe there has never been a better time to be a gentleman. Dressing well has never cost less and we can learn from the mistakes of old.
We've learned that misogyny, rather than being an integral part of machismo, is, in fact, the polar opposite of it. We can learn lessons from each generation. Let's take the time and make the effort to raise our game in the new century.