Sunday, September 23, 2007

Life Lessons | On Being A Gentleman | Rules to Live By

As a young boy in Wisconsin, I was fortunate enough to not only have a father who was in the picture, but one who was concerned with matters of style. Dad thought about how he looked, and made certain his boys were raised to do the same. And, being the inherent style junkie I I am, I have crystal clear childhood memories of the mini-lessons my dad gave me as I was growing up. Getting dressed to head out to an important event or just cleaning up a bit before leaving the house all warranted a chance for father to tell son how things work in the world of gentlemanly style.

As I've gotten older, I have come to realize that I still follow pretty much every one of these rules as I dress and groom in preparation to face the world each day. Below a list of the things my dad taught me - all of which I will carry with me forever - and most certainly make a point of teaching any young men that come into my life in future years.

-Properly knotting a necktie. Dad's knot was the half Windsor, and he sticks with it today. Start with the narrow end of your tie at the fourth button of your shirt and go from there. In later years I learned the full Windsor from an uncle and keep that knot in my tool box as well; sometimes life simply calls for a fatter, more symmetrical knot. Dad still rocks the half.

-Applying cologne: I'd always opt for using a bit of his musk...a beautiful brown liquid in an unmarked square glass bottle; not sure what it was, exactly, but I liked it. Splash a little on your hands, then on your neck and chest before putting on your shirt.

-Good posture: sit up straight, keep your shoulders back, and dont slouch.

-The "Cepress Stroll": Good posture sitting means even better posture when walking. And, being the BMOC that my father was in his younger years, he knew that a confident, secure walk portrayed strength and self assurance in all the right ways. This should be nothing cocky mind you, but the "Cepress Stroll" as he called it was important and quietly practiced as we walked down the street as a family.

-Undershirts: If you're really cold, feel free to tuck it into your underwear instead of just your trousers, as long as the shirt over it is also tucked in and conceals the band of your tightie whities. And never, NEVER wear a crew neck undershirt with a collared shirt open to show the hideous white triangle at your neck. This is what V-necks are for.

-Shining your shoes: Capping off any good look requires shoes that have been tended to. Expensive shoes need care so they'll last years. and a routine shine is the ticket to looking sharp and taking care of the things you've worked hard to own.

-Tie tacks: They go between about the third and fourth button on your shirt. As a kid I had a favorite of his to borrow - a small gold oval on a with a minuscule diamond in the center. I still love this particular tack.

-Carry a comb: It gets windy, and you wouldn't want to walk the streets with a messy head. Always carry comb and keep your hair clean. And in a pinch, go ahead a put a hat on to cover an unsightly do.

There is room to bend a lot of these rules, but generally I still follow them religiously even when the rest of the world seems to have gotten over it. Never once will you see a white undershirt peeking out from under my collar, and never once will you view a tack tack positioned in a place that is anything less than carefully considered.

So gentlemen, I ask you this: What did the men of your lives teach you about style and clothes that you've remembered and carried with you as you've headed off to make lives of your own?


Blogger Patrick said...

My Dad taught me "no lime green terry cloth T-shirts." I don't know if the lesson stuck. I think this actually taught me that fashion can be an act of defiance, but only if you understand what you are defying.

I have to say, I wear gray and black crew neck shirts under my shirts for work...and I let them show. Of course, I work in an environment where the rest of the teachers wear track suits....

3:32 AM  
Blogger Martin Penner said...

You don't have to own a horse to wear cowboy boots. (Riding an iron pony helps, of course, but is not required.)

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris Kelly said...

Sadly, my father has no style sense to speak of; his only lesson to me was to let your wife lay out your clothes for you each night so you'd look presentable in the morning. He is at least aware of his own limitations, however, and on shopping trips trained me to find a mannequin that looked nice and buy everything on it. He's learned to take the occasional style tip from me, but not vice versa. One day I'll pass on advice about fit and versatility to my nephew, or perhaps even a son.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Erk said...

"teaching any young men that come into my life in future years."

oh la la.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Mr. C said...

I have two major style influences: my father and my brother. My mother is important, too, but not quite in the same way.

Thankfully, both are featured in this article.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Dorothy Cheng said...

My dad was a total style rebel when he was living in post-Cultural-Revolution China. At one point while my parents were dating, my mother's coworkers crowded around her and staged a sort of intervention. They acted absolutely scandalized as they reported to her that her boyfriend was wearing... tight-fitting BLUE JEANS. As if she would die of shock and break up with him for it or something.

Now he's all boring and loves plaid and Eddie Bauer. *sigh*

And my boyfriend is also a devotee of plaid. He also does the crew neck exposure under the collar thing, which drives me up the wall.

I think I'm just destined to be surrounded by men who aspire to look like lumberjacks.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

My dad taught me to wear clip-on ties because they come right off in fights. Kidding! I believe it was my brother who taught me to tie a half-Windsor, which is still serving me well, as well as a bow tie, which I wear when I'm feeling especially George Will-like.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

It was in prep school that I picked up the habit of wearing an oxford cloth shirt, unbuttoned, over a plain, white, crewneck T-shirt. I still rock this boyish look from time to time.

7:22 AM  
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