I’ve never subscribed to the view that sartorial style must be associated with particular interests or pursuits. I don’t like cocktails. I hate swanky bars. I have no interest in jewellery, dogs, etiquette or classic cars. Polo, horse racing: neither have ever held much attraction. 

This probably permanently excludes me from being a dandy, certainly a rake. But then, descriptions of these men always seem to omit two things fundamental to my enjoyment of life: family and sport. 

This is, as per usual, a wandering introduction to my main point: that there are certain characteristics commonly ascribed to a gentleman that I do like, and deserve greater attention. They tend to be more personal, rather than public pleasures. They probably less prone to pre tense. My favourites are:

– Writing. Having nice notepaper, not decorated, not bearing the announcement ‘From the desk of Mr X’, but nice well-made paper, and writing notes to people. When you’ve visited a wonderful craftsman. When people have taken you into their home, or otherwise shown hospitality. Such a note displays rare consideration, expresses genuine and thoughtful thanks.

– Washing. More formal clothing forces you to slowdown in certain ways – to put in your cufflinks, to brush your shoes and put them away at the end of the day. Washing your hands and face slowly and thoroughly is an extension of that: taking the time to take care of yourself. It is a far more selfish pleasure than writing, but no less worth the effort. Take time to shave. Wash in warm water, dry and apply a touch of moisturiser, adjust your tie and leave the bathroom feeling refreshed. If you work in an office all day, it’s as good a pick-me-up as a shot of espresso.

– Politeness. I think I’ve always been polite. They taught you to hold the door open for others when I was at school. But I appreciate it more the older I get. It is gentleness that makes a gentleman. It is, for me, a natural extension of the careful consideration you now give to what you wear and what you surround yourself with. It is personal; it is not etiquette. Etiquette is public. 

– Craft. That last point leads naturally onto the way in which you consume other things in your life. Having found out so much about how my shoes and my jacket are made, I want to know at least a little about how my table is made. Not because I want to start collecting antiques, but because I want to know where the value resides. All those quotes from gentlemen about surrounding themselves with the very best? They didn’t mean just the most expensive. And the best is very personal – it might mean old, worn and inherited.

– Subtlety. I like that a man’s largest piece of jewellery, his watch, is actually hidden most of the time. Or should be. That principal of subtlety can be extended to many other areas of life.

The pleasures of a gentleman. 

Image: detail from Timothy Everest bespoke velvet jacket
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Anonymous

Puke. I hate it when people think they’re better than everyone else because they write their notes on dead trees. Right up there with the guy who wants everyone in the room to know that he doesn’t own a TV.

Turling

Very well written. At the end of the day, it’s only you that you need to live with, not other’s impression of who you should be. It sounds very much like you enjoy being in the here and now and cognizent (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) of all that you’re doing. Very gentlemanly, indeed.

Anonymous

“I like that a man’s largest piece of jewellery, his watch, is actually hidden most of the time.”

Not if you’re Gianni Agnelli.

Frith Street Post

Excellent article. Too much in our society is about rushing around, achieving more, having more. A little reflection and paying attention to the smaller thoughtful details often goes missing. This blog entry reminds us that the more reflective activities can be the most rewarding.

Fiona

Amen.

Cameron Adams

Well said.

Well put, especially the points about politeness and subtlety.

Best Regards,

Ulrich von B.

Anonymous

I think also being well read (not just the classics) but current thinkers, perspectives and events whether political, artistic etc. are also important. And too be able to know more than one language…it give different perspectives. Most important is to believe in the dignity of all people whether educated or not well dressed or not, and push for a more humane world instead of simple binaries. Lastly, the endless Agnelli watch thing…it was not his “sprezzatura”, he wore his watch like that in memory of a race car driver for his Alfa team in the 1930’s that was killed in a race. The driver wore his watch outside his sleeve to see it easily at the wheel. Nobody seems to mention this in the Igent world. I wore my watch like that as a teen with long sleeve cycling jerseys on bike touring around Quebec and New England, At that time was not aware of Agnelli doing that, but I did it for the practicality – it made sense.

Anonymous

Subtlety has its own rewards.
-StyleGuy

Words to live by…

Kulturbloggen

That was a joy to read.

Greetings from Finland!

John

A well written personal manifesto. That’s great for Simon Crompton.

Fine…
You value family and sport.
(Neither of which interest me.)

More important: Be true to yourself… even if that means loving dogs, horses, jewelry and cars. (Sounds like you were taking a swat at several of your readers!)

Oh yes, and cocktails.
Otherwise, little to disagree over.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
You are a British gentleman in many respects!… Now, having read many of your pieces either on this blog or somewhere else, I think you have left out one important thing: the great esteem you have for highly skilled craftsmen: shoemakers, taylors, etc. Yes, a blog like yours contributes and should contribute to educate your readers to identify and value the work of those whose life is devoted to craft the best things that make their purchase a real pleasure. As to jewelry, just bear in mind that not all gentlemen are British! Yet in this area too, a kind of subtelty would be in order. The key being to keep things simple and elegant.
John

JH

Simon – Any recommendations for nice plain notepaper?