There was a time when a gentleman was the ultimate form of male humanity. If such a personage was also a bit of a dab hand at war, sports and the seducing of ladies, well so much the better. But it was the more serious characteristics of a gentleman that earned the greatest respect, making qualities such as good manners, refinement in look and intellect, a strong moral code and steadfast reliability the marks that made the man. You could rely on a real gentleman, and as the refined form of a ‘real man’ he was not confused about his gender role, but strong, resolute and also gentle and respectful towards women.
The death of the gentleman
Of course, such a representation is more of an ideal than a day-to-day reality, but it gave people – especially young men – something rather lofty to aim for. In the end it was not so much the shaking up of the ancient class system that undid the gentleman, but the coming of the social revolution of the 1960s. This about-turn in society’s norms meant the rules regarding sexual and social conduct suddenly changed, altering in the process the roles which men and women had played for so long.
And so it was the arrival of youth culture that sounded the death knell for the gentleman. Before long, the word stopped having a positive connotation and eventually it practically disappeared from the vocabulary altogether. The very concept of a gentleman was engrained in a past world that was no longer relevant or desirable in an environment where female emancipation, male gender confusion, homosexual rights and other forms of social change surged forward with a force that would not be denied. Each hurdle cleared led rapidly to the next. Rightly or wrongly, it has resulted in a society where a significant proportion of boys seem to have devolved into scruffy, weak-willed pleasure seekers with little or no goal in life but to indulge their immediate urges.
The appeal of the gentleman
Naturally not everyone fits this description, but it isn’t too farfetched to say that manhood is in a sorry state these days. Given this it isn’t really so surprising that a new generation of young gents is slowly rising out of the ashes of the original gentleman. Perhaps tired of spending so much time, money and preening to in the end appear scruffy and listless, the new gentleman is rediscovering style, manners and good taste.
Drawing inspiration from the past, he is enjoying the novel concept of fitted clothes, rather than those that are too tight or too loose, as well as the idea of looking smart and feeling rather dapper. Childish sportswear is replaced with quality shoes and jackets, bands and beads with good watches, and painstakingly crafted ‘messed up’ hair with cuts that are stylish yet manly. Dressed this way, his spine appears to straighten of its own accord, and as there is much more to a gentleman than appearances alone, his newly acquired self-respect begins to translate into greater respect and courteousness towards others, most notably the women in his life.
As a result of this trend, tailors and shoemakers are experiencing a revival, their customers now able to look beyond brand labels and appreciate the quality of fine materials, craftsmanship and the pleasures of made-to measure clothes that carry a discreet personalised monogram. In combining old-fashioned bespoke quality with modern cuts and designs, tailored clothes, shoes and accessories such as leather driving gloves provide the means not so much to express monetary success as a desire to revive the look, behaviour and values of the gentleman – and in so doing give the men who have chosen this path a sense of purpose and direction.
It might sound like our chappie has won the lottery or suddenly joined the upper classes, but in the end it costs little more to look smarter, speak better and have a more useful attitude towards your life and the world in general. At the end of the day being a gentleman is more about what is within than without, and the ultimate mark of a gent is his character. While there is no place for macho chauvinism, snobbery or even snivelling or insincere courtesies in today’s world, there is most definitely a need for strong-willed, respectful and ambitious young men with the conviction to chase their own happiness. As for ladies, they and gents alike can only exist one by virtue of the other, and the revival of gentlemanly behaviour will no doubt be welcomed by women of all ages. As Modern Gentleman magazine says: “Style, manners and taste never go out of fashion”.
This article was published in Villae International Magazine 9, the official magazine of EREN – The European Real Estate Network. You can also read the online version of the printed Villae International Magazine 9.