Tag Archives: Cary Grant

Become the Perfect Gentleman

12 Nov

The Perfect GentlemanI was lucky enough to have not one but two two-hour long interviews with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

The Perfect Gentleman runs courses and events to teach men the art of the gentleman, and includes dressing, how to dance, how to be charming, etiquette, romance, and modern chivalry. North America is fortunate to have the two-day PG event, Becoming the Perfect Gentleman, tour in early 2016 and visit five American cities: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, with one Canadian date (Toronto). For any of you who have fallen under the spell of Downton Abbey, you will agree that it is high time to resurrect the gentleman and all the niceties that go with him.

Falconer-Barfield explained to me that the gentleman is who he is and what he does. As a child, he spent countless hours watching old movies and was influenced by the most stylish and gentlemanly of gentlemen: Cary Grant, James Bond, and David Niven, among others. He was raised by women who gave him an understanding of etiquette, and he always dressed well. In fact, every Friday is Cravat Friday for our 1st Gentleman.

He explained that there have been centuries of gentlemen, but World War II saw the beginning of his decline. It was a time of austerity that saw the massive loss of life, the rise of women, and changes to the socio-economic world that urged men not to bother anymore.

“It’s been four generations since the war – three moved away from the gentleman and now we’re moving towards it again.” Falconer-Barfield believes that it’s just in the recent past that men have had style ideals to live up to and the social freedom to make an effort. He says that men are being held to a standard again, and cites George Clooney, David Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Hugh Jackman as modern icons of style and gentlemanly ways.

Please enjoy part one of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

Interview

LM: Do North American audiences/men differ from British audiences/men?

ZFB: Yes. English men think they’re already gentlemen – English women will disagree. North Americans wonder when we’re coming over! The difference between the response to learning how to be a gentleman is that there is no culture of self-improvement in the UK for men; the thought of a “gentleman” is perceived as elitist, but of course this isn’t true. In the UK, it’s immigrants who seek out self-improvement.

LM: Do men in different countries have different challenges?

ZFB: The same challenges seem to be generic across the world – dating, romance, but there are minor cultural differences: business etiquette and style. How do I approach a lady? How do I have a good date? Universal. Style? Cultural differences, but a suit is a suit. Male icons are fairly universal.  Confidence is king.

LM: What drives a man to be a gentleman?

These are general drivers: everyone wants to be better and have better relationships; dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, make more money. When men realize what they’re capable of, the world opens up. It’s a kind of enlightenment.

The next article will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards women and romance, and women’s attitudes towards gentlemen.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Paisley: full of possibilities

10 Jul

red paisley

Take a moment to look at this picture. Do you notice the incredible detail? The harmonized colours? The pleasant but erratic pattern? You’re looking at paisley, one of the most gorgeous decorative patterns humans have ever devised.

Paisley is an incredible pattern to work with because it is so full of possibilities: paisley can be done in any scale, it may be multi-coloured or monochrome, simple or intricate, and the pattern may be regular and repeating or varied, irregular, and seemingly random. This wonderful, natural design has deep, rich roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (modern-day Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria), where it found its way into building decoration, carpets, fabrics, and the decorative arts of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians.

This nature-inspired pattern, originally known as botteh or boteh in its native Persian, means “bush, shrub, a thicket, bramble, [or] herb. Some would even take it to mean a palm leaf, cluster of leaves…and flower bud,” according to the Heritage Institute discussing Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion and philosophy.

The boteh pattern is a much-loved, time-tested pattern that eventually made its way into India where it really dug in its heels. For hundreds of years, beautiful cashmere wool shawls decorated with the boteh pattern were popular, and during the 1700s, boteh shawls cast a spell on European women who fell in love with the soft, warm, patterned fabric. During the colonial period, British men returning home from India brought the shawls as gifts for their women, and the demand for these exotic shawls grew in Europe. Seeing an opportunity, the British East India Company began to export the enormously popular and expensive shawls to Europe during the later 18th century.

As the shawls became more fashionable, the demand for them grew, but the high cost kept many away until European hand weavers began to copy the boteh patterned shawls and produced items at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. In 1805, the weaving mill in Paisley, Scotland became the boteh weaving centre of Europe, and the name Paisley became synonymous with the pattern. As weaving technology evolved in the UK, the original 2-colour paisley shawls turned into 5-colour patterns, though this still paled in comparison to the Indian versions that boasted up to 15 colours.

What is paisley?

The paisley pattern can range from very simple to extremely ornate, sometimes positioned loosely among leaves, or flowers, other times simple in regular and repeating patterns. The common denominator is the tell-tale curved teardrop shapes. It is the shape of the paisleys that I find particularly interesting because no one really knows what it’s supposed to represent, though there are many options and theories.

Paisleys could signify halved fresh figs, mangoes, gourds, licks of flame, or Cypress trees (sacred to the Zoroastrians); kidneys, tadpoles, tear drops, pears, or sperm if you’re Freudian.  (During research, I came across a Jehovah Witness message board that discussed paisley as a representation of sperm and therefore considered “taboo”). In any case, paisley seems to have originated as a fertility symbol and becomes more fantastic as it evolves.

Modernized examples of this racy design seen below by Paul Frederick show the incredible variance in paisley patterns, from bold and multi-coloured paisley to quiet tone-on-tone, and from elaborate designs to simple shapes (photos used with permission):

Blue paisley Paul Frederick tie

Tone-on-tone paisley Paul Frederick tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Frederick paisley tie

Paul Fredrick blue paisley tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paisley in menswear

While the paisley motif was woven into fabrics most often worn by women, western men were left out of experiencing this gorgeous pattern until the 1920s-1930s, when paisley was printed on silk and used in men’s ties.

“In response to changing fashion,” says Francois Chaille in  The Book of Ties, “Paisley is constantly being up-dated: hundreds of new paisley motifs make their appearance on ties every year. The motif provides rich opportunities for coloristic nuance and formal invention.”

Of course we in the west remember paisley worn extensively in the 1960s and revived in the 80s, but paisley has never really gone away. In fact, you may find a paisley tie in your collection, or maybe a paisley bandana or neckerchief (Cary Grant liked to wear these under his collars). If you’re lucky, you may have a Ralph Lauren paisley pocket silk for your breast pocket.  Stylish introverts could opt for a pair of low-key paisley socks, and daring darlings may rock paisley Ted Baker shirts or a cool sports jacket with a chic paisley lining.

Paisley isn’t just for clothing. The high-end Italian design house, Etro, likes to incorporate paisley into its collections, and offers paisley luggage, day books, wallets, and manbags in their iconic paisley “comprised of red, turquoise, yellow, olive green and ivory adapted and evolved to become the signature pattern for the brand: an instantly recognisable style which became inevitably synonymous with the luxury world of Etro,” their website says.

If wearing paisley is luxurious, it is also refined. New York image consultant, John Molloy, said paisley ties signify good breeding and education. Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man says, “Of all the loud neckties, [Molloy] deemed paisley as the only permissible one because it was the “fun tie” of the upper middle classes.”

I implore you to pull out your whimsical paisley and wear it with confidence; it is so beautiful and varied in pattern, colour, and scale, that everyone will be able to find the right paisley print for them. It is a pattern that speaks of human history, elegance, and refinement; it is a delightful and permanently stylish pattern, and an excellent investment for any gentleman’s image.

 

What would Cary Grant wear?

24 Feb

One of the questions I pose to new image clients is “who’s style do you admire?” A great percentage of my clients identify silver screen Hollywood actor, Cary Grant, as their style icon.

Cary Grant inspires modern-day fellas because he was tall, dark, handsome; he wore beautifully stylish clothes punctuated by the best accessories, from sunglasses to pocket hankies. Cary Grant never wore anything outlandish or poorly fit; he seemed fabulously low-key in his dashing dress that complimented his witty and gentlemanly demeanor.

Cary Grant was an old school gent who held the door for ladies, kept his shoes polished, and I’m sure charmed the pants off of  everyone he met – men wanted to be him, Cary married five women and shacked up with a sixth for 4 years, and as a young man in Hollywood, got cozy with fellow actor, Randolph Scott. He had that charm, that charisma that drew people to him.

Through the wonder of social media, I have come across a great true story by writer / producer, Tyler St. Mark who describes the sartorial impact that followed a Cary Grant sighting in a Beverly Hills restaurant:

I used to attend a monthly breakfast at a trendy (and expensive) restaurant in Beverly Hills. Each month I would meet with a group of young P. R. execs at a Sunday brunch. This was during the era when “dressing down” became popular and I was disconcerted to see my colleagues dressing more and more casually.

One particular Sunday, I observed the entire restaurant suddenly go silent and all eyes were directed to the entrance. There, at the top of the stairs was a handsome older man with white hair, wearing an impeccably tailored gray suit with a white dress shirt and pale blue sweater under it. He was obviously over-dressed but the smart ensemble complimented his tan face. Clearly the guy was a “class act” and vaguely familiar.

The entire restaurant followed the man and as he passed our table, he smiled politely and acknowledged our group. We all seemed to recognize him at the same time and rose to our feet almost at the same time as we scrambled to meet him and shake his hand.

The man was, in fact, Cary Grant.

After he left, we all seem to bask in his “afterglow,” but one young upstart in our group remarked, “Can you believe he was wearing a SUIT?” We all looked at this jerk who was dressed in a simple sport shirt and shorts. “Yes,” our equally casual host replied, “and we WEREN’T!” I smiled as it was exactly what we were all thinking.

The next Sunday, almost  every one of us was wearing slacks and a sport jacket and from then on, whenever I attended any special event, I would always think to myself, “What would Cary Grant wear?”

And so gents, through this tale I want you to remember a couple of things: it’s better to be overdressed than under dressed, and next time you’re standing there staring into your closet, ask Tyler’s question and take Cary’s cue.


The new royalty

10 Nov

The Canadian Press contacted me to do a piece on holiday wear for men this week, and the reporter mentioned something about pulling archive photos of people like Brad Pitt if I wanted to talk about a celebrity style. She needn’t go to the trouble of looking for visuals because I don’t encourage anyone to swipe another person’s mode of dress – to me, that’s like stealing someone’s identity. Why would we want to look like someone we’re not? We are our own people with  our own style, our own speed, and we are not Brad Pitt.

This got me thinking.

Why aren’t there more Brad Pitt types in the world? Why aren’t there more men confident enough to know themselves and laugh at themselves and illustrate themselves through their dress? Are we that uninteresting? Are we collectively afraid to do our own thing?

Throughout history, humans have followed the sartorial cues of influential people in positions of power.  Up until the recent past,  it was royalty that set the tone of dress to court and then on down to the common people. Kings were incredibly influential this way. To illustrate just how dominant royal men have been on society, I offer the following examples:

1.  Footwear during the Tudor period was soft, wide, and square. Some historians attribute the slashed, square-toed shoes of this era to Henry VIII who is said to have suffered from gout, a very painful arthritic-type of joint inflammation most often affecting the joint of the large toe.

A nice, soft, wide shoe would nicely accommodate this affliction,  often brought on by alcohol – wine, beer, and mead were the wet for the Tudor whistle, and high fat and cholesterol levels in the blood.  I have read that Henry may have been a binge-eater, taking much fatty red meat as a mechanism to cope with stress – his waist was 54″!

2. When Louis XIII of France went prematurely bald around 1624, the men’s wig was born. Louis’ choice of neat and wavy scalp covering swept across Europe and the fashion carried on into his son’s reign, when wigs rose in height and cascaded luxuriously over the shoulders.

The (extremely high maintenance) wig became a staple amongst courtiers and professionals, and the size of wig carried social meaning (“big wig”). Wigs even became part of military uniforms.

Wigs got longer, fuller, and astoundingly high; they changed to white and were powdered, then shortened to a simpler bob which morphed into tightly curled wigs. Wigs for men remained popular in Europe until the 1790s but were for various reasons abandoned however, British judges and barristers continue the tradition of wearing (strange-looking curled and tailed) wigs in court.

So we’ve got a fat guy with gout and a young bald man influencing the way men have dressed across the ages.

We’re well into the 21st century and royalty doesn’t really have the same pull that it once did, so what’s going on now? Who are the style leaders and who do men look to for cues? Entertainers.

Actors, musicians, and popular politicians have replaced royalty when it comes to setting trends. I ask my clients whose style they admire and often I hear James Bond, Cary Grant, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. What is it about these guys that other men like so much?

Classy Simplicity

This group wears well-fitting and quietly cool clothes; clothes that aren’t stamped with logos and labels that shout out for attention, and busy, flashy accessories. Take Brad Pitt, he’s got his own cool style with a hint of cheekiness worked in through hats, scarves, sunglasses, and haircuts, giving him an interesting and fitting look even when he’s in jeans and a t-shirt.

It seems to me that Brad Pitt knows himself well enough to feel comfortable expressing himself and his sense of humour through his accessories; I like that he punctuates his simple, low-key wardrobe with cool pieces – not every man can pull off a knitted tam worn Rasta style with a long Van Dyke beard.

I’m always encouraging men to play with their clothes and the way they put themselves together. It’s important to find the right pieces that suit the individual in the right colour and the right proportion, even the right texture; something that suits the guy’s personality, things that they feel comfortable in, not what they think Brad Pitt would wear, for they are not Brad Pitt.