Tag Archives: gentlemen

The life of the gentleman

10 Dec

The Perfect GentlemanThis is the third and final installment of the gentleman series, starring Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and
1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, a UK outfit that teaches men to be gentlemen,  one man at a time.

In the first article of the series, we discussed the things that drive men to want to become gentlemen: to dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, and make more money. The second piece focused on women and romance and found that women respond very well to true gentlemen. Knowing that manners, kindness, politeness, and grace are central to the gentleman, and understanding that largely, the world lacks this type of man, I asked Zach some questions about what it’s like to operate in the world as a gentleman – the topic of this final piece.

I know that well-dressed people – not just men – have a much different experience in life than those who do not pay attention to their clothing. For example, there was a time when people used to dress up to travel. If any of you readers have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that very few people dress to travel anymore and airline line-ups are made up of extremely casual, almost pajama-clad travellers. But what would happen if a flier chose to dress up for his next trip? I remember my Irish grandfather insisted on dressing in a suit every time he flew back to Dublin, and a man I used to know told me that on a trip to Europe, he put on a suit, tie, and pocket square, and was chosen to upgrade to first class.

This should not come as a surprise. In this Daily Mail article about how to be the lucky flier who is chosen to upgrade, the way to success is through your dress: “Airlines want first and business class to look a league above, so make sure you do too… tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.”

Gentlemen, as a rule, should do better in life. Zacchary cites other perks besides upgrades for true gents: free meals, compliments, and positive comments “all the time”, never mind the attention from women and the respect that comes with gentlemanly ways. Let’s see how else a gent fares in life as Zach answers my last round of interview questions:

LM: Are gentlemen timeless?

ZFB: Yes, absolutely. The core principles of the gentleman are respect, chivalry, and gentility. There is a 1000 year history of the English gentlemen, and a 4000 year history of Chinese gentlemen – the warrior poet, the philosopher warrior.

LM: Is a gentleman taken more seriously?

ZFB: Yes and no. In business and romance, yes, but not for guys who feel threatened by it. Some men have a fear of being less than, and they get defensive around gentlemen.

LM: How do gentlemen make the world a better place?

ZFB: If everyone treated the world, others, and themselves with respect, by golly, the world would be a better place! Part of being a gentleman is about being selfless. People should think about their actions and the repercussions that follow.

LM: Are politicians gentlemen?

ZFB: In the modern political world, it’s very difficult to be a gentleman. A politician has to do so many ungentlemanly things – there is no reason that politicians need to insult each other, there is a high level of selfishness, and they are not as authentic as they should be – there are so many factors that would not make them a gentleman. Modern politicians aren’t gentlemen because the politics of politics and the business of politics is not gentlemanly. If it was, they’d actually think about things. No politician has ever made our gentleman of the year.

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

*Happy holidays to all – writing resumes in January!

Gentlemen, women, and romance

26 Nov

how ladies feel about gentlemenWelcome to part two of my interview 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.

Zach and I talked about many things during our Skype interviews, including romance in the world of the gentleman. Perhaps this comes as shock to some of you because romance seems to be something sadly missing from our modern world – Tinder, digital pornography, and internet dating/hook-ups have taken care of that. At least in North America, we don’t make time for romance anymore, but we can pencil in a quick booty call which may momentarily satisfy our needs, but I think will ultimately leave us feeling empty and emotionally frustrated.

The term “romance” may seem old-fashioned to the modern reader, but it is romance that will win our hearts. In fact, The Perfect Gentleman insists that men learn how to romance a woman, to woo her, court her, prove his worth through respect, affection, attention, and mutual enchantment.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.

-Oscar Wilde

I told/whined to Zach that there are not enough gentlemen in the world and wished there were more.   I asked him if women worldwide ask for gentlemen. “So far, yes!” he said, “I have yet to meet a lady anywhere in the world who does not desire a gentleman.”

The following short video provides a glimpse into women`s desires to have more gentlemen in the world:

Interview

Please enjoy the following interview about gentlemen, women, romance, and sex with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

LM: What do gentlemen look for in women?

ZFB: Everyone has different parameters, but most guys, if they’re honest with themselves, are attracted to who they’re naturally attracted to. Look within. Romance is about shared connection. A gentleman should build her self-respect. A gentleman should be able to help the woman he’s interested in.

LM: Does a gentleman understand women better?

ZFB: He should. Fundamentally, a gentleman should be a lover – gentle, kind, courteous, and a fighter in the sense of being a protector, but not an aggressor.

LM: Is there such a thing as a gentlewoman?

ZFB: We call them “ladies”, and ladies abide by the same key principles as gentlemen – respect for themselves, others, the world. Women tend to think more about how they present themselves to the world and there are more resources for them, also, their support structure is different: inclusive, conversational, and supportive. There are more ladies than there are gentlemen in the world because of this.

LM: Do you think gentlemen have more luck with women?

ZFB: Yes.

LM: What about sex?

ZFB: Ha! Between two consenting adults, the gentleman stops at the bedroom door.

The next article in our gentleman’s series will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards the world at large and how he fits into it.

Read part one of my interview with Zach and becoming the perfect gentleman. Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

The Sting, among other things

6 Feb

I was lucky enough to see Susan Claassen’s wonderful A Conversation with Edith Head in Toronto last month. Ms Claassen’s 90-minute near-monologue was impressive, as was learning of Ms Head’s costume design work on over 1100 films. What really struck me, the men’s image consultant in love with men’s clothes, was that Edith Head, winner of seven other Oscars for dressing the most talented and glamorous actresses in Hollywood, named The Sting as her favourite costume work because she learned that she preferred dressing men to women (sounds familiar!). 

Oscar winning The Sting costume designs
Edith Head’s costume renderings for The Sting. Photo by Jason Hollywood. Used with permission.

Head was able to make her stars look flawless– “Accentuate the positive and camouflage the rest,” as she used to say. She had two men, the equivalent of today’s George Clooney and Brad Pitt to outfit in period costume, and I though I can’t imagine what would need camouflaging on Paul Newman or Robert Redford, Ms Head certainly accentuated the positive in these two actors.

Seen in the top rendering, Redford’s pinstriped suit nipped in at the waist compacts his torso and broadens his shoulders, boosting his masculine shape, and at right, note the photo of Paul Newman in the soft royal blue suit and dove grey hat playing up his brilliant blue eyes.

I watched The Sting last night and took note of the costumes which made me think of a quote from Savile Row tailor, Edward Sexton: “The man should wear the suit; the suit should never wear the man”. Similarly, Edith Head said, “My motto is that the audience should notice the actors, not the clothes.”

If you are part of the audience who didn’t notice the clothes, let me take you on a brief walk through the character, the costumes, and the celebration of the period, filled with timeless visual symbols and signs of gentlemanly demeanour.

The Sting

The time is 1936 in Joliet, Illinois. The first scene begins with a shot of a pair of fancy two-tone shoes walking past down-and-out men lying on the dusty sidewalk. The man in the shoes walks up the fire escape of a building into a busy gambling den– our first suggestion that despite the country’s Depression, there is money to be made and those who make it, dress fine.

The Sting

The man in the two-tone shoes is conned out of $11,000 by three men, one of whom is small-time con artist, Johnny Hooker (Redford), scruffy in his dust-coloured unmatched trousers and jacket, and tie-less shirt. The first costumes we see strike the contrast between small and big-time crooks.

The Set-Up

By the time Hooker meets up with Henry Gondorff (Newman) in Chicago to do the “Big Con” and swindle crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), out of half a million dollars, they’re getting their gang together to create a theatre of success and wealth in a fake betting club. Each new gang recruit is told to “go grab yourself a suit”. And so the set-up begins.

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

High-rollers wear shiny shoes and three-piece suits with loud, short, wide silk ties. Hooker, the young and eager up-and-coming con-man, needs grooming, and we watch his metamorphosis from small-time grifter to big-roller. Gondorff takes him to a barber shop for a shave, a haircut and a manicure, then to a tailor who fits a high-waisted navy pinstriped suit with peak lapels and matching waistcoat with a short colourful silk tie.  This silhouette, especially in pinstripes, elongates Redford’s legs and exaggerates his masculine V shape, giving him added visual appeal and at the same time, reflecting his character’s youth, its impatience, and its folly.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

We watch the rest of Gondorff’s gang transform into “men of wealth” with the addition of pocket hankies, spats, shiny two-tone shoes, tie pins, French cuffs and cuff links; starched collars, braces, walking sticks, and gloves to their already fancy suits and waistcoats.

“Not only do these men look more the part by dressing dapper, they’re more confident,” says Jonathan Hagey at Kingpin’s Hideaway, a men’s vintage shop in Toronto, “They carry themselves with more authority and create the illusion that they are well-to-do types.”

When Gondorff’s gang changes from small-time to big-time, it isn’t only their wardrobe that changes, but their behaviour as well. When Gondorff first meets Lonnegan at a poker game, he wants to fool Lonnegan into thinking he’s an inexperienced and foolish card player. He bursts in, smelling of gin, and says, “Sorry I’m late, I was taking a crap.” Lonnegan has little patience for the unrefined dress of the crass newcomer. “This is a gentleman’s game and a tie is required,” he says sternly.

Though the gang plays it as close to Lonnegan’s look as they can, not all the details are the same. Enter the costumer’s insinuation of character.

Charles Dierkop, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw.

Have a look at the above screen shot and notice the difference in lapel widths and shapes. During this period, lapels were high and often peaked. Redford, the “hero/hunk”, has rounded and upward pointing peaks on lapels in proportion to his body and suggestive of his young age but Shaw, the “villain” is always seen in wide, exaggerated lapels with straight, pointed peaks. In this shot, Shaw looks larger than the other two and particularly devilish with his sharp, massive lapels and waxed moustache.

The Aftermath

The Sting won seven of eleven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and of course, Best Costume Design, but this doesn’t come without some dispute. Edith Head is fabled to have been a little ruthless in her career path, not giving credit where credit was due. In fact, she was sued by the costume illustrator who said it was she who actually designed Newman and Redford’s costumes (source), but I can’t seem to find the outcome of that lawsuit, so I can’t say if it’s true. 

What I do know is that when Edith Head, the most celebrated costume designer in Hollywood history, accepted her Oscar for best costume design for The Sting, she flitted onto the stage in her signature dark glasses and short bangs, in a long white dress with a matching black-trimmed vest.

“Just imagine dressing the two handsomest men in the world, and then getting this!” she said, holding out her award. Her joy and pride in the project cannot be disputed; it is a wonderful film on every level, and tells the story of elegant and ageless gentlemen’s dress and behaviour.

For those of you stylish and confident enough to blend 1930s elegance into your wardrobe, here are more period goodies from Kingpin’s Hideaway:

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Grey double breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

Grey double-breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

In praise of older men

10 Oct

gregory_peck

This time last year, at the tender age of 43, I admitted to some friends that I kissed a 60-year-old man. My friends, still in their 40s, had interesting responses. One of them sneered at me, but the other was curious. “What was it like?” he asked. “It was fantastic,” I said.

The gent in question had flown into Toronto that day from the UK, to attend a posh business/cocktail party associated with his work that I happened to be at. We had a wonderful conversation, and before I knew it, we were the only guests remaining. After bidding the hosts adieu, we shared a taxi back into the city and had a couple of drinks at his hotel bar. Like many women, I fell under the spell of a man who excited my mind, and a man who wanted to hear what I had to say, and I wanted to show my appreciation.

I invited myself up to his room under the guise of wanting to see what they’d done to the building since renovating it into a hotel/residence. After looking at the view and talking about the action on the street below, I sat down beside him and asked if I could kiss him. It was innocent, respectful, exciting, unhurried. Most of all, it was a refreshing change.

My phone rang at 8:30 the next morning. With a thick head, I struggled out of bed to answer it. It was the gentleman calling me from his plane back to London as it waited on the tarmac. He wanted to make sure I got home okay and we chatted for a few minutes before he said goodbye. It was a romantic dream. I felt like the heroine in an old movie.

I’ve known a lot of men in my life, but I’ve seldom been treated so well. My gentleman carried a hankie and the manners of a bygone age, from a time where men and women treated each other with respect. Meeting this man made me think about the differences between seasoned older men and the urgent expectations of younger men; about maturity and experience vs physicality and insecurity. An older man’s politeness, consideration, and charm can be irresistible, and if he’s anything like my guy, it doesn’t hurt if he resembles Gregory Peck.

Survey says

I became fascinated with the idea of older men with younger women and wanted to know how other women felt, so I devised a survey and got the opinions of a handful of women who have had some kind of romantic tie to men at least 15 years their senior. Most women think their older fellas are fantastic, with the exception of one woman who complained of being more of a “nurse-maid” than a romantic partner. That’s a risk that a younger woman might take, I suppose, but overall, women who like older men love older men.

Women found their mature men respectful, polite, handsome, generous, intelligent, kind, affectionate, sensitive, and good conversationalists; the men were not considered pushy, demanding, or materialistic. The majority of women who took the survey found their older men confident, aware, and responsible, and all women recognized the differences between older and younger men.

One woman offered this: “Older men seem to understand that they have to be full participants in a relationship. I’ve also dated younger men (much younger) and found the relationships were hollow and shallow. Older men know who they are, what they want and where they’re going. They are less selfish and self-absorbed. They are also more caring sex partners. I put it all down to older men have more experience with women and therefore are more sensitive to our needs.”

The jaded nurse-maid was the only woman who would not recommend dating older men, and rightly so, but most women agreed that men get better as they age. As one woman said, “Older men have a lot more going for them than we often think.”

Andropause

When men reach their mid-30s and move into their 40s, they enter andropause, also known as man-o-pause, similar to women’s mid-life menopause where hormone levels change and people take on new behaviours. When testosterone levels begin to wane in men, many changes occur – vitality lessens, the sex drive and aggression decreases, and physical agility declines. This can be shocking for some men, but they have a choice to cruise into their golden years with grace.

The following short-term effects of andropause can include:

  • Decreased strength
  • Decreased endurance
  • Dermatological changes
  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased sexual performance
  • Dysphoria (restlessness)
  • Increased anxiety

Added to the effects of testosterone deficiency comes loss of muscle mass that, according to this Huffington Post article, includes higher fat levels as muscle converts to fat, and more fat means testosterone converts to estrogen. Increased estrogen can look like many things like a heavier frame and “man boobs”  (yes, even 007 has developed moobs – have a look at Roger Moore as a senior). Some of these changes may not be welcome, and depending on the man, could be thought of as a defeat, but an increase in estrogen is what makes men more sensitive and better listeners, and this is what the women in the survey found so appealing.

The style of the older gent

Researching for this post, I did a general search for “older men” and had to pick out the rare bits that were not focused on health issues like increased urination, risk of falls, or a preoccupation with the falling libido. I waded through scathing articles written by women about men growing meaner as they get older, terrible sex-crazed articles describing how thirtysomething “older” men should deal with the conniving, sex-obsessed, gold-digging twentysomethings. I was crestfallen to find few articles mentioning the allure of older gentlemen appealing to a woman’s sense of intelligence, and so too, anything about the style of an older gent.

For the Baby Boomers who bore the youthquake movement of the 1960s, their youthful ideals have in the end betrayed them, and we find ourselves in a youth-focused society where older people are almost entirely overlooked. It’s a shame – we miss out on how awesome they are. As a men’s image consultant, I am blessed to work with older men who want to reinvent themselves during the second part of their lives and become the men they’ve always wanted to be. 

We’ve been conditioned to think of aging as a sentence, as a terrible end to life, but it’s all about perspective. Take it from actor/model Gerry Hennessy who, at age 67, would rather talk about style than ill health:

“Surely personal style is one of the choices that define us as individuals,” he says, “It is the wrapping on the package that identifies you as a man who is interesting, interested, fearless and worth knowing. That is why abandoning your sense of style as you age makes as much sense as retiring at 65.

“If only older men took the time to explore and experience the sense of well-being that personal style brings to the life table, then perhaps we would have more things to discuss than the things ageing generally brings. It is a matter of finding inner peace through life’s style choices – I age, therefore I style.”

Further reading: In Praise of Older Men (Elle magazine)

The Myth of Older Men Wanting Younger Women (Huff Post)

Rent older men in Japan!