Tag Archives: James Bond

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.

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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.