Tag Archives: respect

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.

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!

Resolve to have a better image in 2013

27 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions, make 2013 the year you take five simple steps to improve your image and make a better impression in the world.

1. Keep your shoes and boots clean and polished.2013 shoes It’s a cliche by now, but I say the same still rings true – in the old days, a man’s character was associated with how well he kept his shoes, and there is no reason to think differently now.  Freshly-polished footwear is the sign of a man who takes pride in himself, and people notice.

Shoes are the base of our daily wardrobe, and if they’re dirty, scuffed, and/or in need of repair, your footwear will negate any effort you’ve taken to dress well. On the other hand, wearing magnificently cared-for footwear can actually excuse an otherwise sloppy wardrobe – shoes are powerful!

2. Keep your hands clean. hand illustrationWe meet a lot of people and we shake a lot of hands, and keeping yours clean, like wearing well-kept shoes, sends a positive message about your self esteem and your respect for others. Clean hands also reduce the spread of germs, important  especially in winter – so respect your health and the health of others and wash often!

Unfortunately, washing germs away will dry out your hands, making skin tight and uncomfortable (to the point of cracking, for some of you). The way around this is to apply moisturizer. I hear your complaints already, but  moisturizing your skin is no different than using oil to keep your baseball glove supple. To avoid the discomfort of dry hands, gents, try to apply at least once a day, preferably after your morning shower.

3. Keep scent to a minimum. cologneKeep the smell volume down low, because you may be the only one enjoying the fragrant symphony hanging around you.

Remember that most, if not all of your grooming products, from shampoo to shaving cream, are scented. If you wear aftershave or cologne, this is another fragrance on top of these scents, which  gets to be overpowering quickly.

To make things worse, I just read an article about the fragrance industry using human and animal feces in their products – yuck!

4. Wear well-fitting clothing.  When dressing for business or casual, if you’re not paying attention to the fit of your clothes, you’re doing yourself a 2013 fitdisservice. It doesn’t matter how big or small a man is, ill-fitting clothes visually change your body shape.

Wearing too-small clothing makes bodies bulge and pushes us out of proportion. Too-big clothing (left) gives visual obesity while making us look insignificant as we swim in excess fabric. A correct fit (right) accentuates the positive and makes us more confident. Wearing well-fit clothing feels great!

5. Stand straighter. Want to lose a visual 5 pounds and feel more confident? Inhale, straighten your spine, lift your eyes, and square your shoulders.

People often don’t pay attention to the way they stand, but posture speaks loudly; it can diminish us in the eyes of others or boost our presence and mood. People notice confident people, and confident people stand straight.

I encourage you to watch this 20-minute TED talk with social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, who explains body language and how to turn up your testosterone and your confidence by assuming 2-minute “power positions”:

Without spending extra money, you can sharpen your image by following these simple steps, making for a more confident and memorable 2013. Happy New Year!

Note – In the Key of He is taking January off – see you in February!

Unconscious behavior: using iPods

26 Jan

I’ve written a couple of times about unconscious behaviour – actions done without thinking, especially without thinking about how our actions will affect other people – and I’d like to offer a tip for those who use iPods or other portable music systems.

Be aware - ear buds easily leak sound.

If you’re like me and you take public transit, you’ll know how irritating it can be when someone nearby is listening to music at a high volume through headphones that leak sound (ear buds, especially). An example to illustrate: one time not long ago, I was riding a bus. A guy sat down beside me wearing old-style over-the-head headphones with speakers that sat outside his ears, BLARING what sounded like 80s metal. I asked him to please turn down the volume. Instead of turning it down, he got up, moved to a seat a couple of rows behind me and turned it up, an action equivalent to giving me the finger, I figured. (As you may guess, I did not take too kindly to that.)

Honestly, I like loud music as much as the next person (really, it’s true)  but I’m very aware of how the sound escaping from my ear buds can irritate people around me. Because I’m aware of this, I turn down the volume when I’m in closed public spaces so that I don’t annoy anyone who might be trying to concentrate on a book or a newspaper, or someone just chilling in the quiet.

If this means anything to you, and I hope it does, here is a trick that I devised to check how loud my headphones are to other people:

Keeping the volume at the same level it would be if you were outside, take the headphones out and hold the little speakers in your fists (don’t squeeze too tight – we’re only trying to emulate buds that sit in your ears). Hold your arms out away from you – this is what everyone around you can hear. How loud is it? What do you think of this idea?

Remember that the music you’re playing on your portable device is for you and only you, so please do us all a favour and turn down the volume while you’re in an enclosed public space, then when you’re back outside, turn it back up and keep on grooving – an easy action that makes the world a better place for us all – thank you!