The mark of a gentleman is not how he sees himself, but how he’s seen by others. It starts, of course, with manners. With hearty handshakes, warm salutations, and the proper use of “please” and “thank you.” He is a man with the ability to set company at ease, to make them feel content, and welcome. The gentleman is, at his very core, the way it feels to walk through a door held open.
Then there are the trappings. Polished shoes, tweed jackets with elbow patches, wool sweaters worn on weekends; idyllic aesthetics from decades past to match the broadsheet newspaper he reads with tea on Sunday mornings. Walls of the best history, art and photography books, ready to be consumed with an evening spot of whiskey and the sound of talk radio warming up a room, filling every corner—all attributes of the gentleman.
It’s not enough for a man to act and look like a gentleman, he must also sound like one. Intelligent conversation is the primer for all other things, our own natural selection. Young men learn to tie neckties in preparation for work and social calls, but discourse is their real measure. A well-spoken, thoughtful man who also listens is a hit in all situations.
Clever and astute, always, but a bore, absolutely never. Picture him offering his guests a drink, and then turning his attention to the selection of a record. Something jazz or maybe rock-n-roll; picked for the crowd as well as his own enjoyment. The sound of vinyl bounces off the walls, warm and all-knowing. When his arm reaches out, you always say yes, because he is the best to dance with.
In the stillness of the afternoon, he might offer you a blanket. Blue, green, yellow, and red stripes to wrap you up in; the blanket will appear at the first itch of a shiver out of a vintage olive trunk—exactly when you want it. In that trunk, you figure, is every necessity and comfort. That’s the romance of a gentleman. In his arsenal is a pocket square for each fallen tear, and the answer to every question.
A true gentleman finds comfort in both the city and the country. He knows which exit to take out of town, which road will lead to vast, open beauty. Once there, he’ll chop wood and start a fire. He knows how to cook and when dinner is ready he’ll help set the table. If asked, once evening falls, he’ll point out all the constellations.
In the study of a gentleman, you’re likely to find a typewriter as well as a computer. He knows the computer is an absolute necessity, but loves the mechanic sound of the keys and watching ink hit the paper. Doubly true is his satisfaction in a type-written thank you note, which he’ll send promptly after receiving a gift or attending a social gathering.
The thank you note itself is, of course, another mark of a gentleman. It’s the final detail, a crowning nod to his manners. And when you open it you’ll know he thought of you. No other feeling could be better.
Russ Martin is a writer living in Toronto.
Jaclyn Locke is a photographer living in Toronto.