These days, when you board a plane, you are more likely to see someone wearing pajamas than a suit.
That isn’t to say we need to go back to the ways of the 1950s, but it does speak to the increasing trend toward casual wear and people putting little care into their public appearance, demeanor and habits. Long gone are the days when all men aspired to resemble the likes of Cary Grant, Robert Redford and James Baldwin.
Now, such efforts are reserved for the refined gentlemen among us, a dying breed that must now look to George Clooney, Idris Elba and Jon Hamm for inspiration.
Though the classic aura so common in old Hollywood may not always seem to be in fashion, really, the underlying demeanor, behavior and dress is always in style.
1. Dress Sharp
You don’t have to wear a three-piece suit and wingtips to demonstrate an air of sophistication. You can opt to wear blazers and dress shoes more often to achieve the desired gentlemanly look, but even just sweating the small stuff will make you stand out when everyone else is wearing t-shirts and sneakers. Naturally, button-down shirts and non-jean pants will work best, but an easy way to look sharp is simply by paying great attention to fit. It is quite amazing just how much you can change your silhouette with a bespoke shirt by ensuring there isn’t a bunch of loose fabric flapping about in the wind.
2. Be Neat
As in your dress, you should try to keep all areas of your life neat and tidy. Just like wearing a freshly ironed shirt shows the world you care about your appearance, keeping an organized living space tells everyone that you value your possessions and are not easily derailed by day-to-day stress. The classic man has a place for everything — whether in his home, car or suitcase — and has developed the proper habits to keep his affairs in order.
3. Enjoy Life’s Pleasures
There is a timeless, elegant quality to a man who can sit back and enjoy some of life’s greatest pleasures after a hard day of work. The image of the classic gentleman is often associated with Humphrey Bogart or Jimmy Stewart arriving home and relaxing with a Scotch and cigarette. These days, now that we know the dangers of smoking, the conscientious man can instead take pleasure in the rich flavor and simple joy of an e-cigarette. Unlike the unpleasant odor of the traditional option, e-cigs smell great and represent a classier alternative that fit seamlessly into any social situation or a romantic evening over dinner.
4. Enrich Your Mind and Body
A true gentleman is not all about work and play. There is a constant need to keep your mind active and engaged, something you must continue to work toward if you want to further develop as a man. This means reading, engaging in culture, learning new life skills and exercising. Such endeavors do not just help you grow, but will make you more interesting at cocktail parties, give you more confidence in relationships and empower you to be better at your job.
Being a Classic Gentleman
The world has changed so much over the past half-century. But just because being slobbish and unsophisticated is the new normal, it doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the peer pressure.
Traits like chivalry, accountability, reliability, punctuality and organization remain as admirable as they ever were. And the modern man should strive for all of this — while at the same time understanding when and how to relax. Stress is a killer, and the continual attention to detail that defines a gentleman must be equally balanced with time for pleasure and personal enrichment.
By staying well dressed, keeping all areas of your life tidy, relaxing regularly and continuing to pursue personal growth, you may still never become a leading man in Hollywood. But you can make a few targeted changes and quickly move further down the path to classic sophistication.