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 Are gentlemen a dying breed?

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Jimbob_Rebel

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PostSubject: Are gentlemen a dying breed?   Fri May 23, 2008 10:24 am

May 20, 2008

Are gentlemen a dying breed?
Paragons of good manners, dignity and charm are increasingly rare in 21st-century Britain

William Drew

When my grandfather died last year at the age of 94 our family was struck by the number and nature of letters, cards and calls we received from people we didn't really know. It wasn't that he had led a secret double life - it was simply that during the many years he lived in rural Oxfordshire he developed numerous casual acquaintances, and a fair proportion of these shop assistants, neighbours, tradesmen, restaurateurs and the like felt compelled to contact us. Their messages of condolence came accompanied with variations on a consistent theme: “What a gentleman!”; “Always so unfailingly polite and interested”; “Such a lovely, gentle man”; “A true gent!” I relate this not to be mawkish, proud though I am to come from such stock, but in an attempt to raise two points. First, the act of being a gentleman transcends conventionality and surely goes some way beyond basic good manners. My grandfather was not only impeccably polite, he was genuinely interested in others, whatever their place in society, and frequently made people feel quite special through his attention.

The second issue is whether the gentleman in 21st-century Britain is a dying breed, literally and figuratively. If so, is that because the very notion is anachronistic, a product of a bygone age that has no great relevance in today's society? As a counterpoint to rumours of the death of the gent, Dunhill, the men's outfitter, has commissioned a report that aims to identify and define the new British gentleman (NBG). It gathers an eclectic bunch of successful types, including the chef Fergus Henderson, the magazine publisher Nicholas Coleridge, the fashion stylist Charlotte Stockdale and Ben Elliot, the co-founder of Quintessentially, a 24-hour concierge service, and asks them to pin down how this NBG behaves, what he wears and how he lives.

“Being a true gentleman means being gallant and generous. One can be gentle but remain firm, determined and retain a great sense of humour,” says Dunhill's director of brand imagery, Yann Debelle de Montby. The report concludes that some fundamental qualities remain at the core: good manners, charm and dignity. It also suggests that the NBG conducts himself in an accomplished but modest manner and that “stealth wealth and less conspicuous consumption are the order of the day”.

Old-fashioned good manners - holding open doors, standing up when someone enters the room, asking questions of others rather than talking about yourself, ensuring that you compliment your host generously and so on - are an entry point for respectful behaviour. But it's more about your overall manner towards others: how one conducts oneself not only socially, but also in business, in relationships and in public.

As described, the NBG may have unimpeachable credentials, but whether they are prevalent and even encouraged in the real world is more open to question. Take the political arena, for example. While politics has at times been considered a noble pursuit - a duty, even - that idea has long been superseded by moral flexibility, naked ambition, manipulation and the pursuit of power. Being a gentleman in politics will get you nowhere bar a long career warming the backbenches.

Privilege and private education do not automatically confer gentlemanly status. The revival of “posh” in politics - Eton, Oxford and Bullingdon Club buddies David Cameron and Boris Johnson are now the two most powerful figures outside the beleaguered Government - shows no signs of bringing with it a return to integrity, dignity and scrupulous behaviour. Given the Tory leader's “flexible” approach to policy and the Mayor of London's dubious dalliances and noted lack of diplomacy, one could argue quite the opposite.

Traditional class distinctions, increasingly blurred and confused as they are in contemporary Britain, now carry little weight in dictating an individual's approach. In a social context, some posh “chaps” who appear to be the ultimate gentlemen can be the most dismissive, arrogant and shallow of all, more concerned with upbringing and appearances than substance and true character.

Equally, wannabe gentlemen from more ordinary backgrounds who adopt the overt trappings of the old world - the smart suits, the cigars, the clubs - can simply be dressing up in the appropriate costumes and putting on a performance. It's not that acquiring a taste for these things is wrong, only that it must be backed by deeper values of integrity, discretion and enough innate confidence not to have to shout about it.

“It is ungentlemanly to even refer to oneself as one [a gentleman],” says Fergus Henderson, the chef-patron at St John in Spitalfields, London. “It is the sort of thing that should remain unspoken.” Many people still respond to well-spoken vowels and certain old-world manners as if it reflects inner qualities, thereby allowing the owner to get away with more (Johnson's recent election perhaps being the manifestation of that on a grand scale). It's also evident in commentators' attitude to Raef Bjayou, the coiffured dandy from the current series of The Apprentice. On the basis of one brief intervention in defence of a bullied female colleague, a rarefied air and upright bearing, he is being hailed as something of a posh pin-up and potential series winner.

But in my eyes Raef is a parody of a gentleman - a concoction of pocket-handkerchiefs and elocution that will crack under serious scrutiny. Perhaps I'm wrong and he'll prove the real deal. But if so, I doubt that he'll make it much farther in the competition, because the format is structured to discourage self-effacement, mutual respect, honesty and teamwork. It's fundamentally ungentlemanly. As Coleridge points out: “Nothing is more unattractive than one person grabbing all the kudos.” For sure, The Apprentice is designed primarily to entertain (a job it does brilliantly). But if it reflects the real business world at all, it reinforces the notion that respectful, dignified behaviour is losing out to cut-throat capitalism.

Trevor Pickett, the owner of the eponymous luxury leather goods brand Pickett, aims to do business “the right way”, but fears that he's in a minority. “The idea of being a gentleman in business is definitely dying out,” he says. “But when your back's against the wall in any industry you fall back on the relationships that you have built with people. You can't do that if you've just screwed them on price, for example. That's just not the way we do things.”

The NBG no longer has to dress in a prescribed uniform - the codes that used to help to define “one of us” are less formal and less formalised than in previous incarnations. Similarly, the private members' clubs to which this male elite might belong have changed from The Garrick and White's, with their deep armchairs and fine claret, to the networking hubs and spasof Cowley Manor and Soho House New York, as well, perhaps, as the new Homes of Alfred Dunhill establishments.

“Being a gentleman is an understated and very English quality that is not as prevalent as it used to be or should be,” says Patrick Grant, the 36-year-old director of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons and a definitive modern gentleman himself. With its bespoke-only service and suits costing from £3,000 upwards, Norton & Sons attracts a high-achieving and discerning clientele. But are they true gents?

“Very much so,” he says. “There are a few ‘barkers', as we call them - people who snap instructions at you. But 95 per cent of our clients are genuinely charming and astonishingly well-mannered gentlemen. They are not necessarily all from upper-class backgrounds, but they are all successful - and they're the sort of people who take the time and trouble to thank you for your time and trouble. That sort of approach counts for a lot in my book.” So there is hope yet that the gentleman may survive, and even thrive. But he's not as easy to spot as he once was, because outward signs are no longer such a reliable indicator.

However, the next generation of widely respected gentlemen in Britain is likely to combine conventional success with 21st-century concerns such as hands-on parenthood, ecology, community work and social reform - whether on a local or global scale. As David de Rothschild, the 29-year-old ecology campaigner and adventurer, says: “Respect for each other goes hand in hand with respect for the planet we have inherited.” He and his peer group can finally move beyond the Thatcherite admiration for ruthlessness in business and elbows-out upward social mobility. They may also come to reclaim the notion of “respect” from its bastardised street use, where it is so frequently used as a tool for aggression.

“How as a society we have got to a point where it's OK to be surly and rude, I don't know,” says Grant. “But I think people are now questioning general behaviour towards each other, so there's a chance that good behaviour - being a gentleman, if you like - will make a comeback.” And so say all of us ...

How to be a (modern) gentleman
1. Some things don't change: say please and thank you and ask questions about other people rather than talk about yourself.
2. Be punctual. Tardiness does not make you look important, it turns you into an arrogant incompetent who thinks that his time is more important than other people's.
3. The modern gentleman cares about the planet. Be environmentally aware (but not obnoxious about it).
4. Open doors for people and stand up when they enter a room, but do this for men as well as women. The modern gentleman doesn't treat women like porcelain.
5. Be modest. Bragging is distinctly ungentlemanly.
6. Be a good father. Nothing is less charming than a man who leaves childcare to women.
7. Be honest about wherever you have come from in life. Pretension is spineless.
8. Flirt - with everyone. Good flirting is a form of politeness. Pay compliments and put your companion at ease.
9. Do not phone/text/check your BlackBerry incessantly.
10. Dress tidily. Whatever style you are going for, scruffiness just isn't in.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/men/article3962419.ece
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Jimbob_Rebel

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PostSubject: usefull here as well.........   Fri May 23, 2008 10:30 am

the above article was written for a different people and a different culture, but we're not so very different that we could not benefit from more of the behavior described. To me, being a gentleman is all about how one conducts oneself and treats others, it has nothing to do with one's economic status..............yes, a pauper can be a gentleman.

Personnaly, I'm a bit more traditional than the writer of the above article. Certain courtesies which are extented to women would seem out of place if offered to men as well, though the author seems to be writing from the perspective that sex is a social construct instead of what it is.

In any event, good manners, and courtesy, perhaps a certain amount of sympathy for others costs nothing or very little and yet makes the world a nicer place for everyone. Very Happy
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easyrider

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PostSubject: Re: Are gentlemen a dying breed?   Fri May 23, 2008 2:57 pm

I agree jimbob...and I'll try to do better...good post.
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madcow

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PostSubject: Re: Are gentlemen a dying breed?   Sun May 25, 2008 2:14 pm

What has change is how men are looked at, Tv depicts the man as being stupid and weak. Just watch Married With Children. I believe men should be the head of the house, and always alert to what our government is doing. So he can protect this family. I’m not into the women’s lib issue, this was done to destroy the family. For a family to survive, and grow, the man needs to make sure as the head to see his family is protected and feed, seems old fashion perhaps but that is how nature intended it to be. Women now seem to run the family, only because men have lost their respect. It’s easy to control a broke family than it is a strong family unit with a man in charge and a women to see that the family household is taken well care of. Women’s lib had nothing to do with equal pay, it was done to break down the man and his role in the family. Women because of there great strengths, have taken over the role of head of house. One way that men have been devalued like the dollar is by keeping child support so high that he can not survive on a pay check that has been designed to give 3/4 of it in child support. Making him unable to support himself and perhaps a new family if he remarries. Again all designed to make men unable to reign as head of house hold. We now have broke families, a broke country and a broke government. Just what was women gain from the women’s lib movement? They have gain the right to work as men, get paid as men and lost the ability to stay home with their children. And our children are the ones paying the price, they come home from school to empty homes. My ideas are old just like the gray hair on my head, but sometimes with age comes wisdom. Or perhaps others might say about this rant, old out of date and just plain stupid. And perhaps they may be right, I might be too old to know just what is right and what is wrong in today’s world.
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Jimbob_Rebel

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PostSubject: Well said...........   Sun May 25, 2008 10:43 pm

I've got to agree with what you've written Madcow. I'll add that the state has done it's damnedest with no-fault divorce laws and all the monetary support laws which enable a woman to divorce her husband but stay married to his paycheck, to undermine marriage as a social institution and replace fathers with the state.
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madcow

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PostSubject: Re: Are gentlemen a dying breed?   Wed May 28, 2008 5:28 pm

replace fathers with the state

Good post, the government nanny state is taking control of our children and their minds. They want to be the head of each house, and we are letting this happen.
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Jimbob_Rebel

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PostSubject: family......   Thu May 29, 2008 11:01 am

the family is the smallest unit of govt.. Each divorce is the equivalent of a coup de etat.
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