Revealed: How to be a modern gentleman

By Nick Curtis

Is Eddie Redmayne the epitome of a modern day gentleman? Photo / Getty
Is Eddie Redmayne the epitome of a modern day gentleman? Photo / Getty

At a difficult time for the modern gentleman, when the vulgarian seems to reign supreme, Country Life has confused things further. On Wednesday the magazine published its list of 21 candidates for Gentleman of the Year - the winner to be chosen in 2017 - and they are a very mixed bunch.

I've met Sir David Attenborough and can confirm his manners are impeccable but he doesn't fuss about etiquette. Could one say the same for Sir David Beckham or the model David Gandy?

Usefully, Country Life also tells its readers in the same issue how to spot a bounder - he has more than two phones, buys diamonds for his mistress and a Dyson for his wife, goes clubbing in his thirties, and so on. But since there is no corresponding advice on how to behave like a proper fellow in the modern world - we have undertaken to provide it here.

How does David Beckham score on the manners front? Photo / Getty
How does David Beckham score on the manners front? Photo / Getty


The most fraught area of debate around gentlemanly behaviour remains the matter of whether one should hold a door open for a woman would this be construed as sexist? The short answer is that you should certainly hold a door open for a woman, or a man, passing close behind you, especially if burdened by a handicap, heavy shopping, several children, and so forth.

What you shouldn't do is make an ostentatious show of it or cause someone several yards behind to scurry. A gentleman should always put people at ease.

Therefore, the days of holding a woman's chair for her are long gone (though it's acceptable to draw a small restaurant table away from her chair as she sits if you are dining a deux). Similarly, it is fine to accompany a manly handshake with an informal "hello", "hi" or "nice to meet you", rather than the traditional "how do you do?".

And it's OK to shake a woman's hand, or to kiss her on the cheek (once ideally, twice possibly, thrice never). But take her cue. Donald Trump may be president-elect, but grabbing her by the p**** is never going to tick the gentlemanly box.


If hosting a dinner or drinks party, do not baffle your guests with too much sophistication or choice. A cad may fill his decanters with plonk, but these days only a show-off would pour Pol Roger into a jug (while doubtless leaving the bottles visible somewhere). Sir David Tang believes the host should be served and start eating first, but he has staff: guests should be encouraged to start eating the moment their food arrives.

If you are a guest and a gentleman, do not take inferior wine to someone you know will serve better stuff, or chocolates or cheese to someone you know is on the 5:2 diet.

Thank-you letters are pleasant if you have been shown exceptional hospitality, but for friends one sees regularly an e-mail or text message is fine. A gentleman never signs off with a kiss, unless to a lover: if an informal tone is required, "Cheers" strikes the right note.


Noel Coward turned up in white tie to a party where everyone else was in shorts, and said: "Oh, how embarrassing... for all of you." Funny, but not gentlemanly. Again, a gentleman should stand out for his character, not his dress. If you are at a formal dinner, dress formally (I'm looking at you, Gordon Brown) and if an affair is going to be smart, an element of dandyism shows elan.

Otherwise, the following are now acceptable: shorts, shoes without socks, brown in town, sandals, cycling gear, those weird pedal-pusher trousers the fashionable young now sport, discreet or artful tattoos (see David Dimbleby), T-shirts (but never with slogans, even "ironic" ones), jeans, trainers, a suit and shirt without a tie and facial hair.

Not acceptable: socks with sandals, golf attire (even when playing golf), flip flops, full-sleeve tattoos (see David Beckham), man buns.


According to Harry Styles, a gentleman "never kiss and tells". Photo / Getty
According to Harry Styles, a gentleman "never kiss and tells". Photo / Getty

Lana Turner said that "a gentleman is simply a patient wolf", and if a man is interested in a woman he should politely let her know it, with compliments along the lines of "you look lovely" rather than "phwoar" or "get your coat, you've pulled".

Today, gentleman may use dating websites but not hookup apps such as Tinder. In the bedroom, a gentleman should always give as much as he gets, preferably more, if you know what I mean, but shouldn't indulge in displays of athleticism, contortionism. And as boyband singer Harry Styles said, "a gentleman never kisses and tells". He did not, however, make it on to Country Life's list. One is born a boy, and becomes a man, but becoming a gentleman requires not only a conscious choice but time and constant practice.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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