Here’s a timeless truism: women want to date gentlemen, and they have always wanted to date gentlemen. Tom Ford recently published 5 Easy Tips to Being a Modern Gentleman, but the steps to being a gentleman can be distilled to just one quality.
In 2011, being a gentleman no longer means wearing riding breeches and owning estates and writing love letters. It doesn’t even mean eloquently expressing “ardent admiration and esteem,” or burning with passion, or dedicated and elaborate wooing.
Being a gentleman has nothing to do with class, breeding or education, and even less to do with occupation, hobbies, or appearance.
In 2011, what makes a gentleman a gentleman is the manner with which he shows respect to those around him. That’s it.
This means responding and relating to family members, friends, co-workers, exes, waiters, vague acquaintances, janitors and bosses with, if not effusion, then cordiality. If a man is polite to his mother but short-fused with waiters, or devoted to his girlfriend but terrible to his mother, he isn’t a gentleman. A gentleman will not think twice about showing the same amount of basic respect to everyone with whom he interacts. It’s the only way to know he’d treat his girlfriend with the same amount of respect, even if the relationship went through a rough patch or soured.
A modern gentleman will work; it doesn’t matter what kind of job he has or whether he’s working by necessity or by choice. But consistent work in some capacity shows that he appreciates and values hard work, both in himself and in others. A relationship is hard work — how can you expect someone who has always been idle to succeed at one?
Finally, a modern gentleman, the guy that every woman wants to date, is the one who always puts his best foot forward, who applies himself in whatever he does, who puts the best version of himself out in the world. In a world marked with apathy, there’s a certain dignity in trying.
It doesn’t have to mean being a suave dresser but it does mean wearing his favorite t-shirt/sweater to meet her parents. It doesn’t have to mean being a business wunderkind but it does mean taking pride in whatever work he does do. It doesn’t have to mean surprise trips to Paris and flowers sent to her work every day, but it does mean actively wanting her to like him — even six months, six years, six decades in. Again, this boils down to respect — wanting to put your best self forward is a mark of respect for those around you.
Being a gentleman means respect and dignity for others — all the rest is just polish.
What do you think? What qualities today define a modern gentleman?
Editor’s note: Originally published in March 2011.