It is hard to be a gentleman on a budget, I should know. My nonprofit/creative writing/teaching careers isn’t exactly culminating in a villa in Nice or even a ski trip to Aspen, a fact I have had to reconcile in my Saturn Return. But enough about me. This is about you and how you don’t need to be Old Money or top heavy with a trust fund to look like a million bucks.
Exhibit A: the silk scarf. You need this in your life. My very stylish gentleman friend, Chad Lawson, would often somehow wear these with white deep v-necks and blazers and it looked fantastic. Also, you can wear it instead of a tie or with a tux. You don’t have to buy Italian, though. Check out this beauty:
Exhibit B: Luggage! I didn’t really get about Louis Vuitton until I was home in Pittsburgh this summer. We toured the Frick Art & Historical Center, a beautiful estate and relic of Pittsburgh’s Industrial Age. The Fricks were the toast of the town in the late 19th century–Mr. Frick was a steel baron and art collector and in his bedroom I was surprised to find a Louis Vuitton trunk (monogrammed of course) that looked exactly like a very large, hard-sided version of this:
Talk about a classic! But I digress. Presuming that you, like me, don’t currently have $1250 to burn, think about this sleek alternative by Topman:
Yours for a totally reasonable $160. Imagine it: you are in white linen pants, Top-Siders, a blazer and sunglasses, boarding a plane to the Italian countryside with all your thing packed neatly away in this bag. Also imagine that everyone else is well dressed and that you all look beautiful as you sip your martinis!
Okay, I’m back. Every gentleman should have a watch that works with a suit. I love this one by Nixon:
There are several inventive color combinations, they will work with jeans or formalwear, and the whole shebang will only set you back $130.
If you read this blog regularly, then you know that Barney’s is a place of particular heartbreak for me. I love to go and stare forlornly at the racks of Junya Watanabe/Comme de Garcons. I also find the whole process oddly relaxing which probably makes me a masochist but whatever.
I am forlorn because I cannot afford these magical clothes that are beautiful and just my size. But when I feel sad I remember that Barney’s has an awesome collection for us gentlemen of lesser means which they’ve labelled, suavely, “Co-op.” I like to peruse the accessories when I’m having a hard day.
Since I am obsessed with necklaces I will point out this beautiful piece by Bing Bang by Anne Sheffield, available through Barney’s.
I guess it’s a matter of perspective, but $175 seems totally reasonable to me. I would pay that much for a work of art, which this basically is. And it’s wearable!
What is a gentleman? According to Wikipedia, the middling expert on everything and nothing, “gentleman” used to be a term that was only applied to “…a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work.” Wikipedia goes on to note that the term now indicates “any man of good, courteous conduct.”
Of course, in my constant gender rebellion, I would argue that the definition be widened to include any person (of masculine identification, I suppose) who values civility, truth, ethics, culture and aesthetics. And of course, gentlewoman (the lady counterpart) are a well documented modern movement, as demonstrated by this magazine and my wife (she hates when I call her that but “domestic partner” doesn’t have the ring to it I’m looking for here).
Point it, being gentle-anything isn’t specifically about gender (so over it) and definitely isn’t about money. In an age of crassness and consumption, it’s about treating oneself and others with respect, cultivating a discriminating eye towards material things and striving for a personal best. Gentlemen–self-made and otherwise–I salute you!