Ask the Gentleman – 2021

Etiquette & Style for the Modern Gent

The idea of being a gentleman may transcend time, but social rules are ever-changing – which is why we’ve asked The Gentleman to chime in and answer the tough stuff. Here’s his expert advice on everything from dress codes to cell phone etiquette.

A lot of work-related events at my new job have different “dress codes,” and I’m beginning to realize I don’t know what they actually mean. What should I wear for each type of event? 

There are more levels of dress code out there than people often realize, and trying to navigate them may feel overwhelming at first. Here’s a quick guide to reference the next time you receive an event invite. “Casual,” of course, is something we’re all familiar with: denim, sneakers, t-shirts, and hoodies. An elevated version of this is the ubiquitous “business casual,” which doesn’t require a suit, but usually means chinos or dark denim with button-downs, sweaters, and sometimes even a blazer on top. Moving up the ladder, “business formal” does require a suit, preferably in a dark color, accompanied by a tie and leather shoes. For evening events requesting “cocktail attire,” follow the guidelines for business formal, though feel free to add in pops of color or texture. For very formal events, “black tie” dress code is common and dictates that you wear a tuxedo with – you guessed it – a black bowtie. There is, of course, “white tie” dress code, which calls for a tuxedo with tails, a white waistcoat, and a white bowtie, but this option is rare and usually reserved for the most formal of weddings and galas.  

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My good friend has asked me to be his best man for his wedding – something I’ve never done. What exactly are my duties supposed to be leading up to his big day?

First off, congratulations to your friend. Second, it’s a good thing you asked – there are several duties that are expected of a best man leading up to the wedding, as well as the day of. As best man, you are the groom’s designated right-hand man. You’ll be in charge of corralling the groomsmen on the day of the wedding, as well as planning the groom’s bachelor party or weekend. You should also prepare to attend (and lend a hand at) the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. On the day of the wedding, you’ll be the one standing next to him at the altar for the ceremony, and you’ll also be in charge of the wedding rings until it’s time for the vows. After the ceremony, you may be expected to help manage transportation for the wedding party and ensure that the reception is running smoothly. Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to have your best man speech prepared for when you toast the happy couple.

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In today’s society, is a man still expected to remove his hat once indoors? 

Since hats aren’t quite the wardrobe staple today that they once were, it’s hard to know exactly when you ought to remove one as you go about your day. Hats used to be common outerwear that protected the head from the cold, sun, or dusty roads. Removing them once indoors was a sign of respect for the place you were entering, as you wouldn’t want to spread dust or rainwater once inside. Though the popularity of hats has shifted, removing them while indoors is still considered to be a sign of respect for establishments like restaurants, schools, churches, offices, or someone’s home. However, it’s fine to leave your hat on if you’re outdoors, at sporting events, or at informal gatherings where social rules are more relaxed. As always, be sure to remove your hat during prayer or the national anthem, regardless if you’re indoors or out. 

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Everyone always seems to have their cell phones on hand. Is it ever okay to have your phone out at the dinner table among company? 

I think we’ve all been on both sides of this situation at some point. Maybe you’re so accustomed to using your phone that it’s second nature for you to scroll while eating dinner, or maybe you’re the friend who feels neglected because the person you invited out for a meal is ignoring you in favor of their screen. And while manners are situational, ultimately, it’s best for you and others around you to keep your phone in your pocket at the dinner table. Putting your phone away during a meal allows for genuine face-to-face interaction, something that’s enriching for both your well-being and your relationships. The phone will be there after the meal is over – wait to check it until then. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you’re expecting an important call, it’s considerate to let the people you’re with know this beforehand, and to leave the room to answer the phone.

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Conversations with others have led me to realize I’m not as well-read as I’d like to be. How can I go about changing that?

Reading more widely and more often is always a worthy aspiration. However, being more “well-read” can mean a lot of different things. Do you want to be more informed about current events? Literary fiction? Pop culture? All of the above? One way to get a good start is to set aside a little time to read every day – no matter what you choose to read, making it part of your routine is a solid way of expanding your horizons. When it comes to choosing content, there are many directions you could go in. You might select a few reputable news sites to check in on every day to keep up with current events. As for literature, peruse bestseller lists each month and see what’s trending. Get a local library card, and look over the themed displays that librarians often put out. Try to read a balance of fiction and nonfiction, if you have the time. Finally, be sure to put aside some time to read what you enjoy – nothing encourages more reading like reading something you want to read. 


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