05 November 2010

The English Gentleman: The Gentleman and his Wardrobe


A gentleman carries the minimum of accessories. Those who go around with what is known as the Cartier set--gold lighters, gold cigarettes, watches with crocodile straps and so on are put down as bookmakers or confidence tricksters. A gentleman carries Swan Vestas matches instead of a lighter, except possibly a rather roughly-made lighter fitted with a special windshield which enables him to light it in a howling gale on a grouse moor or in the middle of a salmon river. If he has a cigarette case it is usually a heavy silver affair which he has inherited but does not often carry as it spoils the cut of his suit. His only adornment is a pair of modest crested cuff-links, although in full plumage for the races at Ascot he may sport a tie-pin. There are also still gentlemen who appear on certain occasions wearing a watch chain of a design which most gentlemen would have considered more appropriate to a civic dignitary who had made his money out of hosiery. But then there were many gentlemen who did not consider Churchill to be quite a gentleman. A gentleman always wears his handkerchief tucked in his sleeve--never carefully arranged in his top pocket--an art which is as difficult to acquire as tying a bow tie. It has been brought to my notice that no less an authority on the upper classes than Nancy Mitford, who should know better, declares that gentlemen should wear their handkerchiefs in their top pocket. This is to subscribe to the middle-class practice of having one carefully arranged handkerchief in the top pocket and another somewhere else on the person. This principle of 'one for show and one for blow' is as non-U as a lady who carries her handkerchief tucked in the elastic of her knickers.

A gentleman is particular about having a good watch and takes great pride in its time-keeping qualities. One gentleman to whom it was pointed out that his watch had stopped, exploded: 'That is impossible! My man always winds it up before he puts it on me in the morning.'

In the country he wears a flat hat in the manner which is quite different from the flat hats worn by the working classes and, whatever the weather, he carries a walking stick. In the town he may carry a carefully rolled umbrella but he never thinks of opening it. Many gentlemen have never unrolled their umbrellas since they bought them. He only wears a bowler hat at funerals and point-to-points.

The English Gentleman, Douglas Sutherland (1978)


Anonymous said...

....A gentleman really doesn't make this much fuss.


P.S. The sleeve handkerchief thing is an old cavalry affectation.

Belle de Ville said...

This little detail about the "Cartier Set" amuses me. I didn't realize that being well accessorized made one look like a bookie or a con.
The next time I buy a Cartier lighter/cigarette case, I will look just a little bit askance at the seller.

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, music to my ears. If only more men would listen.

Anonymous said...


John Wesley said...

Courtesy, kindness, and manners define a true gentleman.

Extraneous affectations are artificial bench marks (crutches) for insecure social climbers and the worst sort of snob. (I'm entirely in favour of the right kind of snob. -- See above.) Douglas Sutherland failed to mention that charm and taste carry far more currency. Charm can open more doors than any handkerchief in a sleeve.

Did you know that the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition is one of those conceits, artificially constructed solely for the purpose of separating "the right people" from the non-U crowd. Structurally, there is nothing incorrect about it!

Re: Gold Cartier and alligator-- (make mine old cognac coloured). Am delighted to know I am in such interesting company as bookies and con artists.


Anonymous said...

Actually, John Wesley, a good bloodline, prickly demeanor, dynastic wealth and land ownership define a true gentleman: a term long ruined by foppish men's fashion manuals and books on manners written by insecure, middle-class twits with social aspirations but no breeding.

Traditionally Styled said...

great post. I always enjoy an inspirational bit on the English gentleman. We Americans miss the mark on many points