In a city seemingly dominated by emasculated metrosexuals, it seems that Singaporean men have forgotten what it means to embrace their gentlemanly side. By gentlemen, we don’t mean walking around in penguin-tuxedos; we mean sharply dressed men who follow social decorum, walk on the curb-side of the street when they’re with a woman, hold the door open, not gaze longingly into the mirror at their own reflection in public, and generally act like civilized individuals. If you want to gain the respect of others and the admiration of women, this guide on how to be a gentleman will help.
LOOK THE PART
How to Get a Damn Good Suit
Suits: The essential piece in a gentleman’s sartorial arsenal. The suit is what the LBD is to womenfolk—it goes with everything. Banker Paul Ong knows a good suit when he sees one. “A well made suit educates you on the lessons of fit and cut, which are the really the basics of looking good. Clothes don’t make a man, but clothes have gotten many a man a good job,” he says. According to the dapper banker, every man should have a minimum rotation of two suits—dark blue and/or black or grey. “Interchangeably, this combination is a viable option for most activities such as work, weddings or just dinner.“ He shares with us some tips on what to look out for in a suit:
Pick the best type to accent your body type or shape and do not go for what you think is fashionable.
Take note of the differences in styles and tailoring cuts—British, Italian and American cuts are all different, and they accentuate differently.
Belt Up Those Pants
When wearing a suit, wear your pants at the natural waist. This is one time when sagging does not work and will never be stylish. If you’re going to get a suit made, get a matching pair of pants done up as well.
Resist impulse buying for cheap suits on sale—just because it is branded doesn’t make up for the fact that it is a few sizes off.
How to Get a Great Shirt
A cornerstone in any gentleman’s wardrobe, a great shirt fits like a glove—it must flatter your bone structure, proportions and physique—while a not so good shirt, well, doesn’t. If you live to shop, you’ll know that some shirt labels are more equal than the rest and that going bespoke is well worth the money spent. We consulted Chong Han San of local bespoke menswear label Clothesmith, to give us the lowdown on how to get a great shirt:
This is the most fundamental aspect of a good shirt. Choose 100 percent cotton, especially shirts made with Egyptian or Sea-Island cotton which will determine the drape and flow of the shirt. Avoid those cheap polyester-mix shirting materials which give off a cheap “plasticky sheen.”
Collars are like the picture frame with your face as the main focus. They can help to balance your face shape and draw attention to it. If you have a narrow face shape, go for a Continental or Cutaway style collar which has wider spread. If you have a broad or round face, choose small spread collars to sharpen your facial shape.
A proper men’s shirt should have details such as natural shell or Mother-of-Pearl buttons; French seam finished at the shirt side seam and sleeves; and firm collars and cuffs that don’t wear off or bubble after washes.
A real gentleman will go for a customized shirt as he understands it differentiates him from the rest when he presents himself in a personally molded fit. A bespoke shirt will also represent the men personality by his choice of fabrics, details and cut.
- Clothesmith, 55B Boat Quay, 6533-5054
- Dunhill Custom, #01‑42/F Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd., 6734‑8126
- Kevin Seah Bespoke, #03-01, 65 Killiney Rd., email@example.com
- Shanghai Tang Imperial Tailoring Service, #B1-12 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave., 6688-7180
ACT THE PART
How to Behave
“Being a gentleman not only involves dressing well, it is also about how you behave and act,” says fashion stylist and personal shopper Mishima Taoki of Nakame Style (#02-02 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 9655-8237). Some basic good manners will go a long way in helping you during your ascent to the higher echelons of manhood. Here are a few hard and fast rules to live by:
- A gentleman is always ready to offer a hearty and firm handshake. No limp wristed shakes please.
- A gentleman always has a big umbrella to hand.
- A gentleman arrives at meetings on time, if not early.
- A gentleman always admits when he is wrong.
- A gentleman never asks about the guy before him.
- A gentleman does not curse. It shows that you lack the vocabulary to express your displeasure. It is also rude.
- A gentleman does not stare.
- A gentleman always opens the door for the lady. This is the most basic and easiest rule to follow. If you break this rule, start reading this story all over.
- A gentleman never picks a fight.
How to Fix a Gentleman’s Cocktail
When you’re sick of beer, where do you turn for refreshment? A cocktail, of course. Contrary to popular belief, cocktails are not just for the fairer sex. “Cocktails were initially a man’s drink when they were invented back in the Prohibition era,” says mixologist Zainuddin Hassan of Bar Stories (2/F, 27A Haji Lane, 6298-0838).
Founded by owner Ethan Leong, this speakeasy-styled bar on Haji Lane serves up impeccably-mixed cocktails using top-shelf booze and fresh ingredients. “We’ve had several guys here who were at first hesitant in ordering a cocktail, but after a short lesson from us and some really ‘manly’ drinks, they’re now ‘cocktail converts,” quips Leong.
Even so, sipping on a drink that’s garnished with an umbrella is certainly not an option. What you need is something refreshing that packs a kick at the same time and will also beef up your gentlemaly reputation. Luckily for you, the Bar Stories team have shared with us just such a recipe.
What you need:
- 2 oz Bourbon whiskey
- ½ oz simple syrup
- Angostura bitters
- 1 slice of orange wedge
How to prepare it:
- Mix simple syrup, water and angostura bitters in an old-fashioned glass.
- Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes and stir. Garnish with orange wedge. Enjoy.
How to Drink Whisky Like a Real Gentleman
There are a couple of ways to drink a whisky, the father of all gentlemen’s drinks—with a ball of ice, a splash of water or in a cocktail even. But if you want to drink like a real pro, here’s how:
- Use the right vessel, like a Glencairn glass. The shape of the glass helps to concentrate the aroma of the whisky.
- Admire the whisky’s color and nose it before you swallow.
- When you sip, move it all around your mouth to detect different flavors; as it oxidizes, new flavors are brought out.
- Drink your whiskies neat, a dash of water (spring water works best) opens up more flavors and aromas.
- Try not to use ice as it “closes” the whisky, masking its complexity. Don’t warm it like brandy either.
Where to Load Up On a Wee Dram:
- La Maison Du Whisky
#01-10 The Pier @ Robertson Quay, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6733-0059
- Malt Vault
Basement, 12 Ann Siang Rd., 9026-3466
- Quaich Bar @ The Whisky Store
#01-09/10, Waterfront Plaza, 390A Havelock Rd., 6732-3452
How to Defend Your Lady
The first rule of gentlemen’s fight club is, a gentleman never fights (see rules to left). But it’s a different matter if trouble comes looking for you when you’re with your lady. And it pays to be prepared. Ashikin Samat, an expert in the deadly art of Krav Maga, a self-defense and military hand-to-hand combat system developed in Israel knows what it’s like being helpless in a sticky situation. “I got mugged a while back and got roughed up pretty badly. After that incident, I vowed to learn self-defense as well as teach others about it, says Ashikin who teaches Krav Maga at Fightworks Asia (2/F, 1018 East Coast Parkway 6449-9821). “Most men, when confronted usually try to retaliate which I think is the stupidest thing to do. The manliest thing one can do is either to talk it out, back down or just leave,” he advises.
What to do if that doesn’t work? It all comes down to how you’re standing. First assume a neutral, non-aggressive stance (feet apart with one set behind you, arms partially extended just below head level with palms facing outward). This stance shows a gesture of appeasement and says that you’re not looking for any trouble. If you have to punch, punch the body or head. If you have to poke, poke the eyes; knee his groin or give a quick chop or jab to his neck. Then doff your hat, and make a speedy exit. The lady will thank you for it later.
And though streetfighting is hardly the stuff a true gent is made of, many consider traditional boxing to be a gentleman’s sport. If you decide to take things a step further (and impress a roomful of ladies in the process), there’s now huge interest in white collar boxing, with otherwise staid professionals training furiously for the chance to knock a fellow recruitment consultant’s head off. Vanda Boxing (#03-00 Ganges Centre, 554 Havelock Rd., 6305 2288) regularly organizes events, and can help you get in the shape of your life in time for fight night.
How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew
So you’re all set for that Sunday afternoon tête-à-tête with that special someone. You’ve spent the whole morning preparing the picnic spread and when it’s time to uncork the Shiraz, you realize that you forgot to pack the corkscrew. So how do you prevent yourself from looking like a total douche and get the darn bottle open? All you need is your shoe (only rubber soled trainers; the kind every gent wears on a park outing) and lots of patience. Here’s how:
- Double check the bottle and see that it’s not a screw top. If it is, unscrew top. If not, proceed to the next step.
- Remove your shoe.
- Place bottle of wine in removed shoe.
- Ensure that the large base of the wine is seated near the back of your shoe.
- Holding both the bottle of wine and the shoe, firmly hit a sturdy wall with the bottle filled shoe until the cork comes loose.
- If all else fails, walk slowly (a gentleman never runs, remember) to your nearest wine shop to purchase a corkscrew.
How to Approach a Girl Like a Man
Let’s face it. Most men are absolutely clueless when it comes to approaching women, be it at the bar, gym, coffee shop or even on the street. “Being nervous, not making eye contact and not leaning in while you talk to someone are all signs of insecurity and are deal-breakers with most women,” says party promoter John Langan of Massive Collective. So how do you successfully approach the woman who catches your eye? “I just say hello,” deadpans Langan. Yes. It’s that simple. What else does Langan have to say to the aspirational gent?
No Darting eyes
I mean don’t stare down the girl, but never be the first to look away. If you can’t look a girl in the eye, you aren’t in control of the situation, and the last thing a woman wants is a man who isn’t confident.
Eye contact only really works with smiling. I naturally smile when I’m around women, but some men may get intimidated. Don’t hold back your laugh too, if someone says something funny, laugh heartily—it will show the ladies you know how to have fun and laughing is contagious. By dictate I mean set the tone for the conversation. Smile and laugh, and chances are she’ll follow suit. That’s what you really want, a woman associating you with positive thoughts and a good time.
Break the touch barrier
Not in a sleazebag way. But I put my arm around friends for photos all the time; it shows that I like that and I’m not afraid to show it. Again it comes back to confidence. And with the ladies, it’s important that they feel comfortable with your touch. Just be aware of her feedback; if she responds in your direction, it means maybe you can try for more, if she’s being a cold fish or moves away from your touch, you should probably take the cue and back off.
How to Restore Your Manly Vigor
A gentleman might not run, but there are still times when he should break a sweat (and not just in the bedroom). Three pursuits in particular strike the right image.
Take up Rugby
To borrow a quote from Henry Blaha, “Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen…” Over the years, rugby has become one of the world’s popular contact sports and (somewhat : inexplicably) it retains a more refined image than soccer. If you prefer tossing oval balls around a muddy pitch with a pack of burly men chasing after you, you can try checking in at St. Andrew’s Junior School pitch every Monday and Thursday, 7:30pm when the Bedok Kings RFC (contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org) train. You can check out Singapore Rugby Union‘s website, www.singaporerugby.com to find out more.
What’s manlier than wielding a mallet and dashing about on your steer, dressed in your finest jodhpurs and pique Lacoste shirt? Also known as the “Game of Kings,” polo can be enjoyed by novices and pros alike. Coming across like a strange hybrid of hockey, soccer, golf and horse racing that takes strategy and strength, polo the quintessential gentleman’s sport (see box right). You can try your hand at a chukka at the Singapore Polo Club (80 Mt. Pleasant Rd., 6854-3999). The club has a resident professional and instructor for those keen to learn the game.
There is a particular quality to sailing—something exhilarating about a pursuit in which your mental power and physical exertion are pitted against the forces of nature. All other sports are essentially rivalries between human beings, while in sailing, all your mental faculties are employed in reading and responding to the conditions. Getting a yacht in these parts may be a dear investment for some but aspiring sailors can test their sea legs with keelboat sailing at the Changi Sailing Club (National Sailing Centre, 32 Netheravon Rd., 6545-2876).
Never Knowingly Outhorsed
Few sports conjure up a more gentlemanly image than does polo; that intoxicating mix of horsemanship, derring-do and perfectly pressed pants. We spoke to James Mullan, editor of UK-based industry bible Polo Times, to find out what it takes to be a cut above the rest of mankind.
What is it that makes men who play polo better than all the rest?
Polo-playing men combine masculine physical sporting agility with passionate “heart-on-their-sleeve” emotion and a sensitive animal-loving side that history has proven women find totally irresistible. Plus they also tend to be rich. Filthy, stinking rich. And a man that can ride is usually a man that can dance, fix a cabinet, wire a video recorder and shag like Colin Farrell.
What do you need (apart from a horse) to look like a polo player?
Long hair certainly helps, as it reassures any interested suitors that you are far too far above/below having a run of the mill 9-5 office job. It also helps cultivate the image of an outspoken, “I don’t care what you think” attitude. You do what you want, when you want, because you were put on this earth to play polo. It’s a lifestyle and, sure, you are arrogant. But that’s everyone else’s problem. To complete the look, keep a pair of saddle-stained whites on at all times, an old pair of tatty “lucky” socks, but smarten the rest of your look up with a pricey pair of loafers and a crisp shirt. The only other accessory that you usually need is a Spanish beer in one hand and Blackberry in the other. Shit, you’re cool.
How can you spot a guy at a tournament who doesn’t belong there?
He is wearing pointy or shiny shoes, has his top button done up without a tie, is lacking a tan and can be heard shouting “I thought the team in red was going that way” (teams change ends after every goal).
How can you fake it til you’ve made it?
Either sound slightly Spanish whenever possible, or shout with absolute conviction any of the following after a particularly quick or brutal play: “Wow, did you see that pony? Wonderful. What horsepower!”; “That was his line! Umpire—you have got to be kidding me?!”; “He did very well to deal with that—a nearside backhand on a ground that is cutting up is no mean feat”; “The team in (insert color of losing team here) looks a little out-horsed to me.”