The Art of Being a Gentleman

“Manners maketh the man.” Kingsman: The Secret Service

Many people may think they know what it means to ‘be a gentleman’. Unfortunately, it turns out that many people have a limited idea of the word. Even so, quite a few men do aspire to be, and in fact, are gentlemen. So, why all the fuss? Is learning about the pursuit of being a gentleman important? It turns out—yes, it is. Being a gentleman gains us others’ respect, improves our quality of life, and establishes a measure of standards conducive to normal relationships, social interaction, and communication.

Over a century ago, the title of gentleman was reserved for those people who were born into nobility, wealth, or prominent status. This narrow definition no longer applies in modern egalitarian democracies. The concept of what defines gentlemenhood has evolved for over a hundred years, and the term has now come to represent one’s character, actions, values, and standards. Being a gentleman does not require a certain class status, amount of wealth, or higher education level; it does not automatically necessitate high fashion, luxury, being suave, debonair, or athletic, or require a chiseled jaw and muscular build – any man can be a gentleman – and, just to set the record straight…being a gentleman doesn’t require being a virtuous saint or celibate monk.

One way to determine what is a gentleman is to look at popular icons who are considered gentlemen – for example: Cary Grant, Morgan Freeman, Gregory Peck, Denzil Washington, Yves Montand, David Niven, Sean Connery, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, James Stewart, and Michael Caine are role models who exhibit similar traits that most people would identify as those of a gentleman. These men are not considered perfect, but they are perceived as having style and culture; they are liked and trusted, as well as considered sincere, honorable, and authentic. Why, you ask? Because they comport themselves with palpable authenticity and cultivated manners in each area of their lives.

So, how do we define what a gentleman is?

Let’s start by defining what the reverse is; a gentleman is not: crude, dishonest, inconsiderate, arrogant, impolite, disrespectful, unclean, insecure, or dishonorable.

Instead, the movie Blast From the Past, may shed a little more light on the subject: “I thought a ‘gentleman’ was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, the short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him, or her, are as comfortable as possible.”

This explanation offers a way to deepen our investigation of what being a gentleman entails. We can also broaden our perspectives on being a gentleman from reviewing publications such as, Gentleman’s Journal, Esquire, GQ, Gentlemen’s Gazette, Aspiring Gentlemen and related books (see below). In compiling my findings from several articles, seven overall characteristics of being a gentleman were defined as follows:

A gentleman possesses:

Good Manners – He is gracious and courteous and does kind and helpful things—for example, he holds a door open, helps others, says please and thank you, and gives someone his seat—he has table etiquette, and avoids foul and crude language and behavior.

Respect – He is respectful of others’ time and perspectives. He tries to be considerate, open minded and non-judgmental; he compliments people, avoids gossip and rumors, is punctual, kind, and not arrogant.

Presentation – He adjusts his appearance based on the scenario yet is dedicated to maintaining his personal hygiene; his is clean, well groomed, may dress to impress.

Integrity – He knows his own mind, values honor and standards of conduct, is sincere and honest, and is committed to walking his talk and keeping his promises.

Confidence – he has a healthy self-pride, strong self-esteem, and stands firm in his principles; he lives his life with purpose and decisiveness.

Communication – He shake hands, minds his body language, and knows how to hold meaningful conversations—he listens, asks questions, maintains eye contact, and contributes.

Responsible – He keeps a job, protects his family, is loyal to his friends, contributes to the community, maintains his work ethic, self-reliance, and betterment of himself.

In sum, gentlemen know who they are and what they want; they set high standards of conduct to improve themselves and their surroundings.

“Being a true gentleman never goes out of fashion.” anonymous

Being a gentleman involves learning about oneself, developing, social skills, and then interacting with others to develop positive relationships.

As we discussed, being a gentleman gains us increased respect from the people around us in our lives, it enhances the overall quality of our interactions with others, and it provides standards of behavior that positively contribute to all of our relationships, social interactions, and communications.

At its core: being a gentleman means being goodhearted and genuinely interested in others. So—hats off to the fellow gentlemen in the room. Stay classy!

Stranger captures heartwarming act of kindness by restaurant worker

Further reading:
  • The Complete Gentleman,

Brad Minel

  • Essential Manners for Men,

Peter Post

  • The Handbook of Style,


  • How to Be a Gentleman,

John Bridges

  • Icons of Men’s Style,

Josh Sims

  • The Modern Gentleman,

P. Mollad, J. Tesauro

  • Style and the Man,

lan Flusser

  • 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie


“Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.” Vin Diesel


Bruce J. Wood
Bruce J. Wood
Bruce J. Wood, founder of AOIDE Bruce J. Wood has worked on Wall Street in business finance and strategy, and has written hundreds of finance business plans, strategic plans, economic feasibility studies, and economic impact studies. Bruce has lectured on creativity and strategic thinking, as well as worked on the development of numerous publishing, film, television, and performing arts projects, along with downtown revitalizations, using the arts as an economic catalyst. As an aficionado of music, art, and dance, Bruce is also a writer and an outdoor enthusiast. He has written poetry, blogs, articles, and many creative project concepts. He lives in the Metro Detroit area and enjoys writing poetry, backpacking, and ballroom dancing.

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