To all men out there who bemoan the notion that women do not have (enough) respect for men and what it is to be a man, let me share something with you. The reason they don’t respect you is because you don’t act like a man. You don’t dress like a man. In fact, you’ve eschewed everything that it means to be a man.
Today, let’s talk about appearances. Professional appearances.
That’s right. I’m talking to you, guy wearing pajama pants in public. And you, Noncommissioned Officer I saw at the Exchange wearing an Army Service Uniform that looked like it came straight from the bottom of a duffel bag. And you, Commissioned Army Officer who looks like a stuffed sausage in your field uniform. And you, guy who buttons every button on his suit jacket. And especially you, guy wearing patent leather shoes and pre-tied ties.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not asking that you be Mr. GQ. I’m not asking that you have every teensie rule of fashion and etiquette memorized. Nope, this is simple stuff, folks–the same simple stuff whose neglect caused an erosion of manhood throughout our nation, and especially the legal profession. What I am about to direct does not require deep pockets or deep insight.
I say this after a particularly frustrating week of seeing various individuals who clearly did not take pride in their professional appearance–from service members to lawyers.
We’ll start at the top and work our way down.
Real men tie their own ties. They also know a variety of knots. At a minimum, you should know how to tie all varieties of Windsor, four-in-hand, small knot (for woven ties, and no, not the ones that look like they’ve been crocheted, the real woven ones you find at Brooks Brothers), and a bow. You should know how to tie these without the use of a mirror, wife, girlfriend, or prostitute.
Real men starch their shirts. No, I’m not talking about a light spritzing of starch. I’m talking about the kind of starch that allows the shirt to stand upright on the ground. It should crunch when you don it for the first time. It lasts one day. Then, you have it laundered and re-starched. Yes, I’m the guy who gets pissed-off at the dry cleaners when my shirt can’t walk out the door on its own. Dry cleaners who can properly starch a shirt are dwindling in numbers, but they are out there.
Real men know that you never button the bottom button on a jacket. My father was a laborer. His father was, too. They weren’t white-collar. They didn’t have college educations. Yet, they knew this rule. Why? They were men, and they were proud of that fact. At most, their jackets had 3 buttons. Anything more looked ostentatious, an adjective that, to them, was shameful for a man to accept.
Pleats are for sissies. Real men wear plain-front pants. Pleats are designed for men with gelatinous lower abdomens. I will say nothing more.
You will carry a handkerchief and pocketknife in your pants pocket. The handkerchief is not for show. It does not need your initials. It is for practical purposes only. The knife is a small 1 or 2 blade knife–preferably “Case” brand. Again, it is for practical purposes. Exceptions must be made to the knife rule when flying–because the TSA is scared of real men.
Real men give a damn about their shoes, and they work hard to maintain them. You will buy shoes that are meant to be shined. These shoes will have laces–small, black laces. You will shine them. They will not have tassels. You will not wear suede. You will not wear loafers because real men do not loaf. You will accept that the wearing patent leather on your feet is a sign of emasculation. You will not have a lot of shoes, just a few that you’ve maintained, lovingly, through the years. My favorite shoes are ones I bought in 1992. They are brogue style. They are shined before every use, and the perforations are cleaned of excess polish with the tip of a knife. The heels are replaced by a cobbler when they become worn. When not in use, the shoes are fitted with shoe-trees and placed carefully in a closet. Well-maintained leather shoes will last you forever, barring a natural disaster. You only replace shoes if said natural disaster occurs.
These rules aren’t hard, and they are not unreasonable. For years, men everywhere knew them–labors and managers, farmers and bankers, lawyers and physicians. It signified pride in appearance, and, most importantly, pride in being who and what they were.
It’s time we re-learned them, and internalized them.