Always dress well

This isn’t a fashion blog, but I do on occasion write on the topics of gentlemanliness, chappism, and such. Quite some time back I commented on an article on A Suitable Wardrobe, and referenced a Mises article titled Dress Like its the Great Depression. I’d like to follow up with a brief commentary on the Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes.

I’d never heard of “sapeurs” until a recent bit on NPR, but I am fascinated by them. Aside from the absolute bombast of some of their attire, I am captivated that in the midst of the poverty that surrounds them, they choose to dress to the nines.

Hector Mediavilla/Picturetank
(http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2013/05/07/181704510/the-surprising-sartorial-culture-of-congolese-sapeurs)

Now, given the examples one can find from an Internet search, some of the younger gents are a little too dandy for my tastes, but the older gentlemen dress quite well.

I understand the rebellion aspect of these Congolese gents, but I think it’s a great example of dressing well, even when the environment one finds himself in is in diametric opposition. Compare that to the United States, where even our poor are rich compared to the rest of the world, and we have people of all social strata walking around like this (I’ll not debase my site by actually posting any of these preposterous images).

Bartitsu vs. the Knockout Game

With all the media coverage over what is being referred to as the Knockout Game, various commenters have proffered approaches to defend one’s self, such as this one by Tony Blauer. While I wholeheartedly agree with the advice offered by Mr. Blauer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t put an anachronistic spin on this issue.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer. I am not a member of the law enforcement community. I am not a self-defense expert. I am not a vigilante. I assume no responsibility if you actually act on the hypothetical situation I outline below.

So what is a gentleman about the town to do when approached by a band of ruffians intent on ill will? Why, utilize his well-honed Bartitsu skills, of course! For those of you unfamiliar with the martial art of Sherlock Holmes, it was developed by Edward William Barton-Wright around the turn of the twentieth century. It was (and some would say still is) the gentlemanly martial art.

One of the aspects of Bartitsu is cane fighting. I can thin of no better “prop” for a proper gentleman than the Cold Steel City Stick. Its utility is only surpassed by its style.

Armed with the right training and tools, one can again feel confident in walking the savage streets.

So, a pack of street thugs with no ambition in life…

vs. a lone neo-victorian steampunk dandy…

It’s a tough call. We would hope the prowess of Bartitsu would avail, but I have my reservations. One being that a weapon can often end out turned on the unprepared wielder. Another being the power in numbers.

I am however reminded of the sage advice given by some drill sergeant during hand-to-hand combat training in Army Basic training. I don’t remember the line exactly, but it went something along the lines of “if you think you’re going to go back home and be all Bill BadAxe because of this training, then you are going to get your posterior handed to you” (or something like that).

I am also reminded of advice given when I was performing military security during the Atlanta Summer Olympics. Many of the schools in the area had been converted to makeshift barracks for the games, and I had the honor of spending three weeks on a cot in McNair Elementary School. The area had a negative reputation (which seems to be reaffirmed by this news article) and we were told that even soldiers need to travel in groups. It would seem one of the best ways to avoid being a target is to not be a singular bullseye.

Showing respect to customers

A recent Telegraph article sums up something that I have felt for some time: When engaging in business, one should not call their customer by their first name. From the article:

A new survey found that three in ten Brits say are fed up with total strangers treating them like old friends, for example by beginning conversations with “hi” or “how’s it going?”

Thirty per cent of people claim they have grown tired of phone calls and emails from cold callers, bank employees and other service staff which refer to them by their first name.

Half of all people questioned said they would rather complete strangers used a more appropriate form of address such “Mr”, “Miss” or “Mrs” when conducting their business.

This is a big deal to me. Having someone who is selling a product or service call me “Jeremy” comes across as completely unprofessional and disrespectful. I have on occasion completely stopped doing business with such “friendly” establishments. Even in giving my name while waiting for a table at a restaurant, I would prefer to hear “Blevins” butchered in various and sundry ways than to hear “Jeremy, party of X” called for. If I am paying for something, I expect to be shown a bit of respect. Again, from the article:

“Often these are people who are trying to sell you something and who have no other interest in you yet they treat you like a long lost pal. Jeeves was a well brought up butler, he would never had dreamt of saying to Wooster ‘Hiya Bertie, how’s it hanging?'”

Older people were most likely to be in favour of returning to traditional titles, with 62 per cent saying they would like to be called Mr, Mr or Miss when contacted by a stranger.

Welsh respondents were the most traditional, with 38 per cent saying they were exasperated with modern informality, while Scots were most accepting of the modern trend with only 21 per cent saying it irked them.

The results are hardly likely to dispel the popular international image that Britain is a nation of stuck-up bores.

 Maybe that stereotype isn’t such a bad thing.

Southern Honor

Being a son of the South, I found this to be a particularly interesting read:

Manly Honor Part V: Honor in the American South

There’s one aspect of the article that particularly resonated with me: that Southern families have maintained a tradition of naming their sons after male ancestors. I see this in the older generations of my family, though my own parents deviated from the script. Neither I nor my brother are named after anyone as far as I know. In the Knighten branch of my family tree, however, there are several Jeremiahs, but I’m just a Jeremy. I tried to revive the tradition by naming my son after both his grandfathers, though neither are his first name. Two middle names isn’t that eccentric, is it?

Manly thank you cards

A while back I committed myself to hand writing thank you notes. It’s been a hard habit to start, but I’ve gotten better at it lately. The hardest part for me, however, has been finding thank you cards that aren’t effeminate. After seeing the cards below, I think I’ll have to get a box.

The Suggestion: Get some real thank you cards:
Check Letterpress Thank You Cards – $12.00 for a box of 8 + envelopes
Pen shown is a Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen.  $2.59 a piece, or $18.44 per dozen.

There’s a reason your mom hounded you to write thank you notes for those terrible sweaters you used to get from your smelly old relatives when you were a kid.  But the best reason to do so doesn’t have anything to do with any of the reasons you were taught.

When it comes to all of the things that make their way to your mailbox, there are fewer items more appreciated than a thank you note.  It’s an acknowledgment of something nice you did for someone important to you, a reminder that despite all of the pooches you may have screwed, this you got right.

Here’s the deal; You have to have cards on hand. It’s just going to make the process easier and convenient, which means there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll make it a reality and not just a good idea.  You can find some smart, stylish and masculine cards at good independent card and gift stores.  Not only will you find some terrific cards from talented artists at stores like these, you’ll most likely end up with a unique card that your recipient  has not seen before.

I’m going to be honest – it is even better to give than to receive.  Mostly.  Perhaps I’m just staving off a guilty conscious for not sending one.  But I truly believe that taking the time to write out a thank you card, stick a stamp on it and send it through the postal system is a purely selfish joy.  In an age of instant messaging and email and twitter, it’s simply a classy way to convey your appreciation.  And you score “stand-up guy” points for your efforts.

Tim Johnstone is Dappered’s Music Correspondent, a former Virgin Records Label Rep and current award winning Music Director  and on-air host at KRVB.  He’s also extremely well liked and quite polite.  But don’t cross him, because he’ll cut you.  He also writes a blog that’s a collection of the absolute best the internet has to offer.   It’s a daily read.