Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back to the Basics

One of the most common, if not the most popular New Years Resolution is to get in better shape. The gentleman is not immune to such goal setting as we should all be striving to improve our mind, body and soul. But with so many different workout programs and diets available its easy to get confused and even discouraged from starting a path to fitness.

When looking forward to make changes it is often a wise practice to look back to see what has been effective for others. Whether it be building muscle, losing fat, increasing strength or improving endurance there are some tried-and true methods that have worked for generations. No, these exercises aren't exotic and often don't involve the newest shiny machine in your gym. However, they should be the foundation of any workout program.

Say your New Years goal is to build mass and strength. Nothing beats The Big 3: Bench, Deadlifts and Squats. These 3 exercises release more testosterone than any bicep curl or piece of equipment could ever hope to.

As these old black and white photos of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger show, there's nothing groundbreaking about putting a bar on your shoulders, slapping on some plates and squatting. But that's what worked then and it still works now. The same principles can be applied outside the gym as well. Doing things "the old way" can be rewarding as it often takes practice and skill to master. Technology with all of its advancements has yet to mimmic human determination. The modern gentleman is no technophobe but understands the importance of utilizing lessons from the past in order to accomplish the goals of today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Makes a Gentleman?

There has been much discussion about the appearance of a modern day gentleman on this blog and elsewhere and rightfully so. The dapper appearance and savvy style have garnered much attention and admiration for decades. What isn't nearly discussed are the other facets of the gentleman character. Without any sort of conduct for behavior or purpose in life, a well-dressed man is just that, a well-dressed man, he is not however, a gentleman.

To be a gentleman, in both the historical sense and today, is to aspire to a greater manhood than the average man. Brad Miner in his book Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry delves into this philosophy, bringing to light the main components that make up the gentleman.

First, Knights, with their code of honor, can be considered the first gentlemen. Their willingness to defend and if need be, die for the honor of country or fellow citizen is the bedrock of which the rest of gentlemanship is founded upon.

Second, make no mistake, the gentleman is a warrior but he is also a lover. The romantic gentleman was ahead of his time, positioning women as equals not subordinates. The gentleman also has a love of knowledge, which Miner equates to that of a monk. The monk also symbolises restraint, a characteristic that places the gentleman above whims of emotional outburst.

The 21st Century Gentleman isn't only concerned with fashion or style. To be so would be tacky and unbecoming. And while his appearance is the topic of many conversations, it is his deeds that create the most lasting impression.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

21st Cent Gent Intelligence: The Art of the Wet Shave

While speaking with my grandfather during my previous trip back home the subject of shaving came up. I don't know how we got started on the topic, but I happened to mention that I always found it strange that he didn't shave like the rest of us. His tools were different, his technique more time consuming. As for the products he used, good luck finding them at Walgreens. He explained to me that he never could get with the "store bought" potions and lotions, and especially the cartridges and their 5 blade shaving heads. Nope, he rather use a brush to apply his shaving soap, a double edged safety razor, and maybe some Old Spice or Brut to complete the job. Talk about old school!

With a slew of interviews, conferences, and events to attend in the coming months I decided to give my grandad's method a try. I recently purchased a Merkur Double Edge Saftey Razor, a badger brush, a puck of Williams Shaving Soap and a tube of organic after shave by SheaMoisture.

Taking a try-till-perfected approach I discovered why the old man has remained true to this technique. Its simply a better quality shave. First, you're not putting all kinds of chemicals on your face, Williams Shave Soap has ten ingredients all of which I can pronounce. The brush lifts the hairs to the surface making them easier to cut. Three passes with the Merkur and you're good to go. Not to mention its cheaper. A pack of platinum coated blades costs $1.00 and will last you for months. Try getting that kind of mileage out of one those Gillette Fusion monstrosities.

Sometimes the modern gentleman must take cues from the past. Whether it be in courage, style or in this case grooming, there is much to be learned from those who have already traveled the road.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In a previous post I mentioned the death of swag. More than an overused term, swag has come to represent a cool demeanor, a stylish way of dress and a undeniably smooth approach to life. Think Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra or more recently James Bond in Casino Royale. So practiced yet so natural, they make the impossible look effortless. Swagger as we know it today actually has it roots in the 14th Century.

The Father of Sprezzatura

Coined sprezzatura by author Baldassare Castiglione, sprezzatura was characterized as "an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them."

Or simply put, a nonchalance in doing something as to make it appear effortless or without thought. A performance of sorts, and some have even go as far as say labeling it deception. Whatever your opinion its been long held that the consummate gentleman is a jack AND master of all trades.

Making the incredible appear innate undoubtedly takes skill and practice. Whatever you choose to excel in, be it athletics or dress, it must be accomplished with style and grace. No man is born possessing sprezzatura and that is the beauty of it. It is a learned art, perfected over time. The studied carelessness, or well-practiced naturalness should be a goal of every gentleman.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Ali embodied sprezzatura.....his rehearsed lines appeared to come out of nowhere.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

RIP Swag (2006-2009)

Much to the dismay of many, Swag was laid to rest on April 29th, 2009. After years of being abused by rappers, ballplayers, and Stuart Scott, CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce while covering the 100th day of Obama's presidency. Swag is survived by his older brother "Juice", cousin "Cool" and Uncle "Mojo".

Click the link to witness it yourself

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hard Days Work

"These hands ain't never seen a hard day's work" my grandmother so eloquently remarked while examining my hands. As she studied the lines of my palm and fingers I wondered what exactly was she looking for. She's not a superstitiious woman by any means so I immediately dismissed the notion of her attempting to "read my palm''. The comment however did stick with me. I was only 12 at the time, and had climbed my fair share of trees, played quarters with my cousins until our knuckles bled and had fielded pop fly's bare handed. Sure, I had never actually worked with these hands but they were anything but soft.

Looking back, I now know what my grandmother had meant by saying hard days work. At that tender age of 12, I hadn't yet gripped the handle of a hammer and created something uniquely my own. Nor had I lifted a dumbell and completed countless reps until my arms and fingers ached with pain. My hands see, could tell my grandmother things that I couldn't. She could tell if I was as crafty as my father and grandfather from the nicks and scrapes on my fingers. Badges, if you will, earned through trial and error, time and patience, hardwork and dedication.

The callouses that have hardened where my fingers met my palm are evidence of me having toiled with an instrument of some kind. It may have been a bat.Gripped, choked up on and gripped even tighter in anticapation of a homerun. Or maybe it was the aformentioned barbell, whose textured iron rips away flesh from the hand with every unrelenting set. Whatever the method may be, my hands told a story that only those whose hands had experienced similar could appreciate.

The conversation between man and hand takes place in a matter of seconds during the initial handshake. That handshake, when exectuted properly (or poorly), lets others know what lies beneath your dapper appearance and immaculate grooming. You see, more than just a friendly gesture between strangers, the handshake is a power move. And aside from getting a firm grip, 2 second squeeze, while maintaing eye contact, the handshake from a gentleman's hands that can tell a story goes further than what any superficial conversation can hope to.

The hands are one of the only body parts that can communicate all on their own. A weak, soft, daintly hands suggests an individual shys at rolling their sleeves up and getting down and dirty. Such a person rather delegate the work to others. Contrast that with the strong, meaty yet limber fingers of my grandfather. A man who wouldn't hesitate to lend a helping hand, forearm or elbow. His hands told stories, of days long gone by, things built years ago and of work whose only reward was the satisfaction of completion.

So go outside and pick up something. Build something with your hands. Destroy something with your hands. Greet a hard days work as an oppurtunity to earn your mits their stripes. So that one day your hands too, can tell a story.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to Live Forever: Lessons from a Centenarian

Having recently laid to rest my great grandmother, I was pleased to see the impact she had made on so many people's lives. There was the personal impact she had on my own, teaching my cousins and I the virtue in being selfless, but as I looked around the pews of the church that seated my relatives I was able to see the genius that was my great grandmother's wisdom and charm.

She lived a life far longer than most, passing the century mark just this March, and while her time here on Earth was far and beyond what any of us expected, even more inspiring is what she did with it. Present were 5 generations of people she had helped nurture, mentor and develop into men & women. A living legacy that would carry on her life's work.

I share all this to make my main point. Creating a lasting legacy will be one of the most enduring and fulfilling accomplishment's of any gentleman's life. These legacies will far outlive our mortal lives, being passed on for generations.True, many of us think we will live forever and take little thought on how things will play out once we seize to exist. Such naivety breeds procrastination. A true gent seizes the day, living in the now, all the aware of the future.

A man's legacy should speak to something greater than he. Maybe it's a breakthrough on a grand scale such as Martin Luther King Jr., did with the Civil Rights Movement. Or maybe its a blog, chronicling timeless advice on the philosophy of a gentleman. Whatever it may be, it should be a withstanding testimony to its creator. An idea, moment, or event that defines him, providing gudiance for his descendants and others far after his life has run its course. What will your legacy be?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rebel Without a Cause

In a day and age when conformity is upheld more than individuality its refreshing to see those who buck at the social order. Why fit in when you can stand out? I've often asked myself and others this question when discussing the merits of certain music artist, political ideology, etc. I was pleased to see that this notion was gaining popularity with mainstream outlets like GQ  when I came across their "How to Be a Well Dressed Rebel" motif on their website. Over the course of 30 days they divulge a new style tip to break the mononity of your wardrobe. Everything from hats, socks, ties, and jackets are fair game for improvisation. But it doesn't have to stop there, I myself have recently started to let my hair grow out. After years of keeping a low-tapered cut, religiously visiting my barber every two weeks, one day I up and said f*ck it, and so started the growing.

Having what black folk consider "good hair" doesn't hurt when doing my little experiment, but I do truly believe that everyone should have or do something that shatters the predictability of their otherwise mundane lives. With political correctness being the order of the day we must look to new ways of flipping the proverbial finger. It can be as low-key as growing a beard, violating your employers dress code or as radical as getting a tattoo on your face, whatever it happens to be, make it genuine. Those genuine f*ck off's are the best ones.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Reading is Fundamental

"Run out and bring me the paper will ya?" That old familiar phrase shouted by my grandfather when wanting to get his news fix for the day. As I ran outside to grab the paper I always wondered what was so intriguing about news that he must read up on it every-single-day. In a town as small as ours, there couldn't possibly be that much going on. It's funny now to think just how nieve I was.

In an effort to provide more than just sartorial advice in the Art of Gentlemanship, 21stCG fully endorses other scholarly endeavors such as reading. While it is true that readership for many of our nation's newspapers are plummeting, as more readers turn to the web as their source of info, newspapers do have a place in the Gentleman's daily or weekly regimen. 

Sure, getting breaking news at it happes is important to all of us, and the "what happened yesterday" tone of newspapers may be off putting to some but consider this. Reading a newspaper is far more enjoyable than scrolling through an endless sea of hyperlinks, ritzy advertisements, and gossip in an effort to view the story. 

There's an interaction between reader and paper. Turning to the Sports section. Flipping to the Business. Folding, shifting and creasing the paper just right as to make it readable in your very own format.  We've all seen a man who can wield a newspaper, manuevering through it as effortlessly as leafing through a book.  My dad and grandad are those kind of men. Conversations with these men were much appreciated because they could talk about world events as well as the going-ons in their community. Try finding out whats going on in Cherokee County via CNN.com. I'll save you a hour, you can't.

So pick up a (Insert City) Times. Fold it, bend it, tear it how you like. It's yours. What you choose to do with it is limitless and you will be a better Gentleman because of it.