Simon Baker

There is a men’s fragrance advert with the actor Simon Baker in it, which struck me as a reasonable, if romanticised view of what it is to be a gentleman. The scene is stylish, with cobbled roads, classic bicycle and clean architecture; and, men and women are attractive and well dressed, with a hint of romance and mischief. There is a polished style and elegance flowing from every frame. Perfection.

Most men have a rough idea of where their appearance, sense of style, and charisma fit, say on a 1 to 10 scale – some, like me, know we’re not likely to appear in an advert for these qualities any time soon, and (importantly) have learned to be comfortable with this. With simple grooming tips and quality products, a little fashion advice, and maybe a role model to mimic, we can make sure that appearance and style are not an obstacle to us. It's a little clichéd, but in practical terms, life is rarely like the movies, so find your own personal perfection.

Having said that, it's a good thing that being a gentleman is not just about what people see with their eyes, but is arguably more dependent on his character. Yes, I agree that first impressions are powerful, but our character is fundamental even to our outward presentation. Arrogance, vanity, and other poor traits can chase people away just as effectively as sloppy dressing and poor hygiene. A man's genuine behavior is fundamental to affecting the lives and opinions of those around him. Traditionally, for a gentleman, this happens by displaying simple respect for others, in old school door-opening, helping carry a heavy package, sharing a kind word, or being the shoulder / handkerchief provider.

Although not the purpose of the advert, Mr Baker shows something of this in the advert’s commercially packaged summary of gentlemanly behaviour: he offers the beautiful woman a safe lift on his bicycle, around the roadworks blocking her path. (As a side note, the modern man knows when a woman is the traditional 'damsel in distress', and the true gentleman would have helped anyone in need.) Despite the messages in recent decades of popular film and TV, including the recent dominance of the flawed anti-hero, the role of a knight should not be forgotten - 'old school' chivalry may seem a dying art, but it is not dead. Like fashion-sense, chivalry comes more easily to some, and finding a balanced combination of both is all part of the challenge of becoming better men. Like style, chivalry can be cultivated over time, though neither can be faked for long.

Spend time and money on your appearance, but also find the time to perfect your character.