The History of Men’s Belts–(and everything else a gentleman should know about them)

Belts

Belt loops on trousers, as incredulous as it may seem to a gentleman of the 21st century, is an invention of the early 1900s. [A 1908 Macy’s catalogue offers men’s trousers with loops]:  It was in 1922 that Levi Strauss & Co., got the idea to put loops on its jeans so as to accommodate belts since many of the company’s customers wanted more flexibility and security than could be obtained with traditional suspenders.  Before the early 1900s—from as early as the Bronze Age—belts, from cording to fabric sashes to leather, had been worn by men for aesthetic reasons or to create the illusion of the idealized male physique of broad shoulders, salient chest, and a small waist.  And throughout human history, belts have been worn with military dress to enhance the male physique and to secure and/or transport weaponry. But beginning in the 1920s, with the rising popularity of pants being constructed with belt loops, belts began being worn for the purpose of keeping up pants.

The most basic form of belt is a rope, cord, or fabric sash, usually worn taut around the waist. The drawstring is also a rudimentary form of belting. But the finest belts are:  handcrafted and made of exotic skins or exquisite leather; lined with latigo or some other durable leather; interlined to create contour; finely stitched around the perimeter; finished with beveled edges; appointed with buckles and other hardware of solid metal, sometimes precious; and finished with hand-rubbed edges and dyed buckle holes, for example. Good belts come in a wide range of prices:  from very reasonable—especially when brand-name and designer belts are discounted—to pricing that is prohibitively expensive (but with justification) for the average man.

Color and Texture

When dressed professionally or formally, the color and finish of a gentleman’s belt should match that of his shoes. Most men, then, find it absolutely essential to own at least two dress belts:  one black and one brown. But since all blacks and browns are not created equal, it is best to wear or carry one’s shoes to the belt store when purchasing a belt to be worn with those shoes. A flat-finished black belt, for example, would not be a proper complement to black patent leather shoes. (In the case of the new “American black tie,” where a cummerbund is not worn and therefore cannot cover the belt, a gentleman—especially one of modest height or substantial girth—who wears black patent leather pumps may opt to wear a more understated black belt [if the trousers require a belt] so as to create an uninterrupted visual flow between his jacket and pants). Likewise, a pair of shoes of mahogany brown might not match well with a belt of mocha brown. It is also important that the width of the belt fits typical belt loops. And for a man with only two belts, it is advisable that his belt buckles be simple and classic—preferably made of brass or chrome. The rules are slightly different for casual dress. The general rule is to match casual belts, such as multi-colored web belts with box-frame buckles, with the color scheme of the overall outfit, not necessarily with the shoes. A gentleman wearing a pair of white Nike sneakers would not, for example, be expected to wear a white belt. Instead, he should choose a belt that complements his outfit in general.

Sizing

Conventional wisdom is that a man’s belt-size should be two sizes larger than his pants’ waist-size. So, for example, a man who wears 32-inch waist pants should purchase a size 34 belt. Most belts tend to have five buckle-hole options. The objective should be to purchase a belt that fits when the buckle is secured into the third, or middle, hole. And as a gentleman’s weight fluctuates, he should select the hole on either side of the middle hole. Whenever his waist-size is such that he must select the first or last hole, that is an indication that his belt is either too large or too small.  The waist-rise of a pair of pants may also affect the size belt to be worn with those pants. A pair of pants that fits onto one’s upper-hip will require a longer belt than a pair of pants that fits onto one’s true waistline. A man who wears “size 32-inch waist” low-rise pants would typically need a size 36 belt since a man’s “lower waist/upper hip” is generally about two inches larger than his “true waist.”

Storing

Belts may be loosely coiled and set atop a flat surface such as a wardrobe shelf or tabletop.  Belts with openwork buckles may also be hung from a clothing hanger by passing the open space of the buckle through the hook portion of the hanger and allowing the belt to hang freely. Never, however, should a belt be halved and hung over the crossbar of a clothing hanger, for such a storage method will eventually compromise the shape of the belt.

Care

Like shoes, belts should be allowed to “rest” between wearings. It is best to wear a belt every other day, rather than every day, allowing the belt to air-dry and regain its shape.  Belts with buckles made of metals that tarnish should be regularly polished.

 

 

Good Men With Bad Feet: How to treat dry, neglected feet.

Feet—The Achilles’ Heel of Many a Man

Many humans—especially men—neglect their feet. Fungus-infected and calcified toe nails, and thick, cracked heels are common amongst men. And none of it is becoming of a gentleman. Neglected feet suggest a personality that is concerned only with what is seen, visible, salient.  They indicate an “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. There are men, for example, who have so neglected their feet that they simply cannot wear sandals—even in the heat of summer—because their feet are too embarrassingly ill-kept.

If the feet have been neglected for too long, a visit to a pedicurist is perhaps wise. There, the problems will be professionally diagnosed, and some rapid remedies will be applied. But many men see a visit to the pedicurist as something to be done once, perhaps, in a lifetime—just before the wedding night. After all, feet have a strong foothold in matters of romance. But when men have bad feet, perhaps they should begin with romancing the stone—the pumice stone, that is. A simple, inexpensive regimen should be implemented:  During each shower, a pumice stone, generally available in any drugstore, should be used to scrub away dead skin from the soles of the feet. Thereafter, the feet should be thoroughly dried, and petroleum jelly should be generously applied. Visible improvements should appear in less than two weeks.

 

The Correct Way to Brush Your Teeth (and to Maintain Oral Health)

The Mouth Speaks Volumes

There are people—on television and in the movies—who, immediately after a long night’s sleep, turn towards their partners and kiss them intimately and intensely.  But in real life, people know better than to try such a stunt. While a warm embrace and a kiss on the lips (close-mouthed!) first thing in the morning are infinitely romantic, no true gentleman would impose morning-breath on his partner.

An ill-kept mouth is almost always a barometer for overall poor hygiene practices.  And one of the reasons many people have bad teeth is because many people brush their teeth badly. There are people, for example, who spend less than one minute brushing their teeth, when approximately ten to fifteen minutes should be allotted for the task.

Good teeth-brushing begins with a good, angled, soft-bristled toothbrush, which should be washed clean with a liquid soap-and-water solution before each use (once per week in a chlorine), making sure that the brush is thoroughly rinsed with water before applying the toothpaste. (Millions of bacteria are spread around a bathroom each time a toilet is flushed with its lid open, and many of those bacteria settle and thrive upon damp, exposed toothbrushes). (Hard-bristled toothbrushes should be outlawed—except for brushing dentures and scrubbing toilets. Hard toothbrushes ruin teeth and gums).

Not just the “smile-side” of teeth should be brushed; also the “chew-side” and the “back-side.” When an additional application of toothpaste is needed, the brush should be rinsed clean before the application.

But obtaining and maintaining a clean mouth each day requires more than just brushing the teeth therein.  The tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, the area beneath the tongue, and cheeks should all be brushed—after all, what would be the point of having clean teeth next to an unclean tongue, for example. In effect, then, it is the entire inside of the mouth that should be brushed—not just the teeth—if proper oral hygiene is to be attained.  A thorough rinse and gargle with water completes the task. The toothbrush should be rinsed clean before being replaced in its receptacle; there are few things more disgusting than a toothbrush with accumulated toothpaste residue at the base of its bristles. After all, it is difficult to obtain a clean mouth with a filthy toothbrush.  And, incidentally (pardon the pun), tubes of toothpaste should always be resealed.

After brushing and rinsing, the mouth may be given an additional rinse with mouthwash. There are many commercially available brands, each one claiming to be better than the next for one reason or another. Those with medicine-like aftertaste and smell should probably be avoided since the objective is for the mouth to smell clean and fresh, not like a first-aid kit. One of the most effective post-brushing oral rinses is the age-old solution of water and hydrogen peroxide (or “oxygenated water,” as it is sometimes called in Europe and South America):  a mouth half-filled with water to which two capfuls of hydrogen peroxide are added. After a vigorous swishing and gargling, which gives the solution a frothy consistency, the mouth, after the solution has been released into a receptacle, should be rinsed clean with fresh water.  The end result is a fresh, tasteless, odorless, clean. And unlike many commercial mouthwashes, the hydrogen peroxide-and-water solution also serves to remove traces of blood which may have been caused by abrasive toothbrush bristles during the brushing phase.

Another age-old formula for maintaining oral health is a post-brushing, final rinse comprised of regular chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite [5.25% NaOCl]), preferably the Clorox brand, and water.  One-half teaspoon of regular, normal-strength, unscented, unadulterated chlorine bleach is diluted with one cup of lukewarm water (one part bleach to 20 parts water is recommended).  A mouthful of the solution is swished around the mouth for about 20 seconds, then discarded into a receptacle. The process is repeated for another 20 seconds. Unlike the hydrogen peroxide solution described above, the chlorine solution is not to be gargled. None of the solution should be swallowed.  After the solution is released from the mouth, the mouth is rinsed thoroughly with fresh water. A final gargle with fresh water will rid the throat of any chlorine-solution residue that may have escaped the fresh-water rinse. The chlorine-solution regimen serves to eradicate many of the mouth’s harmful bacteria, thereby promoting healthier gums and fresh breath. But in order to allow for the existence of the mouth’s beneficial bacteria, it is recommended that the solution be used once per day for a two-week period, every other two weeks. Some dentists insist that the solution be used once per day on an uninterrupted daily basis. A gentleman should consult with his dentist before commencing the regimen.

Flossing has also become a part of the oral hygiene routine. When teeth are very tightly spaced, however, flossing is not recommended as it usually results in ruptured gums caused when the floss damages the tender gums as it is forced through the tightly spaced teeth. And ruptured gums contribute to gum disease, tooth decay, and offensive breath.

Teeth should be brushed first thing in the morning (A morning shower, somehow, feels less cleansing if not preceded by teeth-brushing) and last thing at night (It is amazing how much more bearable morning-breath is if teeth had been brushed just before going to bed).  On occasion, additional brushing during the course of a day may be required or desired, though too much brushing can be stressful on the teeth and gums.

Bathroom glasses—the ones some people use to rinse their mouths while brushing their teeth—are infinitely unsanitary. Just think of the amount of germs that accumulate on them just by being in a bathroom, let alone the fact that most people who use them do not wash them with soap and water before and after use.  When there is a preference for rinsing the mouth with water from a cup, disposable paper cups—concealed in some sanitary dispenser—should be used instead, the cup discarded after each use.

Likewise, when toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, razors, and the like are kept in glasses, those glasses should be washed with soap and water at least every other day:  Water residue from the items placed into bathroom glasses settle at the bottom of those glasses, serving as a breeding ground for germs. And it is important that vanity mirrors be wiped clean of any toothpaste-splattering that might have occurred during brushing. A sheet of paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol is excellent for cleaning mirrors, streak-free, residue-free.

 

Airplane Etiquette

Air Travel in the 21st Century

Until the early 1970s, air travel was an elegant affair: Flight attendants looked like fashion models; travelers dressed in their “Sunday best”; and airlines catered to passengers’ every need—from complimentary souvenirs to martinis with two olives and one pearl onion. Back then, airplane food—even in economy class—tasted like “real” food. And a first-class passenger could request to have his filet mignon prepared medium-rare. But those days are long gone, partly due to fierce competition from budget carriers and post-September 11, 2001 regulations, but more so to an across-the-board “casualization” of “things.” Today, air travel is simply another form of mass transportation, getting anyone and everyone from Point A to Point B, no perquisites attached. And unlike the 1960s, when it was still regarded as fashionable to travel with ten pieces of matching luggage (which would of course necessitate the securing of a porter or two), the smart passenger today travels with one carry-on bag and one checked-bag (into which he places all the items he is no longer legally allowed to place in his carry-on). And with the proliferation of wheeled luggage and airport terminal pushcarts, porters, too, have almost become a thing of the past. A gentleman, therefore, must be ever aware of people in need of assistance in airports, which have become increasingly large, more difficult to navigate, and less accommodating of “non-compliant” passengers.

In order to avoid exorbitant overweight charges on checked-bags, many passengers pack their carry-ons—which are typically not weighed—with utmost efficiency, forcing as many items as humanly possible into those bags. And many women and the elderly, oftentimes to their surprise, are incapable of placing their heavy carry-on bags into the overhead compartments of most commercial airplanes. Gentlemen, therefore, should be on the lookout to assist.  “Would you like some help with your bag, ma’am?” or “Let me help you with your bag, sir” is usually sufficient to generate an enthusiastic “Yes, please!” of “Thank you so much! You are so kind!”

It is not necessary to have any conversation with row-mates on an airplane—as it is not necessary on buses or on trains. It is considered polite and in good taste, however, to exchange at least basic greetings. And if conversation ensues, then so be it. Many people are wary—and for good reason—of engaging conversation with seatmates for fear of unwittingly becoming the captured audience of a person who lacks social sensitivities—as in the case of people who think it appropriate to engage a row-mate in conversation from take-off to touch-down. In such instances, at an appropriate juncture in the conversation, a polite, “It has been a pleasure speaking with you. I’ll now do some reading. Enjoy the rest of the flight,” should be sufficient to gracefully end an unwanted or imposing conversation.

Anyone who has ever endured a transatlantic flight in coach class knows that occupying the aisle seat (“to have more leg room”) oftentimes results in more “leg-stretching” than one bargains for on account of the seemingly countless interruptions by row-mates as they must take trips to the lavatory, get up to take medication, or rummage through the recesses of their carry-ons in pursuit of earphones so as to avoid paying the fee for a new pair. The best way to avoid such distractions is to request a window seat.

Upon arrival, it is polite for a gentleman to extend parting courtesies to his row-mates, and he should again be sure to offer assistance to anyone in his immediate vicinity in need of removing heavy bags from the overhead compartments.

Additional Courtesies:

-It is impolite for a gentleman to hold onto the back of an occupied seat directly in front of his when rising from his seat; doing so disturbs the occupant. (Instead, a gentleman should raise himself from his seat by bracing himself on the armrests adjacent to his seat).

-When using the control screen situated at the back of the preceding passenger’s seat, a gentleman should gently select his choices, being sure not to disturb the occupant of the preceding seat with overly aggressive or frequent depressions of the panel.

-When passenger-seats in the economy/tourist cabin are all occupied, fully reclined seats are typically uncomfortable for anyone sitting behind the reclined seats–unless all persons decide to simultaneously fully recline their seats, which is almost never the case. Though each person has a right to recline his seat to the degree desired/possible, a gentleman should always turn to the person behind and ask his/her indulgence/permission to recline. “Excuse me, sir, would you mind if I recline my seat?” is usually sufficient and always appreciated.

-As a courtesy to the passenger sitting behind, a gentleman’s seatback should be brought to its full, upright position when meals are being served:  A person who eats–as he should–with his seatback in its upright position will be subjected to cramped quarters if the seatback of the preceding passenger is simultaneously fully reclined during meal service.

-A gentleman should indicate or express no frustration or discomfort when sitting next to a mother with a crying child.

 

Lower the Seat AND the Lid!

Lower the seat AND the lid!

For over a hundred years now, ever since the dawn of indoor plumbing, women have bullied, belittled, blamed, and berated men into bathroom submission for forgetting to lower the seat of the toilet. Relationships have ended over women, in the dark of night, sitting unwittingly onto a cold toilet rim—God forbid a pee-wet one! “Lower the [fucking] seat!” has almost become a woman-mantra and a mark of the “gentler” sex’s innate domestic superiority over their more feral male counterparts. And many women take pride in having–finally–“trained” their men, after years of indoctrination, into mastering the two-step process: Lift seat to pee; lower seat after peeing.

But the reality is that both men AND women need to learn toilet etiquette. The fact is that a toilet flushed with its lid upright allows for the spreading of toilet-borne bacteria onto everything within 10 feet of the toilet! Consequently, face towels, the floor, toilet paper and its dispenser, toothbrushes, liquid soap dispensers, shower curtains and shower door handles, the doorknob, the toilet rim or seat, etc., all get a copious misting of toilet germs each time a toilet is flushed with its lid in the upright position.

Today, the fastidious homemaker keeps readily available and in plain view, next to the toilet ( hint, hint…), a spray- or squeeze-bottle of alcohol or some other bathroom cleaner, along with paper towels, for the purpose of wiping clean the toilet after each use.  A gentleman, after using the toilet for whatever purpose, should wipe clean the seat and/or rim, lower the lid, then flush the toilet (lifting the lid after the flush in order to ensure that all evidence of his usage has been eliminated, then lowering it again).

The moral of the story, then, is: Lower the god-damned toilet seat AND the lid! (That is why toilets were made with both in the first place! Duh-uh….)  And that goes for men as well as for women!

Now—finally—after a hundred years of female complaints and male resistance, in the words of the late Rodney King (1965 – 2012), “Can we all get along?”

Washcloths Were Invented For A Reason! (The Proper Way to Take a Shower or Bath)

The Shower

 Simply put, a gentleman should bathe or shower at least once per day.

 Washcloths were invented for a reason. The present-day notion that a man—or anyone for that matter—can properly cleanse himself by simply rubbing a bar of soap over his body while in the shower is the result of three generations of soap commercials on television.  But it must be remembered that those advertisements are selling soap, not teaching proper hygiene, so it would be impractical to obstruct the product—the soap—with washcloths.  But in real life, in order to clean nostrils, inner ears and behind ears, between toes, armpits, and even more private and remote areas, a washcloth, or some comparable implement—not a bar of soap—is required. Showering with a bar of soap but with no washcloth would be the equivalent of cleaning silver with silver polish but no polishing-cloth!

And like toothbrushes, washcloths must be kept clean.  There is little point in cleaning with an unclean implement.  So after showering, washcloths should be rinsed clean of soap residue and placed such that they can air-dry between uses.  Soapy washcloths left in some corner of the tub or on the floor of the shower are a breeding ground for germs.

Especially during the warmer months of the year (but, really, all year), a gentleman must pay special attention to underarm and genital odor.  After showering, ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol (both of which are generally referred to as “rubbing alcohol”) should be applied to a damp washcloth and used to give a special cleaning to genital and anal areas.  A similar application should be used to remove deodorant residue from armpits, thereafter applying fresh deodorant. (For a gentleman whose skin tends to become irritated by rubbing alcohol, cider vinegar is a good substitute). The result is a sustained, odorless freshness throughout the day. The wash cloth should be washed with soap and water then thoroughly rinsed after the special cleansing:  An air-dried washcloth with lingering traces of alcohol or vinegar and body odor is not a nice-smelling washcloth.

At the end of his bath or shower, a gentleman should ensure that the bathtub/shower stall is free of his hair, for there are few sights more disgusting than that of hair that has become separated from the body upon which it once grew. Shower curtains should be fully extended so that they may air-dry between showers, and shower doors should be left partially open so as to promote the free-flow of air throughout the shower stall, thereby reducing the incidence of mold and moldy odors.

 

Ladies First? Not Always!

Stairs, Escalators, and Moving Walkways

There are other exceptions to the general rule of “ladies first”:  When a lady is being accompanied by a gentleman, she precedes him when ascending stairs, but follows him when descending stairs, the rationale being that the gentleman will be in a position to brace her in the unfortunate event of a slip or a fall. The same rule and logic apply to escalators:  Man behind woman when ascending; man in front of woman when descending.  Unfortunately, very few men or women are aware of these exceptions, resulting in many a young man unwittingly stepping aside in the name of “chivalry,” only to commit a faux pas—literally and figuratively. Clearly, the exception makes perfect sense. A young gentleman, therefore, without seeming too authoritative, should gently suggest to his female companion that he be allowed to precede her when descending stairs so as to ensure her safety—a request with which most young ladies are more than happy to comply!

Much of the extant ambivalence is due to the fact that the rule of men behind when ascending, men in front when descending, was not always an “absolute” rule. Until the 1950s, women were expected preceded men down all stairs—except the stairs of public conveyances such as trains, buses, and boats, for example, where a lady would likely be in need of the assistance of a steady hand in the final step-down onto solid ground, that final step-down oftentimes being very steep, and in the case of boats, oftentimes very unsteady. But with the relaxation of manners which occasioned the late 1960s, such subtle distinctions faded into oblivion. And by the 1980s, the few well-intentioned men who even cared about comportment could only recall the general rule of “ladies first” and would unwisely allow their lady-companions to precede down gangplanks and treacherously steep step-downs of trains, for example, without the benefit of a helping hand to assist them in their alight onto solid ground. But etiquette evolves—thank God. And in the 21st century, rather than men and women having to remember which stairs require advance movement by men and which ones do not, a general consensus has been somehow achieved—probably in the interests of safety and simplicity—that men should always precede ladies in the descent of stairs (the one, rare exception being female leaders on official duty).

Many large airports today are equipped with moving walkways. A man accompanying a lady should allow her to step onto the moving walkway first, standing close behind her in the event she loses her footing. Shortly before disembarking the walkway, however, he should position himself so as to alight before she does so that he can offer his arm to brace her if necessary as she steps off the moving surface. And, of course, men and women should use the provided handrails and comply with other instructions when using automatic conveyances and stairways so as to avoid any mishaps and accidents. Even the most genteel of women will compromise a considerable degree of composure when tumbling down a flight of stairs! (And stiletto heels—no matter how shapely the wearer’s legs—tend to look better on the floor than up in the air! Then again, on second thought….)

 

Trains and Boats and Planes…

A gentleman escorting a lady should allow her to enter a bus first, positioning himself behind her so as to assist her step-up onto the bus, if necessary, by bracing her elbow—the one time (outside an emergency rescue mission or, perhaps, some yet-to-be-assigned-a-number sexual position) when a man is allowed to hold a woman by her elbow. Amy Vanderbilt, in her New Complete Book of Etiquette—The Guide to Gracious Living (Revised Edition, 1967), states in plain English in her discussion on “Manners on the Street”:  “The only time he does touch her elbow is when he is helping her up [emphasis provided] into a conveyance. If he precedes her—for example, down a train step—he offers his hand to steady her descent. He may never take her [emphasis provided] arm.”  And naturally, if the lady precedes the gentleman onto the bus—as she well should—she will lead the way towards available seating and will, upon identifying adjacent seating, occupy the inner seat, thereby allowing her escort to sit in the aisle seat—the more appropriate (and symbolically “protective”) seating for a gentleman accompanying a lady.

Exiting the bus is another occasion for an exception to the general rule of ladies first, and it would behoove all men and women to commit this exception to memory and practice, for it is so often violated:  When exiting a bus, the gentleman, already seated in the aisle seat, should not step aside to allow the lady to proceed down the aisle and off the bus first. Instead, after gathering his personal belongings and making sure that the lady has gathered hers, he proceeds first so that upon disembarking, he can turn towards the lady and offer his hand in assistance as she alights the stairs onto the street.

Likewise, a gentleman, be he prince, president, or preacher, should proceed ahead of his female companion when disembarking airplanes, ships, trains, etc., the logic, again, being that he will be in a position to brace her in the unfortunate event of a slip or a fall, and also that he can be in position to offer his hand in assistance as she alights the conveyance onto terra firma.

The consort, husband, or official male escort of a reigning monarch, head of state, or highly placed elected official, however, must adhere to protocol when accompanying such a lady on official matters. When ascending the stairs of a public conveyance, whether boat, airplane, or train, for example, the gentleman would board first, thereby allowing the lady, in her official capacity, to be the last person to wave goodbye to the media and observers prior to departure. Likewise, on arrival, such a lady should exit the conveyance in front of her escort so as to be the first to be officially received by the greeting delegation and media. The rationale for such protocol is that a monarch or head of state, for example, already carries the burden of her country on her shoulders and is, therefore, more than capable of maneuvering the ascent and descent of stairs on her own.  Furthermore, women in such positions, when acting in their official capacities, are generally provided with body guards and security staff to attend to their needs, thereby negating the need of their husbands or official male escorts to assume the protective roles normally factored into male-female public etiquette.  But—of course—when a high-ranking lady is not on official duty, the normal male-female rules of etiquette apply, requiring her male escort to assume his normal, protective posture.

The Cheese Course: The Correct Way to Eat Cheese–including (sometimes) the rind!

The Cheese Course

Many a young gentleman who does not hail from a culture known for its exquisite cheeses is oftentimes uncertain as to whether he should eat the rind of a cheese—that relatively firm crust that forms on cheese during the cheese-making, cheese-aging process. And the answer is:  It depends.

Some cheeses, such as Feta, are not aged long enough to develop a rind. Some other cheeses are “ripened” in protective coverings to prevent the formation of “true rinds.”  Those protective coverings, or synthetic rinds, are commonly made of plastic, cloth, bark, or wax, and, obviously, should not be eaten—at least not by gentlemen. Gouda, Brick, or Colby, any fromager will attest, is best had without its manmade “rind.” Natural cheese rind, however, derives from the same mold and bacteria that create cheese and is edible, though not always desirable. Some connoisseurs insist that all natural rinds should be eaten, arguing that they impart a particular flavor, aroma, and uniqueness of character to the cheese. Other experts are of the position that whether to eat or not to eat the rind is a question of personal taste, reasoning that some rinds are unappetizingly rigid, as in the case of Parmesan, or simply unpalatable. But despite the different schools of thought, many experts agree that the rinds of some cheeses should always be eaten:  Brie, Camembert, Liederkranz, and Brillat-Savarin, to name just a few. To those authorities, the rinds of such cheeses enhance the flavor of the cheeses they embrace, and to discard such rinds would be an insult to the age-old tradition of fine cheese-making as well as to the fine men and women who devote their lives to the profession. And that, they insist, is nothing to smile about.

The cheese course will usually be served with a knife and a fork. Soft cheeses like Brie should be cut with the knife, then conveyed to the mouth with the fork. Hard, difficult-to-cut cheeses such as Parmesan should be broken with the fingers, conveying thereafter the desired portion to the mouth.

It was once common for cheese to be presented with fresh fruit—usually cored, pared, and quartered apples or pears—as a dessert course, but that tradition is much less popular today. Most 21st-century hostesses will present cheese as a separate course—typically following the traditionally placed salad course.

 

 

What To Do With Pits And Bones At The Dining Table

Fruit Pits and Bones

The general consensus of the experts on etiquette is that the “graveyard” of the dinner plate is its upper left side; it is there that all things inedible must go.  It is there, for example, that pits are placed and bones are laid to rest—after they have been eaten clean. But it is the manner in which they are placed there that may sometimes be a matter for debate.  Pits and bones large enough such that they will not slip through the tines of a fork are removed from the mouth—again, only after they have been eaten clean—by placing the fork, tines held sideways and upward, slightly against the lips, so that the item in the mouth, with the aid of the tongue and the lips, may be carefully released unto the tines of the fork, thereafter to be carefully lowered onto the plate. When items are so small or thin that they would slip through the tines of a fork, they are removed from the mouth with the fingers or released from the mouth into a loosely fisted hand, depending on the item. A thin fish bone, for example, would be removed with the thumb and index finger then placed onto the plate, while the seed of an orange would be deposited directly from the mouth into a loosely fisted hand and then released onto the plate.  Never—ever—should one’s napkin be used in an attempt to discretely conceal items being removed from one’s mouth or to conceal items once they have been removed from one’s mouth.

The History of the Men’s Suit–and What to Expect When Purchasing One in the 21st Century

The Suit

 The History of the Men’s Suit

The men’s suit as it is known today, with its equestrian-inspired jacket and complementary trousers (and vest, also called a “waistcoat”) all made of the same fabric, is an invention stylistically attributed to the United Kingdom of the late 1800s and was originally worn on informal occasions, especially those associated with the sport of shooting or with leisurely pursuits—so much so that the garment would come to be known as the “lounge suit.” But even as late as the Edwardian era, which extends from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to either the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 or the commencement of World War I in 1914, a fashionable man would routinely wear a morning coat, frock coat, or tailcoat in one color and fabric, with pants of another color and fabric, and a vest of yet another color and fabric. By the 1930s, however, the lounge suit had  become the standard “uniform” for professional office wear; and within a decade of its ubiquity, it had emerged as both the defining and iconic garment of the Western man, maintaining that status to date. It, in effect, became the 20th century’s equivalent of the medieval armor:  a garment to impress and intimidate, assert the wearer’s importance, and to do battle—in the business arena.

Until the 1940s, when the concept of the ready-made garment became commonplace, men would go to personal tailors to get their clothing made. But the post-World War II preference for things machine-made as opposed to made by hand, the old fashioned-way, changed all that—except in a few instances, the bespoke suit, discussed below, being one such instance.

Off-the-Rack/Ready-Made

Today, the typical man walks off the street and into a men’s store to purchase a ready-made suit, leaving with the garment that same day or, perhaps, the following day if any minor adjustments are required. Most stores that sell men’s suits have an on-site tailor to do the alterations. Off-the-rack (or ready-made) suits are typically sized to fit the average male:  the waist measurement of the pants is six inches smaller that the chest measurement of the jacket. So a suit jacket of size 40 would be paired with trousers with a waist measurement of 34 inches. In other words, then, the standard sizing of men’s suits anticipates a man with a typically squared, rather than an idealized V-shaped, torso. “Athletic Cut” suits have a greater chest-waist differential (usually from eight to ten inches) and tend to fit younger, more athletically proportioned men, but very few manufacturers offer that option. Suits are also sized as “Short,” “Regular,” “Long,” and “Extra Long,” thereby accommodating men of varying heights, especially as pertaining to the length of their torsos and arms. (And, of course, men who are exceedingly corpulent or tall may find suitable garments at stores that specialize in clothing for “Big and Tall” men). Generally, pants’ legs are left unhemmed (“unfinished”) by the manufacturer and are hemmed by the store’s tailor to fit the customer. And increasingly today, suit-jackets and their matching trousers are sold separately, thereby allowing a gentleman to purchase items that fit his upper body and his lower body with few or no alterations. Establishments that sell suits via internet websites generally offer this option since, obviously, there would be no on-site tailor to make adjustments to standard-sized suits. Allowing customers to purchase garments that fit without alterations or with minimal adjustments also reduces the incidence of returned items, which is a major concern in mail-order and on-line purchasing. A tall, 6’4”, broad-shouldered, slender man, then, who typically would not have been able to buy an off-the-rack suit without having the pants undergo significant adjustments, may today visit the online store of establishments such as J. Crew (www.JCrew.com ) and purchase a 42 Long (42L) jacket and a 32-inch waist (32W) pants with unfinished hems. (In the traditional method of selling suits, a 42L jacket would have been sold with a 36W pants, which would have rendered the tall, slender gentleman described above with trousers four inches too large in the waist and elsewhere. And reducing a 36W pair of pants to fit a 32W gentleman compromises the lines of the pants, so much so that most reputable tailors would decline the task). As an added convenience, some online stores allow their customers to specify the desired trouser length, typically measured by the inseam, determined by measuring the inner seam of a pant, running from the crotch down to the hemline, with allowances for the height and cut of the shoes. (While a gentleman’s outseam measurement [the measurement obtained by measuring the length of the seam running down the outside of the pant leg, from immediately below the bottom of the waistband to the hem] might vary, depending on the waist-rise of the trouser, the inseam remains the same and is therefore generally regarded as a more accurate measurement for obtaining the desired finished length of pants. Of course, for low-crotch pants such as Eastern “harem pants” or hip-hop pants, the outseam would be the more accurate measurement for determining desired trouser length).  And establishments that sell suit-jackets and pants separately via their internet stores and mail-order catalogs are increasingly offering the same option to their store-front customers, thereby transforming the way men’s suits are sold in the 21st century—much to the elation of the many men who possess non-standard proportions, while with no harm to men with standard bodies.

Made-to-Measure/Made-to-Order

Alternatively, a gentleman may have his suit made to measure or made to order (both interchangeable terms), where he makes an appointment with the store’s on-site tailor, who takes the gentleman’s measurements and then has the specified suit made, whether on-site or elsewhere, per those measurements, usually within a week to ten days. With a made-to-measure suit, the gentleman does not return for fittings. He returns to try on the finished suit—with the understanding that any minor adjustments thereto will be made by the tailor, the way the on-site tailor would have adjusted a ready-made suit at any reputable men’s store.  Some of the world’s premiere outfitters of men, such as major department stores, operate accordingly. Typically, the gentleman is presented with several suit styles—whether as made-up samples, photographs, or sketches in a style book—from which to choose. The gentleman, upon the advice and suggestion of the tailor, then selects the fabrics for the suit and its linings, as well as decides on finishing details:  whether the trousers will be half-lined or fully lined; whether the jacket will have “hand-picked” lapels and pockets; whether the buttonholes on the sleeves will be functional; whether the trousers will be finished with cuffs, etc.

Pure, natural-fiber fabrics are best for the making of quality suits:  wool in differing weights for all-year use; linen and cotton for the spring and summer months; and silk for all year use. Some fabrics made of blends of two or more of the aforementioned natural fibers may also be used, though many purists insist in pure fabrics.

A good suit should be lined in silk, but rayon, a man-made fabric made of natural components, and the synthetics acetate and viscose are popular alternatives. What is of critical importance is that the lining, if synthetic, be capable of withstanding the same heat as the natural fabric of which the suit is constructed so that when the garment is being pressed, the synthetic lining is not accidentally singed by the unwitting presser since natural fibers are typically able to withstand greater heat than non-natural ones.

Bespoke/Custom-Tailored

The gold standard of men’s suits is the bespoke, or custom-tailored, suit. It is the equivalent of women’s haute couture. At least 40 hours, some of which are consecutive, and cannot be concurrent, are required for the construction of a bespoke suit. Therefore, any claims by any establishment that it can produce a custom-tailored suit in less than 24 hours is fallacious on the grounds of impossibility. And in reality, given the demand and limited amount of superbly skilled craftsmen, procuring a bespoke suit can oftentimes take several weeks to several months.

The best way to secure an excellent tailor is by referral from a trusted, well-dressed gentleman who has long been a client of fine custom tailors. Once the tailor has been secured, the seemingly sacred process of obtaining the suit begins with a discussion between the client and the cutter, the “architect” of the garment. (Thereafter, the “construction crew” is engaged to construct the garment and apply its finishing touches). (See The Bespoke Suit in the chapter, “The Luxuries of Life”).

 Unlike a made-to-measure suit, where the client is presented with an already-existing suit pattern that serves as the basis from which a suit, constructed pursuant to the client’s particular measurements, is made, a bespoke suit is derived from a pattern that is created specifically for the customer. And that pattern takes into account the pros and the cons of the customer’s physique, personal taste, and lifestyle as the garment is being designed, constructed, and fitted. A good tailor will, for example, discourage a short, broad man from wearing a double-breasted jacket since such jackets, because of their cut and lateral presentation, tend to “widen” the wearer’s appearance. Similarly, a tall, emaciated man would be discouraged from wearing a suit with prominent vertical stripes, which would serve to exaggerate his already-linear physique. But besides such obvious treatments, details such as the slant of pockets, the width and styling of lapels (whether notched or peaked, for example), and the silhouette of the trousers all converge to determine the overall line of a suit. It is the job of the bespoke tailor to create a garment that accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative characteristics of his client.