How to Be a Modern Gentleman

The word “gentleman” is often associated with men in fancy top hats, with monocles and exquisite mustaches. While you can certainly break out the Victorian formalwear and grow a sweet ‘stache if you’d like, being a true gentleman is really all about how you treat people—not what you look like. If you feel like improving yourself and becoming the most respectful, kind-hearted person you can be, then you can become a modern gentleman.

Here are 12 ways you can be a gentleman in the twenty-first century.


[Edit]Be respectful of others.

  1. Gentlemen treat people the way they want to be treated. It’s easy for people to be judgmental or jaded these days, but a modern gentleman aims to give people the benefit of the doubt. Be nice to everyone, even if there’s really nothing in it for you. Try to avoid letting a preconceived idea about someone cloud your ability to show them respect.[1]
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    • Treat everyone with respect regardless of their gender, race, or class. No modern gentleman looks down on others for coming from a different background!
    • “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is a great mantra for a modern gentleman.

[Edit]Say please and thank you.

  1. Expressing gratitude is key for a gentleman. While a gentleman hundreds of years ago may have drunk their tea with a pinky out, you don’t need to worry about following any kind of hard set of rules here. Just be grateful and show some basic appreciation when you interact with other people.[2]
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    • Feel free to make this your own. “I appreciate it,” “You’re the best,” and, “You’re so kind,” are all solid ways to say thanks without coming off as too formal!
    • This is especially important when it comes to service workers. Instead of just rattling off your order at the restaurant, greet your server by saying, “Hey! How’s your day going?” and don’t forget to thank them after they’ve taken your order. The way you treat strangers who serve you says a lot![3]

[Edit]Mind your manners.

  1. Abide by the proper etiquette to exude gentlemanliness. While many traditional social rules no longer apply, you can absolutely embody the spirit of a gentleman by following the spirit of traditional etiquette. You don’t need to be super stiff or formal, but do your best to avoid ruffling feathers in public or making poor first impressions.[4]
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    • Be punctual and never show up late if you can avoid it.
    • Don’t curse in front of strangers, and avoid raising your voice in public unless someone is having trouble understanding you.
    • Table manners are a key part of being a modern gentleman. Keep your elbows off of the table and never reach out over anyone to grab the salt!
    • Avoid being overly informal with people. There’s nothing wrong with calling someone “dude” or “mate,” but it isn’t especially gentlemanly.

[Edit]Spread positivity everywhere you go.

  1. Hand out compliments liberally and build people up. The more positivity you can inject into the world, the better. Tell your friends you love their outfit, say nice things about their hair, and tell people you care about them. If someone looks like they’re having a rough day, shower them with support and love.[5]
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    • A lot of people spend a majority of their time doing things for themselves. A true gentleman cares about everyone! Whether it’s volunteering for a good cause or just being nice to strangers, aim to make the world a better place.

[Edit]Dress well and take care of your appearance.

  1. Keep that 5 o’clock shadow in check and update your wardrobe. Shower every day, touch your facial hair up as needed to keep it neat, and stop pulling your outfits out of the laundry basket. If you need some new clothes, there’s no time like now to do some shopping! This isn’t 1950—you don’t have to always wear a suit and tie in order to be a gentleman. But that doesn’t mean you should be walking around in sweatpants and sandals, either.[6]
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    • You don’t need to look a certain way—you can absolutely be a bearded fellow with a goth wardrobe and still be a gentleman—but you should be mindful of how you present yourself.
    • A lot of guys don’t moisturize or exfoliate at all. Take care of your skin!
    • Invest in a quality cologne. How you smell is a large part of the impression you make on others.

[Edit]Stand up for what’s right.

  1. Call out injustice and don’t let cruel behavior go unchecked. If you see someone being bullied, call out the aggressor and make it known that you don’t tolerate nastiness. If one of your friends makes an off-handed racist joke or something, let them know it won’t fly when you’re around. Gentlemen should be beacons of justice and fairness, so take a stand when it’s called for.[7]
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    • The famous adage comes to mind here: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If you want to be a good man, do something![8]

[Edit]Help people in need.

  1. Volunteer to help even if there’s nothing in it for you. If your friend needs help moving, put yourself up for the job before they get a chance to ask. If someone stops you on the street to ask for directions, do your best to walk them through where they need to go. Even if it’s just a little thing, do your best to go out of your way to improve the lives of those around you.[9]
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    • This isn’t to say that you should sacrifice time, money, or energy to help others if you can’t do it. You should still take care of yourself; just try to help others whenever you can.

[Edit]Engage in a few scholarly pursuits.

  1. A gentleman is well-versed on a variety of topics, so read up! If it’s been a while since you’ve cracked open a book, try to get back into the habit. Whether it’s classic novels, scientific articles, or nonfiction, aim to read a little bit every day. You could also learn how to play an instrument, or take a class on writing poetry. Whatever you choose to do, pursue something that will make you smarter and more well-rounded.[10]
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    • A modern gentleman should be able to hold their own at a cocktail party or on a dinner date. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly “academic,” at least you’ll be able to hold an interesting conversation if you know a thing or two!

[Edit]Keep up with the news.

  1. Be a good citizen by staying informed and updated on current affairs. Aim to get a good balance of local, national, and international news, and look for news sources that provide a variety of diverse opinions. Not only will you be able to engage in a casual conversation about that new tax bill the next time it comes up at a party, but you’ll be more informed about the world around you![11]
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    • It’s a little old school, but getting a newspaper subscription is a great way to stay up on local news. You’ll get to support a good local paper while you’re at it!
    • It’s easy to get beat down with all the negativity out there. If it gets a little too depressing to keep reading the news, take a break.

[Edit]Use social media as a force for good.

  1. It’s easy to engage in bad faith online, so treat digital strangers right. Post positive comments, share motivational images, and do your best not to get into digital duals with strangers. If you’re a gentleman in real life, be a gentleman online. A lot of people are a little more controversial, rude, or toxic online than they are in real life. This is because it’s easy to pretend like those profiles and screen names don’t have a real person behind them.[12]
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    • This is especially important when it comes to interacting with potential dating partners. A lot of men out there aren’t particularly kind or respectful in this arena, so be the change you want to see in the world.[13]

[Edit]Brush off rejection and failure gracefully.

  1. Things don’t always go your way, so shake off obstacles with candor. How you respond to failure says a lot about you, and a true gentleman doesn’t get flustered, act out, or insult people when things don’t go their way. If your boss shoots you down when you ask for a promotion, thank them for considering you and don’t let it impact your work. If you ask someone on a date and they decline your offer, smile and tell them that you understand. Take the high road whenever you can, and don’t let challenges get you down.[14]
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    • Ever hear the phrase “water off of a duck’s back”? It’s a good mantra for gentlemen anywhere. Don’t let problems rattle or upset you to the point that you act out. Even if you’re hurting inside in the moment, swallow your pride and process the feeling in private.

[Edit]Be a man about town.

  1. Build your rolodex and learn where to find the best. A good gentleman is “in the know” when it comes to where you should get a suit tailored, where you should go for a fancy bottle of wine, and where the last pool hall in the city is located. If you’re in the habit of going to the same place for food, haircuts, or drinks, spread your wings a bit. Visit new places and find the best in town.[15]
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    • Always tip well—especially when you’re at a business you regularly visit. If you’re in the United States, aim to always tip 15-20%.
    • Know a barber, florist, and jeweler. You’re sure to raise some eyebrows if you can rattle off a recommendation for a fresh shave, fancy centerpiece, or watch salesman! You’ll never feel cooler than you do when you get to say, “I know a guy.”
    • If you’re over 21, find a hidden gem in the bar department. It could be a secretive speakeasy, a basement whiskey bar, or a trendy rooftop spot that makes fancy cocktails. If co-workers are looking for a spot to grab a drink or your date wants to grab a nightcap, you’ll be the slick guy with the cool recommendation!



  • Some of the old-school habits of gentlemen may not go over so well today. People are perfectly capable of ordering for themselves at restaurants, and many women find the title “lady” to be insulting, not endearing. Even if you mean well, be aware of how your actions may be seen by other people.[16]

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