June 10, 2013

Have you heard of the high school club called The League of Aspiring Gentlemen?

There are 50 members at Eau Claire Memorial High School (here in Wisconsin).

The teenage boys dress up — shirts, jackets, ties, slacks — and "learn what it was like to be a gentlemen" ("fashion, taste, manners, etiquette, style and... the finer things in life").

Club founder club Alec Baca explained that the club members remain aspiring gentlemen, because "To declare oneself a gentlemen would be rather ungentlemanly."

I was sent to that link by David Blaska, who commended the League (and complained about some non-League types here in Madison.

61 comments:

Methadras said...

Now, let's hope the have the characters of aspiring men to match.

Sigivald said...

"To declare oneself a gentlemen would be rather ungentlemanly."

Nonsense.

To make a fuss about it is ungentlemanly, but a gentleman can be confident in his awareness of being one.

A proper gentleman will not, after all, imagine himself to be a man of low character.

That said, it is naturally appropriate in this context for the club to be aspirational; to become a gentleman takes time, and these youths haven't been training all their lives.

YoungHegelian said...

I guess it wouldn't be considered gentlemanly to hold the meetings in a gentleman's club, now, would it?

Greg Hlatky said...

"Far more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how 'polished,' can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles; he is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless, and the champion of justice—or he is not a gentleman." - Emily Post, "Etiquette" (1922)

MadisonMan said...

My son knows some guys in the club (also swimmers). Link.

campy said...

Any aspiring ladies in the school?

edutcher said...

Sounds like where I went to school, at least the last 6 years.

Actually, this probably is the sort of thing the level-playing-field types hate, but it's probably going to be a rewarding experience for them.

MadisonMan said...

There is a Men's Club at West High. I'm not sure what they do. My recollection is that it started 3 or so years ago. Then, they talked about what it means to be a man. Who knows what is has evolved into.

Michael Haz said...

Good for them. Call it a (gentlemanly) rebellion against the anti-boy practices in many high school classrooms.

In the high school where my wife teaches that is a small group of boys who meet at the football field each school morning at 6:30 AM to sing the National Anthem a capella.

Chip S. said...

They've got impeccable taste in music.

Michael said...

I would expect the authorities to step in and stop this! Sounds fraternal, hegenomic.
A friend had a nephew who wore a tie and blazer every single day beginning when he was seven or eight. No one made him and it clearly annoyed his parents and others. Fifteen years on and he is still wearing the tie daily, now a graduate of Harvard and on his way in the world. A nice man. A gentle man.

Jim said...

"They study such related matters as taste, manners, etiquette, style – “and the finer things of life,” including Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blue jazz album. Yes, one does lead to the other."

Love that quote. Miles is the epitome of male style.

Methadras said...

MadisonMan said...

There is a Men's Club at West High. I'm not sure what they do. My recollection is that it started 3 or so years ago. Then, they talked about what it means to be a man. Who knows what is has evolved into.


The feminist movement has in great part tried and trying to destroy men and masculinity. The level of confusion on the part of males as to how to be a man appears to be counter to what you think might be going on. It used to be a practice that a boy went through a rite of passage in order to become a man. That took many forms. There really isn't one much to speak of anymore in the US. Couple that with the institutionalized misandry that is practiced on such a massive scale in this country, then you might wonder why these small pockets of resistance are popping up. Are you afraid?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Be sure to post a follow-up once they start fighting duels.

Skeptical Voter said...

I fly model airplanes in competition. One of the places where we have flown in the past is Taft, California. It's in deepest Kern County--60 miles west of Bakerksfield. Population, when the oil fields are going well is 5,000 or so. When they're not doing well, then the population is 3,000.

Some years back I was in Taft at a contest around Memorial Day--which of course is also around Senior Prom day. I was eating in a restaurant and went into the men's room. A number of high school senior men were there, all dressed up for the prom and saying "Ain't we slick". And indeed they were--just that "slick". As far as I'm cncerned, any time you can get young men dressed up and acting like gentlemen, then it's a plus. A big plus.

DanTheMan said...

Good for them. But the guys in the League of Aspiring Bad Boys are going to get all the girls....

bwebster said...

Nothing suits me like a suit!

bagoh20 said...

I like people to be nicely dressed, and I too like the romantic and nostalgic appeal of that, but my experience has shown it to be useless in evaluating people's character, capability, or honesty. I wish it was that easy, but it's just not. It's an easy way to fake it though, because people will fall for it over and over.

You can, of course, tell some people who dress like gang members are likely to be trouble, but just plain old poor fashion sense or sloppiness - nope. I will say that a well dressed liar is likely to cost you more than a poorly dressed one - all other things being equal.

I wish I had the ability to do it, because I clean up real nice, but I'm just not made for it. I'm not comfortable spending the money it costs, taking the time, or being careful all day in my nice clothes. It's just too much hassle.

For me, well dressed people, while nice to look at, are just less useful. They don't want to help you change tire, catch a stray dog, play a quick game of hoops, or take an impromptu walk on the beach. Dressed up is for talking - not doing, and I'm kinda busy.

rcocean said...

In the 19th Century, Gentlemen were MEN who were Gentle - to those who deserved it. And very UN-Gentle to those who didn't.

Today its just seems a synonym for "dandy" or "Little Lord Fauntleroy".

rcocean said...

A 19th century gentlemen would cut your heart out if you insulted him.

But he would do it with class.

bwebster said...

Nothing suits me like a suit!

exhelodrvr1 said...

How long before some one sues to let females in?

rehajm said...

Shorts are right out.

edutcher said...

DanTheMan said...

Good for them. But the guys in the League of Aspiring Bad Boys are going to get all the girls...

All the dumb ones, maybe. The smart ones (most of them) will see them for what they are; the rest will only need one experience.

bagoh20 said...

I like people to be nicely dressed, and I too like the romantic and nostalgic appeal of that, but my experience has shown it to be useless in evaluating people's character, capability, or honesty. I wish it was that easy, but it's just not. It's an easy way to fake it though, because people will fall for it over and over.

You can, of course, tell some people who dress like gang members are likely to be trouble, but just plain old poor fashion sense or sloppiness - nope. I will say that a well dressed liar is likely to cost you more than a poorly dressed one - all other things being equal.

I wish I had the ability to do it, because I clean up real nice, but I'm just not made for it. I'm not comfortable spending the money it costs, taking the time, or being careful all day in my nice clothes. It's just too much hassle.

For me, well dressed people, while nice to look at, are just less useful. They don't want to help you change tire, catch a stray dog, play a quick game of hoops, or take an impromptu walk on the beach. Dressed up is for talking - not doing, and I'm kinda busy.


You don't get it.

There's a code that goes with all of that. Without it, all you've got are metrosexuals like Choom. with it, you've got people like Teddy Roosevelt and Robert E Lee.

And even the good ol' boys, the ones who do more than get drunk, and chase women, and never have a job, the ones who are "useful" have the same code.

Clothes have less to do with it than you think. And you don't have to be a clothes horse to look good. 50 years ago, any self-respecting man wouldn't go anywhere without a coat and a tie. It was an issue taking pride in oneself.

JAL said...

In many parts of the country Junior Cotillion is in charge of teaching manners, etiquette, dancing and civilized socialization ;- )

The Godfather said...

One of the reasons that the ginormous DC law firm I used to be with adopted a "business casual" dress code was that the young lawyers we were hiring out of the best law schools in the country didn't OWN a suit and couldn't tie a tie. I think it's pathetic.

Do you remember the scene in Saturday Night Fever when John Travolta is getting ready to go to the disco, and he's dressing as though he was a knight on his way to a tourney? In my younger days, that's how I felt when I put on my best suit and white Brooks Brothers shirt and Hermes tie and black wing tips. I was ready to do battle, in court, or a client meeting, or whatever. In 45 years of practice I've NEVER gone to court in a shirt other than a white shirt -- I've bought additional shirts when I knew I was going into a long trial.

Ann, do law schools teach this today? (They didn't have to teach it when I was in law school, because we all knew it already.)

bagoh20 said...

People generally dress up to make a statement about themselves. I would just be lying.

Titus said...

I am frequently called a gentleman.

thanks and big large bouncing hard tits that are also pointy.

edutcher said...

One other thing.

Why this is important is the Slob Culture the Lefties started with the hippie movement - look like a slob, act like a slob, think (if you think at all) like a slob. Getting people away from a more upstanding life and into self-indulgence meant this was the first step.

Dressing properly is one way of getting out of that. Consider the military - a soldier that looks sharp is sharp, disciplined, and in command of himself.

bagoh20 said...

Clothes matter, and I aspire to have people underestimate me.

edutcher said...

How you comport yourself matters.

Clothes are part of that.

bagoh20 said..

People generally dress up to make a statement about themselves. I would just be lying.

There's a difference between dressing up and dressing as part of who you are.

You can look good in a T-shirt and khakis.

bagoh20 said...

I think this is a popular myth - that dressing people up somehow changes them for the better. It's like all the other magic pills we want to believe in, but it's just not true. The clothes can be part of an entire philosophy, but they are the least important part of it, and I think it's a mistake when boys or anyone is taught otherwise. The premise can't be supported. You can't tell a person that you are good and decent because you care about how you are dressed and not expect them to learn to avoid the poor, manual work, putting people above possessions, or judging people unfairly by their appearances. This is a holdover from an old and elitist past, and it's in error.

There is a concept worth teaching that is respect for social grace, but it is a lesser virtue, and that is important to impart as well.

bagoh20 said...

I misspoke above. Social grace is very important and is in fact a major virtue, but quality of dress is a minor form of social grace.

edutcher said...

bagoh20 said...

I think this is a popular myth - that dressing people up somehow changes them for the better. It's like all the other magic pills we want to believe in, but it's just not true. The clothes can be part of an entire philosophy, but they are the least important part of it, and I think it's a mistake when boys or anyone is taught otherwise.

OK, this is where we agree. Clothes are not the end-all and be-all. There's got to be a framework of character beneath it.

That framework, however, is going to influence a lot, including how one presents himself. He's going to take some pride in his appearance as a measure of that character.

You can't tell a person that you are good and decent because you care about how you are dressed and not expect them to learn to avoid the poor, manual work, putting people above possessions, or judging people unfairly by their appearances. This is a holdover from an old and elitist past, and it's in error.

Are we talking some Lefty who makes a big show of how he cares for "the poor", including dressing like a shyster lawyer, but all he really wants is to see they have enough welfare?

I know of a lot of men who really care about the poor, work with them, and still take pride in how they look. They're called priests.

You're still talking about people who put clothes before character. That's Barack Obama and Teddy Kennedy.

There were people who understood a man who worked with his hands got dirty and respected him for his work. They respected men who came up the hard way.

You've been stewing in the whole Working Class Hero thing. You're the one who's putting appearance above how you view people.

You and I usually agree, but on this one I really think you're missing the point.

bagoh20 said...

"You're still talking about people who put clothes before character. That's Barack Obama and Teddy Kennedy."

Yes, and people like them are proof of what I'm saying. You can't say that how people dress is important and then admit that many terrible people dress well, probably with the same regularity as good people who do. If it's not reliable of an indication of character, then it's just not. People just want to believe that - mostly people who already do dress well. It's a myth, just like the working class hero. No reliable correlation there either, except that working for a living is clearly better than not - well dressed or sloppy.

Likewise priests run the gambit from dirty in slums to TV evangelist sharp, and likewise with their character from pedophile to saint. But there is no correlation with their appearance, except maybe a reverse one.

bagoh20 said...

I meet people of all kinds everyday making deals both written and verbal, and frankly I'm suspicious of a very well dress person, and I bet most people are. To me it suggests misplaced values, and trying to accomplish something beyond and in place of just being fair, honest and hardworking, which is what I value. I think other people get this vibe too. The person you feel most comfortable and trusting with is the guy who is not a slob, but who doesn't try so hard with his appearance. He seems normal, balanced, approachable and understandable.

An impeccably dressed guy or woman makes me imagine getting the short end of the deal if I come between them and their self-image and what they think they may deserve being the elite individual they are.

carrie said...

My son and his friends had a "gentlemen's sport's league" at Middleton High School last year--they played Cricket and rugby and billiards and I forget what else. I don't think that learning etiquette or specific attire was on their agenda, but I don't really know. They had a number of foreign exchange students involved in the league and I think it was a great cultural experience too--I think one of the students was trying to start something like in his own country when he returned home.

carrie said...

My son and his friends had a "gentlemen's sport's league" at Middleton High School last year--they played Cricket and rugby and billiards and I forget what else. I don't think that learning etiquette or specific attire was on their agenda, but I don't really know. They had a number of foreign exchange students involved in the league and I think it was a great cultural experience too--I think one of the students was trying to start something like in his own country when he returned home.

Harold said...

BAck when I graduated HS in 1973, my particular group of friends would, upom being introduced to a girl for the first time, would kiss the back of their hand. And would show up on a first date with a single rose. Some of the young ladies were baffled by it, but in the end, they all liked it.

The rules for what constitutes civilized bahavior may change over time, but there are and should be rules. For example, prior to teh 1960's, men always wore a hat in public. I'm happy that one went away. But even the poorest of people got dressed in their Sunday best for services. The first time I went to mass in San Diego and a guy in the pew behind me had on shorts and a Primo Beer t-shirt, well, I kept my mouth shut. At least he was in church.

Clothes say a lot. Can we all remember the recent phenonema of slut-walking? A woman dresses like one, well, some men will treat her like one...

Persoanlly, I prefer that look over burqas. Any day of the week, including Sunday.

bagoh20 said...

Who really wants their daughter dating the best dressed man in town. She may like him, but you know in your heart that you would mostly feel the need to warn her of something, wouldn't you? What would that warning be?

Synova said...

"Actually, this probably is the sort of thing the level-playing-field types hate, but it's probably going to be a rewarding experience for them."

I would think that it would be the type of thing that would help to level those playing fields.

I mean... look. I'm not at all ashamed of my background and upbringing and I don't value the trappings of upper-classness, but there have definitely been times in my life when I felt culturally uncomfortable and out of place. Not that my manners aren't just fine as they are but I can see the value of being comfortable in slightly more formal social settings, no matter how wonderful and authentic the blue jeans, BBQ and beer socializing is. A sit down fancy dinner isn't morally superior to a potluck but they aren't the same thing.

Part of what makes playing fields UN-level is how UN-comfortable you are with suit-and-tie formality.

Synova said...

"An impeccably dressed guy or woman makes me imagine getting the short end of the deal if I come between them and their self-image and what they think they may deserve being the elite individual they are."

There's always a lady in any church that is perfectly dressed and made up without a hair out of place. I always wonder what she's hiding.

OTOH, there's the slut walk thing.

I distrust a guy that seems too smooth, you're right.

But I also wouldn't hire one of those fellows with his jeans down below his butt.

peoplearenotstupid.com said...

bagoh20 said...
Who really wants their daughter dating the best dressed man in town. She may like him, but you know in your heart that you would mostly feel the need to warn her of something, wouldn't you? What would that warning be?

Er, okay, I'll take a shot. Is the warning: Don't marry that kind and well-to-do lawyer/police-officer/politician, small-business owner/doctor, because he is the best dressed man in town, and a proper lady will never be seen with the best dressed man in town. Because...because...oh, I get it. Because trusting your wardrobe selection to a fashion-savvy (and, therefore, presumably gay) clothing salesman necessarily means that the well-dressed lad has, uh, become gay himself?

No, that can't be it. Alright, I'm stumped...?

traditionalguy said...

It's all about class. The ones who are willing to learn it will be rewarded greatly.

Kev said...

I'm torn with regards to this. On the one hand, I'm in the camp that would prefer to see our young people dressed up, rather than in "gangsta" style...but there's a whole big middle (jeans and T-shirts) that's being ignored here, and, as others have noted, dressing up while possessing poor character just makes one, well, an empty suit.

But on the other hand, I love that they meet in the jazz band room (and that their school has a room specifically for that class!) and listen to Miles Davis.

(And while Miles may have been the epitome of cool, he was evidently not always a gentleman, especially with regard to his wives/girlfriends.)

peoplearenotstupid.com said...

Among other things, nice clothes might be:

-A hobby.

-A giving-in to the expectations of an accepted social role.

-A mark of social class, subculture, or other social signal.

- A mode of artistic expression.

- An intimate association between the self and things of personal or social value, for whatever effect.

I don't know why anyone would criticize those things, at least in the abstract.

Coleman Nee said...

Being a gentleman isn't about dressing up, it's about treating yourself and others with respect. It does have something to do with clothes to the extent that the way we dress sends out positive or negative signals, but in the end it is the behaviour that counts, not the suit.

Most modern dress codes are so ostentatiously ugly that the only conceivable message is that the wearer despises society (e.g. gang-style clothing) or that he/she despises himself/herself (e.g. tats, piercings and other forms of self-mutilation), or both. Wearing a suit could also be ungentlemanly if it drew attention to disparities in wealth and status between the wearer and those around him. A true genleman can interact with ordinary people and never make them feel uncomfortable or out of place.

rcocean said:

A 19th century gentlemen would cut your heart out if you insulted him. But he would do it with class.

Here's my favorite definition: A gentleman is someone who never gives offence unintentionally.

The "unintentionally" is the key, as a gentleman is quite capable of giving offense on purpose.

edutcher said...

bagoh20 said...

You're still talking about people who put clothes before character. That's Barack Obama and Teddy Kennedy.

Yes, and people like them are proof of what I'm saying. You can't say that how people dress is important and then admit that many terrible people dress well, probably with the same regularity as good people who do. I


I never said many.

You did.

There will always be superficial people.

Even among guys who dress like you.

The Drill SGT said...

rcocean said...
A 19th century gentlemen would cut your heart out if you insulted him.

But he would do it with class.


I'm thinking sword cane...

The Drill SGT said...

rcocean,

I'm rereading a book I enjoy a lot called "The Peshawar Lancers", a dystopian story of the Victorian age after a comet strike, by S.M Stirling. Set in India, there is a scene in a Dirigible station (some steam punk flavor) where a group of terrorists attack a group of academics. The Gentlewomen narrator describes the bewilderment on the pistol wielding terrorists as they are swamped by men equipped with sword canes, fists, umbrellas, and it one case, a spittoon.

She says: "What else could men of the martial classes do, when they saw a crowd attacked by assassins?"

AllenS said...

Has everyone else noticed how young men these days, don't comb their hair? It's been going on for quite a while.

Clyde said...

Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson could not be reached for comment... Being as how he was in the Broward County Jail for thirty days, courtesy of Judge Emily Post.

Rusty said...

For a good definition of a "gentleman" read Robert Ruarks "The Old Man and The Boy"

Mitch H. said...

Drill Sgt: I wanted to like the Peshawar Lancers, but it serially violated the prime directive of alternate-history fiction: Only Change One Thing. That's a SM Sterling fault in general, but usually he gives it a book or two before reverting to form.

I dunno, I don't fully trust anyone in a suit. It whispers "salesweasel". Trying to sell me on something I don't need...

Michael said...

Odd but I domt trust those who dress sloppily as if they are meeting me as an afterthought on their way to golf or the hardware store. The intenional dressing down displays a lack of discipline that puts me off. Look at pictures of ball parks in the 40s and 50s when nearly every male fan had on a suit and tie and contrast that with any public event today. Appalling.

Michael said...

Odd but I domt trust those who dress sloppily as if they are meeting me as an afterthought on their way to golf or the hardware store. The intenional dressing down displays a lack of discipline that puts me off. Look at pictures of ball parks in the 40s and 50s when nearly every male fan had on a suit and tie and contrast that with any public event today. Appalling.

Mark Jones said...

My wife's definition of a gentleman, which I think she got from Emily Post, is "A gentleman is someone who never gives offense...unintentionally."

Doug said...

One's effort to dress neatly and appropriate to the occasion says much about one's dedication to doing things right and well. It takes almost no effort to throw on a Radiohead t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops. It takes time and effort to select a clean shirt, match a tie, jacket and slacks, polish shoes, to shave and comb one's hair. Good grooming and dress says, your invitation to dinner means a lot to me; your wedding is a Big Deal for me too; the passing of your loved one is an occasion to commemorate with all the quiet dignity I can muster.

Doug said...

An alternative definition I have heard is: "A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion ... but doesn't."

David said...

Mode of dress is not the defining characteristic of a gentleman.

Belial said...

It's a local club, for local people. We cannot understand their customs, their local ways.