Tag Archives: etiquette

How to Be Gracious, and Why

be-gracious-kills-you-thumb-500x290-29269A nicely-put piece by Tom Chiarella in Esquire. Is “gracious” the right word? Perhaps not, gracious is…polite. I’d perhaps go for interested or something. Doesn’t matter, the message works either way.



In business, the little things — a favor acknowledged , a favor returned, proper introductions, smiles, attentiveness — are really the big things

Graciousness looks easy, but of course it is not. Do not mistake mere manners for graciousness. Manners are rules. Helpful, yes. But graciousness reflects a state of being; it emanates from your inventory of self. Start with what you already possess. You, for instance, have a job. Live up to that.

When wandering the world, forget your business cards. Don’t look for more contacts. Instead, observe. Say hello to the people you see every day, but don’t make a fetish out of it. Stay interested in others. Be generous in your attentions but not showy. Don’t wink, snap your fingers, high-five, or shout, though laugh with those who do. It bears repeating: Look around. Remember names. Remember where people were born.

On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can’t smile, you can’t be gracious. You aren’t some dopey English butler. You are you.

Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you — your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can’t muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.

So listen. Be attentive to what people say. Respond, without interruption. You always have time. You own the time in which you live. You grant it to others without obligation. That is the gift of being gracious. The return — the payback, if you will — is the reputation you will quickly earn, the curiosity of others, the sense that people want to be in the room with you. The gracious man does not dwell on himself, but you can be confident that your reputation precedes you in everything you do and lingers long after you are finished. People will mark you for it. You will see it in their eyes. People trust the gracious man to care. The return comes in kind.

Read more: How To Be Gracious – Graciousness Meaning – Esquire
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Vintage evening wear (New York, 1920s)

Makes a change from “no trainers no hats no t-shirts”.

Out of my way! (pavement politics explained)

1. Tourists walk 3.79 feet per second; 2. Smokers: 4.17 feet per second; 3. Cellphone users: 4.20 feet per second; 4. Headphone listeners: 4.64 feet per second; 5. Large pedestrians: 3.74 feet per second; 6. Men: 4.42 feet per second; 7. Women: 4.10 feet per second; 8. People with bags: 4.27 feet per second.

According to the Wall Street Journal, tourists really do walk more slowly.

For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them.

Researchers say the concept of “sidewalk rage” is real. One scientist has even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map out how people express their fury. At its most extreme, sidewalk rage can signal a psychiatric condition known as “intermittent explosive disorder,” researchers say. On Facebook, there’s a group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head” that boasts nearly 15,000 members.

Some researchers are even studying the dynamics that trigger such rage and why some people remain calm in hopes of improving anger-management treatments and gaining insights into how emotions influence decision making, attention and self control.

“We’re trying to understand what makes people angry, what that experience is like,” says Jerry Deffenbacher, a professor at Colorado State University who studies anger and road rage. “For those for whom anger is a personal problem, we’re trying to develop and evaluate ways of helping them.”

How Walkable Is Your Neighborhood?
Signs of a sidewalk rager include muttering or bumping into others; uncaringly hogging a walking lane; and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a “mean face” or approaching others too closely, says Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii who studies pedestrian and driver aggression.

For the cool-headed, sidewalk rage may seem incomprehensible. After all, it seems simple enough to just go around the slow individual. Why then are some people, even those who greet other obstacles with equanimity, so infuriated by unhurried fellow pedestrians?

How one interprets the situation is key, researchers say. Ragers tend to have a strong sense of how other people should behave. Their code: Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

(read the full article here)

Hats – what and where

Hats, real hats, are cool again. Problem is, lots of people don’t get the etiquette. One spiv at a recent Savile Row gig actually had a Homburg on in the ballroom of the Savoy. This has sent me into a quietly-internalised fury. He didn’t even have the decency to touch the brim of it – let alone take it off – when he was introduced to a lady. And yes I might be old-fashioned, but the point is, if you’re going to bust out in old school threads and act all entitled, then you should also do you homework and wear them right – as in, with the right attitude and an understanding of how, where and why they came about. SO that’s the mini-rant, and it provoked some hatology (a lot of this is from Wikipedia):

1. Homburg
A homburg is a felt hat characterized by a single dent running down the center of the crown and a brim fixed in a tight, upwards curl. It is superficially similar to the trilby and fedora; however, those types of hat have soft, snappable brims and can have various designs pinched into the crown, whereas the shape of a homburg is fixed.

The homburg is typically made from wool or fur felt and has a grosgrain hatband and brim treatment with an optional feather. A variant form is the lord’s hat”, which lacks the edge ribbon, and may, optionally, be pinched.

It was popularized by Edward VII after he visited Bad Homburg in Hesse, Germany, and brought back a hat of this style. Like the trilby or fedora, the homburg was once quite popular and is still available in almost any color, but the most common colors are black, grey, and brown. In Britain a black homburg became widely known in the 1930s as an “Anthony Eden” after the Government Minister of that name.

In formality, the homburg ranks just below the top hat, and above hats such as the bowler or fedora. It is appropriate (often with a topcoat) with a stroller (which is morning dress but with a suit jacket) or with black tie.

2. Trilby
Although also used as a synonym for a short-brimmed fedora in the United Kingdom, the trilby is distinguished by a very narrow brim that is sharply turned up in the back and a short crown, which is pinched in the front and indented into a teardrop shape in the center. The hat’s name derives from the stage adaptation of George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby; a hat of this style was worn in the first London production of the play, and promptly came to be called “a Trilby hat”.

Traditionally it was made from rabbit hair felt, but is now sometimes made from other materials, including tweed, straw, and wool. The hat reached its zenith in the 1960s, when it supplanted the wider brimmed fedora; the steadily lowering roofs of previously taller American automobiles made it impractical to wear a hat with a larger brim and tall crown while driving. It faded from popularity in the 1970s when any type of men’s headwear became obsolete, and men’s fashion instead began focusing on highly maintained hairstyles.

The hat resurged in popularity in the early 2000s, when it was marketed to both men and women in an attempt to capitalize on a retro fashion trend. The hat has remained popular with both sexes into the 2010s, with various manufacturers experimenting with different patterns and emblazoning logos and other designs into the sides of the hat.

The hat has been associated with jazz, ska and soul musicians, as well as members of the indie, rude boy, mod, and 2 Tone subcultures.

A notable wearer of the trilby is Frank Sinatra. Sean Connery wore one in the first five James Bond movies, until changing trends necessitated that the suave character stop wearing a hat, lest he be seen as anachronistic or outdated by young filmgoers.

Bondclothes says: “The example above from Dr. No was dark grey, with the grosgrain band in a slightly lighter grey. In From Russia With Love and Goldfinger he can be seen with a dark brown trilby and goes back to a grey one in Thunderball. Connery can last be seen carrying one in You Only Live Twice. George Lazenby wore a navy blue tribly in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but his had a wider grosgrain ribbon. Connery wore his with either suits or blazers whilst Lazenby also wore his with a dinner suit and his wedding attire. Roger Moore brought back the trilby in the 1980s though he never actually wore one, only throwing his on the rack when entering the office.”

3. Ushanka
An ushanka (Literally “ear hat”) is a Russian fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or tied at the chin to protect the ears, jaw and lower chin from the cold. The thick dense fur also offers some protection against blunt impacts to the head. While no match for a helmet, it offers protection far superior to that of a typical beanie cap should the wearer fall and hit his or her head against ice or packed snow. The word Ushanka derives from ushi (у́ши), “ears” in Russian.

Of course, it’s not just Russian – hats with flexible earflaps made out of fur have been known in Russia, Germany and Scandinavia for centuries, not to mention ancient Scythians and various nomads of the Central Asia – but has always been seen as THE Soviet headgear. Soviet Russia. Photographs of US President Gerald Ford wearing the cap during a 1974 visit to the Soviet Union (above) were seen as a possible sign of Détente. In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union came the first wave of commercially imported Russian winter hats into the West.

4. Flat cap
A Flat Cap, also known as a Sixpence, Scally Cap, Ivy Cap, Irish Cap, Tweed Cap, Salmon Hat, UNION Cap, Dai Cap, Jeff Cap, Windsor Cap, Touring Cap, Driving Cap, or Newspaper Cap, Cheesecutter Cap. It is a rounded men’s cap with a small stiff brim in front. Cloths used to make the cap range from wool, tweed (most common) to cotton driving caps for summer wear, sometimes featuring air vents. Less common materials may include leather. Cord flat caps are also worn in various colors. The inside of the cap is usually lined with silk for comfort and warmth.

The style can be traced back to the 14th century in United Kingdom and parts of Italy, when it was more likely to be called a “bonnet”. A 1571 Act of Parliament to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and persons of degree, were to wear caps of wool manufacture on force of a fine (3/4d (pence) per day). The Bill was not repealed until 1597, though by this time, the flat cap had become firmly entrenched in English psyche as a recognized mark of a non-noble subject; be it a burgher, a tradesman, or apprentice. The style survives as the Tudor bonnet in some styles of academic dress.

Flat caps were almost universally worn in the 19th century by working class men throughout Britain and Ireland, and versions in finer cloth were also considered to be suitable casual countryside wear for upper-class English men (hence the contemporary alternative name golf cap). Flat caps were worn by fashionable young men in the 1920s.

The stereotype of the flat cap as purely “working class” was never correct. They were frequently worn in the country, but not in town, by middle and upper-class males for their practicality. Mather says: “A cloth cap is assumed in folk mythology to represent working class, but it also denotes upper class affecting casualness. So it is undoubtedly classless, and there lies its strength. A toff can be a bit of a chap as well without, as it were, losing face.”

Roll one up and chuck it in your pocket. Keep a few in different colours. Whatever. But don’t wear them back to front. Ever.

5. Fedora
A fedora is usually felt, creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched in the front on both sides. The creasing does not define the hat, however. Fedoras can also be creased with teardrop crowns, diamond crowns, center dents, and others, and the positioning of pinches can vary if they are found at all. Early on, fedoras were sold open crown, meaning they were uncreased, with the owner creating his/her own crease manually. By the 1950s, hat makers started blocking the various creases into the hats when they were made. This is now the standard. The brim goes all the way around the crown and can be left raw edge, finished with a sewn overwelt or underwelt, bound with grosgrain ribbon, or finished with a self-felted cavanagh edge. Traditionally, fedoras have grosgrain hat bands. A trilby is similar to a fedora, but typically has a narrower brim, and the back of the brim is distinctively more sharply upturned as a result.

You wear them back on your head, with the front brim bent a little forward and shading your eyes. They don’t have to be perfect – a little personalisation improves them. A fedora looks good with a trench coat, over a rough suit. Not so much with the whole jeans thing. I have a feeling that Paul McGann wears one in the last scene of Withnail & I.

The term fedora was in use as early as 1891. Originally a women’s fashion into the 20th century, the fedora came into use in about 1919 as a men’s middle-class clothing accessory. Its popularity soared, and eventually it eclipsed the similar-looking Homburg by the 1920s. The name comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou, Fédora, written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the U.S. in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play, and she wore a hat similar to what is now considered a fedora.

6. Bowler
In France they call a bowler hat a “chapeau melon”. I actually don’t think we’re quiiiite ready to have these bad boys back just yet. Bowlers were devised in 1849 by the London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfil an order placed by the firm of hatters Lock & Co. of St James’s. Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a client (British soldier and politician Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester) to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect his gamekeepers’ heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged.

When Coke arrived in London on 17 December 1849 to collect his hat, he reportedly placed it on the floor and stamped hard on it twice to test its strength; the hat withstood this test and Coke paid 12 shillings for it. In accordance with Lock & Company’s usual practice, the hat was called the “Coke” hat (pronounced “cook”) after the customer who had ordered it. This is most likely why the hat became known as the “Billy Coke” or “Billycock” hat (as well as a “Derby”).

The Bowler hat has also been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers. Another region that appreciates the Bowler hat is the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The men of this region use this hat as a fashion accessory along with a walking stick. These fashion accessories which have now become a staple part of the regional costume were introduced by British colonials in the 1900s

So: originally a riding hat for gamekeepers which then went from countryside to town.

Bowler bonus: it was the Bowler and not cowboy hats like the Stetson or sombrero that was the most popular hat in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it “the hat that won the West.” Both cowboys and railroad workers preferred the hat because it wouldn’t blow off as easily in strong wind, or when sticking one’s head from the window of a speeding train. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid.

7. Boater
A boater (also basher, skimmer, cady, katie, somer, or sennit hat) is a kind of hat associated with sailing and boating.

It is normally made of sennit straw and has a stiff or soft flat crown and brim, typically with a ribbon around the crown, which is often in colours representing a school, rowing crew or similar institution. Boaters were popular as summer headgear in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and were supposedly worn by FBI agents as a sort of unofficial uniform in the pre-war years. Nowadays they are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, period theatrical and musical performances (e.g. barbershop music) or as part of old-fashioned school uniform, such as at Harrow School.

Being made of straw, the boater was and is generally regarded as a warm-weather hat. In the days when men all wore hats when out of doors, “Straw Hat Day”, the day when men switched from wearing their winter hats to their summer hats, was seen as a sign of the beginning of summer. The exact date of Straw Hat Day might vary slightly from place to place. For example, in Philadelphia, it was May 15; at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the second Saturday in May.

The boater is a fairly formal hat, equivalent in formality to the Homburg, and so is correctly worn either in its original setting with a blazer, or in the same situations as a Homburg, such as a smart lounge suit, or with black tie. John Jacob Astor IV (above, who built the Astoria and died on the Titanic) was known for wearing such hats.

Japanese subway posters – mind your manners

Boris is clearly missing a trick with his public information. We need better tube posters. Here are a few etiquette posters that appeared in the Tokyo subways between 1976 and 1982 (more at the original post, via Pink Tentacle).

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
The Seat Monopolizer (July 1976)

Inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” this poster tells  passengers not to sit like idiots.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Don’t forget your umbrella (June 1977)

This poster of the high-class courtesan Agemaki (from the kabuki play “Sukeroku”), whose captivating beauty was said to make men forgetful, is meant to remind passengers to take their umbrellas when they leave the train.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Space Invader (March 1979)

This 1979 poster has a fairly simply play on words. If you can’t work it out, I can’t help you.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Don’t forget your umbrella (October 1981)

The text at the top of this poster  reads “Kasane-gasane no kami-danomi” (lit. “Wishing to God again and again”). The poster makes a play on the words “kasa” (umbrella) and “kasane-gasane” (again and again). Doubting Thomas looks pretty freaky.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Coughing on the platform (January 1979)

Modeled after the paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, this poster — titled “Hōmu de Concon” (coughing on the platform) — urges people not to smoke on the train platforms during the designated non-smoking hours (7:00-9:30 AM and 5:00-7:00 PM). The poster makes a play on the words “concon” (coughing sound) and “cancan” (French chorus line dance).

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Clearly show your train pass (September 1978)

Napoleon’s partially concealed train pass is meant to remind passengers to clearly show their train passes to the station attendant when passing through the gates. The dictionary page in the background is a reference to Napoleon’s famous quote: “The word ‘impossible’ is not in my dictionary.”

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Marcel Marceau (October 1978)

Marcel Marceau gestures toward a priority seat reserved for elderly and handicapped passengers, expecting mothers, and passengers accompanying small children. He makes me afraid of clowns.

Japanese: Tejime and Shazai

Tejime (choreographed group celebrations for when something exciting happens):

Shazai (different types of apology):

Finally, as a special bonus, dogeza (abject apology)

And that, my friends, is how etiquette videos should be done.

Active Listening

This came from the Scott Adams blog (Dilbert). Read on – you might learn something.

A few of you wondered what I meant by active listening in the context of a conversation. Maybe you want to be a good listener without being bored out of your frickin’ skull. I’ll tell you how.

The worst kind of listener is the topic hijacker. Let’s say you enjoy snowboarding and you’re listening to a neighbor describe his new gas grille. Don’t do this move:

Neighbor: My wife got me a new grille for my birthday.

You: Really? I got a new snowboard. Let me tell you about it…

That’s just being a jerk. Active listening, as I choose to define it, involves asking questions to steer the conversation in an entertaining direction without being too obvious about it. Using my example, let’s say you have no interest in hearing about the wonders of barbecuing, but you don’t want to be a blatant conversation hijacker. You might steer the conversation thusly.

Neighbor: My wife got me a new grille for my birthday.

You: Does that mean you do most of the cooking now?

Neighbor: Ha ha! Yes, I think it was a trick.

You: If you do the cooking, who does the dishes?

Neighbor: Well, usually the one who doesn’t cook does the dishes.

You: Do you enjoy cooking?

Neighbor: Not really.

You: Your wife does. So you’re getting screwed when she does the cooking and you do the dishes because she enjoys her end of it.

Okay, maybe in this example the conversation will lead to your neighbor getting a divorce. As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate the conversation, the more interesting it is. You’ll have to use your judgment to know when you’ve crossed the line.

Also as a general rule, conversations about how people have or will interact are interesting, and conversations about objects are dull. So steer toward topics that involve human perceptions and feelings, and away from objects and things.

You also want to avoid any topic that falls into the “you had to be there” category. For example, if someone is describing a vacation, avoid asking about the food. Nothing is more boring than a description of food. Ask instead if the person answered email from the beach. That gets to how a person thinks, and how hard it is to release a habit. And it could provide an escape route to move the conversation to yet another place. Sometimes it takes two or three bounces to get someplace of mutual interest.

You’ve heard of the Kevin Bacon game, where every actor is just a few connections away from Kevin Bacon. Likewise, you almost always have something interesting in common with every other person. The trick is to find it. As with the Kevin Bacon game, you’d be surprised at how few questions it takes to get there.

When I was doing a lot of travel for book tours and speaking, I spent many hours with cab and limo drivers. I discovered two questions that would almost always lead to something interesting:

1. Where did you grow up?
2. Have you driven anyone famous?

I heard amazing stories of political exile, rock star antics, and war. It was great stuff. Most people have at least one good story in them. And you can usually find that story by asking where the person lived and what their parents did for a living.

Watch how this works. If you leave a comment, mention where you grew up, and what your parents did for a living. Notice from the other comments how often at least one of those things is interesting or has a connection to something you care about.