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Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ Category

Four Things About Your Man-Cave

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By: Brian

In recent years, popular culture indicates it has become fashionable for a man to have a personal dwelling around or within his home beyond the usual living room or bedroom.  Thus we have invented a place dedicated solely to the tastes and comforts of an individual.  A private retreat from chores, everyday stresses, and even the demands of our beloved womenfolk.  The man-cave.

The subject of many an Architectural Digest article, the meat and potatoes of numerous DIY episodes, subject of mystery to the fairer sex, there is a set of principals and basic standards for a man-cave that go largely overlooked.

When I think of a genuine man-cave, I think of my Great-Uncle’s den.  A small doorway just past the kitchen, his was a brick walled, dimly lit room that smelled like pipe tobacco and old paper.  Glass cabinets lined the left wall, holding books, pistols, and trinkets acquired from a lifetime of worldliness.  In front of each was a waist-high sturdy wooden workbench with reloading machines and vices; the tools of a firearm aficionado.

There was plenty of seating, aside from his personal recliner, a small fireplace for comfort, and a large window overlooking the back yard.  Next to his chair was a small end-table covered with stacks of old magazines, pens and pencils, and bits of paper with notes on them.

It was a small, cozy room dominated by the things that meant the most to him.  In this era, especially now, where so many of us just want to get away, there are some finer points we can take from Uncle Mike’s man-cave.

First, make sure your man cave is a place where you do something.  Uncle Mike would clean and work on guns, reload spent rounds, and have Sunday evening discussions with my father and uncles, and now, my cousins and myself.  A bright room with flashy colors and decals designed as a shrine to Superman becomes more of a gallery and less of a personal space.  It’s good to walk through with the rare (if interested) house guest, but it offers little in the way of practicality unless there is some sort of activity that you can do there that you couldn’t do anywhere else.

Secondly; while a man-cave is generally a semi-private place, this does not make it an exclusive place.  It is understandable if you prefer not to have children invading your desk, jumping on your couch, or breaking your something-0r-other from that place with the thing, but prohibiting all others from entry makes you look like a bully on a jungle-gym.  Accept that you will have company beyond your buddies at some point: the fact that you have a man-cave at all will deter those who know better than to intrude.

Third–and this is a difficult line to walk–your man-cave should not be filled with piles of useless garbage.  Clutter and other forms of mildly organized chaos will accumulate on their own over time, but baseline cleaning should never go out the window.  If you’re finding half finished projects with no hope of completion or notes that no longer hold any meaning, discard them.  It is certainly your space and you’re welcome to do with it what you will, but remember that you aren’t guaranteed to be the only visitor.

Fourth; your space should make a statement about you and not be you trying to make a statement.  Specialized design and extravagance is acceptable only so long as function and purpose are not exceeded by them.  An astro-turf carpet and hundred dollar mural of a hole on St. Andrews might look pretty snazzy, but when you’re looking for a comfortable place to have a drink and watch whatever game you enjoy, spending unnecessary amounts of money on a manufactured atmosphere can cheapen the joy of  a private haven.

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The Art of the Cigar

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By: Brian

While smoking is generally considered an undesirable practice, there are times when the occasional cigar is a merited reward or novelty exclusive to no man: provided he knows how to smoke it.

Any quality cigar lounge will have cases upon cases of cigars of every size and color displayed prominently from within their humidors.  Each box will have two numbers on it.  The first is the diameter of the cigar in 64ths of an inch.  The second number, which indicates the length of the cigar, ranges from 1 to (usually) 9 inches, but as with all things there are exceptions.

Cigars range from a light, almost greenish-brown color to a black.  The outer wrapping leaves determine the overall color and shape, while the interior filler leaves determine the flavor.  A good rule of thumb is that the darker the cigar,  the stronger the flavor, and the more blue the smoke.  Likewise, lighter cigars may have a gentler taste and a more white, billowing smoke.

Typically, the smell of the wrapping on a cigar is roughly the flavor one can expect to have on their lips as they smoke it.

Once a selection has been made, there are two options: use a cigar punch and drive a hole in the bottom of the cigar, or invest in a quality guillotine cutter, and remove the cap. To cut a cigar, look to the cap for where the binding leaves connect with the outer wrapping: there should be a narrow ring of leaf where the wrappings change direction.  Slide your cutter to the point that the blades are resting lightly on the ring, then firmly and smoothly, close the cutter and remove the cap.

From there, the rest is rather simple: inhalation is optional.  Use wooden matches to preserve flavor, and turn the cigar when you light it to ensure an even burn.  Leave about 3/4 of an inch of ash on the ember to act as insulation, when the glue on the label starts to melt, remove the label and discard it appropriately.

There is, however, a certain measure of etiquette that goes into cigar smoking.  If at a party or restaurant, check with the host or hostess that smoking a cigar is permissible, after all the goal is to enjoy yourself and not disrupt someone else.  Do not ash more than is necessary, and try dispose of your butt properly: nobody has any desire to see you walking around with a sodden stump of stogie hanging in your mouth.

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Personal stationary on the cheap

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In today’s environment of Blackberries, iPhones, and Email it has become more and more common for individuals to simply send messages though text or email.  This might be all fine and good for most mundane messages but I adamantly believe that anything that is more formal (aside from business correspondence) or shows appreciation should be hand written and on good paper.  Often times this means it must also be expensive,  this is not always the case.

I enjoy the benefits of personalized stationary without the obscene costs of printing that would be charged by a firm such as Crane.  The answer is very simple and I would assume that many of you are already thinking it.  You simply purchase some quality paper (Crane offers packages of 40 sheets and 20 envelopes for under $20) and create your own layout on your computer.

This ultimately offers you more freedom in your stationary than would be afforded by a stationary company.  You can select any font you want and become quite creative in your layout.  Depending on your field of work or the nature of the note or the recipient this offers you the opportunity to finely craft your stationary to have the most impact.  I have a few basic versions saved on my computer and when it comes time to write a letter I slide the paper guide on the printer to to correct position and print out what I need.

Note: Good paper will most likely have a watermark.  I prefer to have mine in the correct position to be read if the recipient were to hold the paper to the light while reading.  In order to have your paper print correctly it is important to understand how your printer feeds and to insert your stock accordingly.


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Send the right message

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I’m sure that most (if not all) of you own a cell phone and almost as many of you that use a cell are avid users of texts, email, web browsing, etc.  Today it is common to see people totally engrossed in their phones.  They will be clicking away oblivious to the world around them.  I have even experienced people walk right into me because they were too busy with their phone to look ahead of them.  These habits, while not auspicious, pale in comparison to the committing of these acts while conversing or interacting with others.

I’m sure many of you have been in a conversation with someone and there is a ring, beep or buzz that has caused the other side to inadvertently remove their phone and click away in response to whatever form of communication they just received.

This may not seem like much of a transgression, and to many it may not be, but done habitually only shows those around you that they are not important to you and/or you have little interest in the interaction.

Due to the growing importance of staying connected to those in our lives it is inevitable that at some point you will receive a message while conversing with someone.

For those moments I recommend the following:

Set it to vibrate: If neither you or the person you are talking to hear the alert and only the person the message was intended for is aware of it then there is no harm done.  If your ringer has been left on then quickly silence it and then apologize.

Ask Permission: If you are expecting some sort of important news (loved one in surgery, oncology test results, call from potential employer, etc.) then ask the person you are talking to if they mind if you answer/respond.  Any reasonable person will not be insulted with a quick and general explanation.  I feel that this should be done before the fact and not as a sheepish apology after.

The flip side to being courteous and respectful of other peoples time is that in a world where interruptions such as these come more and more frequently it becomes a powerful statement to those you interact with that your time currently belongs to them.

These few points may seem obvious to many but it still is such a common occurrence.

By doing little things to show that you value those around you shows good style and from good style comes class.

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Over the back and under the shirt

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Lots of men consistently wear undershirts as they serve a valuable purpose.  Undershirts provide an additional layer that, when cold, helps to keep you warm and, when hot, helps keep perspiration from passing to shirt where it can be seen.

Because an undershirt is essentially underwear there are some guidelines that one should follow in order to avoid an embarrassing display.undershirt showing

First, your undershirt should never be visible to people around you.  If you are wearing a tie this wont be a problem, as all undershirt styles will be well hidden.  If you choose to unbutton a button or two on your shirt then I recommend choosing your undershirt accordingly.  For this situation I recommend a v-neck or a-shirt.

V-neck

V-neck

A-shirt

A-shirt

These shirts have wide and low neckline that allows the undershirt to stay hidden.  One disadvantages of the a-shirt is that the fact that it is sleeveless limits its absorption of sweat from your underarms, in part removing its function.
A shirt that is new to me is the U-Shirt.  This shirt has a wide and low neckline similar to the a-shirt but with sleeve, keeping it a functional sweat absorber.

U-Shirt

U-Shirt

Whatever undershirt you choose to wear, if you choose to wear one at all, just make sure it stays as it’s name suggests, under and unseen.

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Saying “thank you” in black and white

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

All of us at one time or another will be guests to others or have been the recipients of favors or just acts of kindness.  Whenever this happens I strongly suggest promptly sending a thank you note in some form.  It could be in the form of an email for a casual act or encounter but for more meaningful situations only a written letter will do.

In a more professional business environment a thank you letter would most commonly be typed and in a business format.  You should write a thank you letter to the person who you interviewed with for a job, for example.  Here is a link to help you if you are not familiar with the format or how a Business Thank You Letter should look.

Now if you need to write a thank you letter to someone who entertained you as a guest or helped get you that interview I suggest getting some nice paper and a quality pen.  Opening and reading a letter written on quality paper is more luxurious and comes across as much more heartfelt.   The best pens for this purpose are fountain pens.  Fountain pens write very well and create a crisp smooth line that cannot be matched by ball point or roller ball pens.  For info on fountain pens check out my accessories post. Remember they don’t have to be expensive. You can find very nice pens at quite a discount on ebay.  For good paper look to Crane. For great paper look to Smythson. Smythson is an English stationary company that has received multiple royal warrants.  To add an additional personal touch, have your stationary personalized with your name and address.

Those who receive a thank you letter from you will appreciate it and remember you.

Remember that style and class doesn’t come from just the clothes we wear but also how we act.


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