12 essential life skills every man should have to live a successful life

In this modern age, sometimes it feels like the art of being a gentleman is becoming lost in a sea of consumerism and confusion.

Wear this, don't wear that; speak like this, never say that; do this, but by the gods, don't do that. What it actually means to be a gentleman is a subject that can be debated over brandy in a drawing room for hours, but what it really comes down to is how you assist your fellow humans and in what fashion.

From changing a car tyre or making a toast;  mixing the perfect martini or wearing the right suit to dinner with the Queen – here are 12 skills every gentleman would do well to master.

1. Make a toast

When toasting, raise your glass first to eye level and first announce, 'I'd like to propose a toast.' Next, state your toast and lift your glass above your head, signalling those assembled to gesture the same and repeat your words, then take a drink. In a formal setting, it is tradition to stand first before announcing your toast.

2. Sew a button onto a shirt

Murphy's Law says you will never lose a button when you have the time to take your shirt, jacket or trousers to a tailor for repair...

Sew an 'X' into the underside of the fabric by passing the needle back and forth; that's your foundation. With the thread passed out the front, thread your button, then sit a second needle on top of the button and sew the thread over the top and through another button hole. Continue sewing back and forth, passing the thread over the needle sitting on top the button each time.

Finish by passing the needle between the button and the material, and winding the thread around the stitches five to six times. Pass the needle back into the fabric and tie off.

3. Use the right cutlery

If set correctly, a formal dinner table setting is easier to navigate than the conversation. Begin with the outermost cutlery first, then move in each set with each course, finishing with the dessert cutlery, which should be situated at the top of your setting.

4. Hold a decent conversation

Ask questions and listen to the answers. Use their answers to determine your next question. Jerry Seinfeld likes to ask questions that can be answered with a number, like, how long have you owned a thoroughbred? People remember those who show an interest in them, so go ahead and approach each person like a mystery to solve.


5. Shake hands

First, reach out and grasp the other person's hand firmly in your own. It's ok to look down momentarily, but make eye contact as soon as possible. Keep your wrist firm, not limp, and give three shakes before letting go and pulling your hand away.

If you suffer sweaty palms, slip your hand into your pocket first to dry off. If they lock onto your hand and won't let go, distract the President by gesturing over his shoulder and pull away.

6. Steer out of a skid

Skidding a car usually results when your driving style does not match the road conditions. If you do find yourself in a skid, your objective is to gain traction of the road to regain control of your vehicle.

With a front wheel skid (understeer), straighten the steering wheel, release the accelerator and ease the brake, so as to shift weight to the front wheels to regain traction.

With a rear wheel skid (oversteer), gently steer in the direction of the skid and ease off the accelerator. If the vehicle is front-wheel drive, you can use a little accelerator to apply weight to the rear wheels.

7. Understand black and white tie

White tie is the most formal attire you will ever wear. Black tie is standard attire for any formal event after 7pm.

White tie consists of a black tailcoat and trousers, worn over a white shirt with a detachable collar, white Marcella waistcoat and a white bow tie. Black tie, generally speaking, teams a black dinner jacket and pants with a white dress shirt, a black cummerbund and black bow tie. Watch a little Downton Abbey to nail the when and where.

8. Boil an egg

The beauty of a simple boiled egg cannot be beat. Eggs should be at room temperature before cooking. Place in a pot on your stove and cover with cold water, then bring to boil. Stir eggs every minute to centre the yolks. Boil for four minutes for soft-boiled eggs, or up to eight minutes for hard-boiled eggs. Drain the hot water and cool in iced water to easily crack and remove the shell.

9. Mix the perfect martini

Start by placing ice in both a clean martini glass and a larger tumbler. Pour two measures of gin or vodka into the tumbler and stir gently for 30 seconds. Tip the ice out of your martini glass and add half a measure of vermouth, tipping the glass on its side and spinning to coat the inside. Shake out any excess vermouth and pour in your chilled liquor.

For a gin martini, rim the martini glass with lemon peel, then twist and drop into the cocktail. For vodka, add a toothpick stacked with green Sicilian olives – strictly no pimentos.

10. Tie a Windsor knot

Learning to tie a Windsor knot is a rite of passage for many gentlemen.

Hang the tie around your neck with the wide end hanging low on the right and the thin end hanging shorter on the left. Take the wide end and wrap it over the top of the short end, to the left, then pass it up behind the loop you've now made and out over the front of the tie.

Next, pass the wide end to the left and around the back, wrapping it around the right side and passing it through the loop to the back. Next, take the wide end to the right and pass it around the front to the left, wrap it behind the knot and bring it up through the middle, passing it between the front outer tie and the knotted loop. Pull the knot to tighten.

11. Shine a leather shoe

First, clean excess dirt off your shoes with a horsehair brush or an old rag. Using a polishing brush, cover the shoe in an even and generous layer of shoe polish and allow to dry while you polish the other shoe. Then, with a horsehair shine brush, vigorously brush each shoe and bring the polish to a shine. Voila!

12. Lingo to talk to a tailor

Utter the right words and a master tailor can accomplish a might many feats with fabric and thread. For the perfect fit, your trousers can be 'taken in' or 'let out'; that is, decrease or increase the waist size, respectively.

The hem of your pants can also be adjusted, to vary the length of the pant and adjust the 'break' – the amount of fabric that gathers and sits at each ankle. Dress pants require very little break, if any, depending on your shoes.

Know any other essential skills not listed here? Let us know in the comments section below.