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The Definition of a Gentleman by David Gandy

What makes a gentleman? It's not expensive tailoring, but something that comes from within, writes David Gandy.

By David Gandy

At my grandfather's funeral, someone referred to him as "the definition of a gentleman". I would describe my father in the same way.

Often, in print at least, a man is described as a gentlemen because of the way he looks - his suit and his demeanour. I have been in the fashion industry now for 13 years and I've had the privilege of meeting some of the most powerful men, not just in fashion, but in business, film, music and so on. You come to learn that not all powerful and well-dressed men can be defined as gentlemen - far from it in some cases.

What I have learned is that being a gentleman isn't about what you do, or what you wear, it's about how you behave and who you are.

The world today seems to applaud boyish behaviour and true British gentlemen are becoming more of a rarity. Social standing and success seem to be based upon what you own and what you wear rather than how you carry yourself through life and what you have achieved.

All of this got me thinking - do gentlemen still have a place in today's world? And if so, what are the attributes that go together to make a true English gentleman?

Style and appearance

One assumption is that if you can dress the part - by acquiring an expensive three-piece suit and parting your hair, you've somehow earned the right to be classed as a gentleman.

This isn't the case. As the saying goes, "You can buy fashion, but you can't buy style." The same is true of "form" - it's something you instinctively have or have to learn; it's not something you buy.

A gentleman doesn't follow fashion. He's more of an individual, he stands out, with the confidence to go against the grain and without a care for what other people think.

People follow each other far too often in today's world. Needing acceptance from their peers, they act like sheep. One goes and the others follow. It's a tribal mentality.

A gentleman is never "styled"; he exudes style, effortlessly. A gentleman dresses the appropriate way for the occasion and would be as elegant and stylish in jeans and a T-shirt as he would be in a suit.

My father and grandfather both came from backgrounds and eras that didn't allow for a lot of money to be spent on clothes, but that didn't stop them having pride in their appearance. Their shoes were always polished immaculately, their ties always in perfect half Windsors. They were subtle and understated, yet they stood out from the crowd because they had presence. You just knew there was something special about them.

The bottom line is, a gentleman sets trends; he certainly doesn't follow them.


A gentleman is not restricted by limits. He doesn't understand the words "that cannot be done". He does not give up. When faced with challenges, he finds solutions, works harder, works smarter.

He strives and pushes the boundaries of everything he does. He is aware of his attributes and limitations, but continually strives to improve.

He is in control, but not afraid to learn and accept advice, and is respectful of others while taking full responsibility for everything, calmly. He inspires people in the workplace and leads by example.


The educational benefits that comes from travel and exploring the world can't be underestimated.

A gentleman is worldly and curious and has experienced first-hand many different cultures and environments.

He has seen the beauty of the world, but also its dangers and its cruelty, and uses this knowledge to better himself and others.

He's more likely to be found hiking the great Inca Trail in Peru, trekking in search of endangered wildlife, canoeing in Alaska or heli-skiing in the Rockies than lazing on a beach or by the pool. He's an adventurer, an explorer and a surveyor of the world, which he does not only to better himself but in order to truly appreciate his environment.

Status symbols

You will rarely see a gentleman overtly showing his success or wealth; he's more likely to shy away from displays of good fortune, preferring to be judged on reputation instead.

A gentleman find value in something according to its history and its story, often finding beauty in something he has owned for many years or something with great sentimental value.

Selflessness and humility

A gentleman will probably never realise how much he inspires and enriches the lives of others just from being himself.

He is considerate and well mannered towards others. There are people who do nothing for others, some who talk about doing things for others, and then there are just the people that just DO. Gentleman DO!

It's a natural instinct and he asks for nothing in return.

Family and Friends

A gentleman would be described by his immediate friends as the most generous of all people. Not that he would have a huge friendship group. He is wise enough to determine who he can trust.

His friends are like family and he will defend them to the end. He is the person that they go to for help, advice and to get things done. He is the last line of defence for his family, he detests threatening behaviour and bullying, and God help anyone who attacks those closest to him.


A gentleman is never afraid to fail.

He realises that more is achieved through failure than through success. The sweetest victories are the hardest won - in work, personal relationships and in friendships.

A gentleman will never play it safe, will never settle for second best, will never be afraid to try to achieve something because he is scared of failure.

As Winston Churchill said, "Success consists of stumbling from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."


It's strange to quote a woman when talking about gentlemen, but then Margaret Thatcher probably has bigger balls than most. She once said, "When I leave Downing Street I'm going to start a company called 'Rent a Back Bone'."

A gentleman will have backbone - he'll have principles and morals and will not move away from those at any cost.

He is not scared of saying no to people. He is not scared of upsetting people and giving them advice that they may not always want to hear. He realises that you cannot please everyone. Paul Newman once said, "Show me a man without enemies and I will show you a man without character".

Some of the most powerful men in history always had one woman who they respected and cherished; a woman who was their support and strength.

A gentleman knows that his chosen partner adores him and in return trusts her with his life and his heart.

He holds chivalry and politeness in great regard. He holds the door for people; he gives up his seat, he takes off his coat to a lady on a cold evening, he still believes in these now old-fashioned actions, even though the world has changed somewhat.

Do I strive to be a gentleman? I guess I do. I admire my father, my grandfather and other gentlemen I've been fortunate enough to meet in my life, and I try to be more like them.

Am I successful at doing so? Not always, but I constantly strive harder. I'm honoured if people describe me as a gentleman. Many people today might think that's stuffy and old-fashioned, but I disagree.

The world’s only international male supermodel, David Gandy rose to fame as Dolce and Gabbana’s muse and face of their Light Blue fragrance. He was the only male model to take part in the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony and is an official ambassador for London Collections:Men. A regular, global magazine cover star and brand ambassador, he also writes for Vogue.com and reviews cars for GQ.com.

David Gandy is represented by Select Model Management

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