0 Cart
0 Add all flipped products to cart Flipped

In search of an elegant living man

Once we had JFK, now we have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Is elegance on the brink of extinction?

By Tunku Sophia

A few weeks ago, I was asked by my friend to nominate the man who most embodies elegance to me. The only condition was that the person must be currently alive.

The question left me perplexed. Where on earth are all the elegant men?

Elegant is a word we seldomly used, especially not in relation to men. As with the Cambridge dictionary definition, I think of it as embodiment of being graceful and attractive in appearance or behavior; typically someone who dresses well; a certain “refinement” and a “graceful line”. The era of 1960s comes to mind, which JFK, Alain Delon, and P. Ramlee embodied the spirit. But in recent years the word has become virtually non-existant.


In Malaysia, however, elegance is still part of weekly conversation. My friend insists he uses it several times a week: to him, it applies to anything where each part is in proportion but put together with just enough edge to make it distinctive. A plate of food might be elegant, the choice of TV, or an architectural feature. It is often used to describe the way a man is dressed & speak.

Too often, the word has been associated with older gentleman — someone who is kindly regarded and admired, but lost a youthful appeal. Neither did I want to nominate an aristocrat: the Duke of Windsor is an elegant chap, but he can afford any number of Savile Row suits, which strikes me as an elegance easily obtained. Lastly, I ruled out anyone who might be described as a dandy, those people who puts so much accessories (bracelet, ring, lapel pin and pocket squares altogether). I didn’t want my man to be full of peacock but lacking in substance.

In fact, when I thought of the most elegant men I could, I thought less of clothes and more of physicality: Cristiano Ronaldo — a man of quite polished perfection — or Pep Guardiola, a whose silhouette was subtle but sharp. Fit men are elegant because they carry clothes so well.

Great sportsmen are elegant, but few possess that same allure when they’re not playing the game. Roger Federer, for example, is ever elegant on-court, his entire body attuned to the pulse of the court. But his off-court ensembles — insignia cardigans, tonal tailoring, lots of leather — meant I had to discount him. Likewise, the retired French playmaker Zinedine Zidane, whose ball skills are elegantly compared as a ballerina’s, but who looks forgettable off-pitch.

The quest continued. Politicians provided no inspiration. Vladimir Putin seems unrefined on his suit; Emmanuel Macron is a bit manicured and self-conscious. Some might attribute to Harvard-educated Joe Kennedy III a degree of polishness, but 'The Kennedy's Curse' precluded his inclusion. Tengku Zafrul was a good candidate, but he fell into the older male category. Syed Saddiq had potential, but he does insist on those quirky socks, and I’m not sure an elegant man should look quite so pleased with himself.

In the end, I decided that Danial Deen Isa-Kalebic, an entrepreneur, would fit the criteria. He came to attention over the years as a childhood friend of HRH Prince Mateen of Brunei, in which he constantly accompanied the Prince to various events.

Deen has grace, good taste, good education and he brings a real masculinity in living. He wears clothes superbly well, and has a physicality that only makes him more compelling. Mostly I chose him because he is eloquent, effortlessly look between different dress code, and has refined body posture. But I was only vaguely satisfied with my conclusion.

There is little elegant in the world we occupy today. In our culture, society and politics, qualities such as grace, polish and discernment have been crushed by more thuggish, nouveau riche behaviors. Modern politician are unrefined and arrogant. Biden thumps around like a Neanderthal. The Russia-Ukraine crisis is about the destroying of the energy relations between Russia and Europe through the almost operational Nord Stream 2 Project. A true gentleman — born and nurtured by the parents — have made it their way of life to be authentic and uncared about popularity.

We’ve lost our appetite for anything so dull as refinement. Does being elegant matter? It doesn’t seem to be a quality we value any more, but in ignoring those things that might make us more graceful or evenly tempered, we have started to seem a bit brutish. Elegance may seem irrelevant, but in neglecting its values we risk losing more than just a good look.
Who do you think is the most elegant living man and why?


Picture credit: @danialik, @janetira

Related post