The comportment of this city’s men often irks me as a proud Midwesterner. (No, we’re not quite as “gentlemanly” as Southern Gentlemen, but we’re also not from the states that keep trying to fly the Confederate Flag over capital buildings—so you decide who you want to take your advice from).
These recommendations (and occasionally impassioned supplications) largely applies to any well-mannered, able-bodied individual, with a few brain cells—man or woman—though the fashion tips are obviously biased. Here are some serious suggestions for your consideration.
1. STAND UP FOR PEOPLE ON THE TRAIN
*This applies to every single person riding a train
Seriously? Yes, you. Stand. For people on the train or on the bus, on a park bench or on any other publicly seat. I know not every city has public transportation, so not all of our mothers’ can be held accountable for not teaching proper etiquette.
To supplement, let’s clarify—it is absolutely inexcusable to not give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you. You simply cannot be so oblivious to your surroundings that said individual is left standing within half a car’s length away from you. I see this all the time, especially in the mornings when everyone’s antisocial. Any able-bodied citizen should stand for:
- The elderly – defined by anyone that looks like they’re slower moving than you are
- Pregnant ladies – even if she’s not pregnant, she’ll probably appreciate the gesture and you’ll look like a real gentleman
- Parents with children – short people are a handful and everyone should want you to have both hands on them instead of holding on to the train
- Folks with any level of handicap – again, even if you are mistaken, there is only an upside to offering another human being a seat
- Tired tourists – they’ve probably been walking all day and already think all East-Coasters are assholes—do you really want to prove them right?? Plus, don’t you think you spent enough time sitting at your desk. Sitting for too long is bad for you according to this cool infograph.
- Anyone else who might need the seat (this is about raising what economists call the “aggregate utility” of the passengers—if someone else values that seat more than you, give it up and you’re raising the total happiness of your environs)
2. DO NOT ASK “SO, WHAT DO YOU DO?” RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE
Unless you’re at a business-specific convention, you should never start a conversation like this!
There are so many better ways to make friends, connect with other human beings, and even pick up chicks than this limited question. Yeah, you’re in DC, and you’re proud that you graduated from a top school and finally have enough money to buy a nice suit. Congrats—you’re just like everyone else in town.
I understand. I have a really cool job that makes me sound really smart (not to mention this baller blog I write for). But I would much rather leave people with an impression, whatever it may be, based on conversation rather than on the elevator pitch-version of my résumé.
Better alternatives include: “where are you from?” “did you hear/read/see…?” “have you ever…?” (the last one supplants pick-up lines particularly well—imagine an open-ended game of never-have-I-ever. Fact is, if you’re half as crafty as your hot shot job would indicate, then you can come up with more interesting conversation. This isn’t to say you should never ask, it is conversation after all, but try getting a little more info out of the way first.
3. GET YOUR HEAD BEYOND THE BELTWAY
You remember that New Yorker cover from a New Yorker’s perspective? It’s got Manhattan, street by street, the other Burroughs in the hinterland, the Hudson, with the massive swath of land housing the other 313 million Americans as a sliver on the horizon.
Don’t be that way about DC. What happens within the Beltway is almost always designed to serve those other 313 million citizens—if not, the even broader world. So keep those people in mind.
4. WEAR CLOTHES THAT FIT
Instead of trying to put on a decent face for the world, the city’s men have descended into a deep dark corner of “I don’t give a damn-dom.” Please show a modicum of public decency for clothing decisions.
You would think that as a Midwesterner, I would only be concerned with the internal. No—I am often appalled by the lack of aesthetic concern that most people in Washington, D.C. show through their clothing choices.
Sometimes I want to call this “rumple-town,” because of all the ill-fitted suits and rumpled outfits I see on my commute. And as a bureaucrat’s paradise—ever self-selecting for geniuses who can’t tell a Sharkskin from a Prince of Whales—perhaps Washington is predisposed to an influx of rumplers.
That doesn’t need to be the case. I implore you—men of the Baltimore-Washington region—to please take better care of your personal appearance. Your body has shapes, as well, and you will make yourself look far more professional by just fitting your clothing to those shapes.
You do not have to read GQ every month, just follow these tips as to not look like a slob at work:
- Never, ever, ever buy pants that have “regular,” straight” or “relaxed” printed anywhere on them
- Never, ever, ever buy shirts that have “regular,” straight” or “relaxed” printed anywhere on them
- Try clothing on, that is actually your body’s shape, stretch a bit to test it out and make sure you’re not “bulging” anywhere
- Do not wear dark color shirts—there’s something incredibly tacky and Office Space-ish about dark blue, green, or purple shirts, a fact often missed by new entrants into the work force. Colors are fine to play with, but keep them light.
- Iron your clothing—for the love of God, please make some effort here
- Do not buy your clothing at your local DiscountWarehouseCo—I know it’s financially tempting, but I promise you will look horrific
In case you think I’m being a snob, I do not condone designer clothes. Gap, Express and dozens of other stores have slimmer sizes. You shouldn’t be wearing tight clothing either, but
5. WEAR DECENT SHOES
Among a host of fashion faux pas that plague this town, two laws of male footwear are commonly repudiated in Washington, D.C. I don’t call these suggestions of men’s footwear, recommendations or even rules. If not for fashion, then at least for the well-being of your feet!
Nay, these are laws.
- Never wear boxed-toed shoes (I once heard someone say that squared/boxed-toed shoes only exist to show other men what not to wear)
- All slip-on shoes must be loafers (none of those semi-dress shoes that don’t have laces, tying shoes is not THAT hard)
- Always use a shoe tree (this is not particularly complicated, but it’ll make you look approximately 3 x more professional)
Hope that helps!