The Gentleman

HOWARD HAYES has worked on newspapers in Detroil and Paris and is now living in New York.


A CHAIN of New York barbershops (twenty-one stores) advertises in the papers that a gentleman “never needs a haircut.” The ad goes on to say that this perfect fellow, the American gentleman, has his hair trimmed before it needs cutting.

This undoubtedly explains why a lot of businessmen are to be seen so much in barbershops. They are not sure whether they need a haircut or not, so they have stepped into the shop to have an expert pass an opinion on the situation. The verdict generally, it would seem, is that they had better stay and have a little work done.

But wait. What should be done? The mystery remains, for the ad also says a gentleman “never looks as though he just had a haircut. Thus the perfect gentleman, it would seem, looks exactly the same when he comes out of the barbershop as when he went in. _

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against this. I like the idea. What I’m trying to get at is the theory and practice of being a gentleman. To prove the barbershop theory, let us transpose it to another field, say from the barbershop to the saloon. (“Saloon” is a good word, as good as “ barbershop.”)

This would give us the phrase: A gentleman “never needs a drink. He never looks as though he’d just had one.” All very sound. The gentleman who didn’t need the haircut is also the well-barbered fellow at the bar who doesn’t need the whiskey-and-soda. He had the haircut a couple of days before he needed it, so he has the drink a couple of hours before he needs it.

This is logical because it would be fully as ungentlemanly to allow himself to get into a state where he badly needed a drink as it would be to show that he’d just had one (or several, since although it is impossible, with haircuts, to pour one on top of another, it is the easiest thing in the world to do with whiskey-and-sodas).

To be a gentleman, then, requires not only unnoticeable barbering but unnoticeable drinking. And we must not forget the steaks. Obviously, no gentleman would ever allow himself to look hungry.

To prevent this, the fellow is always eating a thick steak several hours before he feels like it. This gentlemanly anticipation of need is no doubt responsible for his pink, well-fed, slightly porcine look. But these are not the only fields in which this wonderful fellow antici pates. He has anticipated every kind of calamity, or even minor unpleasantness, by means of insurance. He is insured against his own dog, in case the unruly creature should snap at a neighbor’s child. His life is insured, of course, for all it’s worth, and this fact is reflected in the smiles of his wife. In other portrayals we see him genially borrowing money at the bank, no doubt before he needs it, which accounts for the smiles on the part of the friendly vice-president.

The gentleman is the fellow who never needs anything. But why doesn’t he need anything? Because he already has everything.

Simple, isn’t it ?