Recent years saw a surge in tips on being a gentleman. Magazines, YouTube channels, and celebrities dedicate a lot of time and effort to tell you how you should dress, behave, what products you should (or should not) use.
In the meantime, the essence of it all is lost. Being a gentleman is about having the freedom and means to do things, which out of respect for others you refrain from doing. Being a gentleman is all about freedom and liberty, and it was indeed freedom that helped form the modern gentleman.
Liberty means that you are not required by law to refrain from doing something, rather you chose not to act in ways that would limit others in their freedom. If you want to be a gentleman (whether you are a man or a woman, despite what the word suggests), in appearance you are enabled to be so by free markets, and in code of conduct by classical liberal values. Let me break it down.
Style Without Borders
It is not the clothes you wear that make you a gentleman, but sometimes (out of respect for the occasion, or just because you can) you will don a suit or a dress. Whether it follows the British, Italian or American style, it is free trade that brought you these fashion choices. The custom according to which the lowest button on a jacket remains unbuttoned originated in England, courtesy of rather corpuscular King Edward VII. Your tie finds its origins with the Croatian soldiers fighting in Western Europe.
The surge of civil liberties and tolerance enabled women to be more liberal in their fashion choices, and thankfully it is not frowned upon if you wear your traditional garments. You can even chose to wear elegant clothes from other countries… Well, you should anyway (if you can dismiss frothing far-left people crying cultural appropriation, and far-right people being xenophobic).
You can have apparels and accessories designed in London, manufactured in Italy, with the fabric coming form all parts of the world. Free trade and markets dress you well, and you can afford fabrics, which were only the privileges of the super-wealthy a hundred years ago, because mass market lowered prices, and you are getting richer. Just imagine, in ancient Rome only the most affluent people could afford to wear certain color, as the cost of the dye was sky high.
Manners Maketh Man
As quoted in the iconic scene from the first Kingsman movie, “Manners maketh man”. In fact it doesn’t matter how you clad yourself as long as you respect others, and live by the adage live and let live. Once you do this, congratulations, you are a gentleman, regardless of your background, gender, and appearance.
This is the essence of classical liberalism, or (if you will) conservative liberalism or libertarianism. You are enabled by external forces, such as free markets to do as you please, but still you respect others. This readiness for liberty and tolerance transgresses borders, languages, classes, and wealth. It enabled people to help each other, to live more peacefully, and to get richer. The evolution of the gentleman is the evolution of classical liberalism and freedom.