the Gentleman Smoker     February 4th, 2014

Steve Morrisette

This column is about Gentleman’s Style and it’s various forms of expression as they intersect the experiences of pipe smokers and all lovers of fine tobaccos.

Why a style column?

There is currently a resurgence of interest in men’s fashion.

You can find variations of this statement more and more frequently these days across the media spectrum. You may have also noticed the increasing attention the media is focusing on the apparent growing popularity of the pipe hobby among young adults. Though possibly coincidental, I believe there is a subtle, if tenuous, relationship between the two.

 



From the Victorian period forward to the late 1960’s, pipe and cigar smoking among men was quite common and ubiquitous. We all know this. During these same times men (and women ) were far more attentive to the proprieties that expressed respect and grace in social interactions. This respect shown in civil discourse was echoed in a gentleman’s ( and lady’s ) style and dress as well.

All this fell away in the late 60’s with the “Let it all hang out” attitudes that set the coming tone and style for society over the next fifty years.

Pipe smoking is a talisman of that bygone era; an era remembered to have been a calmer and more civilized time of gentlemanly behavior and style. Dressing well also harkens back to such times. I recall that my father never went downtown without a nice jacket and tie if he wasn’t wearing a suit. And always with one of his small brimmed fedoras that were so popular at the time. This was to show respect and also to present himself, at a glance, as the gentleman he was. He invariably was smoking his pipe as well.

In today’s atmosphere of vitriolic political wrangling, banking frauds, terrorism, the NSA and a perceived growing lack of respect for one’s fellow man, folks may indeed be longing for the civilities of days gone by.

Everything old is new again

Gianni Fontana at the 2014 Pitti Uomo

Gianni Fontana at the 2014 Pitti Uomo

It is interesting to note that at the 2014 Pitti Uomo, a highly regarded twice yearly men’s fashion industry event in Florence, Italy, a significant number of the stylish and splendid attendees were seen smoking pipes and cigars. Pipes in particular seemed to be incorporated into outfits and employed as an expression of style. It is also important to note the happy fact that these sartorial devotees were actually smoking said pipes and cigars.

These individuals, acutely attuned to image and their own expression of style, have high regard for pipe and cigar smoking and demonstrate how well these align with a gentleman’s style. For many years, smoking was absolutely considered a sophisticated activity because it went hand in hand with style, individuality and freedom of self expression.

Given all of the above, a column on gentleman’s style seems quite timely.

What is style?

I believe that everyone has a sense of style. Some are more developed and clearly expressed than others, but we all have it. And, it can be enhanced and refined when one takes an interest. Just as in music and art, there are rules, guidelines and principles of style that can be learned and followed. A person developing their style, having mastered these principles, may then reinterpret them in ways that create a unique personal style. Look at the author Tom Wolfe, the actor George Clooney and star Frank Sinatra.

Each succeeded quite well in expressing their tastes and sensibilities while simultaneously defining themselves to the world. Tom Wolfe is formal and refined, but not too serious about it, hence; the white suits. George Clooney is subdued, elegant and casual all at the same time. And Sinatra? Well, Frank was just cool. Period. Three very different men presenting three very different styles, but gentleman all.

Fashion vs. Style

"Fashion fades, style is eternal." - Yves St. Laurent

The terms "fashion" and "style" are frequently used interchangeably. They are not the same. One can purchase fashion. Style is crafted by the individual and cannot be bought or hired. A great Harris Tweed sport coat may be purchased from Brooks Bros. and you have fashion. Style is choosing the pocket square that perfectly accents your tie and also picks up the subtle tones in the coat’s weave.

Gentlemanly style is when you, unbidden, slip that coat around your lady’s shoulders because you noticed she was cold. An important aspect of gentlemanly style is the consideration of others.

Judging a book by it’s cover

"You only get one chance to make a first impression."

It has been shown that the vast majority of information we take in during face to face communication is visual. Style is a subtle and often powerful element in that communication. In case you were wondering why you should give a damn about style, there’s your answer.

Our focus here

"Looking good isn’t self-importance, it’s self respect." - Charles Hix

A gentleman’s style is expressed in his choice and style of garments, but it also includes footwear, grooming, the cars we drive and even the pipes we smoke.

Style also extends to our choices about entertaining, the sports we play, TV, movies, music and so on.

The focus here will generally be sartorial concerns, as there is plenty to cover.

Is your pipe congruent with your style? How would it change the look and style here if I were clenching a fat and stubby poker/sitter with a white or yellow mouthpiece? Or a cob?

Is your pipe congruent with your style? How would it change the look and style here if I were clenching a fat and stubby poker/sitter with a white or yellow mouthpiece? Or a cob?

We are not only concerned with the wardrobe, but with how to wear, care for and preserve fine garments and footwear. There is also where and how to purchase pieces, what looks well with what, proper attire for special occasions, how to judge fit, what elements make a good shirt or suit, the value of a good tailor, and even esoteric concerns such as what pipe shapes look well with your face.

When timely and appropriate we will no doubt look at fine liquors, elegant dining, watches and jewelry, and perhaps more kinetic subjects like fishing, performance driving and the shooting sports.

We will also work to fit in a useful tip in each column so you always come away with information that is practical and proven.

Your comments and questions are invited and will be appreciated.

The Gentleman Smoker’s tip:
Spring is on the way before long, so now is the time to think about storing your woolen garments. If you retire the heaviest items first and as the weather warms continue to the lighter ones, you can avoid the sticker shock at the dry cleaner in June. Try this: immediately after cleaning, store the garment in a large and heavy zip lock type plastic bag like the ones for storing pillows and blankets. If they are clean and zipped up airtight you can forget about moths destroying your favorite herringbone tweed trousers. Do not use vacuum “space saving” bags, as you may damage the construction of jackets and set in God awful wrinkles.

Links:
www.gentlemansgazette.com
www.putthison.com
www.parisiangentleman.com

Credits:
Photos of Steve Morrisette by Steve Morrisette

 

Steve Morrisette is an artisan pipe maker, relentlessly snappy dresser, and self-confessed Virginia gentleman. He makes artisan pipes for discerning collectors, and scours the internet and shops of all types seeking information and fine garments, hats, watches, shoes, and jewelry - anything related to the gentleman’s lifestyle. Steve also spent several decades as a working drummer and photographer/photojournalist. You can find his pipes at www.smpipes.com, and catch his style photos and latest pipes on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Comments Sponsored by: Sutliff Tobacco Co.

14 Responses to “the Gentleman Smoker”

  1. ravkesef said:

    Steve Morisette is the consummate gentleman, who demonstrates both visually and verbally that a gentleman should be attired with the proper pipe to exemplify sartorial elegance. It isn’t a matter of how much you spend on clothing–one can drop a bundle and still look like a slob. Thank you, Steve, for a simple and elegant introduction to what I hope will be a long-running, and well heeded series.

  2. docwatson said:

    Steve,
    You are the epitome of the well attired and personable gentleman. I am always impressed by your dapper style and friendly conversation at the pipe shows when I see you. Not to mention the fantastic pipes that you craft. Good luck with this new column, I look forward to more gemtlemanly recommendations befitting our hobby.

  3. trailboss said:

    Great article, I am looking forward to the future contributions.

    From the article: “During these same times men (and women ) were far more attentive to the proprieties that expressed respect and grace in social interactions. This respect shown in civil discourse was echoed in a gentleman’s ( and lady’s ) style and dress as well.”

    Amen!

    I distinctly remember in the early sixties, boarding a plane the people dressed nicely, and social graces were on full display for my young eyes…fast forward to the ensuing years, I have seen everything from a woman finger flossing toe jam onto the terminal seats, and a slob in a homemade muscle shirt, armpit hair tufted out, smelling like a sweaty mule shoulder to shoulder with me on a plane.

    Earlier this year in an airport, I saw an older couple that made me feel like I was transported back in time, he was dressed very much like Mr. Morisette, his wife was equal in her appearance, but it was more than that also…it was how they carried themselves, and interacted with their fellow man…they looked far superior in class to those around them with no ostentatious air about them.

    On a side-note, it would be nice to return to the day when women actually looked like ladies, and tramp-stamps protruding from low rise pants were a thing of the past, but that horse has left the barn I am afraid.

  4. plateauguy said:

    Great article.

    I remember when everything changed in the 60’s. At first it was great to be so casual, but like everything else, too much of a good thing gets old.

    The other day I saw a women in pajammas at the grocery store . . . this reflects the sad state of society on a whole.

  5. lordofthepiperings said:

    Another great article of which I am excitedly waiting more installments of.

    I have to agree, society has definitely lost the refinement it had up until the 60s. The days when every man had a suit and tie matched with a nice fedora/bowler hat. Women wore a dress practically every day.

    I’ll say this about my style, people usually ask me if I’m heading out for a job interview lol. I typically head out in a pair of dark wash jeans, an untucked button up dress shirt, some loafers, and usually a fedora. Sometimes I’ll accent it with an unbuttoned vest. I try to look like a gentleman as much as I act like one.

  6. cosmicfolklore said:

    I’m glad the world is casual. Myself? I wear ties every day, jackets, cuff links, the whole bit. No big deal. However, if everyone else was doing it, it would be no big deal, and I’d be the guy driving around town with a tacky freak’n baseball cap and no shirt on, lol.

  7. briarblues said:

    Steve;

    Great opening article. I look forward to your following submissions.

    Regards
    BB

  8. andystewart said:

    Excellent article Steve - thanks! I’m really looking forward to future pieces. I’m a middle-aged Englishman who works in the City of London, so I also dress every day in the uniform of suit, tie, cuff links, subtly personalised to my taste. I like to think that I dress well when casual - tweeds &c. - but I’m very open to new ideas. I’m really interested in seeing the American and international themes; the Italian show content was great and I love what Gianni Fontana is wearing. Particularly telling are the comments on manners and the way we treat others. A number of us work to maintain the spirit and practice of English behaviour, but the masses are happier to behave like slobs. A real shame. Good luck to you Steve and well done!

  9. blueeyedogre said:

    I would love to dress the “Dapper Don”, sadly where I work it never fails that when I wear something nice I end up on a job site and its ruined!

  10. geo3rge said:

    I wish to thank you for your excellent article. Self-respect is important; it has sadly all too often been eroded away by cultural fads and pressures. I am not at all against casual wear. In the house and around the garden I dress accordingly; but I do like to wear shirt, jacket and tie with decent shoes. Part of my upbringing when you weren’t allowed out of the house unless you were smart enough to do so! Regarding the pyjama person, well that is all too common in areas near where I live in the UK! I will not condemn them, only to wish for a wiser and wider view of what passes for acceptable peer smartness.
    Here’s to gentlemanly dress sense! Many thanks for an engaging and inspiring viewpoint and looking forward to more articles.
    I will wear my jacket tomorrow with pride!
    G.

  11. kcghost said:

    Though, a non-clothes horse myself I look forward to more articles in this series.

  12. thegentlemansmoker said:

    Thank you to all for your very kind reception and most welcome comments. I eagerly look forward to next month’s column. Please know that you are welcome to ask questions of me or make suggestions. All pertinent input is welcomed and desired. If you feel inclined, please tell your friends and pipe clubs about ” the Gentleman Smoker ” column. As we build interest and participation through the comment section, perhaps we can add a Gentleman Smoker sub-forum. My best to all,
    Steve Morrisette
    the Gentleman Smoker

  13. ststephen said:

    Without being formal, it’s still been possible to dress with a sense of style. I wear fedoras, long coats, and lots of dress shirts- some rather bright, and others more subtle- none of which I tuck in.
    But there’s been an abandonment of anything classic- in favor of synthetics and “active-wear”. T-shirts. Collars have been abandoned on shirts, jackets etc. The cult of youth has given us the desire for people to wear as little as possible- so we seen the abandonment of coats and even jackets… I’d like to hear some of these pompously youthful idiots try to tell me they aren’t cold! L Ron Hubbard created this trend in California(where else) is my guess.
    The result is frightfully dull clothing, and the idea that men wear nothing more than basketball shorts, flip-flops and ball caps. What’s funny when you see these slobs- and their girlfriends wear all this makeup and actually do spend a lot of time trying to look good- very incongruous! We now live in an age when if a man actually tries to look nice, he’s made to feel suspicious of being less than manly.
    Perverse, but all too real. These are my observations- mostly of Arizona; it’s not quite that bad elsewhere.

  14. romeowood said:

    I’ve always adhered to the maxim that fashion can be bought, while style one must possess. Looking forward to the next installment Steve.





 

 


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