Gentleman Scholar

How Should a Gentleman Wear His Sideburns?

Plus, advice on dating and International Men’s Day.

Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited, or invented.)

What are you doing for International Men’s Day?

Troy Patterson.
Troy Patterson.

Photo by Christina Paige

Thanks for asking.

Tonight, Nov. 19, after trimming the man tree, which is of course a Callery pear, my son and I will meet up with some guys in the neighborhood and go door to door singing the traditional man carols: You see, man made the car to take us over the road, etc., etc.

I’m joking, but the people who invented this occasion 15 years ago and tend to its celebration today are dreadfully earnest. What is their stated objective? “To celebrate men’s positive contributions.” Really, fellas? We need a special occasion for self-conceit? Doesn’t the proper fake holiday for that fall in May?

Also, this is apparently “an occasion to highlight discrimination against men and boys.” At the risk of minimizing the pain of any fellows suffering systematic sexist oppression—at the hands of The Man, I suppose—I’m going to ask, Why don’t you act like a man and quit whining?

On the other hand, this is supposedly a day to focus on men’s health. I’ve got no argument with that one, and so suggest using that other hand to perform a testicular self-examination. You’re hoping not to find any lumps. (To be clear: You’re hoping to find two lumps, as usual, but you want those lumps to be lumpless.)

Writing in the Guardian on Wednesday, Michael Kimmel, the author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History, suggests converting International Men’s Day into something more momentous than a spree of online snark: “A friend proposed calling it International Son Day”—a celebration of teaching boys “how to clean, cook, vacuum, do laundry and childcare.” I’m on board, and it’s settled: Tonight, I’ll show the kid how fetch me a beer from the fridge, and then we’ll make sirloin Manwiches.

Where does a woman meet the kind of man who would read the Gentleman Scholar column? A man of quality, if you will.

I venture that I won’t be finding an educated, mannered guy by trawling loud bars or by participating in drunken coed sports leagues, and sadly all my friends are married with no eligible bachelor friends.

Thank you for your question.

Have you tried any kind of digital dating? It’s come a long way since Stanford’s Great-Date-Matching Party of 1959, where an IBM 650 set up kids based, partly, on their expressed political beliefs. (Really, that was quite a long time ago: The questionnaire allowed right-wing daters to describe themselves as New-Deal Republicans, Old-Guard Republicans, or Fascists, where today we have RINOs, Straight-Up Republicans, and New-Guard Fascists.) All the kids swear by Tinder, a dating app combining the convenience of online takeout ordering with the frictionless fun of video games.

I also suggest batting your eyelashes at guys in bookstores, art museums, and produce aisles—especially younger guys. That’s where the action is for, say, a 34-year-old woman. According to the half-your-age-plus-seven rule, it is socially acceptable for a lady of those years to date a 24-year-old man, though the relationship will have a much better chance of surviving past brunch if he’s more like 28 or 29. According to the laws of human nature, younger gentlemen make terrific companions for women such as yourself. They are, as a type, highly tractable.

What’s considered a gentlemanly length for sideburns? I’m entering the job market and have had an interview with a white-shoe firm and others with generally conservative office atmospheres. Is this a less-is-more situation?

Thank you for your question.

A sideburn that stops short of the bottom of the tragus will pass inspection most anywhere. A sideburn with territorial ambitions grander than that may force your interviewer to ask himself such questions as, Who does this hipster think he is?, and Will he pursue Lee’s retreat from Antietam?