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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Book
I've been a big fan of Glenn O'Brien's tone and perspective for a long time. As GQ's style guy and a further contributor to the magazine and its podcast, it would be easy and perhaps predictable for him to take a dismissive or snobby stance while dealing out the dos and don'ts of taste, the way that other style and advice tsars seem to traffic in snarkiness while...
Published on May 18, 2011 by Robert Daniel Johnson

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easily Digestible
At times a little too much on topics of suspenders, bow ties, and fashion once upon a time. Found myself laughing out loud every 30 or so pages. So it has more pros then cons. All in all fairly short and some areas are need to know for the majority of men. I cant repeat this one enough-men NEVER wear jeans and flip-flops & baseball caps for night life. Absorb the...
Published on December 24, 2011 by Armagedon


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Book, May 18, 2011
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This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
I've been a big fan of Glenn O'Brien's tone and perspective for a long time. As GQ's style guy and a further contributor to the magazine and its podcast, it would be easy and perhaps predictable for him to take a dismissive or snobby stance while dealing out the dos and don'ts of taste, the way that other style and advice tsars seem to traffic in snarkiness while resenting their subjects and readers (for instance, Esquire's sex columnist - she's the WORST). But O'Brien the writer is always unfailingly polite, empathetic and seems generally considered with being of service in his column, in an almost Buddhist sense.

I was a little bit worried about the book after GQ published a teaser for it which distilled some of O'Brien's tips on social politics into a single, awkward article that, stripped of the context of the book, came across as a bit bitchy and shallow. I bought the book anyway and my worries were unfounded. 90% of this book should be canonized. As someone who came to O'Brien's writing relatively recently (apparently he used to write a great column for Interview Magazine back in the day, among other things), I was surprised at what a powerful prose stylist he is. Some of the passages are more effusive than others and when he really gets going there's a huge, poetic lift. This is not a superficial book. He really lays out a clear philosophy of living that, at the risk of oversimplifying it, treats manners as a form of deference to the beauty of life - by paying attention to details and expressing ourselves in a thoughtful manner, we are telling the world and its people that we love it enough to take it seriously.

If I had a gripe it would be the numerous redundancies - for instance the fifth time O'Brien tells us who Beau Brummell is, or the seventh time he makes the point that casual dress codes in the workplace have served to blur social status. I couldn't tell if these were editing errors or just O'Brien having a senior moment (maybe the book was meant to be considered a series of free-standing essays, whereas I read it straight through as one narrative) - but as an attentive reader it did feel a bit like having my intelligence insulted to be re-told the same things so many times, sometimes even on the same page.

Some of the chapters, such as the ones on dealing with air travel and doctors, are marred by a grouchiness that, as a man in my early 30s, I just couldn't relate to. But then again, this is O'Brien at his most explicit and not his most polite. And the candor is exhilarating elsewhere, like in the rants on drug use, taste as a matter of survival and a particularly inspired chapter on the vital powers of old age vs. the emptiness of youth worship.

I could have used a chapter on fatherhood, and it seems that a section called How to Compete would have been a no-brainer for a book on manhood. But maybe they'll tack that on to future editions - I definitely had the sense when reading this that I was reading the first edition of something that would last (and regretted spilling so much food on its pages).

Oh, and I'll never agree that socks and sandals are OK. Never!

Buy this book. For my sake. I need compatriots.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to Be a Man - Glenn O'Brien (Rizzoli), May 19, 2011
This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
You remember Glenn O'Brien. As music columnist for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, G.O'B. was the periscope on the submarine that was underground, punk rock during its landmark decade in the 80's. He later expanded his sphere of influence into fashion and art through his "Style Guy" column at GQ magazine and a stint with the publisher of magazines like "Antiques" and "Art in America.". In fact, when it comes to fashion, style and the arts, the O'Brien arsenal is tough to beat.

It is then with both great anticipation and curiosity that we watch as he turns his gaze to the subject of manhood in the newly released volume "How to Be a Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman." (Rizzoli)

So what is a man in the modern day sense and what does it take to become one?

In O'Brien's view, a man is a person who employs the utmost of style and care when it comes to everything from wardrobe to behavior to the way he exudes his sexuality. O'Brien is a taskmaster when it comes to natty dress, manners and even where a man fits along the hetero, homo and metro-sexual continuum. In fashion, O'Brien's purview runs head-to-toe covering every detail from haircuts to underwear, collar-stays to ascots. There is even an ample discussion of the so-called `dandies.' (He likes hetros and dandies, though he chastises some gays for not being "gay enough.")

No one can fault O'Brien for his erudite musings. His range of knowledge is exemplary - covering cultures from the ancient Greeks to the Taliban, philosophers from Socrates to Chuck D. (Only O'Brien would cover the range of beards from ZZ Top to Rutherford B. Hayes.) His writing style is about as punchy as it gets, with each sentence delivering like the cutting remarks of a professorial stand-up comic. One must only question his target.
Has he written the book for people like himself? Is O'Brien merely trying to show off his erudite plumage? (probably) Is he so imbued with the Manhattan lifestyle that he can no longer relate to readers in the flyover states - or they to him? (He basically writes them off towards the end in his chapter on patriotism when he proclaims of the great middle ground, "Wouldn't they be happier without our smug East Coast attitudes?")

In all, O'Brien's book is not a guide for the everyman but rather a dissertation of a certain style designed for the (increasingly) select few for whom such rules still seems to matter. But as a throughly entertaining read on the art, fashion, behaviors and history of the modern gent (dandy or not) it succeeds no matter what code you ascribe to - dress or zip.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How To Be A (Certain Kind of) Man, April 28, 2011
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This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
These days, there are any number of men who consider themselves ultra stylish and therefore highly qualified to dispense sartorial advice. Look no further than the internet, and its endless guides to style, masculinity and so on. If you can buy The Right Look at Urban Outfitters, and spend an hour a day curating the ripped-off photos on your Tumblr blog, you're practically a style icon. O'Brien actually earned his status as a purveyor of style through years of toil at Interview, GQ, Vanity Fair, et al.

I've long been a fan of Glenn O'Brien. As much as he gives sage advice, he's funny and irreverent, too (if sardonic wit is your cup of tea). There are more important things going on in the world, and O'Brien knows it. I am of the camp that believes you can have your well-fitting pants and work for peace on earth, too.

How To Be A Man is smart and funny, and sure: some of his proclamations are ludicrous; saying someone like Armani looks good with his deep-fried glow is preposterous. As is the suggestion that type-o blood types need to eat meat. Insanity!

But good manners are a lost art; and I would argue that the importance of never wearing flip flops in public can't be over-stated. O'Brien has plenty of important things to say that both mock and embrace convention, simultaneously.

How To Be A Man is really about how to be a certain kind of man. But the world could certainly stand more of a certain kind of man. And if you're the kind of man, like myself, who occasionally needs some words of wisdom on waxing...: this book is indispensable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound: How to Be a Man, June 12, 2011
This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
SunPost Weekly May 5, 2011 | John Hood
[...]

Glenn O'Brien Gives Us a Guide

Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's infamous crack about obscenity, style is pretty much undefinable, but you know it when you see it. It's an inner grace, an outward ease and a joie de vivre that sets a man a part from the pack (unless it's a Rat Pack). It's the sublime rather than the superficial, the natural verses the synthetic, the snap without the crackle. It's a bop and a sway and a swing that's as elusive as true beauty -- and just as hard to miss. Style can't be faked. But it can be learned. (To some degree at least.) And with practice, it can even be perfected.

Of course acquiring said style is not something you do overnight. It takes patience, diligence, and great attention to detail. The trick is that it's gotta look completely effortless. And unless you're one of those rare cats to whom the swagger was born, that is some trick indeed.

Fortunately there are swells such as Glenn O'Brien who not only know the tricks, but who are willing to show you how they're pulled off. Each month the gentleman wordslinger answers the most pressing sartorial questions for GQ as "The Style Guy." And there's no telling how many men his all-knowing has helped to saved face. Better yet, O'Brien has taken a lifetime's worth of exacting experience and put it in a nifty book that shelves perfectly between Alan Flusser's Style and the Man and James Sherwood's Bespoke. (Or for the really adventurous, Daniele Tamagni's Gentleman of Bacongo.) The work is called How to Be a Man (Rizzoli $24.95). And if you heed these how-to's, you too can be a helluva style guy.

Subtitled A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman, O'Brien's handy-dandy guide is for both the budding Beau Brummell, as well as the style war veteran. The former will find in O'Brien a mentor of robust dimension; the latter a like mind who's ever mindful of what it takes to be a real gentleman. In other words, whether he's addressing how to dress for various occasions or how to behave once you get there, it works as either an introduction or a reminder. That means it's for every man who puts on his pants one leg at a time.

As Robert Coover wrote in his post neo-Noir Noir, "it's not the story you're trapped in, [it's] how you play it out. Your style. Class. The moves you make." And if you wanna make the moves that make the day and the nigh for everybodyt, you'd do well to heed O'Brien's wily advice. Oh, and by the way, that 1964 obscenity case mentioned above involved Ohio's attempt to ban Louis Malle's The Lovers, a film which every man of style should definitely see.

The other day SunPost Weekly shot O'Brien a few quick Qs; here's what he shot back:

What compelled you to write How to Be a Man?

First of all, you need an excuse for an essay book unless you're on staff at The New Yorker, and since I have my GQ clientele, who follow the Style Guy, I thought I should write a book they would enjoy.

Could it just as easily be called How to Be a Gentleman?

Yes, but it would seem less cosmically important.

What's been more detrimental to the fall of Gentlemankind -- being neutered or not minding their manners?

These fates are similar. Manners are a basis for style, and style is a potent aspect of self-expression. It's all about study and expression.

Speaking of manners, what are some of the most egregious lapses that you see these days?

People interrupt one another at an alarming rate. It's from watching panel shows given to argument like The McLaughlin Report or Bill Maher and just a general increase in insensitivity. I also see a general tendency toward shortness of fuse, maybe caused by endemic bureaucracy, where people lose whatever cool they possess very easily.

How about sartorially? Surely there a more than a few widespread faux pas that get your goat, no?

I just find it dispiriting to see men whose only apparent motivation for getting dressed is to avoid nudity. Clothing is a wonderful and meaningful avenue of self-expression, even self-realization.

Any other don'ts a gentleman needs to know before he makes in polite society?

Don't lie except when kindness and mercy demand it.

If I just landed on this planet from another world, what basic essentials would I need to be a well-rounded man?

A good start would be reading the classics, watching Turner Classic Movies, listening to jazz and playing golf.

Should I bother looking for the converse in the women I pursue?

The converse will probably wind up with a fight. I'd go for the obverse.

Now that we've touched upon the fairer sex, Mother's Day is upon us. What should a gentleman do to be the proverbial apple in Mom's eye?

Pretend you listen to her instead of your significant other.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easily Digestible, December 24, 2011
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This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
At times a little too much on topics of suspenders, bow ties, and fashion once upon a time. Found myself laughing out loud every 30 or so pages. So it has more pros then cons. All in all fairly short and some areas are need to know for the majority of men. I cant repeat this one enough-men NEVER wear jeans and flip-flops & baseball caps for night life. Absorb the "insights"; but, through your own prism(if that makes any sense). Also, I have never read a book on how to be something I should innately know, b/c I was lucky enough to be raised by one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good (not great) Guide, May 19, 2011
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I got this book because I felt that I was lacking a bit (or a lot) in style and have come to feel that manhood is more than six pack abs and a love of beer. This book seemed like it would be a great book to help edify my beliefs in an evolved state of manhood and may even give me an idea or two about how to be a more polished sophisticated gentleman.

The book is divided into 5 different sections each dealing with a different aspect of life/manhood. Each of these different sections is then filled with chapters that deal with a specific subject. Examples might be Socks, Swimwear, How to Ail, etc. (sorry I don't have my Kindle handy as a reference for the exact names of the titles). For the most part the author seems to espouse his belief system on the subjects. At times he is a little long winded, but for the most part his writing style is intellectual and fresh, with some good humor sprinkled in.

The book is good at dealing with general ideals for each chapter, but I would have preferred some less abstract advice. Yes I know a man's swim suit should be classic and stylish, but what are some good brands to shop for? Even though the book lacks actually advice, it is a great read and I am glad I have purchased it and will undoubtedly skim through it again.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Being a man seems to involve leaning a certain way on issues, February 5, 2012
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I have read enough of this book to know I appreciate this authors writing style. I also feel he has a lifetime of knowledge and opinions on the subject of the book to pass on.

It is however a shame that it seems important to him that being a man involve not being a part of institutional religion, a capitalist and or republican. You see him take a shot at the pope and organized religion in general. If he has someone he wants to use as a bad example its a good bet they will be a member of the republican party.

I would think that being a man would be more about being true to your beliefs and treating those with differing views with respect and courtesy. I would not think it would have much bearing on what your political, economic and religious leanings were.

I may still make it through this book and gain some wisdom on the subject matter the author is an authority on. I may have to just skim when his political or religious views are on display. I may just have to read it in small stents.

So if you lean his way on these issues or if you don't mind being beat over the head with the authors viewpoints on these issues that have nothing to do with the book subject I think that he has a lot of knowledge to share.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neither a Toady Nor a Lout Be..., July 11, 2011
This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
These days, being a man is a confusing endeavor. Modern man has de-volved into a sissified caricature of the male species. Somehow it's no longer possible to be a "real" man- a modern man is somehow one of two extremes- a beer swilling, track-suit, flip-flop wearing, tattooed slob, or a wimpy, fashion-conscious, patsy metrosexual. How then, can a man today just be a man?

Glen O'Brien, of GQ "Style Guy" fame, has the answers. He conquers all the key topics of modern manhood, from clothing, to vices, to the proper use of insults. He does not aspire to be a mere gentleman, nor simply a dandy, but instead a man in full. In his "Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman" he attacks all the thorniest manhood issues with verve and panache.

Of course, being the "Style Guy," he conquers the area of "Style" first. He does not espouse the idea of being fashionable- instead he seeks to share his wisdom on how to have real style. How to buy and wear suits, shirts, ties, shoes, socks. How to be yourself; as long as that self is not one of those poor saps who try to wear a dark suit to a black-tie event. A real man does NOT chase the latest fashions, nor does he find himself stuck in an antiquated world of Emily Post. I disagree with him on the subject of hats; however- it is impossible for a Caucasian male to avoid looking like a Brooklyn hipster in any kind of hat other than a baseball cap.

Speaking of style- no writer I know of today is as daring, clever, and just plain brilliant as O'Brien. His biting wit is magnified by his elegant turn of a phrase. One of my favorite parts of the book is the chapter in which he sets straight the proper use of insults, which are so often misused. He closes the chapter with a paragraph that is a small taste of his delicious style for you to sample here:

"The above epithets are all useful in their own way, but consider the allure of an insult that not only sounds bad but is also more specific and possibly foreign to the recipient, who may, upon hearing it, feel even more stupid. Confusion over arcane terms of contumely can only help drive the point home to a lickspittle, toady, stumblebum, rube, bounder, middlebrow, charlatan, yokel, lout or schmendrick. And those words just feel good on the tongue."

At points O'Brien strays from his core subject matter and riffs on the lunacies of modern life. His writing is jazz and his improvisational flights of fancy are sublime. His chapters on dealing with doctors and modern air travel are especially satirical.

O'Brien on flying: "often fellow passengers, even female fellows, are obese and, strapped in with their seat-belt extensions, hanging over into your space."

Most of the book, however, is filled with actual practical tips on surviving modern life as a man.

If you are religious, obese, a pharmaceutical salesman, wear a track suit in public on airplanes, or wear your jeans falling off with your underwear showing this book will offend you. For the rest of us men, this book belongs on our bookshelves. Yes- that's right- a gentleman has books in his abode.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars partial credit, November 28, 2011
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This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed the style and appearance sections of this book...extremely funny yet full of serious, common sense information about personal appearance, clothing, style and fashion. Hard to put down....Unfortunately, the balance of the book, about 50+%, with some exceptions of course (the monograph on the epithet beginning with c and ending with r is hilarious and the chapter on the do's and don'ts of cell phone use is spot on) alternated between useless repetition, outright snobbery sans humour and mean spirited claptrap and gratuitous name calling. So I give it a passing grade...barely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book, September 25, 2014
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This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
This book is a rarity. If you re looking for a picture book, forget about this. This is a book for people who love to read, enjoy humor and want to dress for the part.
some parts of the book are hilarious, but mostly it's the vast information what makes this a fantastic book. Not just on when and how to wear suits, ties, tuxedos, etc. But also why they were created, who design them and the whole history behind them.
One of the many chapters that I've found interesting was "On the snob". Which enlighted me with the revelation that the word snob is in fact an abbreviation of Sine Nobilitate or Without Nobility.
Other chapters include "How to drink", How to be individual", "How to be an animal", "How to fight like a man", etc
It's a fascinating book, one that I'm sure you won't get tired of reading over and over.
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How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman
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