What does it mean to be a man in the modern world? Make money? Build muscle? Dress well? Quit work to raise your kids?
It’s arguably all of these things and none. Twenty-first-century masculinity might look a lot different from 50 years ago, but it’s still – and always will be – a concept that’s constantly changing, a totally different picture based on where you’re from and what you think is expected of you.
Less obscure, though, are the skills a man should posses. Mostly because the majority haven’t changed. These are the things you need to be able to do to make it today.
The modern man isn’t all about sport and the outdoors, you know. Domestic duties are an essential part of 21st-century masculinity. Indeed, whereas a bloke was once measured on the size of his muscles and testosterone levels, now he scores equal man-points for his sheet-folding ability (harder than it sounds). Here are 10 skills to hone for around the house.
1. Change a light bulb. And a fuse. No, AC and DC aren’t two halves of the same band.
2. Hang a picture. A movie poster held up with Blu Tack doesn’t count.
3. Sew a button back on. Yes, with the sewing kit you actually own.
4. Iron clothes.
5. Make a bed. Whether it’s yours or not.
6. Remove a stain. The key? Water’s better than nothing, but vodka is ideal (when isn’t it?).
7. Wallpaper a room. Or strip the wallpaper from a room.
8. Pack a suitcase. Knowing how to do so properly (roll, don’t fold; use the space in your shoes; blazers inside out) is the mark of true jet-setter.
9. Put some shelves up. It only counts if they don’t fall down again. It half counts if they’re only straight when squinting.
10. Keep a fancy plant without killing it. Top tip: cactus.
Looking good is a man’s prerogative. Looking exceptional is a talent – a mix of nifty hacks, knowing your body, and understanding what to wear and when. It’s no surprise that these are the skills that every well-dressed man knows.
1. Understand how to buy a suit. An eye for what fits can be learned, as can know-how around fabric, colours, texture and patterns.
3. Manscape. At least to some degree. We’re not saying you need to wax, but we are saying no one should need a map down there.
4. Tie a tie. If you only know one, make it a four-in-hand (or ‘schoolboy’).
5. Know your measurements, including chest, waist, neck and inside leg.
6. Shine your shoes. You’ll need a shoe brush, soft cloths, leather conditioner and shoe polish.
8. Communicate what you want to your barber. “Short back and sides” won’t cut it. If in doubt, take a picture.
9. Know the difference between a mechanical watch and a quartz.
10. Fix any style dilemma (be it a creased shirt or shrunken knit) in a pinch.
As A Partner
There’s more to being a great lover than having dynamite skills between the sheets (though, to be fair, that does help). It’s about being sensitive, considerate and emotionally nurturing – all skills a man needs if he’s going to find, and hold onto, a partner. Here’s how to do it.
1. Give a good massage. Great for wooing, not to mention working on your forearm strength.
2. Cook at least one impressive dinner to get them to stay over, and one breakfast dish that’ll wow them in the morning.
3. Ask someone out on a date (without resorting to stock chat-up lines). Bonus points if it’s in person.
4. Buy flowers. The right flowers. You know lilies are for funerals, right?
5. Be able to answer when they ask: “How do I look in this?” Stuttering leads to a fate worse than death.
6. Back down from an argument. Accept when the other person is right and be open to being convinced.
7. And apologise (sincerely).
8. Remember key dates. Birthdays and anniversaries are essential.
9. Read body language. They’re not “fine” and might even be about to punch you.
10. Buy them clothes that they actually like. If they exchange them, you’ve failed.
As A Man’s Man
We live in the age of reconstructed and reclaimed masculinity, but a man is a man, and the hunter-gatherer instinct is strong. Except in the modern world, being an alpha male isn’t about killing a deer with your bare hands, it’s about being the best physical specimen you can be and an absolute wizard with a toolkit.
1. Shake hands properly. A recent survey of 1,000 Americans found that 72 per cent believe that the way a person shakes hands says a lot about them. Make sure yours says all the right things.
2. Drive (preferably with the legal right to do so).
3. Be able to carry out basic car mechanics. When you find yourself with a dead phone and a flat tire, you’ll thank us.
4. Start a fire (and know how to put one out).
5. Diffuse a fight. Or when that doesn’t work, throw a knockout punch.
6. Perform CPR. And the Heimlich manoeuvre. Knowing which situation requires which is a given.
7. Squat, deadlift and bench press properly. There’s nothing manly about long-term lumbar pain.
8. Ask for a raise. And get it.
9. Know your drink and how to order it (no-one likes indecision at the bar).
10. Stand up for others. Staying quiet is always the easy option.
As A Dad
These are the skills that will not only make you an excellent father, but set a good example for your children – and hopefully make them better, well-rounded people in the process. Plus, having the best Lego-skills out of all the dads in the playground is one of life’s greatest satisfactions.
1. Take a good family photo. Find the light, frame it well and take a shitload because, let’s face it, the kids’ eyes are going to be closed for most of them.
2. Change a nappy. Without going on about how brave you are afterwards.
3. Dance. At least better than your own dad (unless he’s Michael Flatley).
4. Build a Lego city. Without using any instructions.
5. Have a stand-up wee while also holding a baby.
6. Barbecue. Without endangering any family member’s life.
7. Find a method that gets your baby to sleep every time without fail.
8. Understand you’re not the backup parent and that you have unique things to teach your offspring.
9. Master the assault course at your local park.
10. Know the lyrics to every Disney song. Even Frozen. Especially Frozen.
As A Thinking Man
Brawn is nothing without having the brains to back it up. Every man should strive to have intelligence, a sharp wit that can hold a room, and the ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube like one of those maths genius kids. Here are 10 must-have skills for smart, self-aware men.
1. Give a speech. At a wedding, at a funeral, and half-cut at your own birthday.
2. Understand that mental health is just as important as physical health.
3. Know your limits. (Especially in the case of tequila.)
4. Understand basic measurements and how to convert them.
5. Make small talk (or at least feign interest). When in doubt, ask someone about their favourite subject: themselves.
6. Read. By that, we mean actually finish at least one book a month.
7. Haggle. If you think you’ll end up walking having paid the original price – or worse, more – just cough up.
8. Know when to go to the doctor. Even if you do tag your gym selfies #BeastMode, you’re not invincible.
9. Ask for help when you need it. Offer it when you can give it, but don’t be pushy.
10. Tell a joke. If you’re not particularly funny, have a few in the bank and know which one to pull out when.
In The Kitchen
A modern man’s place is in the kitchen. And not just rifling through the snack cupboard, but actually knowing what he’s doing and cooking up some excellent nosh. Boiling an egg is all well and good, but what about the skills that will make you a real man in the kitchen?
1. Mix at least one good cocktail. A Manhattan or Old Fashioned are excellent places to start.
2. Sharpen a knife. And be able to dissect an onion in the blink-of-an-eye.
3. Know how to cook every type of steak, or at least the difference between a rump and a Chateaubriand.
4. Open a bottle without an opener. A lighter, ring, key, belt buckle or any available countertop are all invaluable makeshift bottle openers.
5. Turn leftovers into dinner. When in doubt: omelette.
6. Blag your way through any wine list.
7. De-shell lobster like a chef. The least you can do is save a dead animal the indignity of being bashed around on your plate.
8. Cook a three-course meal.
9. Make your own pizza dough. Then top it like a don.
10. Master an incredible vegan dish. Because you never know when one might come for dinner.