Before you start reading this, however, go check out Chelsea Fagan’s 8 Things Everyone Must Know How To Do, and learn how to do said 8 Things. Got it? Good. Moving on…
Have a simple go-to drink.
Sometimes “can I see your cocktail menu?” just doesn’t cut it. The world will take you many places: some fancy, some not so much, some where people routinely wake up in their own vomit. Not every bar can make cayenne-infused appletinis, and there are some where that order will get you thrown out or killed. Most importantly, however, what you drink says a lot about you and people will inexorably judge you on your choice of beverage. Keep it short and sweet: ideally, your go-to drink should have a maximum of three ingredients (e.g. bourbon, ginger ale, slice of orange). If your go-to drink is beer, make sure it doesn’t read “Light” anywhere on the bottle.
Have at least one well-fitting suit.
A good suit makes a man immediately credible and confident. This is fact. Ask Barney Stinson. Ask Don Draper. And sooner rather than later, you will have to attend serious events like interviews, funerals and those inevitable reminders of old age and alleged maturity, weddings. Like it or not, you are going to have to invest in a decent suit for these occasions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new suit. It does not matter if it’s from a high-end designer or from the consignment store. As long as it’s untainted by spills or eaten by moths, it just has to fit (and look like it fits) like a glove. Even if you’re a pseudo-anarchic non-conformist that thinks suits are stuffy and square, it is infinitely better to have a perfectly-fitting suit and wear it with disregard than proudly wearing a crappy one. Oh, and while you’re at it, learn how to tie a tie on your own. Once you master that, do it without a mirror. In a cab.
Know a place to get a good haircut.
Call it a barber shop. Call it a salon. It does not matter, as long as you do not call it Supercuts. A serious haircut is the first indicator of someone worth taking seriously. Find a place where they cut your hair exactly the way you like it. Once you do, establish a good rapport with whoever is responsible for making you look respectable and tip well — you will be going back, and you want them to care about you.
Get something that makes you smell good.
Looking the part is not enough; you must also smell the part. No matter how many times you tell yourself it works, “natural musk” will only take you so far. No one, from a potential employer to the pizza delivery guy, will go near you if you smell like garbage-marinated bunghole. A decent-smelling deodorant will do just fine, but if you can, find cologne you like and stick to it. You have no idea how far “you smell nice” will take you.
Have a real bed that you make every day.
Does your bed currently have a headboard? No? Then it’s just a mattress. Regardless of its size, a proper bed frame completely changes the way your bedroom looks, and, ideally, you want it to look this side of decent and less like a destitute. Got it? Good. Now learn how to tuck in those sheets. No woman — a date, your girlfriend, your mother — enjoys the sight of an unmade bed. Your room might constitute of piles of clothes, magazines and other crap, but a sharply-made bed automatically upgrades the ambiance and, hey, it might actually inspire you to clean up after yourself.
Get a proper e-mail address.
No one will take you seriously, ever, if your cover letters and resumes are sent from firstname.lastname@example.org. Forget about Facebook, forget about Twitter — for now, e-mail remains the business card of the digital arena and anything other than yournameandmaybeyourlastname @arespectablemailserviceprovideroryourcompanyname.com will simply not do.
Treat women decently.
I hope that at this stage I should not have to spell this out, but just in case: real men have manners, and real men treat women with the utmost respect. Erase the word “whore” or “slut” or derivations thereof from your vocabulary. Open doors for them. Be the last to walk out of an elevator. If you’re at dinner and they need to excuse themselves to go to the bathroom, you stand up when they stand up. When they come back, you stand up and sit down with them. Call it old-fashioned, call it regressive. Whatever — everyone can act like a childish bratty misogynist. Again, you want to be taken seriously? Then start by being a gentleman and treat women — of all worlds, of all ages, in every possible situation you can imagine — with decency. None of the above points matter if you cannot master this.
All of these things encapsulate one basic idea: that you know yourself. You know what you like, you know your limits, that you have manners befitting an adult, you know how you want to be perceived and how you want to live your life. Everything else comes next.