7 Musts For Any Self-Respecting 20-Something Man

Hey, kid. Welcome to the Real World. It is perfectly OK to panic. Everyone goes through a quarter-life crisis. However, there are certain things that we need you to adopt as soon as possible – “we” being your parents, your girlfriend, society as a whole. You want to be taken seriously, right? Regardless of whether you have a job or not, whether you’re single or not, whether you’re living in your parents’ basement or not, having and/or knowing the following will make the transition from collegiate whippersnapper to semi-functional adult much easier, or, at the very least, let you fake it till you figure it out for yourself.

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 fun4you69@hotmail.com. 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. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/emilysaramoore Emily Moore

    I feel like this was a guy’s guide to being Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You know that man tucks his sheets in.

  • Ngallo1122

    Will you marry me? Lol

  • Jessica Knapp

    Forwarding this to a couple guys friends of mine … and maybe an ex-boyfriend.

  • http://twitter.com/laurajaynemart laura jayne martin

    These are great tips for 20-something women too.

  • Michaelwg

    “real men have manners”
    What’s the male version of a feminist, because I want to pretend to be offended by that and launch into a multi-paragraph rant about putting men into “types”…or something.

    • Anonymous

      male version of a feminist is a feminist

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christian-Ward/1159410233 Christian Ward

       Eh, a lot of these are true, and go more into the ‘being a decent member of society’ camp than the ‘putting men into types’ camp.  Real men (and real women, really) do have solid manners.  They aren’t just for impressing women, but also for impressing employers and, as stated previously, being a decent member of society.  I do think that standing up and sitting down when the woman does is overdoing it a tad, though.

      • Michaelwg

        Solid manners, sure, absolutely. But most of this is just stuff to fill the man-void for those who’ve done nothing in their lives of any worth. Don’t feel like what you’ve been told a 20 something man should feel like? quickly put on a suit, spritz some cologne, order a whiskey neat without hesitation, make sure you don’t get your haircuts as Supercuts…etc. This is all just STUFF. How to be a consumer 101. Some pretty lax man-standards if you ask me.
        I assure you, I can wear a suit, wear my cologne, hand someone a “slightly bone colored” business card while ordering a scotch & water and still manage to be a pretentious D-bag man-child if I wanted to be.

  • mememe

    This is nice, but honestly, I would probably be weirded out by a guy who stands up and sits down when I do at dinner. I have a vagina, I’m not the queen.

  • http://summerslowrunner.wordpress.com/ Summer

     I agree with all of it except the standing up when a women stands up to go to the bathroom or whatever. That’s just awkward. Please don’t. 

    • Melissa

      it just seems forced.

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com/ Maxwell Chance

    Stand up when a girl goes to the bathroom? Dude, naw. I’m a feminist. Everything else, pretty good. 

  • Michael Whitehouse

    I’m sorry but this reads like it’s come straight out of a mid-scale men’s magazine. I don’t want to be that ‘I never post here but…’ guy, but I never post here and this is shit.

    • Anna

      Rude. Real men aren’t rude.

  • Anonymous

    Survivor here… made it through my 20’s with only two of your “Musts”.  Oh, how I loathed my 20’s. 

  • Bass

    Nice, 2 things I may struggle with. One, on the of chance of looking like a fool, standing up when leaving or arriving back at a table.. I have never seen it happen and I’ve been to classy restaurants.
    Two, making my bed ! Busy life – disregard making your bed in the morning.. I’ll work on it!!

  • Aj

    Humm, You seem like a cool guy but this seems like it’s a list of musts written by a GQ employee. Im a gay 26 year old man and the only must that actually seems necessary is having a well fitting suit and treat women(or men, ahem) decently. I never make my bed and I still get some and my life seems to not have gone out of whack. Also, Supercuts is where I used to get my best hair cuts back in the day, better than my current stylist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1672472627 Amrita Tapadia

    hahaha Emil you are so cute, but really, Sometimes during dates I go to the washroom a lot and if the ‘respectable 20 something man’ stands up every time I  do that, I’d be totally weirded out (Guess it stands true for all girls, BELIEVE ME! ) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Timberman/922794 Steven Timberman

    Was with you til the end. I’ll probably buy a headboard and an actual frame for the mattress because of this article, but you stepped on way too many sexuality landmines in those last two paragraphs.

    This is going to make me sound like an asshole (probably because I am one), but do you honestly know many guys in their twenties who treat women with respect? Nearly every guy I know in his post-university twenties is in one of two camps – married with a family or so bitter at the female gender that they might as well dip their comments in corrosive acid. 

    You want to talk about being an awesome dude in life? Go ahead. But this article is about dudes in their twenties. And I’ve heard so, so many friends (myself included) who have spent part of their twenties rebuilding after a disastrous university breakup. The lesson there is to learn how to treat the woman you want to be with – not some blanket one-size fits all chivalry.

    Still going to buy that frame though.

    • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

      I actually agree with you – I’ve spent part of my twenties rebuilding after a disastrous university breakup that could have been avoided if I’d been a bit more respectful, to say the least. It came across more as a command but really, it is more of a cautionary tale coming from someone who has gone through all that bitterness and who could have had a better time acting differently.

    • guest

      A breakup isn’t an excuse to act bitter and disrespectful  towards an entire gender. Most of the human race is going to have their heart broken at some point, it isn’t an excuse to act an ass.

  • Ali

    “Be the last to walk out of an elevator.”


  • Beth

    Liked your article and agree with most points; I gotta be honest though, I’m a girl and I don’t always make my bed lol ;) so far be it from me to judge anyone else if they don’t. 

    Also, I think it’d be strange for a guy to stand up every time I did. I have no interest in being placed on a pedestal. I want to be treated with respect of course,  but from the standpoint of an equal partner, not some unattainable princess to be treated like glass. 

  • Nunu

    Replace the last one with “treat people respectfully regardless of gender, race, sexuality, origin.”

    Drop the sexist chivalry. It might be socially acceptable in parts of Texas or the South, just like casual racism, but that doesn’t make it OK.

    • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

      Fair point. If you don’t do any of this already, though, you have to start somewhere.

  • Charles Reinhardt

    Most importantly, be rich.

  • http://twitter.com/robwoh Robert Wohner

    Guys too often craft their image with how they feel women will respond to them. Which is important but it is just as important to find ways to get respect from other men. Never have I ever looked at a man’s drink and mentally saluted him for having an orange in it. Nor have I asked for a business card because of the making of his bedframe. The quality of his cologne has a place but that doesn’t speak to a person’s passions or values. 

    That said, great read. Feel free to make me your apprentice for the weekend. I could desperately use the style points.  (But I’m still not taking my hat off.)

  • Guest

    that last bit is a little to anachronistic for most young ladies. your mom might appreciate it from time to time, but social cues dont really delegate us to stand when a lady stands at a table anymore. its a very admirable gesture, but it doesnt really have a place anymore.

    dont get me wrong, i’ll still hold doors and things like that, but the standing up thing is not really in vogue among my peer group.

  • Guest

    Treat women “decently”? 

  • Jess

    I thought this was a really well written piece and to all the comments about those who think standing up/sitting down at the table was too much, I don’t think it has to be this “weird” or “forced” thing. I think it comes with how you were raised and what your parents taught you were good manners as a child, so even though it might be a little old fashioned, I don’t think if someone was doing it with sincerity it would necessarily be awkward. Of course if you look awkward or like you feel uncomfortable doing it, it might be something you should skip but I truly don’t think it is THAT strange. 

  • Anonymous

    shit, this author is definitely no feminist. 

    • Feminist

      I don’t find this particularly unfeminist. Saying to treat women with respect and not call them sluts or whores was a good start, although I wish the author had stayed on that track instead of focusing on chivalry.

  • Guest

    This is a great article that’s tragically misplaced. People don’t go on Thought Catalog to read articles about how to get their shit together. They go on here to validate their “Admit It!!” by Say Anything lifestyle. Which is fine, but do you think  anyone here actually cares about being taken seriously as a suave, sophisticated male? 

  • http://topologicoceans.wordpress.com/ charlie

    I have both pragmatic and philosophical objections to deodorant, sorry.

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