For some men, these words don’t seem to fit in with manliness. For some men, etiquette and manners conjure up arbitrary lists of dos and don’ts, nagging parents, or artificial formality, complete with images of bowing and scraping, and a bunch of stiff, “How do you dos?” and “No, after yous!”
It isn’t necessarily so. Back in the day men saw no contradiction in being ruggedly manly and a refined gentleman. For centuries, well-bred men were trained in all the manly arts, from the skills needed to be a soldier to the proper etiquette for dinner parties. They were quintessential gentlemen—dapper in dress, polite in conduct, and yet every bit a true man.
Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali are some examples of men who combine gritty manliness with gentlemanly bearing. They paid attention to how they dressed, groomed, and conducted themselves and were as comfortable at a stately ball as they were when fighting for the causes they believed in. For these great men, having good manners did not make them less of a man, but more of one.
This is because they saw good manners in the way Edward John Hardy, author of Manners Makyth Man, defined them: as “little morals,” “the shadows of virtues, if not virtues themselves.”
If character was the root of inner manliness, then manners were the outer fruits that sprouted from the tree – the external behaviors and code of conduct that naturally followed from a life of virtue. These great men understood that while it is true that the rules of etiquette change over time and from culture to culture, the underlying principles of all manners remain constant: a respect for others, and a desire to treat all people with honesty and consideration – just as you’d like to be treated.