Artwork: Do Real Men Ride Kick Scooters? (detail)
“When it comes to style, the world falls into two categories,” Gonzague Dupleix writes in the introduction to his new book, Suave in Every Situation: A Rakish Style Guide for Men (Flammarion). “There are people who just get it wrong, stubbornly maintaining that being suave is a bit like Tolkien’s Modor—a world of appearances as impenetrable and exhilarating as a VIP box. And then there are those like you and me, who believe, on the contrary, that elegance is a land full of mischief, a world of constant delight. Simple as that.”
Confidence, charm, and sophistication—what could be easier than that? Wellllll… Let’s be real, if it were a cakewalk, Dupleix wouldn’t need to write a book. But the upshot it is, suave is something that can be practiced and mastered by those who dare to be urbane, dignified, and debonair. The trick is to learn the rules so that you know how to play the game. Then, you can break them at will, not as a faux pas but as an act of supreme self awareness.
Filled with delightful illustrations by Jean-Phillippe Delhomme, Suave in Every Situation begins by understanding the fundamentals of the Socratic Method: “Ask Yourself the Right Questions.” Those question range from “Hip or hipster: can you spot the difference” to “Can you wear a beret today?” (shout out to Samuel L.).
Now, lest you think you rule are meant to be followed to the letter of the law, Dupleix follows this chapter with he suggestion that a suave man will “Fool with the Rules.” After all, that’s what gave the very square Cary Grant his edge. Just when you thought he’d go right, he swerved left.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of modulation. As Pablo Picasso sagely advised, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” And this is where Dupleix comes in, as Suave in Every Situation will ensure you “Brush Up on the Basics.” Ever wonder how to DJ with panache? Or what to wear with a hoodie? Or if you should rock a tote? Yes—all these questions and more will have you putting your best foot forward.
Because, ultimately, suave will “Make the Ordinary Extraordinary.” That’s what it’s all about—taking what is known and giving it that something special. Being suave avoids the risks of doing the most, of going to far with a trend or a fad and ending up looking, or worse yet acting the clown. Can you be suave in at the supermarket? Inquiring minds want to know.
And the best part is, once you figure things out, you can and should throw caution to the wind. That is the essence of confidence. The ability to take a risk and come what may you land like a cat—on your feet. When can you wear a calypso shirt? How can you look suave taking a toke? What’s the one piece of clothing every perfect gentleman needs? (Shout out to Count Dracula).
But above all, it must be understood: to be suave is to be at home with yourself, You must learn to “Live with Your Own (Bad) Taste”—because, quite frankly, if you can’t come to terms with it, you’ll make everyone else uncomfortable. This is as real as it gets. Keep in mind the words of the legendary fashion photographer Helmut Newton: “In my vocabulary, there are two bad words: art and good taste.”
Ever wonder the best way to deal with a hangover? Or if you should resist the Bowie hype? Or what to do about your eyebrows? Dupleix has thought about this just for you.
Once you are at peace with your tastes, you can easily “Play Up Your Panache.” Have you ever been at work and need to fake a phone call? Or wondered what secret weapon to steal from a James Bond villain? Or, more simply, how to behave when the buffet opens? Mhmm, that’s right.
Because, in closing, Dupleix reminds you to “Avoid the Worst.” Knee-high dress socks? Drinking out of a shoe? Children at the office? Is the conga line a sin to indulge—or nahh? All these questions and more are answered in Suave in Every Situation.
All artwork: © Jean-Philippe Delhomme, from Suave in Every Situation: A Rakish Style Guide for Men, by Jean-Philippe Delhomme and Gonzague Dupleix (Flammarion 2017).
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.