Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 27 July 2019

What makes a gentleman?

In which G.M. Norton considers what is means to be a 'gentleman'

Since 2012, I’ve been on a quest to lead a gentlemanly existence. That year, two major events took place.

First of all, I was privileged to become a father for the second time. I have two daughters that I love and adore more than anything in the world - the elder one becomes a teenager next week. The second event of note was that I turned 30 years of age. For many, this is something of a milestone; a time when you find yourself thinking about the kind of person that you are, what you’ve achieved in life and what legacy you’d like to leave in the future. And importantly for me, what kind of person my daughters see.

Seven years later and here I am. I still consider myself to be an aspiring gentleman. In my mind, it’s not for me to determine if I am a gentleman. All I can do is to strive towards being one and to set a good example to my two girls, to show them how a man should behave and carry himself.

I’m not perfect, far from it. But the important thing is that I try to be the best person that I can be and that is all anybody can do.

Part of who I am involves trying to look smart and well-presented at all times. I do this because it makes me feel good about myself and encourages me to be on my best behaviour. Similar to a corset for a lady, a waistcoat (or vest for my American chums) has a notable change in the way you walk and carry yourself.

However, it’s important to make the point that when it comes down to it, a gentleman is not defined by the clothes he wears, it’s comes from within. Just because you part your hair or wear a three-piece suit, it does not earn you the right to be classed as a gentleman.

I’d now like to explore the qualities that I believe makes a true gentleman.

Selflessness and good manners

For me, a true gentleman should be considerate, with impeccable manners. Somebody who genuinely cares about others and considers how they feel. A person that takes time to give help to people that needs it. To not forget the little things such as acknowledging somebody in the street with a warm smile, tipping your barber for a job well done or having a natter with the lady at the counter about her grandchildren.

Principles and morals

Having strong principles and morals, and not being afraid to stand by them is what defines a person.

We’ve all met people that have no backbone. That failed to support you when the going got tough. That let you down when you needed them most.

A true gentleman would never do that. They should always stand up for others, regardless of the cost. It’s something that I’m particularly passionate about. I can’t sit back and see somebody being mistreated. I will stand with them and defend them to the end. In fact, one of my earliest school memories was defending a young lady’s honour by challenging a six-year-old scoundrel to a playground duel.

A gentleman shouldn’t be afraid to give their opinions or say no to people. We must always do what we believe to be the right thing, no matter how hard it is or who we anger.


For me, being chivalrous is still a vital part of being a gentleman. Holding doors for people, giving up your seat on public transport, or taking off your coat for a lady are all old-fashioned actions that should always happen. It’s not sexist; it’s being a good person.

Family and friends

I’m a big believer in protecting those you love and putting them first. I don’t have a particularly large family or group of friends. I believe that true friendship should be earned, based on trust and support.

You should always be there for your friends and family, willing to lend a hand and guide them through the tough times. But it works both ways, sometimes you need help too.

My immediate family mean everything to me. It’s my duty to protect them and put them first. That can mean making some incredibly tough decisions. Three years ago I had to make a very unpleasant decision that put my beloved and I under immense strain and pressure. But I made that choice for the good of my little family and we weathered the storm.

Worldly and cultured

A gentleman should be curious and knowledgeable about the world around him, to have a willingness to explore and experience different cultures.

This is an area where I really need to up my game. I’d love to explore more of the world so that I can use my experiences to better myself. I’ve never seen the point of travelling on a plane to just lie in the sun for two weeks. If I’m going to travel, I want to experience what a country is truly like. To see the beauty as well as the danger.

Have I missed anything? I’d love to find out what you think makes a gentleman.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'


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