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Book Review: Glenn O’Brien’s “How To Be A Man”

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on in these unprecedented times (pardon the overused euphemism), it’s that we could all use a distraction. At the beginning of the pandemic, companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime were the saviors we all needed. How could anyone have gone through a pandemic without ceaseless, on-demand entertainment?

glenn obrien in balck tuxedoOne of Henry A. Davidsen’s core values is to be learned, and books are extremely important to that end.. Development of oneself (including ourselves) is paramount in projecting the best image you can. One of the best ways to do this is reading books. In short, we value education and the constant strive to improve ourselves. To that end, this post is a book review for Glenn O’Brien’s How To Be A Man.

Who Was Glenn O’Brien?

glenn o'brien in dark suitFor those of you too young to have read his work while he was alive, we’ll start with some background. Glenn O’Brien was many things – writer for Interview magazine, a personal friend of Andy Warhol’s, and GQ’s “Style Guy.” His regular column in GQ Magazine, “The Style Guy,” was a safe place for men to write in with questions about all things of interest to men. It was mostly clothing-related, but also veered into “lifestyle” territory.

Inquiring gentlemen would write to him asking questions such as “What’s the cutoff time from morning formalwear to evening” or “What really is the best tie knot for a stylish guy?” He was, essentially, the prototypical men’s image consultant.

Glenn’s magic wasn’t limited to the content of his responses – he was absolutely a menswear expert – but was found in their tone and approach. We sometimes joke at the shop that, like Planet Fitness, we’re a “judgment-free zone.” Glenn’s responses were unfailingly judgment-free. They were also knowledgeable and unbelievably witty.

We’re fortunate that he published a book a few years before his passing in 2017.

Review of “How To Be A Man”

The title “How To Be A Man” speaks to a dearth of reputable guidance for men on all things manly. As men’s image consultants, our aim is to fill this void, especially when there’s so much bad information on the Internet. Glenn’s book is an all-inclusive tome comprised of four chapters, each of which is a collection of essays and musings on the following topics:

  • Manhood
  • Style
  • Behavior (one of the ABC’s of Image, don’t forget!)
  • Culture & Society
  • Wisdom

front cover of how to be a man bookEach chapter discusses his take on almost anything you can think of: barbers vs. salons, how to have a style, how to be a good guest, and even how to age. Every piece is chock full of his wit and intelligence. We picked out a few quotes that we enjoyed:

If you can’t remember her name, just tell her how fabulous she looks. That will give you time to figure it out.

Spread gossip selectively. If you want to get good stuff, you have to be as discreet as a secret society. If you say you won’t tell, don’t.

Be cool with the help. Nothing is more of a turnoff than someone who is rude to waiters, hotel housekeeping, drivers, salespeople, and the like.

Fashion won’t let a good idea get away forever; it needs to change things up periodically and force some obsolescence on the male kit. Fashion is more motivated by economics than aesthetics.

I was talking to Ralph Lauren about change in men’s style not long ago and he took a really hard line that I agree with. He said “If it doesn’t look right now, it never looked right.” Something to think about when you buy that suit. Shop for eternity.

Socks are one of the cheapest items to which the idea of luxury is attached. A fifty-dollar pair of socks can make you feel like a million bucks.


If you’re looking for a distraction from the state of the world at the moment, we highly recommend How To Be A Man. As always, if you’re looking to take control of your image, we’re here to help. Call us at 215-301-0219 or email us at info@henrydavidsen.com to start a conversation.

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