1. Take a knife skills class.
I’m not a chef, and I can count the number of meals I’ve cooked this year on one hand. But my life changed after taking a knife-skills class at my local culinary institute. Having a good set of knives and knowing how to properly chop vegetables, fruits and meat will come in handy not just for cooking but for everyday knife needs such as slicing up fixings for a sandwich.
2. Two words: Invisible undershirts.
Undershirts are a necessary evil. They stanch sweat but create a whole new problem: White fabric protruding out of the top of your nicely pressed dress shirt makes you look sloppy. Although a V-neck helps, they’re not always adequately hidden below an open-collared shirt. I recently found a fantastic solution: invisible undershirts by Collected Threads. You can wear these uniquely cut undershirts and unbutton without worry.
3. Dry-clean suits only three to four times per year.
If you buy a few good suits, don’t ruin them by sending them to the cleaners every time they get a wrinkle. The chemicals used by dry cleaners can damage them, and constant cleaning will make it more likely that they’ll get a tear. Clean your suits only when they’re stained or dirty, ideally only three or four times per year. If they get wrinkled, send them in to get pressed.
If you’re not removing your dry cleaning from wire hangers you have no respect for your wardrobe. Wire hangers leave dents and impressions on your shirts. They also have the potential to rust and ruin your favorite outfit.
4. Learn how to order a great bottle of wine.
It’s time to leave those cheap jugs behind and learn how to order a decent vino. Many books and sites are available to help you learn about wine (one of our favorites is winefolly.com), but there’s no better way to learn about wine than to taste it. Find a wine bar or restaurant with a good wine list in your area, and become a regular. Once you build a relationship with the sommelier, you can start to ask detailed questions and taste some of their recommendations. Another great way to try new wines is to host a wine party. Get a few friends together and have everyone bring their favorite bottles of wine. That way everyone gets to expand their wine knowledge without spending hundreds of dollars.
5. Make your shoeshine a regular habit.
Way too many guys buy good shoes, wear them several times a week, then don’t take care of them properly. Make a shoeshine part of your routine: A good one will extend the life of your shoes. Even the best leather in the world breaks down quickly, and without a regular polishing, you’re wasting money. A guy who wears the same pair of shoes several times per week should get a shoeshine every one to two weeks.
6. Write some letters by hand.
Yep, emails are more efficient. But if you want to impress your friends and colleagues, write them a letter. It’ll make them feel great and give you an opportunity to practice a lost art. Don’t know how to write a good letter? Buy a book of the collected letters of a famous writer to get a flavor. And never start the first sentence of your letter talking about yourself.
7. Take your dry cleaning off wire hangers.
If you’re not removing your dry cleaning from wire hangers you have no respect for your wardrobe. Wire hangers leave dents and impressions on your shirts. They also have the potential to rust and ruin your favorite outfit. Plus pants tend to slip from the dry cleaner’s hangers and can end up on the floor in a wrinkled mess. Do yourself a favor and take the time to remove clothes from wire hangers then take the hangers back to your dry cleaner to recycle.
8. Get a manicure.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Manicures are for men and women alike. People notice bad nails, and biting is just plain bad hygiene. Don’t want to be the only man in the nail salon? Not to worry: Many new salons cater to men exclusively and will even give you a beer while someone fixes your fingers. My favorites are Hammer & Nails in Los Angeles and John Allen Salon in New York. (Read our profile of Hammer & Nails here.)
Pick up a few bottles of champagne, a pepperoni and some cheese. All three will last for a while, and you’ll look like a guy who appreciates good food and drink.
9. Learn how to make small talk.
It may seem trivial but it’s also one of life’s most important skills. Small talk is how most relationships begin, from important business contacts to future friends and lovers. And like any skill, it takes practice. Many books have been written on the subject but the one piece of advice that’s stayed with me is to ask questions to find an area of commonality: “How do you know the host of this party?” “What area of town do you live in?” “What do you do for a living?” Listen carefully to the person’s response, then find something in common and delve a bit deeper. Is the person you’re talking to an artist? Talk about your favorite piece of art. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to turning small talk into deep conversations and long-lasting relationships.
10. Fill your fridge.
Picture it: Your date wants some cold water and opens your fridge to find nothing but an open beer and rotting leftovers. Not sexy. It’s far better to have at least a few items there so you don’t look like a total bachelor. Pick up a few bottles of champagne, a pepperoni and some cheese. All three will last for a while, and you’ll look like a guy who appreciates good food and drink. (Just avoid fresh produce unless you know you’re planning a meal.)
11. Don’t take supplements you don’t need.
We live in a vitamins-and-supplements culture, but if you’re taking 1,500 mg of Vitamin C or hundreds of grams of protein daily, you’re probably pissing away your hard-earned cash. Literally. Most healthy young men don’t need a lot of supplements. Check with your healthcare provider about what supplements are right for you. You can also check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s Vitamin Advisor, which will walk you through several sets of questions about your specific health profile, then provide a personalized recommended list of vitamins that may be right for you.
12. Add some color to your sock collection.
Colorful, creative socks are an easy fashion statement that looks like it’s here to stay. Summer is the perfect time to upgrade your brown-and-black collection with a few colors and patterns. They’ll help you stand out in a boring office environment and may help you strike up a conversation. Three of our favorite brands are Happy Socks, Nice Laundry and YoSox.
13. Learn how to cook one good meal.
Cooking can be intimidating for the microwave-dependent, but eventually you’re going to bring home someone you’ll want to impress, so make it a point to learn to master at least one great meal. Pasta puttanesca is simple and delicious; buy a tossed salad, baguette and wine, and you’ll have a fantastic meal perfect for two.
14. Get an adjustable standing desk.
If you sit at a desk all day, you may be killing yourself. (And we’re not talking existentially here.) The New York Times reported on a number of studies which concluded that prolonged sitting can shorten a person’s lifespan. If you have a job that involves sitting in front of a computer, there’s a simple way to get up out of your seat without stopping work: A standing desk. I ordered a Kangaroo Adjustable Height Desk from Ergo Desktop. People in the office may chuckle as they see you standing at your computer, but you’ll have the last laugh when you’re chilling on your porch at age 102.
Reciting a poem will not only impress friends and colleagues, it just might get you laid. Try “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams, which is a great conversation starter. And it’s only 28 words.
15. Subscribe to better grooming.
There are many internet-based companies that will ship you items every month, from clothes to shaving equipment, but one such company stands above the rest: Birchbox. For a small fee, they’ll deliver a variety of trial-size and full-size men’s products ranging from cologne to shower gel to moisturizer. I love being able to try a variety of new products every month without commitment. I upgraded my shampoo, shower gel, and cologne with products I first sampled from Birchbox.
16. Eat a high-protein breakfast every day.
Your mom was right: breakfast is in fact the most important meal of the day. But a bagel or cereal isn’t enough. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a high-protein breakfast of eggs and meat was associated with health benefits throughout the day. People who ate the high-protein breakfast snacked less on junk food compared with people who ate cereal. If you’re in a rush in the morning and can’t cook breakfast, make some hard-boiled eggs the night before and pop them in your mouth on the way out the door.
17. Buy fresh flowers.
Stay with us here: There’s no easier and cheaper way to upgrade your pad. Don’t mess with fancy bouquets or mixing and matching. Flowers are available at nearly every supermarket or corner store for under $10. Just grab a bunch that looks good and stick them in a vase with some water.
18. Get some original art.
Don’t settle for famed prints or posters. A real man will have a few great pieces of original art from up-and-coming artists. You don’t have to spend thousands to get some interesting original pieces. Check out some local art galleries to get a sense of the art you like and talk to people in the galleries for suggestions on affordable art to start your collection. You can also shop online. There is a great selection of affordable original art on UGallery, a website that helps connect emerging and mid-career artists with clients. If UGallery’s selection is above your budget, Etsy also carries a great selection of original art, mostly from the artists themselves, but you may have to spend a bit more time finding the piece that’s right for you.
19. Memorize a poem.
Poetry can come up in the most unusual situations: Dates, business meetings and dinner parties. Don’t be intimidated. Just develop a love for one poet and memorize your favorite poem. Reciting a poem will not only impress friends and colleagues, it just might get you laid. An easy one to memorize is “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams, which is a great conversation starter. And it’s only 28 words.
Meditation is a great way to start or end your day. Many studies have found meditation provides health benefits, but at minimum it will help clear your mind of thoughts for a few minutes each day and may make it easier to sleep. If you’re new to meditation and don’t have the time to take a meditation class, download the Insight Timer app on your smartphone. It provides a simple meditation timer and a number of guided meditations, some of which are as short as five minutes.