NOTE: Southern Gentleman and Southern Gentlemen are registered trademarks of the South. All rights reserved. Use, duplication or disclosure restricted by their good breeding and whether their mothers would approve.
I’m a native to Orange County. Well, to be honest, my mom cringes that I have to put down the City of Medicine as my birthplace, since I was birthed at then-named Durham General. But I didn’t realize how rare a species I was until a good friend asked as an icebreaker while presenting at a Chamber event, how many other folks were not bred or dead, but born Tar Heels.
We were the only ones.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re a transient community, part of a region that supports an NHL team, and pretty close to a municipality known as the Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. But don’t let that deter you – a Southern Gentleman™ can make himself quite at home in the Southern part of heaven.
But what is a Southern Gentleman™? Well, I know what I’m looking for – but maybe someone else should define our audience. Taking cues from a couple of sources – here and here (the second one referencing the disadvantageous gender ratio at Carolina) – there are a few characteristics that mark all Southern Gentlemen™: dress (the apparel), decorum (the etiquette), dancing, and not to mention the drinking that might be a catalyst for the dancing.
So, again back to my axiom that looking the part is half the battle, where can you dress like a Southern Gentleman™ in Chapel Hill? Turns out Chapel Hill birthed one of the most notable designers, who is also a member of that rarest of breeds: Orange County natives. So head downtown to the flagship for Southern Gentlemen™, Julian’s. Head there for upscale game gear and handsome haberdashery. He did outfit the Hornets and the Heels, true, but Mr. Julian can still outfit the less athletic among us.
Another great place to for the Southern Gentleman™ to shop is O’Neill’s. Mr. O’Neill and his son (and my classmate) John Michael are Southern Gentlemen™ themselves and have helped outfit the men of my family for many years, including saving the day on several special occasions [read: last minute Christmas gifts and my dad’s tux for my sister’s wedding].
As long as you’re at University Mall, stop in for a Southern Gentleman™ staple: the bowtie. If you’re going to get one for your guy, get it at Cameron’s: $5 from every purchase of a tie there goes to support the pediatric oncology department at UNC. He’s not sure how to wear one? Watch the experts tie one on.
My boss Aaron Nelson wearing
one of Cameron’s bow ties.
Even more than a Southern Gentleman™’s dress, I think most folks think of a guy’s decorum. So, if someone needs a little coaching to convince the opposite sex that he wasn’t born in a barn, where does he go? I got some great tips from the etiquette dinner hosted at Carolina Club by my alumni association, but I think if men:
- Reach for the door and race her to her chair
- Send a hand-written note (buy the right stationary at Salutations or South, good penmanship not included)
- Or when the occasion requires, send a bouquet (University Florist is my favorite, but you can’t go wrong with Purple Puddle or Victoria Park)
…they’ll be in good shape to start resembling a Southern Gentleman™. However, I believe that every male should aim to possess impeccable manners, no matter where their geographic location (or trademark).
But even though Southern Gentlemen™ may possess politeness and poise, they do like to cut loose and cut a rug, more often than not. The dance of choice for the Southern Gentleman™ is the shag (think Phoebe Cates, NOT Austin Powers). Though I learned the dance from my big brother on the beach, you can practice at some great local events – like the annual Sweet Carolina Concert Series and Fridays on the Front Porch. But if you’re a serious shagger, you can join the Eno Beach Shag Club at the Time Out Sports Bar (thanks for the tip, Deborah!)
Me dancing with Southern Gentleman™
and Orange County native B.J. Perlmutt
But maybe you’ve got two left feet or you’re not a big fan of Chairmen of the Board (NOTE: If this is the case, sorry, you’re probably not a Southern Gentleman™), but there are lots of other great places in Orange County to learn how to boogie:
- The Arts Center: Molly recommends Bollywood and Bhangra!
- The Carrboro Century Center: My friend Sarah really wants us to try contra dancing.
- Seymour and Central Orange Senior Centers: For the Southern Gentleman™ that’s been around the block a time or two. The Central Orange Center was host to a program called “Music and Mint Juleps,” according to the most recent copy of Senior Times!
- The Depot: The west end of Hillsborough has come alive and The Depot is host to ballroom dancing classes, among other opportunities to whirl around.
However, even the most experienced shaggers might be coaxed on the dance floor a little bit sooner, with some liquid courage. But where can you get a really good, I mean, really good cocktail? You only have to park your car once to visit four locales with amazing drinks (just remember to hail a cab on your way home).
- The Crunkleton: Wearing their signature bow ties, these bartenders have incredible service and can even teach you how to make your own classic cocktail.
- Crook’s: At this iconic restaurant, their mint juleps come in the frozen form, but my latest obsession is their jalapeño margarita (see below).
- Pecadillo: Their signature is the negroni (not exactly Southern, I know, but they’ll make it with your favorite brand of bourbon).
- Lantern: They have a champagne cocktail named after Smithfield native Ava Gardner. Enough said.
The jalapeño margarita at Crook’s Corner.
I will confess to liking the phrase “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.” But even if you haven’t been blessed to have been born in the South, Chapel Hill has plenty to offer the seasoned or sophomoric Southern Gentleman™.
And if you’ve got the dress, decorum, dancing, and drinking down, then you’ll be a perfect fit in the Southern part of heaven. …Also, you should give me a call…