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Menswear issue 03/21/2011

Glenn O’Brien has been dishing out advice on the finer points of modern masculinity for well over a decade in his GQ column, “The Style Guy,” and he also writes an advice column for Italian Vanity Fair. Thus, while it’s a big task, the author, editor and all-around Renaissance man is at least somewhat qualified to pen a book titled How to Be a Man, out in April (Rizzoli; $24.95).

“I describe it as a humor book disguised as a philosophy book disguised as an advice book,” says O’Brien, following a Pilates class aimed at alleviating a nagging cramp in his hamstring.

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

O’Brien’s vast editorial résumé includes high-profile stints at Interview, Rolling Stone, Details and High Times. He was once articles editor at Oui, which did, in fact, have articles at one point. “We had stories by William Burroughs and Ishmael Reed. We were a hipper version of Playboy. The girls had B cups instead of D cups,” explains O’Brien.

When not writing for magazines, O’Brien has authored or co-authored several dozen books on art, style and culture, but he sees an opening for a guide to manliness: “The New York Times added a bestseller list for advice books. It seems more and more people are seeking advice. Maybe it’s bad parenting.”

The tome is mostly text, with illustrations from his longtime collaborator Jean-Philippe Delhomme, whose recognizable watercolors of smartly attired, attenuated figures adorned the Barneys New York ads O’Brien helped create in the late Eighties.


There are the requisite chapters on how to dress with panache for the occasion, as well as nuggets of humor and wisdom related to socializing, travel, dealing with doctors, dealing with religious people and even getting into fights. “Using the appropriate epithet is crucial,” points out O’Brien.

But for all the tips, the author insists there are few hard-and-fast rules for being a man. “What I say about rules is that most of them have an element of common sense,” he says. “And if you have your own common sense, then you don’t really need rules.”


Tips From How to Be a Man:

  • Having sex with women is natural and most of us manage to pull it off eventually. The trick is simply to find ways to have intercourse with women (in the various senses) without giving them undue power or influence over you.
  • The girls on Sex and the City sleep with typical hetero men. But socially they prefer the company of gay men. Even the ancient Mayans probably had fag hags. In the interest of evolution, or at least more peaceful relationships, we must learn to be gayer heterosexuals.
  • Since the world’s religions have spent the last millennium disgracing themselves, what have we left to believe in but fashion? It is more faith-based than anything else I can think of, and yet it doesn’t contradict science.
  • Style is the way Clark Kent took off his glasses. The way Jean Cocteau rolled up the sleeves of his suit jacket when he read Le Monde. The way Louis Armstrong played the cornet with a handkerchief draped over it. The way Michael Jordan wore his shorts. The way Sinatra held a cigarette. Style is in the details, in the nuance.
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