Words by Janell M. Hickman
Photography by Christoper Parsons
Between the social graces of Instagram and the world of reality TV, it’s difficult to decipher what constitutes as modern etiquette. Honestly, it almost seems like anything goes. Thankfully, when it comes to the art of proper manners, author, entrepreneur, and new father, Enitan Bereola II exudes class. Not in a pompous, self-centered, douche-y way (sorry, you know what we mean) but in an intriguing, mesmerizing manner which makes you want to act on your best behavior.
Falling somewhere in between an expert and a real-life connoisseur, since 2009 Bereola has been sharing the long-lost gospel of chivalry by way of his book Bereolaesque: The Contemporary Gentleman & Etiquette Book For The Urban Sophisticate. Hence, it’s no surprise that the team at BevelCode.com was interested in hearing his thoughts on what we’re calling “The New Gentleman Standard.” Which feels right on time, especially when sadly the perception of men, particularly black men, is feeling less than stellar to say the least. Here’s what he had to say in our exclusive interview below.
BC: To you, a “Classic Man” is so much more than a song, explain what makes you the epitome of a gentleman?
Enitan Bereola: First off, shout out to Jidenna. He wrote this manifesto on his website where he shouts me out, he quotes me, and references a page from my book. That’s just like a hat off to the classic gentleman as a whole. As far as what makes me the epitome of a gentleman, it’s simple—I am who I am. Regardless of the clothes, regardless of my signature scent, regardless the way that I speak, regardless of my relationships, my network, what I write about, it’s really who I am. It’s rooted in who I am, it’s rooted in the fact that I govern my relationships. Every single day I try to hold myself accountable to the words that come out of my mouth.
Something as simple as, if I tell someone that I will call them back, I actually call them back. If I tell someone I am going to do something, I do it. [I truly believe in] general and basic courtesies that are often ignored in today’s society. A lot of times people will use the phrase “real man,” a real man does this or a real man does that. I believe in phrase “man.” I honestly don’t even like the term “gentleman” to describe what a man should be. We’ve had to come up with these colorful phrases like “real man”, “gentleman”, “sophisticated man”, and now “classic man,” to describe what a man should be. This is what I strive to be everyday, and it’s how I was raised. It’s who I am, beyond all of the masks that one can wear to identify himself as a gentleman. It’s really in what you do, and it’s much less about what you say.
BC: How did you know you truly became an expert on the subject? What sets you apart from others in your arena?
EB: I’ve never said that [laughs]. I’ve never actually embraced or said the word “expert” because there’s no degree following my title. You can’t get a degree in what I do, [I learned this via] life experiences in the way that I was raised. I don’t really embrace that “title”. For those out there that use those terms, more power to them. Those terms are often thrusted on me—expert and this and that—but I generally refute them. I’m just somebody who has a very different perspective. That’s not just coming from the horse’s mouth, it’s something as clear as day to see. The audience that I’ve built, the support system that I have, some people call them fans, but I call them family support system.
I don’t want to go on through all the accolades, but the accolades speak for themselves. [I think that] I have a way of addressing certain issues in society that are often brought up, then brought up again and too often discussed. [Unlike those who have panels about it], I actually get to a solution and present material in a way that is easily digestible, with takeaways. Don’t get me wrong—there are a lot of other brothers out there doing their thing. To be honest, I really don’t care who does it, I just care that it gets done! That’s the reason I threw my hat in the game, so to speak, because I was sick of complaining about certain things. I prefer to be a solution to problem rather than just talk about a problem. I’m out here changing lives in real life. I have no other agenda. I’m not out here trying to make a profit. I’m not out trying to make a mockery. I’m trying to take advantage of—I actually have real life, deep-seated compassion. That’s rooted in a burden, something that I was born with, something that God place in me. All of what I’m doing is rooted in my purpose. It’s not my full story, but it’s part of my purpose. I’m just delivering a promise to God.
BC: On your website, there’s a strong emphasis on etiquette (both brand and gender), when did you notice the lack of manners in today’s society?
EB: It took a while. It wasn’t until college that I really noticed that what my mother, my father, my step-parents, and my grandparents taught us was “a thing.” I thought that either do this or get a whooping. I didn’t really know that it was called etiquette, it was just what was expected of us. I’m originally from California but went to school in Tallahassee. The country was a lot different from the Bay Area and it was cool because I met a bunch of cool cats, were very like-minded. I felt that they came from a similar background and we became friends. Then, I started to notice that they’d ask me why I was doing certain things.
I would observe them and realize they didn’t do a lot of things [I did] especially when it came to the dating arena. They were good guys, but something as simple as holding the door open [didn’t happen]. Even when I go on a date with you, the attractive women at the time, they would ask me or they would tell me that “you’re the first person to actually do this, I’ve never had this done or that done and xyz.” It was shocking because they were at the time between 18 and 21, yet they never experienced some of these basic things my mom taught me to do before high school. So it kind of just stopped me in my tracks, and I was just like “wow, my mom really did teach us something important and really is lacking in society.”
It’s always best to pay attention to what somebody does. That’s the truest way to know who somebody is. Exclude what they say. Exclude what they wear. Exclude how they smell. And look at what they do.
BC: Beyond proper manners, what are grooming musts for men? Do you have any favorite treatments and/or products that are loyal to?
EB: Yes, smell well. Smell well at all times. Moms love it, kids love it, lovers love it. I love Tom Ford, or even a naturally scented body wash, moisturizer, or deodorant. Whatever promotes a healthy impression. I’m a huge fan of Bevel. I cut my own hair, I’ve been doing that for a while since I was 12. I carry my Bevel everywhere I go. I wash my face with sea salt soap everyday. [Another recommendation is] aloe vera, I put that on as my moisturizer—it’s super affordable as well. I used to buy a super expensive product in a tiny bottle, the products were like one hundred dollars a pop. Then, when I looked at the label for the ingredients it said: sea salt soap, aloe vera, and some other type of genetically engineered stuff. I said why not just take the natural products out, buy that, and see how that works? I’ve been doing that for like two years.
BC: What’s one “beauty” habit you wish more men would put into practice?
EB: Skin care. A lot of men ignore this. I was guilty back in the day of not washing my face—I thought it was a “womanly” thing. In elementary school, my mom would always have to remind to wash my face. Seriously, that’s the most foolish thing that you can do: not wash your face. It’s not okay to look like a reptile. If look closely now, Instagram has that zoom feature and you can see what’s happening. There’s no hiding behind lotion. You have got to take care of your face beyond just the shower. It’s in how you eat, it’s in the amount of water you’re drinking, the amount of stress you take on. It’s all of that, it really shows. [Anyone with “normal” skin] needs to cleanse, hydrate, and moisturize their skin. Winter’s coming and it’s going to show.
BC: What is the best grooming/style advice that you’ve received?
EB: A good haircut solves all problems! It’s one of those things where you’ll get that compliment—you know what I mean? I remember back in the day in middle school and high school, you’d get that random “you look nice today.” The girls can’t figure out why, and it’s because you got that cut. Correction, you got that fresh cut. You have to keep a clean cut, even if you do it yourself.
Here’s a good trick I learned, which is particularly useful when you’re in a rush. If a guy has a hat on, you can still tell that he has a haircut underneath. What I would like to do in high school, I would put a hat on and I would just cut my hair up to the hat, if that makes any sense. I would fade it up to the hat. So it wasn’t really a “cut”, but it looked like I had a clean cut because of the way that my hat was on. Also, if you don’t know how to cut your hair, do the little hat cut. Just fade it up to the point of the brim. Fade it up to the side of the hat. But, whatever you do, don’t take that hat off [laughs].
BC: Does being “well-keep” automatically make you a gentleman? Why or why not?
EB: Gangsters wear suits. Turn on the debates, we call them “politicians” today, but a**holes wear suits too. People in shabby clothes are some of the kindest, cool gentleman (or gentlewoman) that you’ll ever meet. So, again it’s not really about how you’re doing yourself that’s the easiest way to fool somebody. What tends to happen is, when somebody take the approach and starts to develop themselves internally, that’s going to be reflected externally. But not everyone is so focused on materials, it won’t always look that way. It’s always best to pay attention to what somebody does. That’s the truest way to know who somebody is. Exclude what they say. Exclude what they wear. Exclude how they smell. And look at what they do.
BC: Bereolaesque was penned specifically for men—why are you encouraging guys transform into gentleman especially when the media often portrays the opposite?
EB: I’m all about introducing people to an even playing field. That’s part of the reason that I wrote The Gentlewoman. If everybody starts from the same place, then I’m happy with where everybody ends up. Take a look at racism, clearly we are starting far behind after they’ve said “Go!”, after the gun was shot. A lot of other ethnicities and a lot of other races have had the opportunity to start the race a few years ahead and we’re just being able to go. I’m just all about fairness—as long as the cat that may have not grown up with the proper guidance has the opportunity to hear about this other lifestyle that’s afforded to him. That doesn’t have to come to him via a prestigious education, a royal family, or something like that. It’s offered to him for free this lifestyle. It can change so much for him, as it’s changed me.
A lot of times, etiquette, gentleman and all that stuff is presented in this one dimensional way. It can be seen as corny, it can be seen as intimidating, it can be seen as I have to wear a suit, I have to have a haircut at all times. I’ve got to be super on point at all times. I can’t just relax and be myself. The whole point of this thing is actually relaxing and being yourself—just applying certain principles to you.
BC: What is your latest book about?
EB: The Gray is about somebody who has read the first book (Bereolaesque) and the woman that has read (Gentlewoman). They meet and you expect them to get together and everything to be hunky dory. That’s kind of the expectation of the reader. It’s kinda of the now what? People don’t account for the “gray area” in relationships. When everything is presented as perfect and it seems to be going well. We all have grays areas we refuse to discuss—it’s all the mess and baggage that we bring into the relationship. It’s going to be very literary, very in-depth, very cutting to the bone. It kind of goes there. It’s a dark book—but there’s light at the end.