The Definition of Dignity: Dignified Style for Men (Pillars of Modern Civility, Part 3)
In this series exploring the pillars of modern civility, we’ve seen that many of the most important characteristics of etiquette and civility flow from how we treat others. The pillar of dignity is no different. In fact, even more than decorum and wisdom, dignity shines a light on how we treat others more than how we see ourselves. And the definition of dignity observes this exact characteristic.
What is the Definition of Dignity?
Dignity is honoring each person’s humanity and value, regardless of what they can do for others. The dignified man sees the value of each individual for who they are ahead of attributing value to them for what they provide. It is an unassuming stance of moral propriety, where one’s convictions are not compromised for the sake of selfishness, pride, or bitterness.
In Francis Hawkins’ 110 Rules of Civility and Etiquette, he gives an example of dignity in the presence of others:
“Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.” (Rule 106)
By this example, we see that dignity has much to do with reserving honor for others rather than ourselves.
At its core, the definition of dignity rests on how we treat others, not how we wish others to treat us. We give dignity to others, rather than demand dignity for ourselves. And in that giving, we put the value of others before personal interests or desires.
Qualities of Dignified Men
Dignified men are recognized for their ability to bring honor to others instead of draw attention to themselves. As such, recognition is often in hindsight rather than in the moment. These men step into the peripheral so that everyone else around them can be seen for their true worth. And in stepping aside in these moments, these men of dignity become the archetypes of strength and confidence without the fire of boasting and bragging.
Above all, dignified men remain honest and trustworthy. They walk with integrity daily, treating everyone they encounter with kindness and courtesy, regardless of their position or profession. As Rule 28 of the 110 Rules states, “If anyone come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up though he be your inferior, and when you present seats let it be to everyone according to his degree.” They give honor freely, and an honor beyond what is earned through deed alone. It is not what has been done that gives dignity, but what each human inherently shares: the journey through this perilous life.
“If anyone come to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up though he be your inferior, and when you present seats let it be to everyone according to his degree.” (Rule 28)
While so many in this world are busy shouting to prove their worth, dignified men have no need to beat their chests for attention or validation. They do not see their worth merely in accomplishments, but instead in the experiences and relationships encountered on the journey. And their quiet contemplation reflects their ability to see before moving, to hear before speaking, and to understand before deciding.
The definition of dignity requires a posture of confidence and grace. Men with dignity show it in their composure, their very stance. They are not ambitious for ambition’s sake, so they do not act out of haste or greed. Their very presence is confident, reassuring, and calm. When compassion is the fabric of their character, all they encounter receive dignity from this graceful demeanor.
How Can We Demonstrate Dignified Style?
A man who dresses with dignity makes choices that are clean, classic, efficient, and timeless. Their suits are well tailored, free of wrinkles or stains, and designed with care, not to impress those around them, but to demonstrate the honor they give to everyone.
So much of fashion is based on impressing those around us, but the dignified man is instead intent on directing attention to others. And because of this, their choices follow the definition of dignity: remaining quiet in honor, but outspoken in kindness.
The simple black or navy suit, paired with a classic tie, offers a strong look that doesn’t overpower. A simple pair of cufflinks in silver or gold, perhaps with a semi-precious stone inlay, is enough to demonstrate confidence without arrogance. But a small symbol of personality, like an elegant custom tie bar or pocket square, is enough to state the importance of individuality.
Dignified style choices honor a sentiment of unimposing subtlety. Men who dress with dignity are always dressed appropriately for the occasion, but they do not clamor for attention. Instead, their choice of accessories only catch the eye of those who appreciate intricate detail.
Modern trends can be fun, and personalized jewelry and accessories are excellent additions to any collection. But dignified style always looks to the past for inspiration while setting sights on what the future holds. Rather than flashy patterns or trendy designs, men who dress with dignity focus on the classic looks that set the foundation for modern sophistication. Analog timepieces with leather bands, finely made silk ties and pocket squares, and cufflinks that will become family heirlooms because of their timeless design and quality craftsmanship. On every occasion, these beautifully designed details will keep the definition of dignity front and center.
Dignity and Style: Elevating Character
When you meet a man of great dignity, there is no denying his ability to give strength and honor to those who often feel weak and forgotten.
You may only see this strength when looking back on fond memories, moments when you yourself could feel the honor and respect they pour out on others. Still, it is crystal clear that these men have an unimaginably powerful influence on the lives they touch. They make a statement without shouting, and they leave a legacy that lasts far beyond the mere moments they are present.