The word amateur has been ruined. We hear, “He’s an amateur golf player” and automatically think that he isn’t all that good at golf but must enjoy it enough to pursue it. Ok, that’s accurate, but it’s also kind of a negative perspective, isn’t it? I like to understand amateur for its true Latin roots. Amo, meaning, “for the love of” something. That’s it. No judgement for how good or bad you are. You simply do something because it brings you enjoyment, peace of mind, or whatever it is. It’s important to have something you do for recreation, and it’s important you choose something to grow and develop over a long period of time. It’s one of the things about us that makes us uniquely human, right?
Having a hobby is a great way to express your personality and develop your skills outside of work, home or family commitments. In this post, we’ll discuss the most popular hobbies for the South Texas gentleman. A hobby, or pursuing something as an amateur, should be able to last you a lifetime; it transcends all ages, abilities, budgets, time limits, talents and skills.
Netflix & chill will not make you a better man. Hours spent on Call of Duty will not give you better quality of life. Social media will not satiate a higher state of being, in fact it makes us more depressed. Leisure has lost it’s meaning in today’s world. You might be surprised, but pursuing your hobby can be far more stress relieving or relaxing than binge watching Game of Thrones. Hobbies can fulfill you, develop your attention to detail, keep your mind active & alert, and tap into that innermost desire to create something. Imagine how much more interesting you will sound at parties if you can talk about a canoe you hand-built or regale crowds with stories of catching a sailfish off the coast of Mexico. People love engaging with a well-rounded man.
"People love engaging with a well-rounded man."
Research proves that time spent in nature improves your memory, energy and decreases stress levels. Here are seven great hobbies that should keep you happy & occupied outdoors. And in South Texas, that’s all year long.
Fishing is a great hobby to share with your family, friends, or just connect with nature one-on-one. If you prefer catch-and-release, great! If you prefer to take home your winnings, even better! Fishing is an iconic hobby for men. It doesn’t cost too much to get started with, and you can get as relaxed or competitive as you like. You can also explore your state & the world with fishing. We’re pretty proud that South Texas boasts some of the best places for fishing in our state. Just remember that you need to get a fishing license before you start dropping that line into the water. You can learn more about getting a fishing license in Texas from the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.
Sometimes it isn’t the thrill of the hunt, but instead, the thrill of the shoot. Marksmanship requires practice, concentration and good form. You can find a shooting club or gun range most anywhere in Texas, and take your pick of different gun sports. Just be prepared to save up for this hobby, as shooting can get expensive. If you get good at it, consider signing up for competitions in your area. Many amateur competitions are put together as fundraisers for charity, so you’re also doing the world some good with your hobby.
The benefits of hunting are innumerable. Depending on the type of hunting you choose, it can be great quality time spent with a friend, or valuable time spent with your own thoughts. It’s also a great source of providing quality lean meat for your family. And sometimes it just tastes better knowing the work and patience it took to get it. Hunting also taps into our human instincts and satisfies the caveman in our ancestral blood. If you’re worried about depleting the world of it’s natural resources, you’re wrong. Hunting can be a conscientious and purposeful hobby that gives back to the environment. Some of the most active wildlife conservationists I know are avid hunters. Hunters cherish the challenge of the kill and want to keep those standards high with fruitful and healthy wildlife. Plus, any costs spent on hunting licenses and memberships mostly go back to fund state wildlife agencies. Hunting can be costly as a hobby when considering the equipment, the getup, the guns, licenses and the cost of the kill if you’re on a private reserve. But it doesn’t have to be prohibitive; if you know the right people, or you choose the right game, it can also be affordable.
Golf is simultaneously the most frustrating and relaxing sport in the world. If you’ve already learned how to golf, then you know what we’re talking about. If you never have, please approach it with patience and an open mind. It’s a skill that improves with practice. The more you golf, the more you’ll be able to work on those pesky little habits that keeps your handicap so high. Golf is great with friends, drinks, or alone. Plus, it’s a hobby you can keep up off the course too by following Golf Channel or reading about it. Yes, it can be an expensive hobby (seems like a trend in all our suggestions so far, right?) but it can also be affordable if you are determined to keep costs down. Golf is also a great and easy hobby to take with you around the world. You can travel and attend many of the popular tournaments or play some of the greatest courses out there!
While mowing the yard definitely is not most people’s idea of an enjoyable pastime, gardening can be. You have to learn the terrain, the weather, and the biological aspects of plants. Whether you’re into trends or you’re a trailblazer, gardening can be a healthy and exciting hobby for you. Popular gardening trends this summer include southwestern-vibing with succulents and cacti. Start a backyard fruit and veggie garden. You get to harvest and eat your home-grown fruits of labor, or can them to enjoy another day. Gardening can be a fun way to interact with the great outdoors. All you need is time, patience and a little help from mother nature. Plus, there’s something instantly calming about working with the soil. Gardening is a relatively inexpensive hobby, but can also get expensive if you like to work with exotics. In fact, you probably already have most of the tools you need to get started. Just dust them off and get to planting!
Some people have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and enjoy the hunt to learn new information. Here are two suggestions for the more intellectually-minded hobbyist.
Do you know what connects top successful leaders in today’s industries? Reading. Bill Gates read 50 books last year— almost one a week. Mark Zuckerberg reported reading one book every two weeks. It doesn’t sound like a very easy hobby to make time for, but the benefits of reading are unmatched to any other hobby on this list— not to mention it’s basically free to enjoy. Public libraries are open almost every day, and books are free to take home with a library card. Book clubs are relatively inexpensive to join and get you in touch with other bibliophiles in your community. Running down the road with no time to pick up a book? Not to worry - Most books are available in an audio book option that you can listen to anytime, anywhere. This is especially true with our smartphones today. Who knew you could carry so many reading materials in your back pocket?
What if you were descended from Jesse James himself? What if you found out you were kin to the great Comanche War Chief, Santa Anna? Or John Coffee Hays of the Texas Rangers? Genealogy can help you dig up the wonders of your ancestry. Websites like Ancestry.com, Family Search and My Heritage, can help you uncover your family tree with subscriptions ranging from free to $19.99 a month. Another great service, for $79, can uncover your ethnic mix, distant relatives and new ancestors with AncestryDNA, a DNA kit that will track your ancestry back to the dawn of time.
Arts & Culture Hobbies
Leave behind a legacy for your family. Art & Culture hobbies can produce magnificent works of art that will be passed down for generations. Others are meant to be consumed in the moment and appreciated for the skill it takes, while some collect and appreciate the talents or aesthetics of others. The arts taps into our inner need to create and is a great release for our emotions or thoughts at the time. Here are five arts & culture hobbies worth considering.
Culinary (in TX this Means BBQ)
Bar-B-Que, the taste of Texas. Cooking Texas Bar-B-Que really is an art within itself. But not just anyone can throw a piece of beef on a pit and get to cooking. This hobby is also not just for you, but a hobby to share with friends and family as well. Learning how to barbeque low and slow requires a tremendous amount of patience, skill, creativity and trial-and-error. But not to fear, there are plenty of courses, camps and workshops to help you refine this delicious craft. Texas A&M University Meat Science Center offers barbeque clinics and workshops three to six times a year. The tuition is relatively inexpensive for most camps where students of all ages learn about BBQ pit maintenance, meat safety and thermometers, rubs and marinades, brining basics, as well as how to prepare a hog for a whole hog barbeque. Travel around to enjoy different BBQ joints or competitions to get new ideas for perfecting your own craft.
Car Collecting & Restoration
There cannot be a more challenging and time consuming hobby than that of car collecting and restoration. A hot rod that seems as if it had been transported from 1973 running down 181 is sure to turn every head on the road. Even more impressive? A man who restored it himself. This is a hobby that costs a pretty penny— but rest easy knowing your efforts will be rewarded once you have a finished product in your driveway. Take your hobby even more public by entering in car shows, volunteer for city parades, and join a regional club to find friends in the industry.
Musical hobbies vary from the performer, to the connoisseur, to the collector. If you have a musical talent, then it’s pretty obvious that refining that skill is the most rewarding hobby you can pursue. People love listening to natural talent, so don’t be shy about yours. Form a band, join a choir, perform at community concerts, and if you have the technology or the means, record yourself for posterity! But the world can’t all be performing musicians. Musicians need an eager audience. If you love music, but don’t have the natural talent, consider becoming a connoisseur as your hobby. Attend live concerts, go to the symphony, stop by the jazz club downtown, buy all the albums of your favorite artists. Speaking of which, you can really make this a hobby by becoming a collector. Collect vinyl, original albums, merchandise - you name it. As a musician myself, we are glad of people who appreciate the arts!
While painting may seem like a girly hobby, it’s actually far from it. Both Winston Churchill and George W. Bush painted in their free time to relax and keep depression and stress away. Painting is simple and the tools you need are probably lying around your home right now. All you need is craft paint, brushes, and a canvas from your local Walmart and you can get right to it. If you’re afraid to put brush to canvas without any training, you may want to invest in a painting class at your local college as an introduction to the art. But honestly, just start painting - you’ll find your voice and you’ll find your technique. One of our employees at Bethune & Son loves painting on his off-time to vent his thoughts and relax. He’s good, and he’s starting to get a reputation in the art community.
First let me correct you. Antiquing is not a hobby for little old ladies who are professional hoarders. Have you ever heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? It rings true in the last hobby on our list— Antiquing. We’re inspired to add antiquing to our list thanks to a local man, Robert, who we affectionately call the “Pyrex Pirate.” Robert has been hugely successful in collecting vintage pyrex from estate sales, Goodwill, small thrift stores and more. Why? Because if you check ebay, it’s worth a heck-of-a-lot. Robert collects it to both hold onto for future investment and to resell for instant returns. It’s almost like making collecting a small business operation. From small pawn shops to large scale antique-weeks and auction houses, there is a place for finding even the rarest oddities. Locally, pawn shops and antique stores are around every corner. However, if you’re looking to score the big finds, you may have to travel to Vogt Auctions in San Antonio or to historic, antique village Round Top. At Vogt Auctions, antique sales are made every month, each auction having a different trend or theme. For example, August’s auction items will be categorized into “Fine Texas Art” on August 12, and “Ranch Furniture and Decor” on August 13. In Round Top, Antique Weeks are held twice a year. Vendors come from far and wide bringing cowhide rugs, furniture, purses, clothing, decor, old airstream RVs, wild game mounts and more. If you can think it, there is probably a vendor there that has it. So pick your poison. What will you collect? Pyrex? Ties? Clocks? The world’s your oyster.
Every year, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of Spring. Bring out the lighter fabrics, tropical colors, and vibrant patterns! In South Texas, that may come a little earlier for us than most other places in the U.S. Some of the most unique American traditions happen at this time of year, and each of them calls for special dress for the gentleman.
March - Spring Break & Formal Resort Attire
Spring break has taken on a tenor of it’s own. Just mention places like Panama City or South Padre Island and it conjures up images of drunken fratty shenanigans. We’re talking a more genteel, refined and mature spring break. Think Sea Island, Georgia or Naples, Florida.
Enter the category of “Formal Resort Attire.” Once you reach a certain stage of life, you might want to consider leaving behind the cargo shorts, funny tees and flip flops when you book a stay at a resort. There are certain destinations that call for an elevated level of respect in dress. If you booked a stay at a Disney World resort, you can ignore this. If you booked a stay at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel,where there are dress codes, then pay close attention.
Formal resort attire is intended for tropical or warm weather locations. You might argue “But I’m on vacation! Why do I need to follow these rules?” The dress code is for your comfort and the comfort of others, so that no one feels over or under-dressed. There really are no particular “rules” to follow, so instead follow these basic guidelines:
Linen and Madras are popular fabrics all-around, whereas Seersucker is uniquely identified with Southern culture. For pants, think khakis and cotton chinos. For shirts, think linen and polos. With performance tech fabrics, golf polos and well-cut fishing shirts can look sharp in place of a traditional button-up shirt. Shoes really set the tone for the “summery” look with driving moccasins, loafers or other type of deck shoe conveying a sense of clean & casual.
If you need to dress up in a suit for dinner, consider a patterned or textured summer blazer, or a light sports coat. Dress suits are usually as formal as it gets for cruises and resorts (unless otherwise specified) and sometimes a dress shirt and nice slacks are enough. Just do your due research and check out the resort website before you pack.
April - PGA Masters & Golf Attire
At the time of writing this blog post, Sergio Garcia just won the 2017 Masters - Congratulations! We’ve got golf on the mind, we’ve been busy hitting the links and even were a local sponsor for an area Golf Tournament (the first of many!). Part of why we love golf is for the attire - it’s often bright, casual, and at the same time looks smart.
Golf attire is part of the decorum of the game, but you don’t have to be as restrictive as Augusta National. Think function first, style second. Comfort, etiquette and ease of movement are just as important as how you look out there on the green.
Though we tip our hat to the great icon that is John Daly, a good rule of thumb is that you should have only one garment in your golfing getup that is brightly colored. On the other hand you also should avoid monotone combinations - that’s just plain boring.
Always pair with a belt. Even John Daly wears a belt. A belt, among other things, indicates a finesse and attention to detail that characterizes golf above many other recreational sports.
You never know if the weather may change when you’re out on the green. 11 holes in, and suddenly the sun comes out in all it’s glory. That’s why you wear layers. Smart people wear layers.
Shirts should be collared and tucked in. Again, it’s about the class & attention to detail. Popular fabrics are light and breathable, so try cotton, microfiber, polyester or a new smart tec-material recently invented by Elon Musk that makes your game as good as Tiger’s. Just kidding. Let us know when he invents that though... In the mean time, why don't you pick up one or our polos by Southern Marsh, available in bright tropical tones & have a cool moisture wicking fabric.
Shorts & pants are a little more restrictive. Shorts should extend to the knee. None of this “chubbies” business on the green. If you choose to wear pants instead of shorts, make sure there aren’t any cuffs as they can collect dirt, grass, and the occasional gopher. Cotton is a popular material for most golfing shorts or pants, and it’s a nice bonus if you have something water-resistant. Want to have some fun like John Daly? Wear some preppy go to hell pants. Jeans are of course prohibited and workout, running or basketball shorts are in poor taste.
Footwear is considered part of the game’s equipment, so when you short on this, it’s tres gauche. Proper golf shoes help establish a player’s swing and they protect the green; it’s a sign of respect. Nowadays, golf shoes can look as cool as your regular athletic shoes. Just make sure they’re comfortable, durable and suit your style. Courses will sometimes allow sneakers or athletic shoes, but choosing this route lacks a refinement and purpose.
We top it all off with hats. These aren’t as specific in golf course dress codes, and if you look at the pros you’ll see that most baseball caps or visors are popular for both genders. You can also use hats as a way to stand out a bit and be different. Consider a straw hat like a panama, or maybe tap into your inner Scot with a pageboy cap. Just don’t go too crazy as sombreros, cowboy hats, fedoras, or other gag hats (like those horrible visors with the Guy Fieri hair) are generally frowned upon.
May - Kentucky Derby & Race Day Attire
So at least we’re publishing this post in time for you to be well attired for the Kentucky Derby!
The Kentucky Derby provides a splendid excuse for men to get as dressed up and decked out as the ladies. Think colors, seersucker, bow ties, southern drawls, and mint juleps. The most important thing to remember, gentlemen, is you must be confident about your Derby outfit. We rarely dress up in such vibrant colors, and some men may feel somewhat foolish strutting around in pink or seersucker. No matter what you wear, the secret is in how you wear it.
The modern gentleman at the Derby must truly embrace a wide color palette if you truly want to fit in. From light pastels to sun-drenched tropical hues, men of the South are all-color inclusive. And these colors show up in any number of designs, like bold stripes, subtle seersucker lines, a busy plaid, or a solid electric statement color. The more polished looks perfectly balance the bright enthusiasm of color with conservative style. Tone down your coral-colored dress pants with a classic navy or chalk stripe blazer. We recommend 3-buttons for a more polished look.
A great dress shirt in a complementary color will go a long way. This is the one day of the year that more is better. Feeling bold? Consider mixing patterns such as gingham or stripes - but be careful! If you don’t have an eye for it, you can easily end up looking like a bad 80’s music video.
Now for the best part - the tie. Most gentlemen wear a necktie, but we’re especially partial to bow ties. Bethune & Son has a great selection by High Cotton Ties. Following our same theme, keep the colors and themes on the tie light, playful and in the spirit of Derby festivities.
If you want to go the extra mile, join the ladies and finish things off with a great hat. A fedora or bowler hat are Derby classics. Men’s hats are generally solid in color and look like they came out of a 1920’s gentlemen’s haberdashery.
Nota Bene: We wanted to include hunting attire in this section on specialty dress codes, but when we started compiling content - it was too much! Hunting is such a huge part of the South Texas lifestyle, that it deserves a post all on it’s own. I guess our 9-part series just became a 10-part series. Look for our hunting attire post in late Summer.
The internet is full of lists of books that every man must read. There is a list if you want to be perceived as a well-educated gentleman, a list if you consider yourself a wily and adventurous manly man, a list if you want to be the hip & modern metrosexual man, and a list if you want to be a hot metro man with a british accent. Seriously, if you google it, there is a reading list for almost every male lifestyle. We like to read, so we’re always browsing for the next book recommendation. While looking through some of these ridiculous lists mentioned above, we realized that there wasn’t really a list that captured the distinct life and times of the modern Texas Gentleman, so we decided to make our own.
We are assuming that you, our reader, have either already read some of the classics in your schooling. That’s why you’ll find the standards missing from our list; Dante, Homer, Plato, Orwell, and our Founding Fathers to name a few. We cultivated this list that distinguishes you as a Texan. The first half of these books capture the life, recreations, family dynamics and culture that is distinctly Texas. The second half of the books impart business, economic and other values that characterize the Texas man as a gentleman.
The Texas Books
It has the flash, panache and drama of Fitzgerald, the class and philosophical depth of Waugh, and plot and characters as big as Texas itself. Burke’s Wayfaring Stranger is set in midcentury Texas, following the entrepreneurial, relational and social drama centered around Weldon Avery Holland, his wife Rosita Lowenstein, and friend Hershel Pine. As Weldon and Hershel make their fortune in the Gulf Coast oil industry, they find their lives complicated by “business rivals, sadistic detectives, smarmy Hollywood talent scouts, and anti-Communist witch hunters.” Throughout the blackmail and social drama, Weldon’s philosophical musings pit moralistic notions of good and evil against the immorality and unholiness of modernity. Lee’s prose seems to “bring alive the oil patch, the plaza in front of the Alamo, the surprising pastoral pleasures of Houston.” You can read more of the New York Time’s book review here.
Gentleman Ranking: 5
Texan Ranking: 6
You say Texas to any red-blooded American and chances are the Alamo is one of the first stories that comes to mind. The Battle of the Alamo defines the history of South Texas. In thirteen chapters, Lon Tinkle tells the day-by-day story of how 182 men fought a losing battle but won for their cause an almost unparalleled measure of fame. The familiar figures appear on these pages: stern young Colonel William Barret Travis; the middle-aged fighter Jim Bowie, who contested the young upstart’s command; famous frontiersman Davy Crockett, soon to have his stock in legend rise even higher. Echoing the shot heard round the world in 1776, the volleys fired by the Alamo defenders were aimed at the large and well-outfitted army of Santa Anna, self-styled “Napoleon of the West.”
Gentleman Ranking: 6
Texan Ranking: 7
Published in 1985, McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove still stands out to this day as the quintessential Texan novel. Even though the characters play out their story across America, from South Texas, up into Montana; this novel is considered largely Texan because of the culture, the characters, the values, and the battle of man versus nature. Any lover of fiction will find themselves engrossed in this immensely powerful novel.
Gentleman Ranking: 4
Texan Ranking: 9
There is no Texas without football. Friday Night Lights follows the 1988 playoffs of Odessa, Texas’s local high school team. If you really want to understand how much football means to Texans regardless of how big or small your hometown may be, this journalistic novel uncovers the die-hard, almost irresponsible passion that takes over a town during football season. Though the story takes place in West Texas, the town of Odessa is much like South Texas in that it’s community prosperity waxes and wanes with the oil industry. Football has become a modern means of coming together regardless of how the town is faring economically, and unites a community as one - a rare occurrence in a world that is increasingly individually motivated. We also recommend the NBC TV series, loosely based on the book.
Gentleman Ranking: 3
Texan Ranking: 9
Texas and oil go hand-in-hand. With phenomenal reviews across the board, Burrough’s book is a spellbinding chronicle of Texas oil. “What’s not to enjoy about a book full of monstrous egos, unimaginable sums of money, and the punishment of greed and shortsightedness?” quotes The Economist. Burrough weaves together the multigenerational sagas of the industry’s four wealthiest families, bringing to life the men known in their day as the Big Four: Roy Cullen, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson. All four are the swaggering Texas oil tycoons who owned sprawling ranches and mingled with presidents and Hollywood stars. Seamlessly charting their collective rise and fall, The Big Rich is a hugely entertaining account that only a writer with Burrough’s abilities and Texas upbringing could have written.
Gentleman Ranking: 5
Texan Ranking: 6
The Gentleman Books
It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and the Texas gentleman needs to know how to hold his own in the boardroom, as a manager, entrepreneur and more. This 6th century book on military strategy and advice has long been read through the lens of business. One can go farther beyond that and read it to benefit him in other walks of life: social climbing, politics, relationships, and more. Lessons like decisiveness, prudence, strategy, and more will make you appear more manly and authoritative. Texans are already superior to others, why not amplify that with a little wisdom from Sun Tzu?
Gentleman Ranking: 6
Texan Ranking: 5
We thought McCullough’s John Adams was an excellent candidate for several reasons.
A) Have you seen the HBO series? John Adams is most definitely not a boring man. Go watch it now.
B) Reading biographies statistically help you live a more successful life. You learn from the virtues and foibles of others. You learn to be more empathetic to others. You gain perspective.
C) Second to Texas is patriotism for America, therefore we only thought it right that we featured something pertaining to our American founding.
D) John Adams is a fascinating person to learn from. He exhibits incredible character, resiliency, loyalty and intellect. He also is the most stubborn of our founding fathers. Something Texans would relate to very well.
Gentleman Ranking: 7
Texan Ranking: 4
Atlas Shrugged is a capitalist opus, and Texas is the home to many a capitalist tycoon. Sure not everyone in Texas is a millionaire, but the mentality of free market principles reigns in many corners of our Lone Star economy. That’s why we felt Rand’s pinnacle book was an appropriate fit - it equips the gentleman with an understanding of how markets work, and forebodes the destruction that ‘good intentions’ cause when the government, agencies, and other bureaucrats meddle. Economic lessons are imparted through the story of Dagny Taggart, a business heiress who struggles to keep her family’s railroad ahead of the overreaching grasp of the government. Business leaders around the nation start to disappear, society is on the brink of destruction, and a romance with another business tycoon keeps the plot moving at a quick clip. Bonus points: at over 1,000 pages this novel is so big that every time you pick it up, you’re basically doing curls at the gym. But don’t let that dissuade you. The plot is so engaging, you won’t want to put it down.
Gentleman Ranking: 6
Texan Ranking: 6
No one has ever captured Ronald Reagan like Peggy Noonan. In When Character Was King, Noonan brings her own reflections on Reagan to bear as well as new stories - from Presidents George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush (shout outs to Texas!), his Secret Service men and White House colleagues, his wife, his daughter Patti Davis, and his close friends - to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history. Marked by incisive wit and elegant prose. When Character Was King will both enlighten and move readers. It may well be the last word on Ronald Reagan, not only as a leader but as a man.
Gentleman Ranking: 8
Texan Ranking: 4
It’s more of a reference guide than a reading book, but it goes without saying that Southern men are known around the world for their manners. The “South” includes parts of Texas as well. Manners indicate class; class is how you treat others and how you behave when others aren’t looking. What we like about this book (aside from focusing on manners for men) is that Peter Post also explains why we have certain social expectations. It makes it easier to adopt a good habit when you know its purpose - not all manners are arbitrary rules drawn up by the social elite. Post also makes this an enjoyable read with his self-deprecating humor and offers sound advice for both the common and not so common circumstances a man may find himself.
Gentleman Ranking: 10
Texan Ranking: 8
South Texas is home to a variety of lifestyles: Ranchers, shrimpers down on the coast, Southern Prep, and down-to-earth country folk… if variety is the spice of life, then South Texas is one of the spiciest places around.
Our style of casual dress is probably one of the more difficult to define because of South Texas’s diversity and the fact that casual dress has the fewest rules. This is the chance to really let your flag fly. Go ahead and show the world that you supported Reagan & Bush in ‘84. Your alma mater has defined who you are, why not put it across the front of your sweatshirt? Or maybe you prefer to show your SEC affiliation on your favorite well-worn cap.
Here at Bethune & Son, we’ve observed two types of casual dress among South Texas gentlemen: relaxed casual and preppy casual. Basically it comes down to who you are and what you do. Each style has its own merits, and both styles can look clean cut and put together, letting the world know what you are about.
The relaxed casual man prefers the comfortable fit of jeans, a GameGuard performance tee or a solid pair of khaki shorts. He expresses his passions, values and personality through the display of brands, bands, teams, and pop icons on tees. You’ll often see him wearing boat shoes, flip flops, or a cap to finish it off. The whole look can sometimes come across as coastal, “fratty” or preppy, depending on where you are and how much you’ve had to drink. The man who prefers this style is always ready; it’s easier for him to adapt on the go. He cares, but he doesn’t care. Bethune & Son carries the brands that the relaxed casual gentleman enjoys, including Rowdy Gentleman, Bird Dog Bay, and Burlebo.
The preppy casual man feels just as comfortable in a pair of khakis, sports shirt and deck shoes. We call it preppy casual because the style often resembles a blend of East Coast Prep and Southern Gentility. You may find him in the afore-mentioned ‘relaxed casual’ clothing around the house on a weekend, but when in town, he is always more purposefully attired . Instead of expressing himself through brands, he considers the whole lifestyle he wants to capture. He takes care in selecting brands with quality patterns, cuts, and fabrics. The whole picture is coordinated, clean cut, and conveys a lifestyle of leisure, intellectual and social pursuits. He wants others to take him for who he is and he puts the time in to craft his appearance. Bethune & Son carries brands that would appeal to the preppy casual gentleman, such as Gunner & Hook, Bird Dog Bay, and Smathers & Branson.
You may now be asking, “So what casual “dress code” should I follow?” Honestly, follow the path that stays true to your personality and lifestyle. Always be aware of the setting and make sure to dress appropriately. Remember that the camera is always on - consider if you really want that Willie Nelson shirt to appear on the front page of the local newspaper (on the other hand Willie is an American hero...) Just remember that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed, even when it’s a casual day.
Being the gracious host he is, Mr. John Blackburn immediately offered me a drink upon my entrance from the rain, into the great hall of his family’s historic ranch home. “Bourbon on the rocks con agua, por favor.” The room was a homage to the life of the avid hunting sportsman. Stuffed quail, pheasant, duck and dove are mounted mid-flight. A black bear stands in the corner, frozen in attack mode, claws and teeth exposed. To the far side of the room, an imposing metal door to the gun safe lies open, in anticipation of this evening’s shoot.
My visit was an occasion to meet a true South Texas gentleman and friend of John’s - Mr. Matt Grayson. Matt isn’t a born and bred Texan, but one could say it was in his blood. Naturally drawn to the topography and lifestyle of South Texas, Matt’s family heritage coincidentally descends from several of the original settling families of Texas. Accomplished in his own right in the world of finance and investments, the South Texas lifestyle serves as an escape for Matt. It’s a slower-paced world that values friendship and a higher quality of life steeped in tradition and class. Leisure is also an important aspect of the South Texas lifestyle. Leisure is the basis of culture; it signifies a higher standard of civilization and progress that affords man the time to participate in activities that exist beyond our basic needs of life sustenance. South Texas is certainly a distinct and remarkable culture that fully embraces the value of leisure.
For rancher gentlemen like Matt and John, that leisurely lifestyle is marked by pursuits such as hunting, world travel (sometimes simultaneously), art, society, literature, and of course developing a refined palate for whiskies and other libations. In the course of our conversation, I learned the nuances that link that lifestyle of leisure with the distinct culture of the South Texas gentleman. For example, an affinity for speaking in Spanish harks back to the tradition of upper classes holding fast to their European heritage. We move into the library with our drinks. Matt and John describe how the life of the gentleman doesn’t just participate in hunting sports, but admires its aesthetics away from the field as well. We discuss the revered sporting artist, Percival Leonard Rosseau, and we admire the Rosseau original that has been in John’s family for generations. Rosseau’s impressionist style romanticizes the hunting experience with hazy woodland scenery, and highlights the special beauty that is a sportsman’s loyal partner - the sporting dog.
Conversation soon turns to hunting, or as the gentlemen corrected me - they consider themselves more sportsmen than hunters. Being a sportsman implies a sense of class and conservatorship, cultivating the land to encourage a healthy game population. Conservation of the natural habitat is a way of giving back to nature in gratitude, and ensuring an environment that fosters bountiful wildlife for its own sake and for future hunts. The outdoorsman also enjoys nature for the occasional moments of self-reflection, the comradeship shared with friends, and self-competition. It’s not about shooting as many birds as possible, it’s about perfecting your form, your aim, and enjoying the total experience.
During the course of this conversation, we’ve finished our whiskey and the dogs are getting restless. Rebel, an English Cocker Spaniel, climbs onto the couch and insists on attention from Matt. Fergus, a German Wirehair Pointer, stands by, content enough to be in the presence of his beloved master, John. Both John and Matt’s canine companions had graced our presence throughout the evening, asking for the occasional head scratch. Every traditional hunter has one sporting dog who transcends their role as retriever, flusher, or pointer, and becomes the gentleman’s best friend. The connection between Rebel and Matt was clear. John’s pointer, Fergus, is a little more stoic which befits his ‘wise old-man’ appearance. It’s uncommon to find a human-friend so attentive, responsive, loyal, trusting, and loving as a good dog. This connection between man and dog serves a vital role in fulfilling the gentleman’s social circle.
We hardly noticed, but the storm passed while we were entrenched deeply in conversation. The sky is now clear, and weather acceptable for a round of skeet. About a quarter of a mile further down John’s driveway, lies the Bar J skeet field. Matt and John joke around in Spanish as they fill the skeet thrower with clays, unwind the pull cord, fill shell bags and prep shotguns. Rebel follows Matt closely, half expecting to retrieve bird out of habit of nature. This is old hat for Matt and John, and before you know it, earplugs are in and Matt begins at station one. The comradeship observed throughout the round is one of support, personal betterment, and jovial banter. One can clearly see why the men try to make this a regular social engagement with each other. Round two begins before you know it. If it weren’t for the diminishing light, I am sure they would have kept going for one or two more.
Gone are the days when ladies and gentlemen regularly donned their furs, fedoras or Ferragamos for elegant social affairs. Formal events often seem few and far in between, and consequently many guests aren’t quite sure what that dress code means anymore. That, combined with an increasingly casual culture, dress codes seem overlooked and the glamorous spell of a well dressed crowd is now broken with with abrasive visions of flip-flops and jeans.
The Bethune & Son gentleman values the purpose of time-honored dress codes. Dress codes ensure you are properly dressed and communicates more subtle values like respect, professionalism, and dignity. Many modern individuals consider dress-codes to be “stuffy” or “elite,” thinking of a time when such codes indicated social class and status. In truth, dress codes communicate respect for the gravity or salubrious nature of an occasion. They also protect your pride and how others may perceive you. Imagine what people would think if you came to a wedding in a Jack Daniel’s tee-shirt and jeans. Ok, maybe you wouldn’t do something that drastic, but it’s human nature to subconsciously judge and categorize others based on how they appear. A dress code ensures you come neither under- or over-dressed, both of which can be socially uncomfortable, embarrassing, and makes you look incompetent.
At Bethune & Son we have both a nostalgic and practical regard for dress codes. We are nostalgic in the sense that class and sophistication has been lost to a casual culture. We embrace the upper spectrum of the dress code, and prefer to be better dressed as a way of expressing the values of a true South Texas gentleman. When there is work to be done on the ranch, he feels at home in a pair of work boots and field pants. When he is a man of business, he communicates his sense of professionalism and intellect by dressing accordingly. When he is called to attend a formal event, he is just as comfortable in a tuxedo and cummerbund as he was earlier that day in work boots on the ranch. The Bethune & Son gentleman is adaptive and understands that he exists in multiple worlds, and is confident enough to embrace it with class and self-respect.
So how do I know what to wear?
Today there are countless “dress codes” you could find on an invitation from “Black Tie” to “Back Alley Suave.” Unless you live in Austin and know a bunch of hipsters, chances are you won’t encounter the latter. We broke it down into 9 fundamental dress codes the Bethune & Son gentleman may encounter in his social life:
8. Specialties: Resort Attire, Hunting Attire, etc.
7. Smart Casual
6. Cocktail Attire
5. Business Casual
4. Business Attire
2. Formal Day Wear/Morning Dress
Over the course of the next few months, Bethune & Son will present a 10-part series uncovering the mysterious intricacies and recommendations for each of these dress codes.
Today, we begin part 1 or our series with how the Bethune & Son man can decode the modern enigma of which dress-rule to follow.
1. Look at the invitation
If the invitation says “Black Tie”, go with it. Pretty straight forward. But what do you wear if the invitation doesn’t list a dress code, or it says something obscure like “Farmhouse Chic”? Your first course of action should be to analyze the invitation. Is the invitation itself more formal? Signs would include hand calligraphy, embossing, or quality card stock. Some store-bought or e-vite events may be more difficult to interpret (but in our opinion, if it was an e-vite it’s probably casual). Look at the wording, phrasing, or colors for signs of elegance. Look at the content too. If it’s during the day, then you can probably rule out formal attire. If it’s in the evening, then you can possibly rule out casual attire. Where is the event being held? If it’s at the St. Anthony Hotel, defer to dressing more formally than you would for a backyard birthday bash.
2. Ask the host
Chances are you know them if you received an invitation. Simply ask what dress code they envision for their event. We’re sure they would rather you showed up at their affair dressed appropriately. If you can’t ask the host, ask a mutual friend who may know based on experience or first-hand knowledge.
3. Consider the event itself
Is it marking a special moment in someone’s life, such as a wedding, bar mitzvah, or baptism? In that case defer to dressing better than casual. These events deserve respect by wearing the proper attire. If it is a 4th of July barbeque or a college football tailgate, then you will likely be safe dressing casually.
Hopefully these tips will give you a great start on dressing the part. Look for our next post on how the Bethune & Son man interprets casual dress.
The Bethune & Son gentleman is always prepared, and oftentimes that means being properly equipped with a quality pocket-knife.
Why do I need a pocket-knife?
Think back on times when you needed something sharp ASAP - and not having anything at hand, you resorted to your keys, a pen tip, or worse yet (gasp) your teeth. Not exactly a classy solution. People are impressed by your preparedness when you come to the rescue against those nasty little foes like tags, plastic wrap, or shipping tape. It’s more than being a boy scout; being a man means being prepared for any challenge that crosses your way, big or small.
The Bethune & Son man primarily possesses a pocket-knife as a everyday utility tool. It’s also about participating in a time-honored tradition. A well crafted knife is often passed down the line from father-to-son. It becomes a part of family history, and becomes something you may look forward to passing on someday as well.
How much should I pay for a good knife?
You want something affordable, but in order to get quality you’re going to have to pay a little more than Walmart rollback prices. Anywhere from $40-70 is a good starting point, and if you can afford more, great. There's no earthly need to drop thousands for a titanium hand-crafted blade.
How long will my knife last?
Generations. Seriously, if you choose good quality and take good care of it, your knife will last forever. Invest in a blade sharpener. Blades dull with frequent use, and a sharpener will make sure your knife is in good working order whenever you may need to use it.
What kind of knife should I buy?
If you didn’t get a knife from pops, then start the tradition today and buy a quality forged knife that will last generations. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to look for a folding blade. The gentleman always values safety first. Consider a blade length under 3 inches. Chances are you won’t ever need anything longer. Some states and public spaces have restrictions on large blades, so choosing over 3 inches may require you to leave it behind a lot of the time.
You’ll also want to consider size. How bulky do you want it to be in your pocket on a regular basis? Again, blade length will play into this somewhat. Your knife’s design will also influence size. The more blades, the bulkier it will be. There are three knife designs we recommend you consider: Jack, Lockback, or a multi-blade Pen knife.
Jack knives are the classic go-to. You can identify them by the two blades that fold into the hilt. Jack knives are easy to carry, easy to use, and the two blades give you tools for large and small needs. Some may only have one blade, and that’s perfectly fine. Jack knives that lock into place are known as Lockbacks. A single blade folding lockback knife is basically the best “first” knife someone could choose, and many find it satisfactory in the long-run too.
Pen knives also fold into the hilt, and they often have multiple blades. Slightly more sophisticated, and good choice if you find that one or two blades doesn’t always cut it. Multipurpose knives may have more blades yet, and will often look like a Swiss Army knife. These can get rather bulky, so we don’t recommend them as much. Plus, how often do you need a corkscrew at a moment’s notice?
Next, decide which blade type you’d prefer. A drop blade is great for heavy tasks as it has a fuller bodied shape and is very sturdy, yet also versatile. The tanto blade is also very strong and good for heavy use, but boasts a slimmer profile than the drop. If you find yourself skinning game or cleaning up after a day out small game hunting, you might want to make sure you have a skinner blade on your knife too. Lastly, the pen blade is a great all-purpose blade for smaller activities, like opening mail or as a makeshift screwdriver.
You of course want a knife handle that is both practical and has a classic look. Our recommendation is wood. A wood handle is timeless, aesthetic, and incredibly durable. Other handles like rubber, micarta, or composite may provide you with better attributes like grip, especially if you find yourself often in wet conditions (hint, hint, fishermen).
Lastly, we could go into detail about choosing a knife based on how it was forged, whether it’s one solid piece of metal, and so forth. Honestly, keep it simple by checking for three things: good edge retention, rust resistance and ease of re-sharpening. If you want a professional opinion, we recommend you check out brand websites. That’s why Bethune & Son trusts Buck Knives - their website is wonderfully informative. Since 1945, Buck Knives has been an industry leader and forged the way with the “lockblade” style of knife. Best of all? Their knives have a forever warranty and are crafted in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
We only have 5 weekends of Summer left. Can you believe how fast it has flown by? Summer is officially over September 21, so make the most of it and go on vacation!
Vacation is a big part of living the well-rounded life. Americans have some of the worst records in the world as far as taking vacation time, but the Bethune & Son man recognizes the power and advantages of taking a regular vacation. It makes him happier, more productive, and less stressed. Sure drinking, sports, working out and a little TV helps to relax you on a daily basis, but it isn’t enough to recharge your batteries for the long run. Taking vacation increases your quality of life. One reason why most people come back happy is because of the valuable time they spend with others. Vacations strengthen relationships because you create more memories than any other activity, and it goes without saying that dedicated time to family or friends improves your relationship with them.
Go somewhere exotic and international. If you like Dove hunting, why not try it in Argentina for a change? International travel is key to expanding your worldview. But the Bethune & Son man is always grounded in patriotism for America. Deepen your love and knowledge of the U.S.A. by traveling from sea to shining sea. Visit the big cities but also the small towns that are the fiber of this great nation. And with that being said, be a tourist in your hometown, region and state! You can be surprised what you find!
Here’s our top five vacation spots in the United States. Now get planning!
5. Phillipsburg, Montana
If you’re looking for secluded luxury getaway, then look no farther than Phillipsburg, Montana. You get that picture perfect Western retreat with mountains, ranches, microbreweries, and more. Go it your own or take our recommendation and stay at the Ranch at Rock Creek for VIP treatment. Sumptuous service and seclusion from the busy world back home is the perfect recipe for a family vacation. If you can’t deal with too much solitude, the ranch offers plenty of outdoor activities for everyone like horseback riding, geocache hikes, and fly fishing.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
Always a great party vacation with friends, NOLA never disappoints. Remember, the Bethune & Son man doesn’t just travel for family vacations - you need to go places and do fun things with your friends too! In this case, we recommend NOLA because we always love a good party and a good drink, and this city is just a cool place to explore with your entourage. Start the day with classic beignets from Cafe du Monde before exploring the city and finishing the night at a blues jazz bar on Bourbon Street. Time things around a music or seafood festival and your schedule (and appetite) is all set.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
We would recommend you first visit Charleston as a romantic getaway, but it’s also perfect to revisit with the family. Regularly rated as a top vacation spot in the U.S., Charleston knows how to provide a good time for everybody. You can make what you want of your stay. If you want high energy, there’s fishing, golf, sailing and more. Looking for something a little more low-key, then go on a carriage ride, take a historic tour, go shopping and visit art galleries. The seafood is exquisite and the drinks are perfecto. It’s almost like you’ve been transported back in time to the Antebellum when you walk the streets surrounded by quintessential Southern architecture, cobblestone streets and gas lamps.
2. San Juan Islands, Washington
This is a different kind of island hopping, with more of a Pacific Northwest feel to it. Visit as many of the San Juan Islands as you want traveling via ferry or seaplane. There are plenty of hide-away charming places to stay, but we recommend renting a private boat for the week. This way you can forego some of the touristy catches, and really get some quality respite away from the crowds. With your own boat, you can visit the islands at your own pace. Disembark if you want a little civilization for good shopping, food or hiking. You can then return to your sanctum sanctorum, put down in some remote little corner and enjoy the bliss of pure isolation. This is one of the best ways to see nature up close around you, like orca pods or bald eagles. Drop a cage off the back of your boat to feast off fresh caught lobster later on.
1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Who doesn’t love a Caribbean escape? That’s why we made Puerto Rico number one. There's something about the warm Caribbean waters, bright colors and sand between your toes that helps you hit refresh in life. And Puerto Rico is perfect because as a U.S. territory, you don’t have all the hassle of customs or passports. We recommend Old San Juan to start with. This is seriously the happiest place in the world. Old world elegance meets Caribbean/Hispanic festivity meets resort quality service. The food is exquisite, there are plenty of attractions, high-end shopping and spice it up with a little nightlife Salsa dancing. If you want to venture outside the city, you can find more removed resorts, adventure in the jungle, and sprawling beaches. All without ever leaving the U.S.!
Penny for our thoughts...
The Bethune & Son blog captures the lifestyle of the South Texas gentleman. From men's clothing, to recreations, food and values - this blog tells you all you need to know about being a Bethune & Son gentleman.