"A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” — George Bernard Shaw
Although a “gentleman” is an ideal that we should strive for, there is by no means a singular mold into which each man can—or should attempt—to fit himself. It is for each of us to find our own path. However, one of the ways in which we can do this is by examining the path taken by others, those with a strong sense of self who may inspire us to pursue self-betterment. With that in mind, we feel it is important to confer with men whom we believe demonstrate the traits of the modern gentleman and, through our conversations, explore just what that ideal entails.
President of Sales, March + Held, Co.
For our inaugural interview, we elected to feature a budding entrepreneur who co-founded a company dedicated to producing all-American-made clothing through a process called Soil to Sale.TM This model, which creates a wholly domestic supply chain, keeps the product in American hands from the moment the cotton is planted to the final aspects of tailoring. Christopher Held, President of Sales at March + Held Co. in New York City, approaches his work and relationships with an unassuming sense of propriety, earnestness, and geniality. We are grateful to have been able to chat with Chris to gain his perspective on what it means to be a gentleman and to learn more about his company.
WIAG: What is your definition of a gentleman?
CHRIS: A gentleman is considerate and compassionate, acts with confidence, and always exercises sound judgment. His moral standards cease to falter in even the most difficult situations. A gentleman inspires respect by example and encourages others to be better without patronizing.
Which gentlemanly traits do you consider “non-negotiable?”
A gentleman must be courteous, honest, and forthright. He should be a good listener and generous, particularly with his time, and he should always strive to improve himself mentally and physically.
Being a good listener is a particularly noteworthy quality, one that is often overlooked by men yet expected of them by women. Is there someone in your life who is emblematic of this trait?
My father, Steve Held. He is my male role model. He is everything a gentleman should be.
My father has an unwavering calm about him that can help one get through life’s challenges. He puts people ahead of himself by being an avid listener and a generous conversationalist. He has a passion for knowledge, self-improvement, and he cares about his community.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved?
Relaxed. I am most comfortable in a button-down shirt and jeans. I have a few suits but I am mostly looking for clothing that I can wear from work to almost any occasion: a happy hour, a show, or a night out on the town. I have recently grown a beard and have tried to maintain it at a decent length, which adds a certain ruggedness to my overall look that I did not have when I was clean-cut in college.
As I approach the end of my first year in the fashion industry, I see my style evolving to the pace that I am learning about how garments are made, what fabrics are used in the process, and what patterns and unique qualities are found on different apparels. The more I learn, the more I am able to appreciate the time and effort that goes into the production of a single piece of clothing. That appreciation manifests itself into whatever I’m wearing that day, preferably an M+H Co. shirt.
Tell us more about your company, M+H Co. What inspired you to create an all American-made dress shirt?
Our company makes American-made button-down shirts from only American-made goods through a process we call Soil to SaleTM. This process—from the seed of the cotton to the assembly of the shirts—is completed domestically. We felt that the ethics of overseas garment manufacturing would be difficult to monitor, specifically, the working conditions of the people who would make our products. We are also trying to bring back high quality garment manufacturing to the United States because we care about Americans and their livelihoods. We believe in prosperity before profit and dignity within our supply chains. We want to give people real opportunities by helping to bring jobs back to the United States.
Throughout the process of searching and purchasing domestic goods for our dress shirts, we have met many people who worked in the garment industry while it was being moved abroad. Their dedication and hope for renewal is giving us further energy to continue to try to bring this type of production back home.
In a recent blog post on your website, you said the “American Dream” is under fire. How so?
We believe that the traditional definition of the “American Dream” is in danger; that is, the longstanding notion that if you work hard in the same job for a number of years, then you have a chance to own a home and climb the social and economic ladders. Most of this is not possible for many Americans in 2014. We hope to reexamine the definition and help to determine what our collective dream should look like, not only to Americans but people around the world who aspire to the traditional notion of the “American Dream.”
As a nation, we should come together and establish a set of values that enriches our idea of the traditional “American Dream.” I believe those values are inspiration, creativity, and innovation in all aspects of American society. These values depend on integrity, fairness, and transparency.
The “American Dream” should be about trying to make our country a better place. The question is: what can I do to help? At M+H Co., we are starting with our shirts. We want to inspire people to apply these values in all aspects of their life and help make the “American Dream” something attainable again.
Please visit www.marchandheld.com to learn more about the company and where to buy your first 100% American-made button-down.