It’s the New Year, time to look back and look forward. Having recently turned 40 I felt a surge of wisdom (not necessarily earned), and thought it the right time to set down some advice for the kids out there. I look forward to crossing paths with the enlightened twenty-somethings of New York—as long as they’re not wearing sneakers.
1/ The sooner you’re comfortable dressing up the better.
2/ If your friends aren’t surprised by one of your interests then you’re too predictable.
3/ If you’re not already, become friends with a painter.
4/ Know enough about wine that you’re comfortable speaking to a sommelier.
5/ If you can’t drive a stick shift you’ll regret it at the most inopportune time.
6/ Don’t frequent strip clubs, but be prepared to visit them at the right time.
7/ If you’re not reading Anthony Lane you’re missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.
8/ If you’re useful in the kitchen it will pay off regularly.
9/ Pay for her cab home.
10/ Don’t be afraid of subtitles: Be familiar with The Conformist, Ran, Le Mepris and Amarcord.
11/ That’s not a baseball hat is it?
12/ The best articles in the New York Times are in the Business Section. Also: Michael Powell on sports, Eric Asimov on wine, Pete Wells on food, Maureen Dowd on how the world works.
13/ Never wear a sporting uniform in public.
14/ If you like a bar or restaurant learn as many people’s names there as you can.
15/ If you can afford a cleaning lady hire one.
16/ Women will judge your sheets, towels and furniture. And rightly so.
17/ Don’t eat meat for two weeks.
18/ Nobody is your bro.
19/ If there’s a line outside and you’re not confident, think twice.
20/ Become a member of the Frick Collection and the Morgan Library.
21/ Have breakfast with a friend once a week.
22/ You already know you should look at your phone less.
23/ You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from Jane Austen, Henry James, Tolstoy and Melville.
24/ Try not buy anything that advertises on television.
25/ Go to India before you’re twenty five.
26/ Unless you’re hiking at altitude, don’t wear a backpack in public.
27/ Tip bartenders in cash.
28/ Seek the advice of a man who works in a good men’s store, even if you can’t afford to shop there. They’ll be more helpful than you realize.
29/ No pink cocktails.
30/ Ask your grandfather what his life was like 50 years ago, and don’t interrupt him.
31/ If your watch impresses people then you’re impressing the wrong people.
32/ You don’t visit your local greenmarket?
33/ If you don’t cook then Mark Bittman’s Minimalist recipes are a great place to start. (They’re all online.)
34/ You’ll never regret being a regular.
35/ Have a pet cause and donate to it, even if it’s only $25 a year.
36/ Not white or black socks in public, unless you’re playing tennis or attending a funeral.
37/ If your cocktail arrives with a straw in it you may have made a mistake.
38/ Go to the Mercury Lounge once a year, even if you don’t know the band. Same for the Metropolitan Opera (there are cheap tickets)—start with Puccini of Mozart if you’re not sure.
39/ Know a good place to drink 15 minutes from wherever you are.
40/ Have a calling card you’re proud of, your name and number are enough.
41/ No woman will ever be impressed by your sneakers. And she will be correct.
42/ Get to know Chuck Klosterman and Jason Gay.
43/ Peter Luger’s is great for lunch. So is the 21 Club. Wear your best and act like you belong. Everybody was a rookie at one point.
44/ Have a friend who’s twenty years older than you.
45/ If you’re grateful for the education you received then give money to that school. If you’re not, then give money to an educational cause you support.
46/ You don’t write thank you notes?
47/ Bring a bottle to every party—and not cheap wine from the nearest store. If you’re not confident choosing the wine then bring cold champagne.
48/ Get familiar with a liquor store staff. That means Chamber Street Wines, Appellation Wines, Thirst Wine Merchants or Astor Place Wines, among others. Have them send you a mixed case with tasting notes on what they’ve chosen. It’s as good an education as there is.
49/ Film Forum is one of New York’s great resources. Become a member and don’t be afraid of seeing anything they show.
50/ If you want to bet on sports then do so, but avoid fantasy football if possible. It messes with your allegiances.
51/ Always watch the State of the Union, regardless of your politics.
52/ You don’t know anything about the Civil War?
53/ Start building your library now.
54/ Two posts a day on Instagram are enough.
55/ At some point you can break just about any rule of dressing, but square-toed shoes are never right.
56/ Research tailors in your area and aspire to visit the one that’s right for you. Start with a versatile sport coat if you can’t afford a suit. And take their advice, this is their livelihood.
57/ When in doubt wear straightforward, classic clothes. Don’t try to reinvent anything. If Fred Astaire wouldn’t recognize it then be wary. You don’t want to look like a Bond villain or a Russian military attaché.
58/ Don’t bet on college basketball based on anything Charles Barkley says. Or pro basketball, for that matter.
59/ A martini is made with gin, stirred, and served very cold with a twist of lemon. Start there before experimenting.
60/ Don’t rent clothes.