Unsolicited Thoughts for the Young Men of New York

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.

Comments on “Unsolicited Thoughts for the Young Men of New York

    Michael Williams on January 4, 2016 2:18 PM:

    I wanted to add one of my own, which was sort of touched on above: Pay to get into the museum. It’s often easy to get in for free under the guise of student discount of something else, but it is important to support the things you love and enjoy or they might not exist.

    Mr Brown on January 4, 2016 2:25 PM:

    There is no need to build a library. Read books. The library will follow.

    mattdougandesign on January 4, 2016 2:32 PM:

    Sure, these are some good points for young men of new York, I might even try some out here in the boonies of Arizona, most probably not. One of my personal thoughts is simple…. ” just be yourself ” the rest will happen.

    Doug Fisher on January 4, 2016 2:42 PM:

    “Unless you’re hiking at altitude, don’t wear a backpack in public.” I’m rolling my eyes so hard I can see the back of my head

    brohammas on January 4, 2016 3:56 PM:

    Also, go somewhere out West for a week (Grand Tetons, Havasupai, etc.)and don’t make any audible comparisons or mention New York out loud. Don’t move out west, but visit.
    Perspective is healthy.

    Michael Williams on January 4, 2016 3:58 PM:

    From time to time there are typos and copy errors in posts on ACL. Deal with it.

    Touche on January 4, 2016 4:31 PM:

    Very pretentious. Step out of your box.

    Peter Schmader on January 4, 2016 5:32 PM:

    When you pass 44th and Madison, send a little prayer of gratitude into the air—toward the downtown side of the street, the Press doorway. Send it to Peter Rossetti and Felix Samelson. It’s always a good move to say thanks.

    iamborticus on January 4, 2016 5:58 PM:

    Useful guiding principles for men of all ages everywhere really. Number six in particular. ;-)

    Sam Parrish on January 4, 2016 6:03 PM:

    Is it an indicator of my personality that I’ve either never done half of these and have always done the other.

    Sean U on January 4, 2016 6:09 PM:

    Thanks, David. I really want to like this, it’s so well laid-out, such a nice typeface. But while the list has some good points it mostly waddles along with a fussy prim snobbery that reminds me of an ex from Long Island.

    Still, I’m honestly happy you have these little bits to live and judge by, we should all be so forthright with ourselves.

    Vincent Delacroix (@OculusRussus) on January 4, 2016 6:10 PM:

    and here I thought 0 instagram posts a day were enough… live and learn!

    Drew on January 4, 2016 6:43 PM:

    I sincerely admire Coggins writing and unique vision. There’s a book in the works, right?

    John on January 4, 2016 8:06 PM:

    Peter Schmader… Love your comment recommending a nod to Peter Rossetti and Felix Samuelson… Two great men that I had the pleasure to know, and privilege to work with in the early 90’s at the 7 E. 44th St J. Press store. Knowing both of those men has made me a better man as I’ve gotten older. They had wisdom, integrity, honor, experience. Peter made my NYC years more enjoyable with his recommendations on places to go, and Felix taught me perspective as he related stories from his days in the Holocaust while showing me the craft of fine tailoring. Thanks for bringing a smile this evening!

    Globalist on January 4, 2016 10:53 PM:

    Stop trying to relive and reinvent the past.
    Find your own icons, style and purpose.
    There’s life beyond Manhattan and Brooklyn – and it’s pretty good. It might just be better than what you’re experiencing now.

    Jeremy Mitchell on January 5, 2016 2:42 AM:

    Might I suggest you do some volunteer work at a local shelter, and step outside your insulated world of fashion, wine, and snobbery.

    Pierre on January 5, 2016 8:49 AM:

    Does this man have a family/children? I think it’s about time when you have turned 40. Maybe a thought for Davis Coggins.

    Brandon on January 5, 2016 10:15 AM:


    Jason Fullmer on January 5, 2016 12:24 PM:

    Use sunscreen.

    Joe on January 5, 2016 1:48 PM:

    This is satire, right?

    Reeves on January 5, 2016 2:18 PM:

    my god this is some pretentious garbage. you horrible fucking snob. something for you to consider — truly wise people never give unsolicited advice.

    W. Jason Griffith (@wjasongriffith) on January 5, 2016 2:22 PM:

    Overall, a great list.
    “Be willing to relocate to parts unknown.” I’ve seen too many refuse to take chances and move to another city/state with career opportunities because of the fear of the unknown.

    Joseph Campbell on January 5, 2016 3:23 PM:

    61. Never scroll down far enough to read the Comments.

    Jeff on January 5, 2016 3:44 PM:

    Manners always matter. Always.

    db on January 5, 2016 4:05 PM:

    how about… “don’t associate with people who take (or write) lists like this seriously.”

    John Carter on January 5, 2016 4:13 PM:

    Gents, Countrymen, Bros: you know you’re a loser when you think statements from rich Atlanta posers (Chris Black) and whoever this Coggins Chappy is qualifies as advice. What an unreadable waste of time. You’re just tourists, you’ll go home to Mommy and Daddy eventually.

    Slim on January 5, 2016 4:30 PM:

    “Maureen Dowd on how the world works.”
    Ha, ha, ha!!!
    Oh, you’re funny.
    That’s a joke, right?
    Please, please tell me that’s a joke.
    Oh, Please tell me you’re kidding.

    Michael Williams on January 5, 2016 4:43 PM:

    When the site got redesigned a lot of people told me to get rid of the comments. If that would have happened we would all have missed out on all of this negative energy.

    Jason A on January 5, 2016 5:31 PM:

    one thing i’ve found helpful is to download the google map and bookmark every good bar, cocktail bar and date worthy restaurant i know. Makes picking a place to grab a drink after a date rather easy.

    C on January 5, 2016 6:30 PM:

    More advice: be able to spot pretentious old men who think their word is the bible just because they’ve managed to not die for forty years. Then promptly ignore them.

    Aswin on January 6, 2016 1:11 AM:

    An essentially pointless list with some stupid, stupid entries. This entire list can also be summed up by saying “watch Mad Men”. The same list that complains about wearing a watch to impress people, instructs you not to drink pink cocktails. Needing external validation much? Bunch of ridiculous soundbites with not much depth in them at best, desperately (and obviously so) trying to project the facade of a gentleman at worst.

    Also, “pay for her cab home”? Are you kidding me? I’ll do that when I can reasonably demand that a woman make me a sandwich. Are you living in the ‘50s?

    You’re like a guy who slicks back his hair, wears a suit and then suddenly thinks he’s a “Classic Gentleman”.

    riciphaust on January 6, 2016 4:35 PM:

    Why do you guys get on her just to bitch and moan? There were some good ideas, others a bit antiquated, but nothing overly pretentious or worthy of such vitriol. So provide some useful advice yourselves rather than prance and jeer.

    Slim on January 6, 2016 4:59 PM:


    Stephen McMurtry on January 6, 2016 5:57 PM:

    The content on ACL focuses on living a lifestyle and projecting an image. I trend more towards streetwear than impeccable tailoring, but I appreciate most of the content.
    This list /is/ super pretentious, though.

    J on January 6, 2016 9:04 PM:

    wonderfully timeless

    Jack on January 6, 2016 10:45 PM:

    If this isn’t a pathetic and ridiculously pathetic, self-chin-wagging regurgitation of GS Elevator by someone who started caring about style at the age of 37, I don’t know what is.

    Guy on January 6, 2016 11:04 PM:

    Felt so much solace in this comment section. A lot of good advice here, a lot of bizarrely haughty ones to match.

    Joelio on January 7, 2016 2:54 AM:

    Mike, buddy, time for a yank on the editorial reins. It ain’t the comments generating the negative energy, it’s the article. This list is 83% horseshit, and it was a tired fantasy gent cliche three years ago. It’s also a tidy example of how NYC just ain’t it anymore. Way out west, we can rock longwings on Tuesday and Air Max 1s on Wednesday. I’ll talk your face off about indian summers, hill slope and tempranillo grapes and then we’ll shotgun bud lights. You should see my ball caps! I have some good ones. Backpacks too. The other day I wore a navy blazer WITH A BACKPACK! Holy shit. I actually own a car with a manual transmission. Take some advice from a long-time admirer and fan of the site – check your content.

    Steve on January 7, 2016 3:43 AM:

    Those who don’t like this list aren’t the kind that really get what this is about. Those who get it like it.

    Michael Williams on January 7, 2016 10:05 AM:

    @joelio This is where you lost me: “we can rock longwings on Tuesday and Air Max 1s on Wednesday”. Been nice knowing you.

    Joelio on January 7, 2016 1:59 PM:

    So Michael you’re telling me that readers with both Nikes and Aldens in the same closet aren’t welcome? That’s unfortunate. I hope the decline of this once-great blog isn’t too steep. Thanks for a few good years.

    Michael Williams on January 7, 2016 2:34 PM:

    Yeah that’s what I am saying. Get a grip. People have been calling the “decline” of ACL for literally 6 years. Thanks for playing.

    Jared Paul Stern on January 7, 2016 3:29 PM:

    I’ll take advice from Mr. Coggins any day.

    Joelio on January 7, 2016 5:55 PM:

    Well then, pardon my presumption. l wish you continued success as a premier purveyor of stale elitist twattery.

    Michael Williams on January 7, 2016 6:07 PM:

    @joelio Best of luck shotgunning beers.

    Tim on January 7, 2016 11:12 PM:

    @joelio… I suspect Mr. Williams considers Air Max 1’s tres gauche, custom Horween leather New Balance 990’s are the only acceptable footwear for Wednesday. Just a theory though, eould have to consult a tailor to corroborate what is appropriate for that day of the week.

    Zach on January 8, 2016 10:50 AM:

    Great list. After graduating from college in New England, most of my friends now live in NYC – I’ve passed this along to them!

    To all the people having such issues with the list, notice how most of the advice was centered around maturity, developing passions, and being a well-rounded, better person. We should obviously focusing on that spirit of this list, not disagreements over sneakers. Plus, I think if guys in NYC followed 59/60 of this list but still wore sneakers, NYC would be a better place.

    As someone who has worked as a bartender, number 14 is key! Treating staff like real people makes a huge difference to everyone.

    Fairly new reader here, glad I came onboard.

    anon on January 8, 2016 11:24 AM:

    Does Coggins wear a pith hat when he travels? He’s going for that Victorian, fake Wes Anderson character vibe right? Ridiculous. Unspoken but implied rules also appear to include being born into so much money you never need to work and can have an opinion on the style of your pajamas.

    ACL, didn’t you get popular touting thermoses, or lunch pales or something? I used to absolutely be obsessed with this site and the stuff you did. It’s obvious you’ve experienced a tremendous amount of success, now you appear to be a millionaire, and the focus of the site has noticeably shifted to luxury travel, expensive watches, and more wealthy fare. Very non- Cleveland things, BTW. Change happens, I get it, but the new ACL stuff is so diametrically opposed to the original content (workwear, Americana, etc.) that I think you get blowback like this comment section. I applaud your success but still miss the “old” ACL. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Pedro Pablo Aguilar (@PPAguilarE) on January 8, 2016 1:52 PM:

    #51 Write a list that displays the immense privilege you’ve had for decades and your current lack of perspective. So many of these are unaffordable and wildly out of touch. My favorite: “Have them send you a mixed case with tasting notes on what they’ve chosen. It’s as good an education as there is.” No, it isn’t.

    Michael Williams on January 8, 2016 4:31 PM:

    @anon I think I have always valued the high and the low together. I don’t think that has changed. I appreciate your comment though. Things evolve and there’s still probably more Cleveland here than anyone really needs.

    Michael Williams on January 8, 2016 4:33 PM:

    @Tim 998s thank you very much.

    Tim on January 9, 2016 1:44 AM:

    “Signals”: The majority of the comments fall into the category of critical of rather than supportive of, maybe the majority are off base, maybe they are not.

    ABB on January 9, 2016 3:23 PM:

    Definitely. we all here appreciate fashion and material goods, otherwise we wouldn’t come. Yet for most of us, even this list is pretty disgusting. The responses to joelio’s opinion and lack of insight to see tim’s comment as satire are also repulsively out of touch with much of the people and culture whose “look” you appropriate, celebrate and price jack. “Best of luck shotgunning beers?” Doesn’t the rich Harvard asshole in Good Will Hunting say that? Time to take a step back.

    As said by others. I used to be a fan, but I won’t be back to see the quippy response about how little you care.

    Tra Ajnin on January 9, 2016 5:33 PM:

    The pretentiousness, misogyny,and try-hardness is very strong here.

    Michael Williams on January 9, 2016 8:37 PM:

    @ABB Is it disgusting really? Even if there were just one thing here that made you think twice or consider something differently — even if it made you do the opposite of what Coggins is suggesting — isn’t that worthy of some space on the internet? If you don’t think so, then just skip it or skip the site all together. I get it though. This list sort of makes everyone think Coggins is on another planet, but it’s still interesting to me. And I think after 8 years of this site it’s good to get people worked up occasionally. But if you don’t like it, and don’t want to read it, then don’t.

    hiigsf on January 10, 2016 12:40 PM:

    Best thing about this list are the comments. People react as if these suggestions are law by tomorrow. I also like how Michael is just having a good time. Keep up the good work guys.

    Matt on January 11, 2016 1:47 PM:

    This comment section is violating my safe space.

    Matt on January 11, 2016 10:43 PM:

    The Coggins list has usurped the Smythson notebook.

    Bill L on January 12, 2016 1:09 PM:

    Seems like the themes of the list are (1) dress as well as you can afford, (2) work at acquiring some taste and (3) when becoming a man, put the ways of childhood behind. While I don’t agree with some of the things on the list, overall it’s good advice.

    Marcus on January 12, 2016 2:14 PM:

    In my mind, I read this article in the voice of Frasier Crane and found it all quite enjoyable.

    AJ on January 13, 2016 11:41 AM:

    I used to read ACL more often. I’ve had it bookmarked for about 7 years, but I don’t visit regularly these days. I guess it might be time for me to let it go.

    A couple of items on Mr. Coggins’ list I can’t argue with, sure. But I feel a bit embarrassed by this post, especially as a New Yorker. It strikes me as vulgar.

    James on January 13, 2016 12:28 PM:

    Looks like a lot of silly rules for an already up-tight, hipster A-holes.

    mattdougandesign on January 13, 2016 6:42 PM:

    Love the Comedic replies here, very entertaining, keep them coming!

    Matt on January 13, 2016 7:00 PM:

    @Marcus, my god I think you’re onto something here. The real question is would Frasier have an instagram account?

    Natas on January 15, 2016 10:34 PM:

    @joelio is making the most sense. Dress and do what you like and what makes you feel good, not what impresses other people.

    CDW7 on January 16, 2016 5:56 PM:

    I just turned 40, and I have a totally different take on life. Im a fan, but disagree with a lot. Not my website, but here is my input (love the comment section.)
    Live your life to the fullest. Travel as much as you can. Move to new cities and take the time to learn the differences. Learn as much as you can. The only one who is keeping score is you.
    My biggest regret in life at this point, is that I limited myself based on what I thought others would think. Develop your own style and own it, just like Mr Williams has done.

    Monty on January 17, 2016 4:11 PM:

    Whenever you travel outside New York, shut up about New York.
    The Other 99.9% of the Country

    Jeff on January 18, 2016 5:29 PM:

    I really enjoyed the list, food for thought. For those with disagreements, just consider the viewpoints of the author and consider what might benefit you. If you find no benefit, disregard. We’re all trying to impose our own framework on the world, but that framework needs to grow and bend or it gets stale. The list is New York-centric because that’s the author’s framework, not because he’s against a western perspective or a rural perspective or a lowbrow perspective.

    JC on January 21, 2016 9:02 PM:

    The list is a bit derivative, maybe even occasionally pretentious, but I read it to the end because it had a pretty clear theme: you should probably try to dress a little better and develop varied interest. I also took it all with the grain of salt with which I would take any unsolited advice.

    Having said that, I’ll add one of my own (since seeing what others might add is what led me to the comments in the first place).

    Learn how to handle unsolicited advice. If you don’t appreciate this piece of advice, by all means ignore it. There is no need to comment.

    Vinny on January 28, 2016 12:09 AM:

    if I came from a priveleged background like Coggins, maybe I could judge people on their watch and backpack. This dude needs to expand his horizons a bit…outside of visiting India when he was 25. Worst thing I’ve ever read, but thankful I read it.

Comments are closed.