Guys, by the time you are a 12- or 13-year-old, there is really no excuse not to know how to set a table. As I remarked here in a recent post, sitting down to a meal, any meal, should be a pleasant event that features at least a veneer of refinement. Even if you are dining alone. As such, meals should involve more than a plastic cup with some team emblem on it, a spork, and a castoff microwavable plate left over from some frozen entree consumed long ago.
The photo above shows what a basic place setting should look like. Notice that everything is lined up nicely and centered on the plate rather than cast willy-nilly and vaguely in the direction of the place-setting. Or, worse, everything is rolled in the napkin and tossed on the bare table. . . like you find in many (most) eating establishments these days where often enough the waitstaff have no idea how to lay even a basic place-setting.
For the record, it is equally acceptable to fold and place the napkin beneath the forks, or (less formally) have the napkin rolled in a napkin ring and placed just to the left of the forks. I typically set our places (now assisted many evenings by the Young Master) much like this although I place the napkin beneath the forks rather than on the plate. Lately, we've also been using some very nice and understated pewter napkin rings that the Grand Duchess gave me one Christmas about ten years ago. It is always a nice idea to have a clean cream, offwhite, or white tablecloth and cloth napkins on the table. . . perhaps with placemats for those less formal times.
And when you want to go all out for those special holiday, birthday, or celebratory dinners at home, the photograph below shows you what a more formal place-setting should look like. Take note:
Remember, style is about much, much more than just your clothes, shoes, and hair. As I have said so often here before at Classic Style for the Average Guy, we can make the case that it is intangible things like considerate behavior, polite conduct, and polished manners -- all very similar and mutually reinforcing things really -- as well as a general level of sophistication and awareness that determine how stylish a man actually is. . . rather than whether, or not his sports jackets and suit coats are the current trendy ultrashort length with skimpy lapels and a (too) tight fit.
In any case, try to be neat and tidy when dining, keep your elbows off the table, don't hold your silverware like a garden trowel, and chew with your mouth closed. While occasional drips and small spills might happen, don't leave the table (or the area just below your chair) looking like a garbage dump by the end of a meal. If you've been to any U.S. casual dining chains like Applebee's, The International House of Pancakes, Denny's, Perkins, or The Olive Garden lately and looked around you at the other patrons and how they leave their tables, you'll know what I mean. Conduct yourself like a gentleman with some grooming and sophistication, please, whether chowing down around the dining table at home, or more publicly in a restaurant.
May 02, 2015
It might seem funny and, indeed, superfluous to include a piece about setting the table on a style blog, right? Well, we take a broad approach to men's style here at Classic Style for the Average Guy. It ain't just about the clothes and shoes, guys. Style, with a capital 'S' is about much more than external appearance and includes how we conduct ourselves in a wide variety of ways. That includes knowing something about how to set a table and how to behave at the table during meals. Too many people in 2015, for many reasons, have no clue about this, and, sorry to say, that is a problem.
Lack of knowledge about even basic standards of acceptable appearance and etiquette are limiting factors since polished social skills like these tend to open doors to opportunity that might otherwise never appear. Conversely, a habitual lack of basic social skills can and will close a lot of doors whether, or not people choose to recognize and admit that to themselves. Value judgement alert! Ready? There are apparently lots of people with their heads in the sand about this point in 2015. Don't like that? You can give the order to fire after you've lined me up against the wall when the revolution comes. Small 'r' intentional.
At the very least, a modicum of sophistication and grooming make us more pleasant company for others to be around, and that is a large part of what social skills -- knowing how to present yourself appropriately in all senses -- are really about. It is about showing consideration for others. At home, in the workplace, and in the public sphere. It's not about us as individuals. Once again, that is a point people either understand, see the need for, and think rationally about the issue. . . Or they don't, experience a knee-jerk reaction of righteous indignation, and continue to pretend that people can simply look and act any old way they want, and there will be no consequences for it. Um, yeah.