10 things every man should master

We're going back to bloke-basics with our list of 10 essential skills for being the kind of old-school MAN your granddad would be proud of. (Don't worry, smoking a pipe and being casually racist aren't among them.)

10 things every man should master

Campfire building

First thing's first: don't start a forest fire. Find a patch at least 10 or 15 feet away from trees and shrubbery. Bare earth is what you want, so scrape the ground if you have to. Then you need tinder – ie, stuff that burns really quickly. Tiny dry twigs, bits of bark and dry grass all work well. Gather a large clump, and then lay kindling around it in a teepee shape. Kindling can be slightly longer twigs and branches.

If the twigs are wet, whittle 'em down with a pen-knife until you get to the dry core. Then lay on the fuel wood – not giant logs which will take an age to catch fire, but branches about as wide as your wrist will do the trick. Remember to leave a gap in your teepee so the wind can get to it and provide the fire with precious oxygen. Then, light a match and bask in the aura of your own primal manliness.


You're on a date with the woman of your dreams. Don't ruin it by being clumsy with that all-important first snog. Before you lean in, be sure the mood's right. A quiet bar or classy restaurant may exude romance, but it's not actually the best place to lock lips. A noisier, more crowded environment will naturally get the adrenaline pumping in both of you, upping the arousal without you even realising it. It also means you have to talk in her ear, which means brushing cheeks together and priming you both for the first kiss.

When the kiss is actually happening, don't start slobbering like a happy dog. According to at least one study, women tend to like big wet kisses less than men do, at least to begin with. So take it slow, using your lips far more than your tongue, and bring a hand slowly up to touch her neck and face to generate maximum tingles.

Cooking a steak

Want to cook a steak like a boss? Follow the advice of Nathan Myhrvold. He's a billionaire tech genius who published a 2,400 page cookbook on molecular gastronomy, and is basically Bill Gates meets Heston Blumenthal. So he knows a thing or two about cooking steak.

First, get a really good, thick chunk of cow. Stick it in the freezer for around an hour. Just do it. Then heat a frying pan till it's scorchingly hot and sear the frozen steak on both sides for a few minutes, till they're nicely coloured. Then put the steak in an oven preheated to around 70 degrees C. Leave in there until the steak reaches a core temp of 55 degrees. You'll need a meat thermometer, but your reward will be the ultimate melt-in-the-mouth steak that'll make you feel like a king among men.

Shaking hands

Shaking hands properly is a lost art these days. Do it properly, with manly intent. This means getting up. Shaking hands while staying seated shows disrespect and laziness on your part. Give them a smile – a real smile, one you can feel in your eyes. Speaking of which, maintain firm eye contact for the duration of the handshake. It makes you look like you WANT to shake their hand, which is essential for making a good first impression.

Keep your palm perfectly flat and pointed in their direction. Cupped, bent fingers are wrong. Remember to rub your palm discreetly on the side of your trousers if you're anticipating a handshake and you might be a bit clammy. A clammy handshake will make everyone hate you a little. Remember that.

Choosing wine

You don't have to be a wine bore, but neither should you stare at a restaurant wine list like it's written in Ancient Norse. Just keep a few basic things in mind. If you're having a light, simple fish or shellfish dish, go with a Sauvignon Blanc because its crisp, lemony zing makes it a good match. For heavier, creamier dishes with fish or chicken, go for an oaked Chardonnay which can cope with the big flavours.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are gutsy reds which go very well with roasted red meats and stews, while a lighter Pinot Noir goes well with meat dishes which are a little lighter, like steak and fries. If you're having Chinese or Thai food, try a Riesling or Gewürztraminer – their spicy sweetness are a good match for the grub.


It's the mark of a crude and feckless man-boy not to be able to argue your point properly. The essential thing is to always keep cool, marshal the facts and don't let your temper cloud your judgement. Being polite and courteous will keep you in a stronger position – let your opponent look desperate.

Avoid the "ad hominem" attack. That means bringing in an irrelevant personal detail about someone to discredit them – eg: "What do you know about marketing our brand on Twitter? You're always late to work in the morning!" It looks desperate and will weaken your argument. That said, don't be afraid to shamelessly point out exceptions to the rule to strengthen your argument (eg, bring up the time you were last right, even if you've been wrong several times since), and feel free to conflate correlation with causation. In other words, make false connections to damage your rival – eg, "Since you joined the team we haven't hit our targets". Hey, this isn't the time to place nice.

Buying a lady underwear

OK, this can be hard, even if it's your girlfriend or wife of many years. But it's do-able if you keep a few things in mind. First, she's not a porn star and you should steer well clear of super-raunchy undies with bits of fabric missing in crucial places. Keep things in line with her general taste.

If she overwhelmingly wears fairly simple, no-frills stuff, don't suddenly gift her with something too flamboyant or OTT. Creams and blacks are good colours to go for – red can be tacky. Make sure the bra matches the knickers or it'll look like you just went for the two cheapest. Don't check her measurements by looking in her lingerie drawer, as there could be all sorts of sizes in there. Instead, sneak a peek at the laundry basket to see what she wears day in, day out. Just don't let her catch you, as that may be a bit embarrassing.

Making a martini

The martini is the cornerstone of cocktails and every man of the world should know how to make one. First, chill the martini glass by filling it with ice and cold water. Then, cram a load of ice into a cocktail shaker and add two shots of gin. Yes, gin. Vodka martinis are NOT real martinis, and nothing anyone says can change that fact.

Add a healthy dash of white vermouth. It's been fashionable in recent years to add a merest droplet, or just rinse the ice out with vermouth first, but we think a martini should be more than just a glass of gin. So don't be afraid of vermouth. Then, stick in a long cocktail spoon (or butter knife if you're improvising) and STIR. Do not shake – it'll over-dilute the drink and make it cloudy. Then pour into the glass with a sliver of lemon peel and sip with cool sophistication.

Looking good

While we're not expected to go around in suits and bowler hats anymore, blokes look far too slobby and slovenly these days. Shoes matter more than you think, especially when it comes to impressing women. They WILL check out your shoes within about two seconds of meeting you. So whether you prefer trainers, brogues or whatever, make sure they're in good condition and clean.

Oversized clothing is another major faux pas. Nothing says "lame" like a baggy suit, flappy jeans, or a shirt that billows out. Make sure your belt colour matches your shoes, and if you are going smart with the whole shirt and tie look, wear a shirt that requires cufflinks. It instantly ups your style level by 50%.

Tie a bow tie

Look, you'll probably only wear a bow tie twice in your entire life. But learn how to do one up. An elasticated bow tie will make you feel like a child, and you can't leave it undone around your neck in that dashing, Clooney-like way. There's this thing called Google: use it to master the bow tie, and your manliness will never be in dispute.