Certain things were intrinsically worse back in the old days. Pneumonia killed you. Racial, gender, and sexual orientation-based discrimination were institutional. Wars decimated entire generations. And yet… the sepia-toned haze of nostalgia makes it easy to romanticize the past.
Life wasn’t “disposable” way back when. People were involved in their communities, but they also valued self-reliance. Manual labor was honorable and not looked down upon. Fears of “job security” didn’t stop anyone from chasing the horizon and pushing toward the frontier. Men knew how to dress, shave and make a mean cocktail.
Here are a few things we could all stand to learn from grandpa:
He Got Barbershop Shaves and Haircuts
A well-groomed man is ready to take the world by storm. Heading down to the your local barber was a weekly ritual for most men of our grandfathers’ generation. Haircuts were mandatory. Shaves were a meditative luxury. The barbershop was more than a transaction in grooming, it was a building block of the community. You trusted the man who took shears to your head and straight razors to your throat. News was imparted. Advice was given. Grievances were heard.
It’s no surprise that the barbershop is starting to make a comeback. Human contact and grooming go hand in hand. Sometimes we need a sympathetic ear and deft hand at the razor. You’ll feel better for it. You can’t get that sort of wisdom from Snapchat.
He Fixed His Own Cars
When was the last time you changed the oil in your car? How fast can you switch out a flat tire? These are things that used to be simple tasks of everyday life. The maintenance of your grandfather’s automobile was a high priority. Its equity was real. Life wasn’t filled with disposable lunches, cars, or phones. These things had to be made and maintained for you and your family. Changing the oil was a task passed down to sons and grandsons as a rite of passage. It was an indicator of real self-reliance and a testament to the wonder of the motorcar. If you wanted to get to work on time or get those kids to school, that car had better be in tip-top.
Today, that mechanical mindset provides us with the ability to sort through solutions to problems. Knowing that you can fix something without help gives you peace of mind and makes you feel self-reliant. We all need a little of that in our lives.
He Knew How To Build Anything
Chances are your granddad had a wood shop that turned out all sorts of awesomeness. Maybe your grandfather was writing sonnets and painting murals. Maybe he was carving totems and assembling bird baths. The point is, he was creative in his free time. That creativity sparked your creativity.
This is such a crucial part of the mind to develop and nurture. Today in a world of blank offices and too-long commutes, our creativity needs an outlet. A creative outlet is part-and-parcel of a full life. Whether you’re hewing a baseball bat from a nice old piece of ash, or painting a mural on the side of a garage, or building a doghouse…the creative life is a fulfilled life.
He Danced Like a Pro
Back in the days before you could sit home and binge watch Netflix for weeks, people actually had to go out and meet people. Dance halls used to be huge. For a little bit of cash you could go out, have a soda pop or two, and dance all night. Your grandfather most likely knew how to dance like a champion. It was just part of life. If you wanted to hook up, you’d better know how to swing. Hell, it was even taught in schools.
We still have the remnants of that in modern school dances. We seemed to have forgotten the whole learn-to-dance-first part. Now we stare at our phones instead of throwing our partners over our heads and twirling them like a boss. That’s a shame — dancing is great way of communicating and it’s great cardio.
He Dressed Like a King
Back in the day, dressing to impress was the mandate. Hand-tailored suit. Nice shirt. Sporting tie. Shined shoes. Saucy handkerchief. How many of us have a sepia-tinted photo of our granddad dressed to the nines floating around our grandma’s picture albums? These snapshots were not just for major family events; they were for day-to-day living.
There’s a lot of appeal to being that dapper man walking down the street. It’s hard to feel insecure when your suit is tailored just right. We’re all for casual attire when the time is right, but rocking a suit every now and then — it’s just cool. The world views you differently when you have those finely hewn lines. Our clothes have always been part of someone’s first impression. No wonder the clothes from that era are seeping back into modern-day fashion.
The Outdoors Were a Gym for Chopping Wood
Gyms used to be a novelty. Why waste money on clunky equipment when you could go outside, cut down a tree, and chop a cord of wood? To our grandfathers, chopping through a whole bunch of Douglas Fir once or twice a week was the perfect work out. It strengthened your core, and worked your arms, legs, and back. It got you outside in the fresh air. It provided fuel for heating and cooking.
Even you city-dwellers can get your chop on, if you’re willing to look. You can even get paid! Restaurants with wood-fired ovens and grills often hire a dedicated wood chopper to keep the fuel flowing. Or just go visit the country and have an afternoon chop. Finish with a bracing swim and a warming fire to cook over. Live like your grandfather a little and get that free workout goin’!
He Embraced Nature
The family camping trip dates back generations. Destination travel for many of our grandfathers was a National Park, or more simply the woods. Packing up the well-kept car with some tents, provisions, and gear then heading out into nature was a necessity. Out there in the elements you were faced with weather, beasts, and life and death decisions. It was exhilarating. Living and breathing nature for awhile before getting back to the grind of everyday life was therapeutic and essential.
These days, camping is just one of a thousand options. The lure of a novelty drink in the relative safety of a theme park is huge. We can make time for both. Getting back to nature is the best way to learn to respect it. Spending time outdoors also allows our brains a much needed reset from the grind of modern city life. Who doesn’t need that?
He Knew How to Mix a Cocktail
Not all of our grandfathers’ endeavors where chopping down trees and changing tires. Chances are he could make a mean Old Fashioned and Dry Martini. Not that long ago, having the skills to make a cocktail was just another part of everyday life, much like dancing. The gentle mixing of spirits and fortified wines into Manhattans or Gibsons was an art of day-to-day necessity. Cocktail lounges were for the city. Cocktail hour was for the end of the day when the kids were asleep.
This is a tradition we fully support bringing back in a big way. A night out drinking cocktails can still break the modern man’s bank. Learning to mix cocktails is an art of patience and precision. It’s also an art that’s a lot of fun to master. Get that home bar up and running!
He Was Brave Enough to Move Around The World For Work
Chances are one or more of your grandparents are not from the same town as you. Our grandfathers (and grandmothers) didn’t let location stand in the way of their progress. They sailed seas to find new lives. If things didn’t work out in New Jersey, they went to Chicago. If Chicago was a bust, they went to North Dakota to farm. If that dried up, they went to Washington to pick apples. If that didn’t work out, they went to Alaska to fish salmon. The point is they had the courage to leave a job and travel to a new place to find a better one. They didn’t stay stuck behind a desk, allowing complaints and boredom to define their lives. They set out on the road and found an existence that they loved. They learned new languages and cultures. They learned new trades and skills.
This may seem like a time too far in the past to be part of our lives. But it’s not. We have the ability to change up our routines if we feel trapped. We too can take the risks our grandfathers took to find a better life. Never stop dreaming. Then make those dreams your reality. Get a shave and talk your dreams over with the barber. He’ll tell you what’s pie-in-sky and what seems real. Get out into nature and work up a sweat. Then get yourself a dope new suit. Make sure your oil’s changed and the gas tank is full, then go and make those dreams a reality.
So, what are you waiting for? Our grandfathers didn’t wait for circumstances to change around them. They changed their circumstances. The next time you’re hanging out with your grandfather, mix him a Manhattan. Then ask him to tell you some stories. You might be surprised what you learn.