Valentine’s Day with Style

It’s coming. It’s the day many sensible people dread and an occasion on which singles are, no matter how occupied and workaholic they may be, made to feel really quite single indeed. Restaurants inflate prices, flowers bulge from the racks at the local shop and chocolates spill from the shelves. It’s a day, in the late winter calm of February, of sudden chaos. A boyish and naïve Cupid, attempting to wrestle with everyday life, throws what should be a normal 24 hour period into chaos.

Offices reek of perfume, red hearts pop up on Google, ‘secret messages’ are sent in an attempt to avoid work, workers leave early to get home for a cosy evening in or prepare themselves for a fabulously expensive night on the town. Unlike Christmas, where there is at least an attempt at a Dickensian feeling of ‘goodwill to all men’, St Valentine’s Day, or V-Day as I ominously name it, is actually quite a selfish and indulgent occasion. People hope, either secretly or blatantly, for missives of adoration, gifts and pecks on the cheek.

Men tell their wives they love them, affect an uncharacteristic generosity and all in hope of looking forward to several rounds of naughtiness later on; women don lacy underwear to feel desired, gorge on chocolate and then ask their husbands if their rump is too liberal in size for their little black dress.

It is a day which must surely involve a fantastic amount of dishonesty, or at the very least gross embellishment, for even the most amorous of couples might be crossing their fingers during delivery of some Valentine’s Day ‘lines’. The reason for such exaggeration is simple. Brutal and uncomfortable honesty is simply not done on V-Day; one should learn the art of game playing and pursue perfection rather than truth, if only for this particular February date. Playing the game coolly is the style man’s choice – it’s the James Bond choice, or the Steve McQueen choice. It should be your choice.

Surprise is one of the most intoxicating emotions and since V-Day can be one of those occasions on which the grass becomes considerably greener on the other side of the fence, keeping your partner on their toes by introducing a little change or two can do wonders for what could be, for long term partners, quite a hum-drum occasion.

If you’re one of those men more inclined to ‘minimalism’; an extra kiss, perhaps a new t-shirt with the jeans at dinner and a ‘Reduced to clear’ single rose then this could be an occasion to push the boat out a little more. Bond never dons t-shirts for dinner and he goes nowhere near discount racks for gifts. At the risk of inviting comments like ‘It’s about the way people feel about each other, not the gifts!’ I must stress that it is important not to look like the winner of the Cheapest Person of the Year competition. Yes it’s a Hallmark swindle, yes it’s hideously commercial, but it’s a chance to show how un-Scrooge like you can be.

It seems like it’s one of those occasions to pay more attention to the object of your affection and, of course, it is – but many men forget about themselves on V-Day; haggard, scruffy and tired, they stumble into the cripplingly expensive Michelin-rated establishment and their faces drop even further when they see the prices and then the missing handbag. Give yourself a bit of time to prepare and if you’re going straight from work, give your face a dashed decent splash and for heavens sake take a change of clothes: there’s nothing more unedifying than the sight of a pair of farty, crumpled trousers wandering off to the toilet.

If you are dining out, don’t layer up too much; think of a twentieth century Byron. This should mean a perfect Clooney-esque white shirt, unbuttoned at the top with a sharp and rather fitted jacket and trouser combination. Add a tie if you wish, but adding a blood red or cream pocket square is decoration enough for this classic look. Even if you are dining at home, put on a clean shirt and a pair of smart trousers; it’s a special occasion, so enjoy it.

If you’re planning on spoiling your object of lust or devotion, avoid the stampede for the plain old red rose. They are pleasant, but they are surely one of the candidates for a pictorial insertion under the dictionary definition of ‘hackneyed’; go for lilies or orchids. Chocolates are best served with a nod to quality rather than quantity; a man in possession of a style nous shouldn’t be purchasing a massive ‘bumper value’ box of vegetable fat-stuffed supermarket tat. Choose a smaller but more select amount from good chocolatiers such as Godiva or Leonidas.

The style man should also remember never to overdo it; purchasing gigantic teddy bears will never cross his mind, nor will parting with cash for anything heart-shaped and for goodness sake, never ask ‘What would you like for Valentine’s Day?’ Surprise them with your remarkable self-assurance and purchase a fragrance they haven’t tried for spring; keep it fruity and fresh. You never know but, for the night, they might just think you’re Cary Grant.