Our family, through a stroke of debatable fortune (and obsessive rooting through the abandoned stacks at a library book sale), has come into possession of a 1942 edition of Emily Post’s “Blue Book” of Etiquette, which is not to be confused with the Kelly Blue Book of Automobiles, lest one finds oneself brought before a UN Tribunal for attempting to traffic a low mileage butler. But having made that clarification, it must be acknowledged that Mrs. Post’s opus would benefit from some modernization, if for no better reason than uttering “etiquette” in the local GAP would likely result in the clerk telling you they don’t carry that brand. To that end, and in the spirit of public service, we will be taking it upon ourselves to update Mrs. Post’s text insofar as is possible – because how else is one going to learn the proper method of dressing one’s butler? For that matter, how else is one going to learn that butlers can’t be trusted to dress themselves?
Or shave, apparently. Mrs. Post introduces the subject by admonishing us, “The ‘mansion’ of bastard architecture and crude detail, with its brass indifferently clean […] and the bell answered at eleven in the morning by a butler in an ill-fitting dress suit and wearing a mustache, might as well be placarded: ‘Here lives a vulgarian who has never had an opportunity to approach the outermost edges of cultivation.’” This leads, of course, to our first quandary. Specifically, is “vulgarian” a racial or religious designation? Because if it’s the former, I’m no longer checking “Caucasian” come census time.
Regardless, to ensure all sides of this rather hairy debate are equally represented, here is a group of vulgarians (born and raised in the remote Eastern European nation of Vulgaria) that take issue with Mrs. Post’s stance on mustachioed butlers. In song. (Fair warning: the video contains language slightly saltier than one might hear on My Little Pony, though given how things are progressing, I figure we’re due for an episode where Applejack drops the F-bomb any day now.)
In an effort to further refine your otherwise hopeless butler, Mrs. Post helpfully provides an entire how-to section on…
Dressing the Butler
First of all, if the butler cannot dress himself, my personal opinion is that perhaps he had best seek another occupation – something a bit less strenuous and that may allow for the wearing of a protective helmet without the onerous demands of operating heavy machinery. But for the lady of the house, who pines for the loss of her Ken doll and insists upon dressing her own butler, how should he be clad? Mrs. Post offers these easy to remember rules:
1: “The butler never wears the livery of a footman and on no account knee breeches.”
Little known fact: The absolute prohibition against knee breeches constitutes the reason 80% of men refuse the butlering profession.
2: “In the early morning he wears an ordinary sack suit.”
The sack suit can be easily constructed at home with a thirty-gallon Hefty garbage sack and a pair of scissors. If your butler is singularly tall, it may require two garbage sacks, lest one inadvertently violate Post’s first law of robotics. Ideally, one should strive to avoid employing particularly leggy servants or have them walk on their knees if such cannot be avoided. Still, an attentive lady of the house should do her best not to employ servants exceeding four feet in height.
3: “In fashionable houses the butler does not put on his dress suit until six o’clock.”
Also, do not feed the butler after midnight. Do not get him wet.
4: “And it is unnecessary to add that none but vulgarians would employ a butler (or any other house servant) who wears a mustache! To have him open the door collarless and in shirt-sleeves is scarcely worse!”
Yet if the butler insists upon answering the door collarless and wearing only shirt-sleeves, it may be advisable for him also to wear a mustache to distract guests from the impropriety of his pantlessness.
On the other end of the spectrum…
Got it? Good. Next time, we’ll discuss footmen, which should not be confused with Foot Soldiers.
Which is too bad, because Foot Soldiers in an Emily Post etiquette book would be totally awesome.