The Emily Post Blue Book of Etiquette, circa 1942: a tome from a time when the men wore dinner jackets, the women ruled the table with an iron fork, and having one’s butler put to death for sporting a mustache was not only permissible but fashionable. Though, on that note and in a rare moment of oversight from Mrs. Post, there appears to be no guidance offered for mustachioed plumbers.
Regardless, our purpose today is not to deduce how Lady Post would have us subtly convey to a member of the pipe fitting profession that our commode needs attention for reasons we are not particularly proud to relate. No, today our discussion relates to our footman – our footman who apparently has a drinking problem, as there seems much concern over the state of his liver.
Let us begin, for clarity, with a picture of a footman:
“All house servants who assist in waiting on the table come under the direction of the butler, and are known as footmen. One who never comes into the dining-room is known as a useful man.”
The useful man, of course, is not to be confused with the useless man, who is more commonly referred to as “the husband.” That distinction aside, the above quote is the primary reason one should never disrespect their butler. If our picture of a footman is to be believed, he has an army at his disposal.
“The duties of the footman (and useful man) include [insert extensive laundry list of tedious household duties ad nauseum] writing down messages, and – incessantly and ceaselessly – cleaning and polishing silver. In a small house the butler polishes silver, but in a very big house one of the footmen is silver specialist and does nothing else. Nothing!”
In 2012, the American Medical Association reported that silver specialists had the highest rate of suicide by profession for the fifth consecutive year.*
*Completely made up fact.
“In houses of great ceremony […] there are always two footmen at the door if anyone is to be admitted: one to open the door and the other to conduct a guest into the drawing-room.”
In houses of really great ceremony, there are always three footmen at the door if anyone is to be admitted: one to open the door, one to conduct a guest into the drawing room, and one to call as the rider approaches, “One if by land! Two if by sea!”
It should also be noted that, should any individual admitted be a spy for the Red Coats, the footman will conduct them to the drawing room at sword point. However, a wise footman always refrains from beheading traitors without first checking with the butler, and then only after conducting the guest to a room where the blood stain will not be noticeable.
The Footman’s Livery
“People who have big houses usually choose a color for their livery and never change it.”
I don’t know about those who live in big houses, but I personally prefer that my livery remain red. And internal.
“Maroon and buff, for instance are the colors of the Gildings; all their motor cars are maroon with buff lines and cream-colored or maroon linings. The chauffeurs and outside footmen wear maroon liveries.”
Well, thank all that is holy that the chauffeurs and outside footmen don’t have to go buff like the cars. Or, apparently, the house footman:
“A house footman wears this same livery no matter what hour of the day, except of course when he is actually engaged in doing his work, at which time he wears an apron and shirt sleeves and does not appear in the front part of the house.”
If the house footman is merely wearing an apron and shirt sleeves when engaged in his work, it is no wonder that he is not allowed to appear in the front part of the house.
“The number of buttons on the tails of the coats is a question of the host’s personal idea of smartness.”
So…what are we proposing here? A button per IQ point? I mean, I suppose I could get behind that, but if any of the staff ever joins Mensa, it’s going to take them twenty or thirty minutes to get their coat on or off, which might have an adverse effect on both their productivity and on their ability to do whatever it is footmen do while buck naked in the backyard.
“The ‘court’ coat with frogs and lace cravat and epaulettes and white stockings, etc., has gone completely out of style.”
Because cleaning up the frog remnants after galas was just gross. And the white stockings weren’t terribly white after such events, necessitating the purchase of a great many new white stockings and an overall lack of economy in maintaining such a style long term.
“To choose servants who are naturally well-groomed is more important than to put them into smart liveries.”
Although leaving a naturally well-groomed servant in their natural state without putting them in any livery whatsoever is generally inadvisable in polite society. But if you must, at least keep them out of the front yard.
“Men who are smart must have at least moderately slim figures, and hold themselves, not stiffly, but with a suggestion of military bearing. They must, of course, be smooth-shaven and have their hair well cut. Their linen must be immaculate, their shoes polished, their clothes brushed and in press, and their fingernails clean and well cared for. If a man’s fingers are indelibly stained he must wear white cotton gloves.”
So…let me see if I have all that. The ideal footman is two dimensional, arthritic, and able to kill a man with his bare hands in such a way that blood does not, under any circumstances, get under his fingernails. They are preferably devoid of body hair. At no time should a footman be more than three feet from an outlet and not in possession of an electric clothing iron, which they should use on themselves constantly.
Unless they’re in the back yard. Because that would really, really hurt.