Finishing school for men will offer a leg up for social climbers

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The Independent Online

The world's first "finishing school" for men opens its doors next month to address a growing demand for lessons on etiquette and general confidence from a generation of shy social climbers.

Situated in the shadow of the Grampian foothills in rural Aberdeenshire - a far cry from the Swiss Alps usually associated with finishing schools for young ladies - Lickleyhead Castle will play host to up to 10 men looking to learn a touch of modern sophistication.

For £650 a head, students from across the UK will be subjected to three days of intense lessons on etiquette, public speaking, deportment, wine tasting and even learning to play chess.

"There are a lot of people getting into top management positions now with a very different social background. Some of them have been the first generation to go to university and don't necessarily have a background of their parents having dinner parties and social interaction," said Diana Mather, a former BBC television presenter and actress who launched the concept with her business partner, Penny Edge.

"Some men find it quite daunting to have to host dinners with all those knives and forks and are confused about which glasses to use, what to eat with fingers and what not to. If people don't feel comfortable, it doesn't allow them to perform at their best so what we do is to give people a bedrock of confidence. We are teaching life's essentials."

The women - who own the Cheshire-based company The Finishing Academy - set up the school after the success of their ladies' courses sparked a flood of enquiries from mothers looking to educate their sons and from men seeking a crash-course on social, presentation and etiquette skills.

Although they have plans to introduce courses for young gentlemen aged between 16 and 19, similar in many ways to those already provided for young ladies, The Finishing Academy is to pilot its new service with a course designed for men aged 19 and over.

"People can learn etiquette in one class and basic self-defence in the next," said Ms Mather.

"The course we have devised for the men will consist of deportment, etiquette and even how to carve a joint properly. Many men are expected to be able to do it but can't carve well at all. It is possible to absolutely ruin a nice joint of meat with really bad carving."

Throughout the course at Lickleyhead Castle, a 15th-Century stronghold of Clan Mackenzie set among 30 acres of forests & gardens, students will be taught how to stand, sit and walk with elegance and poise while honing their skills in public speaking, improving dress sense and making small talk.

In between the theory, the men will also discover the practical delights of dancing, playing bridge and the outdoor pursuits of clay pigeon shooting, golf and fly-fishing.

"We will also be covering things like ironing shirts, sewing on buttons, self defence and basic first aid," said Ms Mather, who claimed that the increase in the number of older divorced or widowed men meant that many were in need of a confidence boost.

"These days etiquette in particular is quite a mine field for men," she said. "Many don't know what they are expected to do as their role has changed so much since equal opportunities and such like."

How to be a gentleman

Basic wine appreciation and an ability to mix cocktails is important to ensure that whatever the occasion a gentleman's confidence may be stirred but not shaken.

A gentleman should choose different clothes to suit different figures and different occasions. For example, a small man should never wear a long jacket or baggy trousers.

Nutrition and exercise are also important: a gentleman should eat for health, energy and fitness along with taking good care of his skin and hair.

A gentleman should know the basics of first aid - to make themselves useful in a crisis - along with self-defence techniques to protect themselves and their companions when necessary.

Hobbies are also important for gentlemen: they should learn the rudiments of fly-fishing, golf and shooting as well as both ballroom and Scottish country dancing.