The Power Move

The Gentleman's Handbook Vol VIII

The Power Move
The Power Move
The Gentleman's Handbook Vol VIII

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Power Move (n.): a swift and simple action that asserts the superiority of its enactor. It is the behavioral equivalent of a flexing bicep. 

Slam dunk in a pick-up game? Power move. Picking up the check before anyone present notices? Power move. Turning left when the light turns green just ahead of oncoming traffic? Stupid, illegal and also a power move.

In this edition of the Gentleman’s Handbook, we enumerate a few of our favorite physical, professional and romantical standbys to get you started. Plus: our favorite silver screen examples and the lessons you can learn some of history’s greatest failed power moves.


Whether you’re a ladder climber or the guy who owns the ladder company, it behooves an enterprising chap to have a few business-minded power moves up his sleeve.

Hand-write Correspondence
One of those practices that, due to the fact that no one really does it anymore, has acquired a gravitas that far exceeds the effort it takes to execute. Look into understated letterpress stationery that’s still got some personality (we’re partial to both Terrapin Stationers and Brown Ink) and fire off a missive. Super lazy? There’s always that robot who can do it for you.

Pick Up the Check
Obviously a good look, but here’s how you take it up a notch: excuse yourself from the proceedings early, surreptitiously grab the waiter and let him run your card. Not only will you look like a hero for picking up the tab, you’ll do so without making a show of it.

Gift Like a Pro
Booze is always a win, but you can do better than standard single malt. Shoot for something with more of a story, like Jefferson’s Ocean: bourbon that’s been aged aboard globe-circumnavigating ships. The aforementioned stationery (especially if it’s custom) also earns points as no one ever thinks to buy it for themselves. But the ultimate power move gift: a custom suit fitting from a company like J. Hilburn that will visit the office. Just set it up with your giftee’s assistant and wait for amazed displays of gratitude.

Tell a Good Story
Three secrets: 1) Risqué but not too risqué. Arrested in Tijuana in college = good. Arrested in Tijuana for human trafficking = not so much. 2) Don’t be the hero. Self-deprecating tales tend to be more well-received, as, well, no one likes a self-aggrandizing asshole. 3) Throw in a colloquialism. They stand out and give your yarn more color. For example, describe a less-than-intelligent person as “not the sharpest cheddar on the cheese tray.”

Know More Than They Do
“Information is power,” as they say, so thus any gambit to acquire more of it is a power move by definition. Start by downloading Charlie, an app that syncs with your calendar before combing hundreds of sources to develop a handy one-sheet on everyone you’ll meet that day. For those really looking for NSA-level intelligence, subscription service RelSci will connect you to just about every influencer on the planet via six-degrees-of-separation-style networking.

Abandon Your Day Job
Perhaps the ultimate power move: having a solid, comfortable gig only to bail on it for a proper passion project. This move requires cojones, brains and a modicum of luck to execute successfully. But if you do, think of the upside. You could be Ben Early and Evan Fript of Paul Evans, two ex-finance cats who now make the most handsome dress shoes around. Or Foster Huntington, a former Ralph Lauren designer who bagged his steady paycheck to travel the country in a van and take spectacular photos. Or Lyon Porter (subject of our Sartorial Power Moves section below), who’s moved from a lucrative real estate gig to owning some of the hippest B&Bs in the country.

    The Double Venue Change
    When you change venues during a date — and we’re talking about a premeditated move to a new destination, not just on a whim — it shows a lady (or fella) that you’re not just the type of guy who makes a plan, you’re the type of guy who makes plans. Plural. Do this twice on one date (*cough* dinner plan *cough*) and she’ll be talking about it for weeks.

    The Off-Menu Order
    Nothing beats poring over the menu only to set it down and whisper to your date, “You know, it’s not on the menu, but they do this thing here…” All of a sudden, you’re the mysterious, knows-secret-shit guy. And all it takes is a little Googling — or, better yet, a perusal of one of our handy city guides on this very subject.

    The Creative Transport
    No limos. We repeat, no limos. This ain’t prom. However, if you wanted to, say, rent a slick vintage ride? Good on ya. Surprise her with a shiny new bike and a sunset ride to a scenic resto with views? Well played. Book a helicopter via smartphone for a jaunt to the Hamptons? Now that’s ultra power move stuff.

    The “I Know a Guy”
    In the same realm as ordering off-menu is squiring your date to a place where you’ll be greeted by name. Where you can order “the usual.” Where the bartender will make witty, good-natured banter with your date that kinda takes the piss out of you but really says, “We like this guy around here.” And guess what? Dates like a guy who other people like.

    The Best Friend Recon
    Conundrum: You want to do something she (or he) will enjoy, but you sure as hell don’t want to be the guy asking “So, whadaya wanna do?” The solution: ping the best friend for some tips on what they’re into. Cue shocked expression when you’ve magically deduced that they’ve been dying to see that new exhibit on the early works of that obscure French neo-expressionist.

    The “Let’s Go to My Island”
    Bear with us here. Turns out that whisking your date off to your own private atoll is not merely the provenance of hedge fund billionaires and Middle Eastern royalty. For just 50 grand, you too can get in on the action. Don’t believe it? Check out our guide to private island ownership.

    Whether you’re marching into the office or out the door to Sunday brunch, being properly kitted out is always a power move. Go forth and elevate thy sartorial game:


    A next-level travel getup is about two things: comfort and mobility. First, look for gear with stretch (like this jacket/chino combo) — you’ll be thankful for it when hailing cabs and stuffing gear into overhead bins. Next, invest in some space age business gear — this shirt has laser-cut armpit vents and the tie repels even red wine like it was nothing. Third, the Chelsea boot. Supremely stylish and slips off and on like a breeze at security. Bonus points for a travel bag that’ll turn heads as you stroll to your gate.

    Jacket by Michael Kors // Shirt by Ministry of Supply // Tie by Vardama
    Watch by Michael Kors // Chinos by Michael Kors // Belt by Michael Kors 
    Boots by Michael Kors // Bag by Michael Kors


    Punching your dating kit up is almost laughably simple — you’re just looking for one statement piece. That one head-turning item that’ll have your date (and everyone else) thinking, “Damn, where did he get that?” Enter the leather and shearling bomber, bringing a massive dose of fighter pilot-level swagger that’ll take an otherwise straightforward ensemble up several notches.

    Jacket by Michael Kors // Sweater by Michael Kors // Watch by Michael Kors
    Jeans by Michael Kors // Boots by Red Wing


    When worn correctly, the double-breasted suit is the mark of a confident man. A man to be heeded and respected. Pair it with a parka (especially a fur-lined one) instead of your traditional topcoat and you may very well knock your coworkers unconscious when you stroll in on a Monday morning. Bonus points for a double monkstrap, notoriously the most powerful of all the dress shoes.

    Suit by J. Hilburn // Parka by Michael Kors // Shirt by Brooks Brothers
    Tie by Brooks Brothers // Watch by Michael Kors // Shoes by Barker Black


    Yeah you want to be comfy, and we don’t blame you — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be put-together. Wanna wear sweats? G’head. Just make ‘em cashmere. Pair with a crisp white tee and shawl-collared sweater up top for elegant simplicity (and breezy comfort) and then top the whole thing off with a clean white sneaker. So simple, but trust us: people will take notice.

    Sweatpants by Michael Kors // T-shirt by Michael Kors
    Sweater by Michael Kors // Watch by Michael Kors // Sneakers by Michael Kors

    The cinema is basically a living encylopedia on the power move: a place where quote normal guys with names like Balboa and Bickle and Baggins become worldbeaters. So grab the nearest scrawling pad and jot down some notes: here are eight of Hollywood’s most memorable power moves.

    Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
    Because “Fuck you, THAT’S my name.”

    Christopher Walken in King of New York
    Because flexing on guys who try to rob you and then hiring them to do your dirty work is a strong play.

    Ned Beatty in Network
    Because a rant is no longer a rant when it incisively deconstructs the problems of modernity in the space of five minutes. Also impressive tables help.

    Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
    See: Power Moves, Romantical, all.

    Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction
    Because the whole robbery turnabout situation is a power move … and that’s before you even learn that his wallet says “Bad Motherfucker” on it.

    Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting
    Because every guy dreams of dropping a zinger this clever.

    Mike Myers in Austin Powers
    Because if you can’t beat ’em, confuse the hell out of ’em.

    Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones
    Because never bring a knife to a gunfight.

    History isn’t always kind. But there’s a lot to learn in defeat. Here, a compendium of failed power moves through the ages.

    Fall of the Western Roman Empire (476)
    It was a long process to end 1000+ years of rule, but most historians point to the day Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Roman Empire in the west, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. Culprits: the rise of Christianity, a split of the empire by Constantine a century earlier, decreases in agricultural production, pirate attacks, a large trade deficit and increasing inflation.

    Lessons learned: Tolerate different viewpoints. Overvaluation can bite you in the ass. Piracy is hard to corral.

    Waterloo (1815)
    A returned-from-exile Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the armies of an inexperienced Anglo-Prussian coalition. Bad weather meant Bonaparte’s forces got off to a late start, and some of his minions later complained of “vague orders.” Plus, the little guy was a little overconfident: “I tell you Wellington is a bad general, ze English are bad troops, and zis affair is nozing more zan eating breakfast,” said the French commander. To quote ABBA: “Waterloo: couldn’t escape if I wanted to…”

    Lessons learned: Start on time. Don’t underestimate the weather. Respect your peers.

    Battle of Little Bighorn (1876)
    A “last stand,” indeed. Past-his-prime commander George Custer and his men (including four family members) were picked off by a coalition of Native American tribes. Badly outnumbered, and leading a tired, inexperienced cavalry, Custer both defied orders and suggestions from his scouts, attacking in broad daylight. Oh, and his second-in-command? Drunk.

    Lessons learned: Hire the best. Trust the hard data. Don’t drink on the job.

    Guns N’ Roses implode (1996)
    After recording a terrible cover of “Sympathy for the Devil,” most of the original GNR outfit quit, handing over all power and musical authority to enigmatic singer Axl Rose. Twelve years, $12 million in recording time and a billion lineup changes later (including guys named “Buckethead” and “Bumblefoot”), Rose released the rather underwhelming Chinese Democracy, which sold about 1/10th of their prior records.

    Lessons learned: Creative megalomaniacs need checks and balances imposed from above. Stick to a budget. Don’t pin your hopes on a person who wears a fried chicken bucket on his head.

    AOL/Time Warner Merger (2000)
    A “transformative” merger of two media giants, one old-school and one new. The philosophies of the two companies didn’t click. Neither did users. And a few months later, the stock bubble burst. AOL took a $99 billion write-off.

    Lessons learned: Synergy is overrated. Don’t force a friendship. And don’t pin your future on outdated technology (see: dial-up).

    Philadelphia Eagles (2013-?)
    Chip Kelly, the genius behind the fast-paced Oregon Ducks offense moves to the NFL, trades all of his offensive stars and consolidates front-office power into his stubby little hands. One playoff game in three seasons ensue.

    Lessons learned: Hire more than “yes” men. Win in the trenches, not on paper. Expand your playbook.

    Sometimes power moves are figurative (see: professional, romantical). And sometimes, they are literal. These are the latter. Don’t forget to stretch.

    Arm Wrestling
    Arm wrestling matches are not won with mere brute force. A little technique and some basic physics know-how and you’ll be pinning biceps more circumferential than your own in no time.

    Step 1: Position your body as close to your elbow as possible. Your arm is a lever, your elbow the fulcrum. The closer the fulcrum is to your core, the more dominant your position.

    Step 2: Choke up on your opponent’s thumb. This will tighten your grip relative to his and help you to go “over the top” — arm-grappling parlance for the act of folding your opponent’s wrist backwards.

    Step 3: Do not try to throw your opponent’s hand down on a line parallel to your shoulders. Instead, pull his arm slightly toward your own body.

    And give it all on the whistle. Arm-wrestling is not an endurance sport.

    Air Guitar
    Our resident creative director and air guitarist extraordinaire recommends the “power slide.” From a traditional guitar position, lunge your left foot as far forward as is comfortable. This gives you an ideal foundation for windmills, thrashing, head-banging and affiliated other rock maneuvers. And take a page out of Bradley Cooper’s playbook and mind the fret hand. Realism, fellas.

    Carry Her Away
    Rule no. 1: never carry a woman without her consent. Obviously. Rule no. 2: no fireman’s carries. Too barbaric.

    To begin, place your right hand immediatley below her right shoulder. Bend at the knees and sweep your left hand to the back of her right leg, just above the knee. Then, in one swift motion, thrust upward, using your legs, not your back. Draw your left hand upward until it is on a plane with your right.

    Best use cases: weddings, burning buildings and transitioning from Netflix to chill.

    Open a Beer with Anything
    Lighters, seatbelts, keys, a tightly folded piece of paper — anything that’s relatively slim (under 1/2″) and stiff can be used to pop off a beer cap. As with arm-wrestling, leverage is key. Wrap your non-dominant hand around the very tip-top of the bottle, such that the second knuckle of your index finger obscures the cap.

    Now, with your dominant hand, wedge your implement (say, the bottom of a lighter) between the bottle and that same second knuckle, so that it fits just underneath the edge of the cap. Clench down with your guide knuckle, fixing the wedge in place. Finally, jerk the wedge upwards in a quick motion by pushing its opposite end downward (think see-saw). Enjoy satisfying pop. Imbibe.