A gentleman’s guide to keeping St. Patrick’s Day classy

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Giant green top hats. Neon green wigs. Plastic shamrock-bead necklaces. Green beer binges. Celtic face paint. Anything to do with bagpipes. There are plenty of ways to get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. But these gaudy clichés shouldn’t be on your list. Instead, keep this St. Patrick’s Day a classy affair with the right kind of style, drinks that would make your grandfather proud, and a bit of knowledge to show your respect for Irish history isn’t only skin deep. Here’s the quick guide to having gentlemanly St. Patrick’s Day.

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What to know

Blindly celebrating a holiday you know nothing about is an amateur move. So here are some quick facts to right that wrong:

• St. Patrick’s Day, which always falls on March 17, is in honor of the death of St. Patrick.
• St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born in Britain in the 5th century.
• At age 16, St. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and was imprisoned as a slave for 17 years.
• After his years as a slave, St. Patrick became a missionary in Ireland. He eventually became a bishop, and is known as one of the “Apostles of Ireland.”
• St. Patrick never drove snakes out of Ireland (that’s a myth) because there never were snakes in Ireland.
• The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations we know and love/hate here in the U.S. were started by Irish immigrants in the 1700s.
• The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762.
• In Ireland, St. Patrick’s day is not the debaucherous, drunken affair it is here in the U.S. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: It’s a solemn, religious holiday, which usually centers on a nice meal at home and not much drinking.

Now, take this newfound knowledge and impress some fellow revelers. Who knows? It might just help you get lucky.

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What to wear

Donning green attire is a must on St. Patrick’s Day. But that doesn’t mean you need to slap on a neon green spandex bodysuit to show you mean business. Nor should you bust out that “Kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirt you bought in college, or even think of wearing anything that makes you look like a leprechaun.

Your best bet is to incorporate your green apparel in understated ways. For those of you who are most comfortable in a more formal look this knitted hunter green tie is more than enough to keep you from getting pinched. Match that up with a bit of tweed to bring it home. Or, if you want a more casual getup, you can never go wrong with a dark green plaid button-down, a pair of well-fitted jeans, and a wool sweater. It is still winter, after all.

If hats are your thing, go with something like the John Milton from Goorin Bros. And top it all off with a bit of Irish fragrance –  Creed’s Green Irish Tweed is always a solid bet.

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What (and how) to drink

Skip the green beer and Irish car bombs – neither of which any self-respecting Irishman would actually drink. Guinness Stout is always a solid choice, of course, and its relatively low alcohol content means you can keep drinking longer without sliding into a downward spiral.

But if you’re looking for a bit more creativity in your drink, go for a less obvious choice of beer, like Murphy’s Irish Stout, O’Hara’s Irish Wheat, or my favorite, a simple Smithwick’s (pronounce it “smith-icks” for added points with your Irish bartender). And if spirits are more your thing, keep it Irish all the way, with a Bushmill’s, Jameson, or a fine Redbreast dram.

As for that “how to drink” part – it’s simple: Don’t get too drunk (at least not early in the day). There’s nothing dignified about slurred words and a nauseated stomach. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else at the bar or party. Drink a glass of water between drinks. And for some added protection, make sure to load up on a few healthy portions of corn beef and cabbage – which, incidentally, isn’t a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish in Ireland. But it is delicious.