Cigar Style - why is our cigar considered stylish?

Cigar Style - why is our cigar considered stylish?

By Nick Hendry.

Most, if not all, of us who enjoy Cuban Cigars will at one point or another been asked to explain what it is they find so endearing about the practice.  The question may come from a fellow smoker, looking to bond over a shared inspiration, or it may come from someone completely unfamiliar with our world, confused as to the source of our passion and intrigued by what has captured our hearts so thoroughly.  Whatever the reason to be asked, all aficionados have that story to tell – that one moment when we knew that this was to become a lifelong pleasure.  I am no different, although the story itself is perhaps somewhat unusual in that it wasn’t me who smoked the cigar.

In the summer of 2012 I found myself in Nice, the heart of the French Riviera.  An old friend had been married that weekend to a young woman born and raised in the area and so a troop of ten or so Scotsmen had descended upon the Côte d'Azur to join in the celebrations.  We endeavoured to give the best account of ourselves, and our nation, possible – resplendent in our kilts we danced, drank and charmed the locals until the early hours, proud to show them all what fun could be had at a whisky-fuelled Scottish wedding.  The next morning (afternoon, if I’m honest) was a significantly more quiet affair, spent nursing hangovers on the terrace of the reception venue – a hotel on the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the Baie des Anges.  As we sipped beers in the sunshine, each reminding the other of their antics the night before, only one other table was occupied.  The man who sat there, in that moment, inspired my love of cigars.

He was an older gentleman, tanned and white-haired, and clearly of significant means.  He sat in silence the entire afternoon, reading a newspaper and only occasionally speaking to thank the waiter who came to refresh his brandy.  He read a little, he drank a little and he gazed out at the Mediterranean.  He was well-dressed in crisp summer linen, he sported an elegant, expensive-but-not-too-ostentatious watch and he slowly smoked a large Cuban cigar.  His demeanour was one of quiet reflection, of the confidence that comes after a life of achievement and of the elegance displayed by someone who has learned how to enjoy the finer things, but has no desire to be gaudy or brash about it. 

Stylish Presentation of an EGM Custom Blend Cuban Cigar.

A very stylish presentation of an EGM Custom Blend Cuban Cigar

So what about that man was so inspiring that it led to a passion for cigars?  Why have we come to associate cigars so closely with style and elegance?  So much imagery has been produced over the years showing cigars as the accessory of the most stylish and successful among us, so why do we love the aesthetic so much?

One element must surely be the reputation of Cuban cigars for excellence.  Regardless of whether or not a person partakes themselves, they will undoubtedly equate Cuba with quality in this regard.  Aligning oneself with such a product will therefore convey an aura of knowledge and taste – a sense that you are a person who has experienced what life has to offer and will only settle for the best.  Clearly, this is a desirable attribute. 

A dapper gent enjoys a Cohiba Cuban Cigar at Pitti Uomo

Cohiba are truly the benchmark for Cuban excellence, and one is smoked here in style.

They are also sometimes known as an accoutrement of the wealthy – if you can afford to smoke cigars, you have done well and are to be admired and emulated.  While this may be a fairly obvious attraction, it is not necessarily stylish.  One can just as easily appear obnoxious while enjoying your chosen stick as attractive, should you choose to be loud or arrogant while doing so.  They who fill their surroundings not with fragrant aromas from the cigar but with tales of their own success, directed at no one in particular and delivered for no discernible reason, can be called stylised, not stylish.  Rather, it is in the quiet contemplation with a cigar that elegance and style is found.  Just like the Rake of the Riviera who so drew my admiration almost 10 years ago, the elegant smoker is refined and subtle with their enjoyment.  To enjoy a cigar takes time, to begin to know cigars takes more and to have that time available is a luxury, a sign in itself of success.  There is no need for braggadocio about how such time was found, humility and appreciation are the traits we admire more. 

A very stylish group enjoy their Cuban Cigars.

A very stylish group enjoy their cigars together.

The way we dress is admired when we pay it the proper care and attention.  Garments need not be too expensive to be stylish – although quality carries a premium, as with anything in life, but garish clothing can be pricey too – they only need to be considered and appropriate.  When a person has clearly paid attention to fit, colour palette and the appropriate fabric for the season we can appreciate their efforts even if we would not necessarily copy their aesthetic.  So it is with cigars – the effort put into choosing the right vitola, the right brand, the right pairing to perfectly suit one’s mood and the time of day speaks of diligence, taste and confidence.  These are the qualities which we see when we look at an image of a stylish smoker and feel that warm sense of approval, admiration, and perhaps a small amount of envy.

The most important thing to remember is that the cigar experience is deeply personal.  Forget about what you may look like, whether you have the latest high-tech lighter or whether the backdrop is right for that Instagram shot.  Select whatever stick will please you the most, leave behind all thought of who may be observing and focus on enjoying and savouring the moment you have earned.  This is truly the most elegant way to smoke your cigar.  You never know – the next generation of smokers just may be at the table behind, in awe of your poise and sophistication.

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