Artist Benjamin Clementine on his modern definition of being a gentleman - and what scent and music have in common

We speak to the father of two and face of Givenchy ahead of Father’s Day

Benjamin Clementine for Givenchy
(Image credit: Givenchy)

British composer, musician, and actor Benjamin Clementine is someone for whom being a gentleman is a badge of honour: “it’s about being honest, and being true to yourself. When I was younger, different ideas were printed into my subconscious, that being a man meant being of good social position. Now, I hope that there are gentlemen out there who are not quick to judge, who are more consistently patient, who are forgiving.”

He’s keen to add that principles and patience are also vital to his definition of what it means to describe someone as a gentleman, that “you have principles as a man and you live by it. Again, we go back to being true to yourself, to being authentic.”

Clementine’s path to being a successful and critically-acclaimed artist has been quite extraordinary, including a stint as a busker on the metro in Paris, and sleeping rough, then, finally, being noticed by an agent, after which he recorded his first album, At Least For Now, which would go on to win a Mercury prize in 2015. 

He’s since released a further two studio albums, but considers his work far from done, saying “perfection is all about perspective. I think I can get there; I’m not there yet. But then the journey is not to be perfect. My motto in life is ‘practise perfect patience’; every time an artist goes on stage, and they’re performing, they’re really showing their brilliance at patience, because they practise for hours and hours.”

Givenchy Gentleman

(Image credit: Givenchy)

Now, he is the face of Givenchy's brand new fragrance, Gentleman Society, bringing his own brand of considered discourse to scent: “scent is powerful - music is the same thing. It’s a smoky, shadowy thing that’s saying ‘come here’. Senses get us to the place where we need to be.” The blend of florals and woody notes has poignancy to him: “the scent of love is, to me, a bit like burned wood - it’s rich - and when I think of happiness, I see flowers.” 

Fittingly, given that Father’s Day is imminent, it seems apt that Clementine goes on to describe the joy scent can evoke, going on to say that happiness as you age is a responsibility to pass on: “[my children] give me hope; all of a sudden, I’m not selfish anymore. It’s such an amazing thing.”

Madeleine Spencer

Madeleine Spencer is a journalist and broadcaster who has contributed to titles including Grazia, Glamour, InStyle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, and Stylist, as well as offering commentary for the BBC, Sky News, and ITV.

She is keen on exploring the significance beauty rituals, products, and memories have on people from different walks of life, and enters into conversation on the topic with guests on her podcast, Beauty Full Lives.