15 Old School Etiquette That Are Fading Away

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Etiquette, like fashion, evolves with time. As society shifts and cultural norms adapt, old-school etiquette rules become increasingly sidelined. From formalities that once governed social interactions to traditions steeped in historical context, many of these customs have faded into obscurity. Here are 15 old-school etiquettes that people no longer follow.

Formal Titles

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Back in the day, addressing everyone formally with titles like Mr., Mrs., or Miss was considered essential. This practice was deeply rooted in maintaining a sense of decorum and respect, especially in professional settings. However, modern workplaces and social environments have shifted towards a more casual approach. In many industries, it’s seen as a way to break down hierarchical barriers and encourage open communication. 

The Number at the Dining table

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In the 1870 etiquette manual Mixing in Society: A Complete Manual of Manners, attributed to an anonymous countess, the importance of hosting proper dinners is emphasized greatly. According to the countess, an equal number of male and female guests should be maintained at dining while avoiding the number 13 due to superstitions. Another crucial detail stressed is there should ideally be “one servant for every two guests, or, at the very least, one for every three.” 

Picking a Ride


In the late 19th century, according to American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness, it was customary for a man accompanying a woman on a horseback ride to take responsibility for selecting her mount. The etiquette book stressed the importance of choosing a horse that suited the woman’s riding ability, emphasizing personal oversight rather than relying solely on stable personnel. Would this translate to men picking out Uber today?

Coming Prepared to Eat


The Tudor period, from 1485 to 1603, was marked by distinct social hierarchies and dining customs reflective of those hierarchies. In the Tudor era in England, bringing one’s knife and spoon to the dining table was a common practice. This custom was widespread across various social classes during that time. For most people, having personal eating utensils was a practical necessity due to hygiene concerns and the varying quality of communal utensils.

No Smiling in Pictures


In examining old photographs, it’s noticeable that many individuals are not smiling. Historians propose various reasons for this intriguing phenomenon. A compelling theory revolves around the rules of etiquette prevalent at the time. In certain societies, especially in Victorian and Edwardian England, wide smiles were considered improper or associated with madness or lewd behavior. Therefore, individuals posed stoically or with reserved expressions.

Laying Down to Eat

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Modern etiquette often emphasizes sitting upright at the table as a sign of respect and proper manners. However, this practice would have amused the ancient Greeks, who had a markedly different approach to dining customs. In ancient Greece, particularly among the upper class, reclining or lying down while dining was not just common but a symbol of status and luxury. The host and honored guests would recline at the highest position, while others would be placed according to their rank or relationship to the host.

Ladies First


Is this the inspiration for the Bumble dating app? In the Victorian era of 19th-century England, social etiquette dictated that a man could not initiate a conversation with a woman unless she first acknowledged him with a gesture like a bow. According to the 1859 British handbook The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, it was considered proper for men to wait for this recognition before engaging in conversation.

Hardcopy Gratitude


Sending handwritten thank-you notes was once a hallmark of good manners, symbolizing sincerity and appreciation. In today’s fast-paced digital world, though, this practice has largely fallen by the wayside. An email or even a text message is now widely accepted as sufficient and appropriate. The immediacy and convenience of digital communication mean that gratitude can be expressed almost instantaneously.

Formal Dressing


Strict dress codes for formal events often mandated wearing suits or evening gowns, reflecting a time when appearances were closely tied to social status. However, fashion norms have become more inclusive and relaxed, allowing individuals to express their personal style while respecting the event’s significance. These days, comfort and authenticity are valued alongside tradition. 

Standing up to Welcome

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Standing up every time a woman entered the room was a gesture rooted in chivalry aimed at showing respect and deference. Modern etiquette places greater emphasis on mutual respect and equality rather than on gender-specific gestures. The impact of moving away from such customs is significant, as it reflects broader societal shifts towards gender equality and the dismantling of traditional gender roles. 

Red Tapes on Public Discourse


In the early 20th century, the notion of never discussing money or finances in social settings was strongly upheld. This taboo stemmed from a desire to maintain privacy and avoid any potential embarrassment. However, today, there is a growing recognition of the importance of financial literacy and transparency. Open conversations about salaries, investments, and budgeting pop up everywhere and at any time.

Table Discourse

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Traditionally, dinner party etiquette dictated that one should never talk about politics or religion at the table. Such rules were intended to prevent heated debates and guarantee an enjoyable dining experience for all guests. In contrast, contemporary social gatherings often welcome diverse viewpoints and spirited discussions. While it’s still wise to approach sensitive topics carefully, the outright ban on discussing politics and religion has relaxed. 

Calling Cards


A historical fact reveals that in Victorian times, leaving a calling card after a visit was a common practice to signify one’s presence and social standing. These cards were a form of social currency and were meticulously exchanged among the upper classes. In the contemporary era, the concept of leaving a physical calling card has been replaced by digital footprints. Direct messages, emails, and missed calls are the new social currency.

Reserving a Place


Historically, the practice of sending RSVPs for every event invitation was not merely a matter of courtesy but a cornerstone of effective social planning. In the past, when communication was slower and less reliable, hosts depended heavily on RSVPs to prepare thoroughly for their guests. Whether organizing a lavish banquet or a simple gathering, knowing the exact number of attendees allowed hosts to arrange seating and plan accommodations.

Gifting a Man


In 1890, the etiquette surrounding gift-giving between couples was particularly peculiar, especially for women. During this time, a woman could only give a man a gift if he had given her one first. Even then, her gift had to be either inexpensive or handmade. This rule was part of the broader, often odd, Victorian courting customs. Despite the constraints, women found creative ways to express affection and maintain decorum.


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