A gentleman is viewed as an elegant, charming individual normally with impeccable manners and high moral values. Like everybody else they set their values personally, and there are times when they may contradict the rest of their demeanour. The ‘gentleman thief’ is one of the most enchanting character types in books and films. His persona appeals to the audience’s need for excitement, and a little bit of trouble, while still maintaining his likeability. This anti-hero became a major part of creative writing in the late 19th century.
Gentlemen thieves are attracted to stealing for several reasons including: they are quite often kleptomaniacs that steals for the thrill rather than out of lack, they love the challenge of creating a mastermind plan and normally have a higher than average IQ, as well as the fact that it gives them a chance to escape the monotony of wealth and experience the darker side of society. Gentlemen thieves choose their victims carefully, normally focusing on wealthy individuals, organisations or other difficult targets. Their ethical values prevent them from stealing from those that cannot afford to lose the item(s).
Violence is never a part of the gentleman thief’s plans and he avoids it at all costs, using intellect to execute his mission rather than force. He loves proving that he is smarter than authority figures, often leaving them taunting messages and even announcing his intended target beforehand. This increases the challenge for both the thief and the detective, and in many stories they form a strange bond as one searches for the other. A gentleman thief will step in to stop more serious crimes and often becomes an advisor for the police during their investigations.
Gentlemen thieves may also be good Samaritans, such as Robin Hood, stealing from those who have acquired their riches in illicit ways and sharing them among the poor. If not in a monogamous relationship, gentleman thieves will also pursue beautiful ladies, during the chase, even seducing female detectives. This becomes a bonus to the creation and execution of their master plan.
The dress code is an important part of being a gentleman thief and ranges from dated sophistication to modern designer wear. A well-fitting suit, with an elegant signature hat are one of the classic combinations of the character. The female version of a gentleman thief is called a lady thief, and these women are chic, classy and able to cultivate the crime of the century.
The characteristics of the phantom thief overlap heavily with that of the gentleman thief, and those that do not require public recognition for their crimes fall into this category. Their special talent is disappearing after a heist, normally doing so long before the victim even realizes what has happened. Their exceptionally high taste dictates that they steal priceless items such as rare collectibles, jewelry and fine art.