The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to embrace classic style in the broadest sense. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. Enough is enough. Here is where you can learn how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Southwick 3/2 Houndstooth Suit. . .

The inaugural wearing of this particular Southwick suit, a fine tweed houndstooth number with a 3 roll to 2 coat.  

Our frigid weather has moderated somewhat, but today was nevertheless a good one for a heavier suit, and yesterday afternoon, I finally managed to reclaim this tweed number from my tailor Mrs. V. with whom it had resided for several weeks after the usual minor alterations.

Not only is the fabric weight heavier than any other suit I own, but the pants are fully lined to the ankles, so it's definitely not something to wear during the warmer months.  Or even late Spring and early Fall.  The suit did, however, keep me nice and toasty warm during the walks to and from campus today for classes and meetings with students to discuss their upcoming term papers.

As you'll notice in the above photograph, the size of this particular suit coat is a 40 Long, quite a bit longer than the current trend for ultra short sports jackets and suit coats.  And while detail freaks might sneer, I don't feel like the proportions are that off for my body.  I've got fairly long legs with a long torso too, and jackets and suit coats in a regular length sometimes look and/or feel a bit short on me.  

I prefer my seat to be well and truly covered by the jacket or coat in any case, so I don't worry too much about wearing sports jackets, blazers, and suit coats that are longer than current trendy tastes seem to dictate.  In fact, a number of items in my wardrobe are longer than what you might see in the pages of GQ, Esquire, or Men's Health at the moment (and how far we've sunk from the days of Apparel Arts), but that doesn't bother me one iota.  

Within reason, I'd advise guys to follow their own sartorial paths and go with what they like and what looks acceptable rather than to follow up-to-the-moment trends too slavishly.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A close-up of the suit pattern, necktie, and pocket square.  Neither rhyme, nor reason be, but I was reasonably happy with it since I prefer to avoid the dreaded matchy-matchy disease that claims too many unsuspecting men.  I like to live a little dangerously where my attire is concerned, you know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Betweeded for an Early and Frigid Winter's Day. . .

With eyes still watering from the cold outside, here's Heinz-Ulrich still in a Pendleton tweed overcoat and 20+ year old woolen scarf (a Christmas gift from Mom and Step Dad) but sans the 29-year old brown leather gloves (another Christmas gift from Mom).

Brrrrrr. . .  A frigid, and unseasonably cold, day for mid-November in my neck of the woods!  About 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a -8 degree windchill, and the sun is dropping fast at 4:43pm.  But we have nevertheless been provided with a perfect excuse to bundle up in tweed and flannel today.  

Everything show in today's pictures was thrifted for very little, or, in the case of the tweed overcoat, purchased via Ebay for very little.  Only the suede brogues, brown belt, and the dark red Argyll knee socks were purchased new.  Proof again, that a guy can look more than a little presentable in classic attire without breaking the bank.

One thing occurs to me with classic clothing items.  Whether you frequent thrift/charity shops, watch for sales, or pay full retail price, whenever you spot all-cotton light blue oxford cloth button down collar shirts, or wool flannel pants in gray, snap 'em up!  A guy can never have enough of these two items in his wardrobe.

The shirt in this instance is a very heavy-weight item sold under the Bass label, that I picked up in a thrift shop for almost nothing a week or so ago.  I'm not sure it was worn more than once.  The pants, made in Italy if that still means anything, were another item I stumbled across back in September at the other of my two reliable thrift outlets.  While I've already got a few of each item, typically one comes across so much junk in thrift/charity shops that it makes good sense to buy better quality items in decent shape when you find them.  

Of course, it is entirely possible to have too much stuff, but my way of thinking is like this.  To begin with, both of these items are extremely versatile "go to" pieces within the context of classic men's style, so it makes good sense to have a few of each clean and either folded in your drawer, or hanging in your closet.  Second, when you have a few, or even several, each of certain key items like these within your wardrobe, the general wear and tear that comes through normal wearings, washings, and dry-cleanings is spread out among them.  As a result, your clothing lasts much longer than if you depend on, for example, a single OCBD shirt, or a single pair of flannel pants.  

And there's your classic men's style tip for the day.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And here's Heinz-Ulrich again in that recently acquired brown Harris Tweed jacket (made in the U.S.A.) from Land's End.  The subtle windowpane pattern consists of navy, maroon, and mustard yellow lines, and darned if I can't feel a partial canvas lining in the chest of the jacket.  It's certainly not fused.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tweed for a Blustery November Day. . .

Striking a pose in Zum Stollenkeller before a shelf of various books on horror films and plastic tubs of toy soldiers.

It has finally turned cold here in our neck of the woods, although we are not getting the snow that Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are supposed to receive during the next several days.  Our favorite X-country ski area, in fact, is ABR Trails just outside Ironwood, Michigan right across the state line from Hurley, Wisconson, a favorite summer vacation spot for the notorious Al Capone.   

Although we live approximately a day's drive south of the area, it's still exciting news for my family since the Grand Duchess and I are enthusiastic cross-country (Nordic) skiers, and the Young Master is excited to try it.  Santa Claus actually placed an order for a child's ski package last night, so with any luck, he will find his ski legs this winter and be seasoned after a few more years.   His mother is actually much better at going down hills than I am thanks to her extensive downhill skiing experience, so she'll have plenty of good advice for him when we get there.

But back to clothing.  The unseasonably early cold snap means it's high time for the tweeds and corduroys.  Today's combination of items included an Alan Flusser tweed jacket, a heavy pair of large wale Land's End corduroy pants, a recent thrifting find, a wool challis necktie hand-dyed in England, and those Allen Edmonds long-wing brogues (yet again).  

Tomorrow, during my lunch hour, I'll pick up a couple of recent tweed jacket acquisitions from the tailor's, a window pane Harris Tweed from Land's End and a very bold blue and gray number by Southwick.  Stay tuned for those during the next few days.

Finally, one of my students asked, as we packed up at the end of class late this afternoon, "So, like, do you sit around the house dressed like that on Saturdays and Sundays?"  I chuckled and quickly assured her that, no, I don't hang around the house in a jacket and tie during the weekends.  But if I were independently wealthy with a household staff to take out the garbage and recycling, do the laundry (my big weekly chore), and occasionally run the vacuum cleaner over the rugs?  Well, then I might consider it.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich

"Let me tell ya all about it!"

Monday, November 10, 2014

"How large should a starter wardrobe be?"

 Another great old Laurence Fellows illustration.  Or perhaps by Leslie Saalburg?  In any case, most young guys don't need to look quite this elegant in 2014, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make a solid effort to look pulled together once you leave college or university and enter the real world.

An e-mail was in my in-box this morning from a young guy, currently in his senior year of college.  He points out that his funds are limited (for now), but he wants to begin dressing a bit better in preparation for graduation next May and embarking on his career path. He concluded by asking, "How many clothes does a young guy need when he is just starting out like me?"

I'd suggest the following as a bare minimum with plenty of room for possible later expansion or diversion, depending on your own goals, company culture, and the type of work you'll be doing.  Here we go:

*1 wool sports jacket. . .  2 in slightly different patterns are even better!
*1 navy blazer

*1 charcoal, mid-gray, or navy two-piece wool suit

*2 pairs of  better khakis that keep a crease (Bill's or similar)
*2 pairs of creased wool dress pants in charcoal, navy, gray, or taupe for instance
*1 pair of dark dress jeans (without rips or fading) that actually fit.

*1 pair of lace-up brown leather dress shoes (with leather soles) and a brown belt to match
*1 pair of same in black. . . 
*1 pair of cordovan/oxblood penny loafers with matching belt

*7 long-sleeved cotton dress shirts, mostly in light blue or white, with precise neck and arm dimensions.  Stick with button-down collars to start since these look great even sans a necktie.
*5-6 traditional, fairly conservative neckties (repp stripes, foulards, etc.)

*7 pairs of to-the-knee dress socks -- In navy and charcoal.  Save the wilder statement socks for later.
*7 white t-shirts
*14 pairs of underwear -- If you're an adult, you should have two weeks worth at least!

Now, this amount of clothes and undergarments might seem excessive as a starter wardrobe, bit I'd be willing to bet that lots of young, college-aged guys already own many of these items, at least in part.  With the notable exception of t-shirts, socks, and underwear, which, to be perfectly frank, should only be purchased brand spanking new (Eeeew!!!), you can add missing items by visiting thrift/charity shops where you can usually find decent quality stuff that has lots of life left in it for almost nothing, or by perusing physical stores and/or websites of establishments like Brooks Brothers, L.L. Bean, and Land's End, for example, and keeping an eye out for sales and seasonal clearances.  However you beef up your wardrobe though, do spend the money to have any necessary alterations made to your clothes before you wear them for the first time, as I've mention before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, so that you look your best. 

Keep in mind too that you might be able to skip the suit given the woefully informal nature of many workplaces in 2014, although it is my firm opinion that every guy ought to have at least one clean suit in his closet that actually fits and is in a good state of repair for the occasional formal event like weddings, funerals, special dinners, job interviews, and meeting that special someone's parents for the first time.

Of course, if working part-time in the local cafe until your early 30s is part of the plan once you graduate from college, then, of course jeans, a hooded sweatshirt, and the ubiquitous knit ski cap, or "beanie" in current parlance, along with the requisite five-day beard will do just fine.  Knock yourself out.

Otherwise, I'd advise that you add the above items to your wardrobe gradually, but have most of them by at least the end of your first 6-12 months out of school. . .  Unless you live in a very warm part of the world, or the expected standard of dress in your particular field is extremely casual.

Finally, even if your company has an "everyday is casual Friday" ethos, with neither suits nor ties required. . .  ever, I'd still suggest wearing a sports jacket or blazer over a long-sleeved dress shirt most days.  It's a good look and helps even very young guys appear a bit more pulled together, focused, capable, and in charge of their particular duties and responsibilities rather than resembling one more doofus-slob intern, who has trouble sorting the mail, taking lunch orders, and fixing copier jams.  Just my two cents on the matter.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, November 7, 2014

On 'Classic' Clothing, Conduct, and Comfort. . .

It's not just limited to petty crooks, the homeless, or tough guy wannabees, on the streets anymore.  This look is now the typical daily "go to" mode of dress for many young guys on college campuses and their slightly older twenty-something cousins.  Or, as I like to call the latter, terminally part-time baristas.  What planet are we on, and how in the world did we get here?

A common protest heard from many average guys, who aren't used to dressing in anything more than jeans, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirts, runs something like this.  "I just hate dressing up!  It's so uncomfortable."  What exactly lies at the root of that oft heard complaint?  I feel that guys' aversion to dressing better than something resembling a walking lawn and leaf bag is based on various physical and psychological factors with, perhaps, the latter being the more significant of the two.  Together, these fuel that perceived discomfort claimed by so many guys when even the mere prospect of "dressing up" is raised.  Consider the following:

1) Too many guys wear clothing made, in whole or part, of synthetic materials.
Even with regular washing, garments made from man-made materials can get funky after a while and rarely feel what you might call "soft" against the skin even when new.  Then, there is the issue of fabric pilling through wear, which is not only uncomfortable, but can make something like a fleece look crappy really fast.

By contrast, attire made from natural materials like cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, linen, etc. breathes better and, with a tiny bit of care and maintenance, maintain its shape and appearance better than any of that man-made garbage that too many people buy, often paying exorbitant prices for it, and wear in public without a second thought. 

2) In addition, lots of guys wear stuff that doesn't fit them.
Size matters, guys.  At least when it comes to the clothes we wear.  For some bizarre reason, lots of guys on the loose out there either wear items that are far too large, or they try to squeeze into things that are way too small.  Much like a comb-over on a follicle challenged individual, neither approach to clothing will ever leave you looking and feeling your best, or help you make and leave behind the kind of impression you hope to make.  

Instead, find, try on, and purchase stuff that actually fits you.  But don't get something a size too large, or, worse, try to stuff yourself into an item that is too small to begin with.  And under no circumstances do you want to force your body into something that you have outgrown thanks to too much beer and too many cheese bratwursts during the five years since you last wore that one suit hanging at the back of your closet.  You want to grill brats, not look like one.

3) Some guys just aren't discerning when it comes to what they wear.
And, remarkably, they don't seem to care how bad they might look, although I remain convinced that many average guys, who might protest to the contrary, are bluffing in a weak, misguided attempt to save face.  I suspect lots of guys just don't know any better, and it's easier for them to maintain that they don't care than it is for them to seek help.  Guys like this need to become, within reason of course, more fastidious about their appearance where clothing is concerned instead of taking the more cavalier, "It's close enough" approach.  

But too many of these same guys seem to be worried about seeming effeminate if they pay attention to their appearance.  Hogwash!  That way of thinking does not usually result in your feeling comfortable or appearing entirely confident when in adult male attire.  Call it a hunch, but it might help to learn a little something about about clothing and accessories to look and feel your best.  You've also got to know what works best for you when it comes to classic attire and exude  a certain degree of self-confidence.

4) Most guys fail to make a tailor part of their sartorial routine.
Don't forget to have each new piece of clothing -- typically items like sports jackets, blazers, pants, and suits -- altered to fit your unique physical dimensions.  And we aren't talking about bespoke Saville Row suits, made from the ground up, either.  Off the rack items can look almost as good with the right alterations.  Keep in mind, though, that to a certain extent, higher quality items can be altered to fit you better.  

At the very least, you need to have jacket/coat sleeves and pants inseams altered so that you don't look like a little boy in his father's suit.  Don't ignore this vital trick of the trade when it comes to looking and feeling your best in clothes that you wear for public consumption, that is outside of your own backyard or TV room.

5) Still other guys seem oblivious to climate and season.
Take care to wear items that are the appropriate type and weight for your location on the globe and the time of year.  You wouldn't think of wearing a heavy tweed jacket and corduroy pants in Mississippi or Alabama during July, August, or September, would you? Neither would a lighter weight gabardine suit be appropriate for Minneapolis-Saint Paul during a typical Minnesota winter.  And let's not get started on the apparently millions of doofi (the correct plural of doofus) out there who wear shorts any time the temperature rises above 25F./-3.8C.  

Suffice to say that you should remember to pay at least some attention to the thermometer and time of year before you get dressed.  Doing so will help you feel much more comfortable, especially when you wear classic male attire.

6) Then, there are the guys who habitually buy poor quality items.
One more reason many feel uncomfortable whenever they need to "dress up" has to do with the fact that they've bought the cheapest, crummiest stuff they could find, which, at some level, they realize.  And while low price might seem like a good idea at the time, you get what you pay for.  Too often buying something for a cheap price means poor craftsmanship, poor fit, and low overall quality.  Sometimes, that will have a direct effect on how comfortable a piece of clothing  is. . . or is not.  

Assuming clothes fit your body reasonably well to begin with and are seasonally appropriate, better items are, in general, going to wear better, last much longer, and be more comfortable than cheaper, mass produced garments that usually, though not always, feature poor workmanship among a host of other problems inherent in them.

7) And of course, far too many guys have other bad sartorial habits. 
This point has to do with how a guy wears his clothes and, depending on the kind of garment under consideration, how often he does so.  While a necktie should be drawn up enough to hide the hopefully fastened top button of your shirt, it should not be cinched so tightly around the neck that it feels like a hangman's noose.  Put another way, the whites of your eyes and face should not be turning deep red, or your pulse pounding in your ears minutes after you finish knotting your tie.  

Neither should your belt be cinched so tightly around your waist that it gives you a muffin top.  Of course a belt is meant to help keep our pants up, but there is a happy medium between too loose and too tight.  Find it.  

Similarly, if you wear that one pair of leather dress shoes in your closet just once or twice a year, spending the other 363 days in athletic shoes, "mandals," or flip-flops, then of course you'll feel self-conscious and unsteady on your feet when you absolutely cannot avoid donning dark socks and dress shoes for Great Aunt Marge's memorial service.  Hopefully, you aren't actually planning to wear sneakers and that old pair of Levi's Dockers.

8) Still other guys lack any sense of occasion and what is appropriate.
Make sure that you wear clothing appropriate for a given occasion.  What might be suitable (get it?) for raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or changing the oil in your car is not necessarily appropriate attire for weddings, funerals, religious services, jury duty, special dinners or events, parent-teacher conferences, or, indeed, many offices.  

Very often, people feel uncomfortable (or should) when they show up dressed in such a way that is not in accordance with the occasion and, perhaps, the kind of attire that those around them are wearing.  To be blatantly specific, I am talking about people arriving woefully underdressed relative to the kind of event they attend.  For example, consider the number of weddings these days where no one, except maybe the bride, groom, their bridal party, and the person officiating are dressed in anything other than jeans, sneakers, and shirt sleeves.  Same thing with how many people apparently now attend church services on Sundays.  It's as if they are on the way to the beach and decide on a whim to drop by a church service along their way.  

No, no, no.  It's time to reintroduce a certain level of respect and decorum for certain places, events, and occasions, and that comes, largely, through awareness and consideration for other people and things besides oneself.  What a concept, eh?  It is worth noting, and rather interesting, that this terminal state of arriving underdressed does not seem to be a problem for people attending services in synagogues or mosques from what I've seen.

9) Some guys are burdened by emotional baggage from their formative years.
If certain attitudes and practices were (or were not) conveyed during one's upbringing, it's easy to see why so many guys claim to be uncomfortable when faced with the prospect of dressing presentably, in something besides ill-fitting sweats or jeans, for work and/or recreation.  They've been conditioned to think that way, their psychological discomfort instilled by others, who have moaned and groaned about the imagined hardship of wearing  a suit or a jacket and tie.  

I actually have a former in-law in the United States and another relation in Great Britain like this, so there must be plenty of other guys around who think in a similar way.  Call it an unfounded and irrational fear of looking presentable, which lots of guys attempt to disguise through bluff and false bravado.  Or, as some of my own family members now quietly chuckle in less guarded moments it's one more example of the "No, I'm not taking that promotion to a leadership position because I don't want to wear a suit and tie!" syndrome.

Um, guys?  If you're out of high school and over the age of 17 or 18, it's time to get over that and start paying more careful attention to how you present yourself -- and what your clothes are saying -- to the rest of the world anytime you walk out of your front door.  An increased level of self-reflection and greater awareness might help here.

10) And many guys suffer from very low expectations for themselves.
Or they simply don't aspire to more than the lowest common denominator in terms of clothing and conduct.  It might be a case of not knowing any better, a conscious decision, or perhaps a little of both.  Where the latter is concerned, I find that there are many "men" who take a bizarre and perverse kind of pride in looking and/or acting coarse for want of a better word.  Why?

Hopefully, that does not describe any visitors to The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style.  If my observation does strike and uncomfortable chord, however, consider revisiting the way you think about yourself and your life.  Examine what you want and expect for yourself personally and professionally.  What kind of attire and life do you want for yourself, and what expectations go with what you envision?  Do you want to resemble the legions of guys in perpetual disarray, who are sloppy in appearance, habit, and mind?  Or, do you want something better for yourself. . .   and those around you?  

Like it or not, external appearance is a part of this.  We can use clothing, however, to present ourselves in the best way possible, inspiring confidence within ourselves and those around us when it comes to our education, skills, abilities, talents, and level of seriousness. . .  Or just our general level of pleasantness.

11) For many guys ripped, torn, stained, orange and/or camouflage clothing is the daily norm.
I don't even know where to start when it comes to this, but Judas H. Priest!  And I don't think it's always an indicator of socioeconomic status hence my sense of frustration with the situation.  Isn't there someone, a parent or parent figure, who can set these clowns straight?  Since I grew up in the country and cared for several horses, ponies, and sheep among other farmyard animals during my youth, though, I feel safe in suggesting that this kind of clothing should be relegated primarily to chores in and around the barn.  

Otherwise, don't appear for public consumption wearing it. . .   Unless you are actually freezing your baguettes off in a blind during deer season, or some other hunting season, when it comes to all of that orange and camo gear.

12) Last, too many guys are crippled by a self-defeating mindset.
An awful lot of guys I've rubbed elbows with invent any number of reasons and give all kinds excuses for why they do not, will not, or cannot dress any better than they do if and when the subject comes up.  I also suspect that there are lots of unstated reasons and ways of thinking that come into play too.  Enough is enough!  

It's time to stop viewing dressing presentably, together with decent behavior, as things to fear, loathe, and deride.  Dressing (and conducting oneself) like a man with some grooming, polish, and sophistication should instead be seen as an opportunity to look and feel your best and put your best foot forward.  A change in how you view yourself, along with dressing and acting like an adult, who has things to do, places to go, and people to see -- plus the well-practiced social skills to match -- is called for when it comes to feeling comfortable in classic male attire or a social setting besides the dreaded and stinky "man cave." 

Where do we go from here?  
Surely, there must be additional points I am not thinking of at the moment, but those outlined above go some way in explaining how and why lots of guys claim to feel physically uncomfortable, or just mentally and emotionally ill at ease, whenever they are faced with wearing something that conveys somewhat more gravitas than that ratty Cozumel t-shirt, from college Spring Break a dozen years ago, with a pair of blown-out jeans or cargo shorts. 

Now, I might be off the mark with some of of the problems I identify above, but quite a few years spent meeting and observing people, in various walks of life, suggest otherwise.  It's my considered opinion that lots of guys, of various ages and occupations, suffer from one or more of the ills described above, consciously or subconsciously.  Moreover, I'll venture that these same individuals, who clearly are in the majority, are to some degree physically uncomfortable in and/or mildly embarrassed by their clothing and appearance.  However, they attempt to mask that discomfort in a haze of cheap aftershave and testosterone-induced bluster if the subject is ever broached.  Smoke and mirrors in other words.  Or as I like to think of it, the emperor has no clothes on at all.  

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest something quite radical at this point however.  If a guy goes about it the right way, re-imagining his self-image and approach to presentable dress, a suit and necktie, or even just a sports jacket or blazer, odd pants or jeans that fit, and a blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt -- worn open-necked without a tie. . .  what constitutes "dressed up" to a lot of people these days -- can be every bit as comfortable as a pair of pajamas.  Try it and see. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Fun with Hart, Schaffner, Marx and Ralph Lauren. . .

 "Made ya laugh!"  My wife seems to have a real knock for snapping the shutter at precisely the wrong moment.

Our respective paths crossed for a few minutes this afternoon before I headed to campus.  What better opportunity to snap a few pictures of yours truly in that Hart, Schaffner, Marx overcoat that I picked up a few weeks back for less than US$10.  A fairly dark, chilly day today, so I kept it subdued with various grays and a pair of black Allen Edmonds.  The double-breasted jacket, which has appeared in various post previously here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, is by Ralph Lauren.  The one splash of color in today's ensemble was the pretty green foulard necktie.  The brand is unknown, but according to the label, the tie was handmade in England.  Good enough for me.  Everything shown here was either thrifted, purchased for a song on Ebay, or from An Affordable Wardrobe in the Boston area.  Yet more proof that you can dress presentably -- fancy-schmancy even -- without spending thousands of dollars to do so.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 Here's a slightly more sedate photo from a few moments later.

And one with the hands not in the pockets.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Style. . .

We had a dragon visit the von Boffke household during Halloween 2014 (von Boffke jr.), and a most stylish dragon he was too.

Halloween 2014 has come and gone, and it seems like it was a reasonably successful one.  The occasion is an enjoyable one for younger children, and they were certainly out in force during our designated trick-or-treat times yesterday evening.  

This year, we set up a self-serve arrangement on our front steps, so that yours truly could accompany the Grand Duchess and the Young Master around the neighborhood.  It was quite chilly though, so we visited about 10 houses before the Young Master announced that he was ready to head home.  It was just the right amount of time, an hour or so, on a crisp, October evening with a pretty, pink sunset on the horizon.

Back at home, we even managed to go through all of our candy by the end time designated by the city, fortunately, so no snacking on leftovers for ol' Dad this weekend. Simply by cutting out lunch, limiting breakfast to 24 biscuits of Kellogg's Frosted Miniwheats, and keeping supper portions small with few second helpings, I've managed to shed five pounds in the last four weeks without too much effort or hardship.  Ten to go before I hit my target.

But back to Halloween.  And I fully realize that the following makes me seem like an awful, dusty, crusty, old fuddy-duddy, but so be it.  Here are a few observations after yesterday evening's foray with the Young Master:

1) While it's not exactly my thing, it is fun to see some parents get into the spirit of the occasion and don a witch's hat, or something similar, to accompany their children around the neighborhood.  But, please remind your kids to say "Thank you" at the conclusion of the trick-or-treat transaction.  To be fair, we did hear these magic words from some groups of children with whom we mixed yesterday evening during our own dragon's Halloween jaunt around the neighborhood, but the practice of "Thank you" wasn't exactly universal from the mouths of many of these babes either.

2) Halloween is for younger children everyone.  Junior high and high school kids, and/or college-aged adults (teenagers to early 20-somethings) are far too old to be trick-or-treating for free handouts.  Grow up!  Some parents out there need to do a better job of suggesting that as certain milestones come and go in a young person's life.  

3) What is the deal with all of the clearly middle class kids clearly dressed as the 21st century version of marauding street thugs -- right down to hooded sweatshirts and/or knit ski caps -- complete with plastic whiffle ball bats and backpacks to hide the loot?  What in the hell are their parents thinking?!  In which universe is this a "cool" costume for your child, much less permissible?  And don't give me the weak argument that it's the most/best these kids can come up with.  Bull.   

4) Can someone please explain to me the apparent mindset that handouts, regardless of whatever those might be, are somehow a God-given right, and you should, therefore, scoop up as much of whatever is being doled out as you possibly can?  What is that all about?  Each year at Halloween, we notice carloads of children (and their parents), who we never see around our ethnically and economically mixed neighborhood. . .  except at Halloween, when the "children" (often young teenagers already a little old for trick-or-treat) are dropped off from shiny, fairly new late model vehicles by their parents to sweep the streets for whatever they might be able to get before piling back into the car to hit a different neighborhood in another section of town.  This way of thinking -- having one's figurative or literal hand perpetually out for freebies -- is unconscionable.  Is that really the kind attitude and behavior we ought to instill in our children?  

Ok.  Saturday morning rant over.  Bring on the American Thanksgiving holiday, a nice one that, unfortunately, gets lost in the manic run up to Christmas.

 -- Heinz-Ulrich