The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. 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. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The First Sunday in Advent, or Can It Really Be the End of November 2015 Already?

Bruce Boyer's latest.  Easily one of the most delightful reads on men's attire that I've come across.

Sounds like a conference paper title, eh?

Spent a delightful 90 minutes or so last night perusing True Style and came across a few pointers that are worth pondering when we consider how we present ourselves to the world.  Especially since we are now in the midst of the (sadly) frenetic Christmas and New Year's season with its various gatherings and parties that, hopefully, at least, some men will dress for. These are taken from Chapter 16, entitleed 'Maxims', of Mr. Boyer's book:

12. Clothes talk.  In fact, they never shut up.  And if you don't hear them, perhaps you aren't the intended audience.

16. Being inappropriately dressed has the potential to be more embarrassing than saying something stupid.

22. Dressing decently should be a matter of politeness, if nothing else.

24. Clothes are social tools, like language, manners, and a sense of humor.

With those ideas in mind, I humbly request that we not make a habit of appearing at special holiday occasions looking/smelling/behaving like we've slept at the bottom of of the laundry hamper for the last six or seven days.  Even if you plan on a small dinner with the immediate family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, shave and dress before the meal. . .  for them. 

So, are you listening guys?  Say it with me.  Put on a a pressed shirt in white or light blue, creased wool pants, and some kind of blazer or sports jacket  that isn't borrowed and actually fits you.  Add a belt, some dark or Argyll socks, and a pair of non-dusty loafers.  If you want to get really crazy, toss on a festive wool tartan necktie.  Don't forget your pocket square, which shouldn't match your tie.  There you are.  Cool, casual, and pulled together as well as appropriate for the (special) occasion. 

Remember.  It ain't gonna kill you to look nice once in a while.  Not only will you set a good example for any children in the picture, but spouses, partners, and significant others will also appreciate your efforts whether they comment on it, or not.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

This marks the 400th posting here at Classic Style for the Average Guy.  Thank you for dropping by and suffering through my sometimes strident, and always pompous meanderings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since tomorrow is the annual day of Thankgiving here in the United States, I thought it high time to rerun a piece that has been featured here at Classic Style for the Average Guy for at least the last couple of years.  Take it in the spirit it is meant.  Part of kicking up our everyday style several notches involves our behavior, which might, in some instances need some work.  So, while I hope you might don, at the very least, a pressed button-down shirt and jacket or blazer plus some leather loafers before you join your loved ones at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow, remember, it ain't just about the clothes.  Here we go. . . 

The American Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us, and with it, the start of the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's Season.  While I naturally hope that regular readers of and occasional visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style will have to good graces NOT to show up to any special holiday dinners or other events dressed in hoodies, sweatpants, sagging jeans, and flip-flops or sneakers, this post is not about attire

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  It's about maintaining a proper sense of decorum, an awareness of occasion, and about coming across as someone with a smidgen of polish and sophistication when you sit down to the table.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  Yep.  That's right.  I can almost hear the collective groans now.  Go on, boys.  Get it out of your systems.  All done?  Good.

As I started to say, here is a reprise of a post from November of 2012 (with a few small recent edits by yours truly), which presents all kinds of useful tabletop information, which used to be common knowledge.  At least in my particular dimension.  Sadly, however, that very knowledge about how to conduct oneself pleasantly at the table seems to have become more arcane and even esoteric in recent decades.  In any case, here we go. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich


In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs that talk at length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting/perceiving ourselves as gentlemen.  Good.  That's a decent enough goal by itself.  However, it's only one small part of the picture.  There is another hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs and websites on the subject that I peruse and read each week.  What is it, you ask?  

Why, table manners of course.  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Yep, I said it.  And I'm making no apologies.  Table manners should be as much a part of our personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so.  Average guys ought to keep that in mind.  Even when we are at home with the door closed.  Newsflash!  Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.
However, because table manners are associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are a potentially explosive issue, prompting knee-jerk accusations of snobbery and arguments about elitism.  Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds come together socially.  

Sadly, lots of people labor under the delusion that table manners -- or indeed polite behavior and social niceties in general -- are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, and outmoded with no place in modern society.  And if that's your attitude, fine.  I can't change it.  

But let me make a few relevant points.  We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here.  Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around.  We are not cavemen, wild dogs, or half-starved farm animals eating from troughs after all.  Moreover, actions speak louder than words.  And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where and who we come from, as well as the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.    

Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with.  But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time.  Likewise, and I would argue even more important, we want to remain attractive, likable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners.  The people with whom we share our lives and selves on a daily basis 24/7.  Why risk spoiling that with crude behavior?  Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children.  We want, hopefully, to teach our youngsters to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication before they are unleashed on the world.  Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not.   

So, without belaboring the point any further, here are 14 tips to remember that will go a long way in helping us average guys to be pleasant dining companions -- and more gentlemanly -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation.  Here we go:

1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally.  Don't forget it!  

2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you.  Don't slouch in your chair, and keep your feet confined to the space beneath your seat.  Don't swing your feet or stretch out your legs beneath the table into someone else's space.  Keep yourself to yourself.  Finally, keep your feet off the darn chair!  In other words, don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level. . .  something that seems to have reached epidemic levels these days.  Buck the trend, and just keep your feet where they belong.  On the floor.   

3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal.  Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.  Your napkin that is.  Not your elbow.   

4) Ask for things to be passed to you.  Don't reach.  

5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces.  Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth.  Ick!  

6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't hunch over your plate with an arm around it, picking through your food with your fork as though someone will swoop down and steal it.  We aren't vultures, so let's not act like it.   

7) Slow down!  Don't gobble your food as fast as you can.  This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.  

8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table.  Excuse yourself if and when this happens although it really  shouldn't at a table of older children and adults.  Chewing with your mouth closed might help.  

9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full.  No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion in the middle of relating something to him or her.  Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.  Oh, and try not to leave food particles on the edge of your glass.  Better yet, make sure you don't.  

10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils.  We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer.  

11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread.  Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is.  By the same token, DON'T lick your plate or utensils clean.  Yes, I know.  But I've actually heard of families where this is the norm.  

12) Finally, please don't wipe your mouth with your hand or the back of your wrist when you are finished.  Use your napkin!  That's what it is for, but be discreet.  Your napkin is not a washcloth/face flannel for Heaven's sake, so don't scrub your entire face with it.  And it should go without saying that you never, ever blow your nose into it!  If you run into nasal issues during a meal, excuse yourself from the table without going into details and, once again, take care of the problem in private, well out of earshot of your dining companions at the table.

13) Avoid picking food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table.  I actually witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students.  Ugh!  But then, she was sitting with her knee bent and a foot on the seat of her chair, airing her differences to the other three young "ladies" (sarcasm intended) at the table with her, so I should not have been surprised.  In any case, if or when you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the matter privately in the restroom.   

14) Here's a final tip to keep in mind.  While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, etc. ) that is best left for another time.  If you absolutely need to discuss it at all.  Talking about things like that during meals is just plain crude and will probably put at least one other person at the table off of their food.  Really.  Our mothers hopefully raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be.  Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.  Right?

There we are.  Behaving like ravenous street curs at the table is not attractive (understatement of the year).  So, let's make sure we take the necessary steps to avoid coming across that way.  Start by making the various and sundry pointers above habitual.  Yes, even when you are alone.  Make pleasant behavior at the dining table a normal part of your routine, and you will be well on your way to becoming an extremely pleasant dining companion in most situations you'll encounter.  

And, as I indicated previously, if you take issue with what I've said here and persist in ignoring it, that's fine.  We are certainly permitted our different points of view.  But there is probably little danger of us sitting down to enjoy a meal together anytime soon.  Now go put on a shirt with a collar and some clean pants without an elastic waist, damn it!

Playful Irreverence for a Pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday. . .

The upper half, featuring my other Harris Tweed jacket sold at one time by Land's End.  American made and not as boxy as some of their jackets became by the early 2000s.  I used to own several and gradually donated them to thrift/charity shops as I acquired nicer blazers and sports jackets.

And the lower half, featuring dark green and navy herringbone socks in Merino wool by Dapper Classics (yet again), charcoal wool flannel pants, and those Allen Edmonds 'Schautal' suede wintips/brogues.  Most of the snow is gone from our sidewalks and walkways on campus, and the sun is out today, so. . .  I'm also wearing a newly acquired chocolate suede belt by Allen Edmonds, another gift received for my most recent 29th birthday.

Yet more playful experimentation with different items of clothing and accessories here today.  One of my more visually appealing combinations lately I think.  Happy Thanksgiving to visitors from Classic Style for the Average Guy to visitors from the UNited States.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If it's Tuesday, this must be Michigan. . .

The upper half early this morning included a Land's End British regimental striped necktie that I purchased back in 2004 when LE was selling a whole bunch of these.  I want to say it is the stripe of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but that might be incorrect.  Regardless of whch particular regiment the stripe represents it would be extremely bad form to wear this tie were I visiting the U.K., never having served in the regiment in question.  However, we are such a messy, crass post-postmodern hodgepodge here in the U.S., that I hope I might be excused (just maybe) for sporting it on this side of the Atlantic where fewer people recognize such associations.  The color combination is delightful in any case.

And the lower half, featuring a new pair of Dapper Classics yellow Merino wool socks and a pair of vintage Corbin khaki pants in medium to heavy wool flannel.

Having fun combining a few different items this morning.  Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, and something blue.  I also received Bruce Boyer's latest title from yesterday ( a birthday gift from good ol' Mom), and it is fascinating based on the cursory skim I've had the time to give the book in the last 24 hours.  True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear (2015) is very literate yet eminently readable.  A well-written handbook of sorts with  just the right mount of wry wit and pith, it also presents sound advice for men interested in kicking up their everyday clothing style several notches.  Packed with information, the book is both entertaining and indispensable.  I would go so far as to say -- if classic men's style mavens and devotees will forgive me -- that True Style surpasses anything I have read by the great Alan Flusser.  There.  I said it.  No hate email, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Snowy Monday in Late November. . .

Spartan Stadium at MSU from the rear of the library early today with the Red Cedar River in between.  Still lots of snow everywhere although some attempt has been made to clear the walkways around campus since the snow fell on Saturday.

One way to keep warm: a heavy duffle coat and a 20+-year-old J. Peterman woolen scarf.

Of course, a Harris Tweed jacket and a heavy oxford cloth button-down collar shirt also help.  Seemed like a good morning to fish out my vintage L.L. Bean cross-country skier necktie too.  Sadly, I have not been able to locate the box with our own ski boots in it although I have spotted the long bag containing our skis and poles.  Otherwise, we would have been out on Saturday and Sunday.

And finally, those golden tan dress corduroy pants again with heavy socks and L.L. Bean duck shoes.  Today was not the day for fine footwear by any stretch.

A few shots of out first taste of winter and my response for a Monday morning.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Tweed and Cord Thursday. . . .

The upper half today, again featuring the J.Press herringbone jacket that has show up here before.  As much as I wear and enjoy all of my various bolder tweed items, this one is becoming the go-to tweed jacket in the wardrobe simply because it works with so much else thanks to its less obtrusive pattern.

Channeling Mr. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster this morning as I dressed post-shower and shave.  We're off to visit Aunt Dahlia at Brinkley Manor late this afternoon and help Tuppy Glossop out of some romantic predicament or other, while hopefully avoiding accidental engagement to an eager young lady ourselves.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the lower half, which includes a newly moisturized, polished, and buffed pair of Allen Edmonds MacNeil brogues/wingtips and a new pair of Dapper Classics Merino wool Fair Isle pattern socks.