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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Letter from Berlin. . .

 Yours truly earlier today, sporting a new haircut, courtesy of a small Turkish-German place five minutes away.

We've been here in Berlin for a bit over three weeks, where my wife is teaching a summer course at The Frei Universitat on German films and Berlin, with three weeks left before we return home to East Lansing.  The weather here has been warm enough to keep things pretty casual where my son and I are concerned. 

For example, I brought several pairs of chino shorts, and couple of knit short sleeve polo shirts, a madras, a seersucker, and a poplin shirt for example with my pair of Sperry dock-siders.  Truthfully, these have sufficed most days.  I did have the chance to put on some chinos, loafers, and a blazer last Friday evening to meet some colleagues of my wife's from The Frei Universitat.

Sadly, I have not yet had occasion to wear either my maroon knit silk tie, or my Madras tie.  The few men I see in suits are usually poorly fitted suits with shoulders that are far ttoo boxy and sleeves that are far too long, but I'm nitpicking I suppose.  Most young men around here are pretty trendy, or stuck in the early 80s punk scene along with some ugly 90s tats and facial piercings.  Sorry for not being sorry about that, but there you are.

I did spot a very nicely dressed young couple about two weeks ago on the U-bahn one warm afternoon.  Both were tall and blonde, but not excessively so.  He was very handsome and looked like a 1930s movie star with khaki shorts, a tucked in blue oxford cloth button-down, and (surprise) something akin to leather dock-siders.  She was stunning in a sleeveless black top, black shorts, and heels and two, or three understated pieces of silver jewelry.  They certainly stood apart from everyone else and were Germans (I heard them speaking).  So, there are people here in Berlin who get it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Cool enough today for tan Land's End cords and my Chucks!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Moving Your Wardrobe. . .

My current necktie collection after culling around 25 or so that I simply never wore, or that failed to knot in an acceptable way.  I think there are about 75 ties in the rotation now.

Moving your belongings from one abode to the next is never easy.  It is even less so when moving hundreds or thousands of miles.  Sigh.  It could be worse I suppose.

The packers are due here on Thursday morning, too bright and early for the two-day job of packing up our household belongings.  Everything will next be loaded up on Monday next and transported to our temporary digs just outside East Lansing, Michigan during the next few days.  Some of you regular visitors might recall that the Grand Duchess and I have both managed to land positions at Michigan State University, teaching for me and department chairing for her, slated to start at the end of August.

Anyway, one of the many questions nagging at me the last several weeks has been how to pack my model soldier collection for safe transport AND the rather large collection of classic menswear I have accumulated over the last dozen years of so since graduate school.  As far as the neckties are concerned, I finally hit upon the idea of rolling them tightly and placing them snugly within shoeboxes, or in this case photoboxes.  These can be had from any large arts and crafts store like Michael's (here in the Unitied States).  Or just use empty shoe boxes if you can scrounge 'em up.

The photoboxes I purchased have stylized illustrations of the Eiffel Tower and old postage stamps withpostmarks on the lids.  Suitably masculine images I guess.  The rolling will minimize wrinkling and the boxes will keep everything from turning into a tangled, dirty mess in transit by the time our stuff is unloaded in just over a week's time.  Without a doubt, there are various ways to accomplish the same thing, this is what I have come up with.  

Talking of neckties, I am reminded of the wedding reception of an acquaintance that I attended about nine years ago.  I was unfortunate enough to be seated next to the ex-boyfriend, a British emigre Philosophy professor, of my now wife.  She dated him for a year or so between me and me.  Why, I'll never figure out because at best the guy was and remains a boring drip.  Clearly, whoever did the seating charts for the reception either possessed a rakish sense of humor, or simply was not thinking.  

But back to neckties.  Throughout the celebratory dinner, this guy kept loudly telling everyone within earshot that he owned no necktie at all prior to the event in question, and that he found the one he sported (clearly man-made material in a putrid shade of monkey vomit green) -- along with with a borrowed suit at least two sizes too large -- at T. J. Maxx for US$2.99.  Clearly, this was a weird point of pride with him.  The apple never falls far from the tree I guess.  Now, keep in mind that I enjoy bargain hunting as much as the next person, but whatever you paid for something, it is generally best to keep things like that to yourself.

This raises another point.  Whatever your profession or job might be, and regardless of the sort of attire required for it -- or not -- it is a sound idea for any adult male above the age of 18 to own at least ONE SUIT THAT FITS (preferably wool in a year-round weight) a couple of conservative silk or wool neckties, a couple of plain cotton dress shirts (one white, one light blue), 2-3 pairs of dark, knee-high dress socks, and a couple of pairs of conservative leather DRESS SHOES without the dreaded squared toes.  And none of that casual comfort sole crap either.  Here is an excellent short piece at Permanent Style on how to make even a cheap suit look good. 

Have everything cleaned and pressed professionally, and keep it hanging (protected by plastic) to one side in your closet, with your shined shoes at the ready beneath, so you are never caught unprepared for those somewhat more formal occasions that still come up in a man's life from time to time.  It's true guys.  Once in a great while, you do need to be dressed better than people commonly do for dinner at American casual dining chains like Chile's, The Olive Garden, or Applebee's.  And yes.  Haughty, smug, disdainful tone intended, thank you very much. Write your congressman or congresswoman if that offends your sensibilities.

To the philosopher ex-boyfriend's credit, he did try to maintain pleasant conversation with me throughout the meal, but silence might have been more comfortable now that I think about it.  The near constant stream of inane questions about my bicycling hobby (pretty serious long-distance stuff at the time) became grating after while.  There were six or eight other people, a few of whom are actually interesting individuals, around the table after all.  It would have been nice to talk about something else for a bit, and let others have the chance to introduce other subjects besides bike parts like chainrings, cassettes, and the merits of carbon frames.  These are of interest only to the most hardcore of cyclists, I fully acknowledge, and even then, the subject needs to be changed after about five minutes.  Know what I mean?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Classic Style: Carry Yourself Well. . .

Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).

An oft overlooked point of personal style is how a man carries himself.  Standing up straight(er) at the very least will enable you to project more elegance, greater self-confidence, and help your clothes look better on you.  Your body language also has no small effect on how you feel about yourself.  Surprise!  I stumbled onto these related points recently in my usual evening meanderings around the 'net.  Here is what a few others have to say on the matter:

You should always be conscious, as much as possible, of your posture.  Even if you don’t yet own a perfectly fitted suit, start paying attention to how your body interacts with your clothes. A great dose of elegance can be obtained through the right mindset and attitude. Posture is one of the least commented upon elements in the field of men’s style. Yet, the way you stand in your clothes is extremely important. We’ll have the opportunity to expand on this subject another time.  -- Hugo Jacomet, Parisian Gentleman 

Body posture can affect not only what others think about us, but also how we think about ourselves, said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.  -- Research News, Ohio State University 

A man’s success can be affected by his posture. How you stand, sit and where you place your arms, hands and legs can project power, confidence and charisma. Not being aware of this tell-tale body language, on the other hand, can project the image of a man who is insecure, weak and fearful.  --

We all know the importance of a firm handshake, but not enough can be said about solid posture. Having great posture is personally my biggest challenge, but I keep trying because this one is so in our control – it is like a freebee. Even the shiest people can project confidence with great posture. So pretend that a puppeteer is controlling your string from above and stand tall.  --  

Your body language shapes who you are. . .  tiny tweaks can lead to BIG changes.  
-- Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist

There is a veritable slew of further information out there on the web about the importance of carrying yourself well plus the benefits of doing so.  Have a closer look at the links supplied here, and do a bit of your own exploring online.  As always, we take a holistic approach to style here at Classic Style for the Average Guy.  Kicking up your everyday style several notches and presenting yourself as a man with some grooming and sophistication involves much more than simply the kinds of attire you wear.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Classic Style: Serve Fresh Coffee after Supper. . .

 Nothing beats a fresh, hot steaming cup of java.  All of the time according to my way of thinking.  Anytime.  Day, or night.

My maternal grandmother used to say that the best cup of coffee of the day was the one enjoyed just after the evening meal.  Wherever she is in the afterlife, I hope Granny realizes how right she was.  Yours truly is, in fact, enjoying a large mug of joe, made with a French press, as I write this post after supper.  At present, I am home alone for roughly two weeks while wife and child visit grandparents in the Pacific Northwest prior to our looming move to Michigan and subsequent summer travel plans to Germany.  We ought to have out heads examined where the latter is concerned given the timing of everything, but I digress.

The only thing nicer than a cup of coffee following supper in the evening is a cup or two of after-dinner coffee enjoyed with family, or guests when you have them.  Sadly, this custom seems to be something not enough people remain aware of in 2015, at least in my recent experience.  

This was not always the case of course.  From about the time I was 14, I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the morning early before school and again after supper around the dining table with my mother and grandmother.  During the summer months, we often took our coffee to the front porch, or to the glass-topped table in the terraced side-yard.  Here, we chatted and laughed about the events of the day surrounded by big old, blousy Boxwood shrubs on three sides of the yard plus a mature Crab Apple tree, a very tall Tulip Poplar, and a rather large Styrax tree with the meadow up the hill beyond.  All three trees bloomed at one time or another during the second half of May and early June, and the side-yard in late Spring was a feast for the eyes as you might imagine. 

But back to coffee.  I have continued to enjoy the dark mistress at key points during the day and evening throughout my adult life.  However, Italian and Scandinavian friends notwithstanding, coffee after dinner in the evening seems to be something of a lost art for many with whom I am currently acquainted. . .  along with dinner napkins as part of the table setting now that I think about it.  How sad that something nice has fallen by the wayside as society has become evermore caught up in itself, and figuratively at least, runs from one activity to the next at such a rate that small, pleasant things like a cup of fresh coffee after a meal have (apparently) disappeared from the daily radar screens of so many.

My humble suggestion is for average guys, who are interested in kicking up their everyday style more than just a few notches, to reintroduce the elegant custom of after-dinner coffee into their own lives, assuming it is not already a part of the evening ritual.  Whether you take milk, cream, and/or sugar in yours -- or you drink it black as I do -- finish the evening meal with a fresh cup or two of coffee and reflect on, or converse quietly about the day just ended.  And the evening yet to come.  When you have guests, make sure to have a bag or can of decaffeinated coffee on hand, plus an extra coffee pot of some kind, so that you can make and offer coffee to those who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the old-fashioned leaded variety of the java bug.  Rest assured, there will be at least one among your companions who appreciates it.

Coffee after supper strikes me as a highly civilized and sophisticated way to finish a meal, a point on which I hope you might agree with me.  Make it part of your evening routine whether you live alone, with others, or you have a house full of dinner guests.  It is a delightfully convivial way to wrap up the meal and start off the rest of your evening.  Try it and see.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Sunday morning.  11:10am.  Fresh black coffee, toast with Red Currant jelly [thank you for pointing out the correct spelling, Old School], a reprise of John Coltrane's 1958 album Blue Train, and the Sunday New York Times.  It doesn't get much better.