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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Kindergarten Meet and Greet Style. . .

The bottom half today.  Pants by Brooks Brothers, socks by Dapper Classics, and shoes by Allen Edmonds

A warm one this afternoon and, naturally, also the day we had to take our son to meet his new teacher and school principle.  Blue and red short-sleeve Madras shirt, navy chino shorts, and light blue and yellow tennis shoes for the Young Master.  The Grand Duchess wore a tan linen sundress with sandals, and yours truly wore a navy hopsack blazer, a lightweight white cotton button-down shirt with navy pinstripes, linen pants, green socks by Dapper Classics, and a pair of Allen Edmonds tassled loafers.  A brown braided belt and a silk pocket square featuring an orange edge, and an orange, smoky gray, and white geometric pattern completed the picture.  First outing for the pants, and they were indeed comfortable and breezy.  Wrinkled like a charm too.  Very happy with my thrifted purchase from two (?) years ago.  Hmmm.  I think a linen suit is in the cards for next summer.  And maybe a seersucker one after that?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Ward's Words of Wisdom. . .

Ward Cleaver -- one of my favorite TV dads and played by the late Hugh Beaumont -- sets Wally, The Beav, Eddie Hascal, and Lumpy Rutherford straight.

A new university semester starts in just a couple of days, and as I make the final finishing touches to my online course management pages and look over my class lists (I've got 150 students ranging from freshmen to seniors this term across three courses), thoughts turn to polite behavior.  Hopefully, politeness on my part will beget polite behavior from my students.  We'll see.  

I should probably post the photograph above in a prominent place for each one of these online course management pages, but there is probably a university regulation somewhere that says we shouldn't.  I am, nevertheless, a firm believer that there ought to be a required two-semester course sequence on most college and university campuses in the United States on basic etiquette and polite decorum.  Most (though certainly not all) undergrads in my experience desperately need such coaching in the 2st century.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer 2015: Berlin Neighborhood Style. . .

 A few photographs from our Berlin sojourn this past summer.  We rented an apartment in a quieter section of Berlin-Tempelhof, a few blocks off the bustling Tempelhoferdamm, a major north-south artery in the southern part of the city along the U6 line of the Berlin Underground, the extensive, convenient, and very clean U-bahn.  Here is an old villa around the corner and down the street from our apartment building.

A different kind of post today featuring only a dozen, or so photographs (I promise) from our stay in Berlin during July and August.  I am aware how mind-numbing it can be sitting through someone else's vacation pictures and videos, so I've included only a few specific to where we stayed in the city.  No Brandenburg Gate, DDR TV tower, or, for that matter, pictures of anyone making the goofy and ubiquitous Sicilian horn curse sign with his or her fingers and hanging the tongue out of the mouth, ala Gene Simmons from KISS or Miley Cyrus, to demonstrate how wild and crazy we were while off the leash in another country.  You know the kind of thing I'm talking about.  Anyway, here we go.  I hope you might enjoy browsing through these photographs.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


One of many interesting old apartment buildings in the area.  I am a sucker for older architectural styles especially the kind(s) found across northern Germany.


A nearby Lutheran church dating from 1915 with a still operating school attached to it.


 Another school right across the same street, not in session during the July and August summer holidays.


The old post office on Tempelhoferdamm, now run by DHL.


One of the many nearby parks in which our son liked to run, watch the ducks, and look at the large, ugly fish in the various ponds, remnants of the old moats that once surrounded the Alt Tempelhof village church built by the Knights Templar as they moved eastward during the Middle Ages.  History is all around you in Berlin.  This particular park was just two minutes down Parkstrasse from our apartment building.


The Grand Duchess and Young Master in one of the several Kindercafes we found around the city.  This particular establishment features a climbing and ballroom, so the children can play in a safe area while parents enjoy coffee, tea, or delightful meals nearby without interruptions from the little ones.  We visited several times and met Free University colleagues of my wife's there twice.  On a different note, the Young Master informed me a day or two after our arrival at the start of July that I could speak German to him now because we were in Berlin.  He then went on to correct my grammar mistakes relentlessly throughout our visit!


The living room of our apartment at Parkstrasse 11 seen from the kitchen.  Spartan, but rather nice for the summer.  The two bedrooms were off to either side here with the kitchen, two bathrooms, and entryway behind the camera and off to either side.


The interior of the charming little cafe next door to our apartment building, Muellerskind Cafe, where you can enjoy all kinds of homemade goodies with your coffee, tea, and/or ice-cream.  This photo has been borrowed from the cafe's Yelp page.


The seating area outside of the same cafe.  The photo here has again been pirated from the cafe's Yelp page.  We visited Muellerskind Cafe a number of times during our stay but not as much as we would have liked.  Hopefully, we'll be in the same general area in a couple of years' time and can indulge a bit more often.


Here is Parkstrasse 11 itself where we resided for almost seven weeks in July and the first half of August this year.  The neighborhood was quiet and featured many wonderful old renovated and/or well-maintained apartment buildings dating originally from the 1890s and early decades of the 20th century.  Since so much of Berlin was damaged or reduced to rubble during the end of the Second World War, the Grand Duchess and I speculated that most of the buildings in this area of Berlin were rebuilt at least in part.  Indeed, we spotted a few plaques on the sides of some apartment buildings in the area indicating that they had been rebuilt as part of special building programs during the first half of the 1950s.


 And here is our actual building, which was behind the one shown above, but both shared the same street address.  A tennis club was next  door, and matches were usually underway by 7:30 or 8am most days, but, strangely, the noise was nowhere near as obtrusive as, for example, the disturbances generated by a rental house full of undergraduates across the street. . .  like we enjoyed routinely when we still lived two blocks from campus in Central Illinois.


Here is an interesting shot of the street sign just outside our front door.  The cafe I mentioned above is just to the left here.  All of my photographs here, except the two of the cafe, were taken with my tiny Sony Cybershot.  This last one turned out really nicely if I do say so myself.

Friday, August 21, 2015

There IS Hope. . .

Harrison Ford as Professor of Archaeology Henry Walton 'Indiana' Jones, sporting a bowtie and three-piece tweed suit no less.

Well, after a week on campus at Michigan State University, attending various orientations and workshops for new faculty, I am happy to report that there are quite a few men on this sprawling campus who seem to 'get it.'  

While I have not seen anyone in a tweed suit (hey, it is still too warm for that kind nonsense) like the one worn above by Professor Jones, I have seen various male faculty, staff, and administration in suits with neckties, decent shoes, and more casual sports jackets or blazers worn with odd wool pants or crisp chinos.  Heck, I've even seen a few Panama hats around campus as well as fathers at my son's school arriving to drop off or retrieve Junior and Juniorette in suits, neckties, and dark leather dress shoes without the dreaded square toes.  

It would seem that we have come to the right place.  Thus far, no cruddy sneakers, grubby khakis, ratty old t-shirts that should have been thrown away 15 years ago, or factory distressed imitation leather jackets (observed far too often on the male faculty and staff at my previous institution).  The people around us, from what I have seen this week, actually seem to care about how they come across to the rest of the world and realize at some level what their attire silently conveys to the rest of us.  They have a clue in other words.  Hallelujah! 

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.
To those of you who have inquired (and there have been a few), I am working on  restoring 'Comments' to Classic Style for the Average Guy, but doing so does not seem as straightforward as disabling comments was.  Please be patient and continue to check back at a later time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Post-Berlin Thoughts on Style. . .

The old East German TV tower in downtown Berlin.

Well, we arrived home a few days ago from our almost seven weeks in Berlin, and I have a number of style thoughts to share based on my own experience and just looking around at the people around me.  Ready Freddy?  Here we go!


1) The citizens of Berlin, many of them at least, dress very colorfully.  The men as well as the women.  I could have easily gotten away with my mossy green and Nantucket red shorts and pants.  Sadly, I left these in my dresser at home, opting instead for khakis and olive drab.

2) Many young guys and even a few older ones seemed to be sporting a modified version of the northeastern beachside/bayside look., i.e. khaki shorts, a short-sleeved knit polo or madras shirt, and either leather deck shoes or rubber soled shoes with canvas uppers not unlike Keds.  Hey, you cannot argue or go wrong with a classic look like this during the summer months.

3) The weather was so warm for much of our stay, that I wore my usual variation of this look most of the time except for two brief chilly and rainy spells, when I could get away with Levis 501s and Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops, and I did get to wear a blazer, khakis, and loafers to dinner once with a few of my wife's colleagues from The Free Univerrsity.  I was more "dressed" than any other man present.  However, it is better to arrive somewhere a bit overdressed than underdressed.

4) You do still see quite a few men in suits and the less formal mix of a sports jacket with odd pants in the German capital.  But, for the love of Pete, if you are going to wear suit, wear a necktie with it, and make sure the knot is cinched up enough to cover the top button on your shirt.  Needless to say, that button should be buttoned, and the knot on your tie small and elegant.  It ain't 1975 anymore, gents!

5) Over-sized t-shirts that say things like "Low Rent Boy," hiphop-inspired backwards baseball caps displaying equally witty sayings/putdowns, and lots of cheap bling look good on no boy/man regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or nationality.  You succeed only in looking like some kind of cheap mondo dismo who knows no better when you present yourself that way.

6) Same thing with earplugs, nose rings, lip rings, studs in the face, or any other kind of visible body modification.  How is that kind of thing going to look when you are 50 years old or more?  Find some other way to express yourself and just don't.  Besides, it makes our eyes water when we are forced to look at you.

7) As I, and a few other bloggers here and there, have mentioned so often before, personal habits and manners (or the lack thereof) will instantly betray you regardless of how expensive your clothes, car, home, and various toys are.  As I read somewhere online these last few months, money cannot buy manners, taste, or class.  A person must make the effort to learn if he has not been brought up with certain habits instilled in him by parents or parental figures.

8) Guys, say it with me: daily showers, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant.  Certainly this is not a problem for everyone, but from what I noticed using the S-bahn and U-bahn quite a bit, there are still some members of the male gender who were clearly out of the office when that particular memo was circulated.

9) The five-day growth thing that you see everywhere has been done to death by this point in history, so SHAVE guys!  It might have (might have) looked cool on Don Johnson in 1984 when Miami Vice premiered on TV, but that was more than 30 years ago.  Come on.

10) Don't be afraid to have your hair cut if the need arises when visiting another country.  Often, the results will be to your liking even if language is an issue.

11) "Mandals" worn with socks just look goofy whatever your age.  Some Germans even joke about this.  If you absolutely MUST wear a pair of Tevas or Birckenstocks, do so only at the beach or poolside, and make sure the day is warm enough that socks aren't necessary.  Otherwise, opt for some other shoes that cover your foot.  The male foot ain't that attractive anyway, men, even when clean with clipped toenails.  Frankly, more of us ought to keep our icky feet out of sight.

12) Less is more when it comes to style.  Many of the people I observed while in Berlin seem to be trying too hard to show the world how with it, trendy, and/or "bad" they are judging by the sheer amount of paraphernalia on display at any one time: toe rings, bracelets, earrings, tattoos, t-shirts with ironic sayings on the front, sunglasses, expensive haircuts that you work very hard to wear in such a way that they look like you've just rolled out of bed, messenger bags, animal prints, etc., etc. ad infinitum.  

Once more, and as I have said many times here already at Classic Style for the Average Guy, it is really preferable to limit the number of accessories on display with any one ensemble.  There used to be an old adage for women that is applicable for men too.  It goes something like this: Before you leave the house, look at yourself one more time in the mirror and remove one accessory before heading out the door.


There we are.  Certainly, the points I mention above do not apply to everyone whose path I crossed, and there are quite a few very stylish Berliners of various ages.  However, there are also lots of 20-something "boys" and men on the loose who could use a bit help.  Or at least learn to exercise a bit of restraint when it comes to how they present themselves to the world.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


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