Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Stylish Man Has "Character". . .

An interesting post yesterday at The Daily Prep on the nature of "character" has prompted today's thought here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  Here it is.  The truly stylish man has character. 

What exactly is character?  Off the top of my head, character includes various intangible traits like selflessness, charity, kindness, consideration, benevolence, and forbearance.  The Josephson Institute's Center for Youth Ethics describes character in considerably more detail, breaking it down into six distinct pillars, which are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.  Finally, The Art of Manliness featured an interesting post on the subject of character here.

It strikes me -- taking into account our incredibly self-absorbed, superficial, LOL, OMG, celebrity-obsessed, and reality TV-flooded era of false bonhomie (look it up) -- that few people seem to have any notion of character.  And you certainly never hear character discussed within the general hubbub that passes for public discourse anymore.  At least not in the United States.  Nonetheless, average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches would do well reacquaint themselves with the concept.  It costs nothing.

Here's a little challenge, then, to readers of this blog.  Let's do our utmost to abide by and practice the concepts outlined above in our daily lives and interactions.  It would certainly help us to help the world become a marginally better place in which to live.  And hey!  No mention of shoes or attire at all.  What's going on here?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Business Casual Is Not. . .

These are examples of what is acceptable Business Casual wear for men and women.  Do you see any flip flops, cargo pants, jeans, or club wear?

This post is inspired by a young man in my Contemporary Global Cinema course, who gave his term paper presentation today.  Before starting, he loudly proclaimed that he had read the ten detailed presentation guidelines (only one of which had to do with clothing), uploaded to our Moodle course page last week, and he had thus, "dressed for success in Business Casual attire."  His exact words.  

Here's the skinny on Business Casual.  It is not old sneakers, dirty jeans without a belt, a wrinkled untucked shirt worn with a loosened necktie and tie clip.  Neither is Business Casual a hairy, pale pink, prematurely flabby belly peeking out now and then.  As you might imagine, the student's presentation, while not awful, was not exactly stellar either.  Clearly attention to detail is not this 22-year-old senior's strong suit.   The young Mr. M. needs to rethink his approach somewhat.

What about the content of his presentation itself?  Well, various questions raised by his classmates during Q&A afterwards brought several problems with his argument to the fore.  And the barely stifled, open-mouthed belch in the middle of Mr. M.'s presentation was yet another indicator of the overall quality of things during this particular 20-minute segment of class.  It really should not have been surprising given the detailed nature of an e-mail that this same young man sent me just before Midterm, in which he shared far too much personal information -- Super-dooper-mega TMI -- about why he was absent from class one day.  

Someone needs a little refinement.  So, I'll bang this old drum yet again for any average guys reading this who might actually realize that something is amiss, and that there is a very real need for them to kick up their everyday style several notches as they move kicking and screaming into adult life.  Here it is.

Guys, you've got to present yourself well -- that includes how you behave -- and dress appropriately if you really want people to sit up, shut up, listen up, and take what you have to say seriously.  You've got to look like you know what you are talking about.  Failure to understand that point does not instill confidence in others when it comes to your knowledge and abilities.  Neither does it matter how bright and degreed you might be.  The way you conduct yourself -- and appearance is a part of that like it, or not -- matters as much as what you say, and what you might know.  

If you plan on a life in the white collar, professional world, and if you want to come across as at least upper middle class -- excuse my dragging class into this discussion.  It's difficult to avoid doing so, but if we are honest, "class" is about more than just simple economics -- then you've got to look and act a certain way.  That's not an indictment of anyone, their backgrounds, abilities, opportunities, or lack thereof.  It's just how things are if we look at it realistically.  As the cliche goes, you've gotta walk the walk and talk the talk.  You must look the part in other words.

Now, people either get that, or they don't.  It's a fact of life that many don't like to think about, or have brought to their attention, and some take great offense at the mere suggestion.  But it exists nevertheless.  And no, that's not fair, but life isn't always fair.  In any case, this means that you help your cause as you go through life by presenting yourself for public consumption in a way that is more pulled together and polished than might be the case during the evenings or weekends.  I'll come clean here and admit, for the record, that I don't sit around in a suit and tie all of the time either.  I actually enjoy Levis 501s and cowboy boots during my off hours at home, that is when I'm not in leather deck shoes and chino shorts or corduroy jeans, depending on the season.  But I digress. 

Let's look at a hypothetical case to help illustrate the point.  Two job applicants have applied for the same position and, on paper, look more or less equally qualified.  Both get through an initial round of telephone interviews, and second, in-person interviews are set up.  The big day arrives, and both guys turn up, a few hours apart, to meet the the people in charge of hiring.  Who would you call back for to offer the job in the end?  The disheveled slob, who, although he is marginally stronger on paper, looks like he has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, much less getting his shoes on the right feet?  Or the neatly groomed, well-dressed guy who, while he might be slightly less qualified, nonetheless looks like he can hit the ground running, handle a number of simultaneous tasks without batting an eye, and function well with his colleagues without any hiccups?  The guy who looks and acts ten times worse than Oscar Madison ever did?  Or the guy who comes across as polished and even urbane in his actions and speech? 

On a closely related note, how you present yourself also has to do with a less pleasant aspect of personal habits and behavior, an issue that fewer and fewer people seem to take seriously.  Here it is.  Guys, you've also got to take control of your body and stop bodily noises and odors before they happen, at the very least when you are around other people.  That kind of thing is repulsive, highly offensive, and it destroys your credibility because absolutely no one will remember what you said after you fill the room with the fetid aroma of your last meal.  Moreover, it is definitely NOT the way to behave with a love interest even once that careful early dating behavior wanes.  At best, others will begin to see you as that poor schlub who can't seem to help himself.  At worst, you'll come across as a completely inconsiderate pig.  Do you really want to risk leaving others with that kind of impression?  Here's the deal.  No one else should have to endure your intestinal issues.  It's foul, ok?  We aren't wild street dogs or cavemen, and presumably you weren't raised in a barn, so don't do it. 

Here's a little style secret that might help.  It's called self-control, a concept that is almost never mentioned anymore.  With that in mind, hopefully, you won't let it all hang out when you're alone either.  That's probably expecting too much of many people these days though.  And again, you'll either grasp that, or you won't.  I suppose if one has not had certain grooming and polish instilled in him by Mom, Dad, and/or other adult family members as a child and adolescent, it's difficult to realize the need and see the point once you are on your own.  As with so much else, pleasant behavior and knowing how to present oneself start at home.  Or they don't. 

So what's the point then?  Clearly, the term "college man" no longer means what it once did, at least not with respect to personal decorum.  And that's more than a little troubling.  If we can no longer count on the observance of even the most basic polite conventions from most of the people with whom we interact, life is certainly less pleasant for everyone.  Is this a byproduct, intended or otherwise, of ever greater egalitarianism over the last half-century or so?  If so, then color me a filthy elitist.  I prefer the company of polite people.  Guilty as charged.  So, shoot me.  Line me up against the wall when the Revolution comes.  I'll even give the command to fire.  Until that happens, however, please spare the rest of us the sight of your sagging young tummy, your indigestion, and your apparently chronic flatulence.  Thanks.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stylish Men Take Responsibility. . .

Whatever the situation might be, step up, accept the blame, and move on.

Here's a style tip that won't cost a dime!  An average guy who wants to kick up his everyday style several notches needs realize that accepting responsibility, and, yes, sometimes blame, is a normal part of life.  Or it should be.  Too many people in public and private life build careers on failure to accept responsibility for their actions, habitually point the finger at someone else, and manage to weasel out of things whatever the situaiton happens to be.  Know what I mean?  American politics and public life are rife with this kind of thing, and I am willing to bet it also runs rampant within the private lives of many, many, many people.

So, here's the style tip for the day.  If you are in the habit of always pointing the finger at others anytime a problem, difficult situation, or disappointment arises, make every effort to seize control of yourself and stop it now.  That requires a certain degree of self-awareness, recognition, and acknowledgement of the problem.  Learn to accept responsibility and/or culpability on those rare occasions when you do screw up, figure out a way around the situation, and move forward.  No one likes a whiner who can't take responsibility in life, work, or relationships.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Have Fun with a Suit!

Part of yesterday afternoon's attire, which also included a white cotton poplin shirt with straight collar plus a cream tie with navy glen plaid pattern and folded white linen pocket square up top with chocolatey brown Allen Edmonds captoe oxfords on the bottom.

As others have noted elsewhere in the menswear and male style blogosphere, one way to have a bit of fun with wearing a suit is to shake things up a bit with a less serious accessory or two.  For instance, I had to get gussied up yesterday (Saturday) afternoon for a ceremony to initiate and welcome new students to an academic honor society.  The perfect opportunity to wear my recently acquired blue 6-2 double-breasted suit, which I purchased from An Affordable Wardrobe this winter and recently had altered and dry-cleaned.  

Besides a tiny Phi Kappa Phi lapel pin, I decided to wear these wild socks that have been in my drawer for a year or more, but I have never dared to wear them before.  Not sure anyone noticed, but then I wear stuff like this more for me than others.  And hey, I felt like a million bucks when I gave my five-minute part of the opening ceremonies at the front of the small auditorium before the certificate, cords, and PKP pins were handed out to students a short while later.  

Too bad that unseasonably cold weather and rain are back with us for several days starting tomorrow, so it looks like the lightweight wool and silk glen plaid suit will need to wait for a few more days.  Temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (approximately 7.2 C.), so it seems I put away my tweeds and flannels a little bit too soon.

One thing about wild accessories to keep in mind though.  It's best to limit crazy items like these socks to just one at a time, to keep things under control and not risk veering into clueless doofus territory.  Far better to keep things simple and subtle with just one or, at the very most, two small flourishes.  But it's certainly ok to have a bit of fun when you wear a suit and personalize things bit. . .   within reason of course.  There is still no excuse for wearing a Tazmanian Devil, Sylvester the Cat, or Tweety Bird necktie.  A style faux pas of that magnitude will put you in clueless doofus territory so fast your head will spin.  Can you imagine style icons like Connery, Astaire, Grant, or Newman making a mistake like that?

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

A stylish man is not afraid to show that he has a working intellect either.

Friday, April 11, 2014

If you're going to wear a suit. . .

Guys like George Clooney and Daniel Craig might be able to pull it off, but for most of the rest of us, wearing a suit without a necktie just looks, well, doofusy.

A male student showed up to one of my classes earlier today in a mid-charcoal gray suit, presumably for one of the many slightly more formal campus events that occur the last few weeks of the spring semester.  He looked reasonably good.  The pants had a slight break, and he wore them at his waist with a belt that matched his shoes.  The jacket sleeves allowed a bit of cuff to show when his arms hung at his sides, and his shirt was even pressed.  It was nice to see his effort when so many young men -- not all -- on college and university campuses in the United States show up to class looking like pigs regardless of the season or temperature, and they labor under the delusion that it is somehow permissible to do so.

But as the young man in question sat in class, participating in the day's discussion, several things became apparent that spoiled the overall effect.  This is something I notice often on campus each fall and spring semester when, for various reasons, young men are asked to wear suits.  Most of them, while they look ok, never manage to nail it squarely on the head though.  As a result, they end up looking not only stiff and uncomfortable but also not quite pulled together.  To my mind, that is the very antithesis of what wearing a suit is all about, or should be.  You should look not only comfortable with yourself but also polished and well-groomed.  In all senses.

Hence today's post, which might be considered part of  a discussion from earlier in the week on suits and dressing well.  So, for any average guys out there, who want to kick up their everyday style several notches and dare to wear a suit now and then, keep the following pointers in mind.

1) Wear a necktie! 
You succeed only in looking incomplete without it.  Someone, please inform the current crop of male film stars and professional sports types who do so routinely.  Even guys like George Clooney veer dangerously close to clueless doofus-land when they wear a suit sans tie.  If you don't want to wear a necktie, fine, but then perhaps it's just best to forgo a suit all together and opt for a more casual sports jacket-odd pants combo.

2) Fix your collar!
Make sure that your shirt collar is not rumpled beneath the jacket lapels.  Again, a mistake like this when attempting to wear a suit puts a guy firmly in doofus territory.  But the antidote is simple.  Ready?  Here it is.  Check yourself in the mirror before leaving home and when you visit the men's room throughout the day, evening, or event to which you've worn your suit.  Details are important, guys.

3) Shine your shoes!
People notice your shoes even if they aren't really sure what they are looking at.  You know what it signals to the world when you wear beaten up, sloppy dress shoes?  That you can't be bothered to take care of even fairly simple things.  Maintaining your shoes is not hard and needn't take hours if you don't want it to.  Come on!  If you can't be bothered to shine your shoes with actual polish once in a while, then at least use occasional moisturizer on your shoes and give them the once over with a horsehair brush each time you put them on, to remove any dust from the leather or welts before you leave the house.

4) Dress the edges of your soles and heels!
Apply an appropriate color of sole dressing, usually brown or black, as needed to the edges of your shoe soles and heels.  When it comes to your footwear, fewer things look worse than faded, dried out, cracked, gray sole edges whatever state the shoe leather might be in, and however much the shoes cost.  It's another seemingly inconsequential detail that will help you look much more polished and pulled together than the guys who fail to take care of their shoes.

5) Wear knee-length dress socks!
Whether you choose wild colors and patterns, or more conservative dark dress socks, make sure they come to your knees.  It just looks goofy when a guy sits down, and his hairy, pale calves and shins are exposed.  It's the stuff of which nightmares are made.  Ick!

6) Loosen up!
As many others in the men's style blogosphere have written, "Wear the suit.  Don't let it wear you."  You've got to feel comfortable with the idea of wearing a suit, or you look stiff and ill-at-ease, and most people can spot that from 100 yards away.  Instead, you've got to own the role of wearing a suit.  And the best way to develop that level of confidence and comfort is simply to wear your suit.  Put it on and forget about it.  Think of it like this.

Remember Sean Connery (an average guy if ever there was one) in all of those early Bond films?  The man/actor/character looked impeccable whatever he wore.  He wasn't fiddling constantly with his cuffs, necktie, or linen pocket handkerchief.  He wasn't poking or clawing at his collar because his tie was cinched too tightly around is neck.  Neither did he stand there like a scarecrow with a broomstick for a spine while sweet-talking Miss Moneypenny, Domino, or Pussy Galore.  Heck, Connery's Bond even reclined on M's couch a few times, and all while wearing a suit.  That's the self-assured nonchalance we're aiming for here.  Project a similar quiet confidence, polish, and sophistication yourself while wearing a suit, and you're well on your way to looking and feeling totally at ease.   Who knows?  You might even start to enjoy yourself. 

Connery's Bond woos the fetching Miss Moneypenny (the late Lois Maxwell) with his usual pre-mission badinage.

There!  That wasn't so bad, as it?  Ignore these tips at your sartorial peril.  Be sure to have your suit properly altered to fit your specific measurements, observe the tips above, and you'll look better and more stylish than 95% of the other men you'll encounter on your daily rounds.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A man with Style is not coarse. . .

The attire might be antiquated in this illustration, but the notion of polite and polished behavior is certainly not.

Regardless of how much (or how little) money, education, opportunity, or position a man might enjoy, there is absolutely no excuse for boorish, crass behavior anywhere or at anytime.  Sadly, all you need to do in 2014 is step out of your front door, and you'll notice this kind of thing everywhere.  At work, in the office, on the street, on public transport, and in stores and restaurants.  It certainly seems like more people are coarse and even gross in their behavior and interactions than aren't these days. 

While I hardly advocate a return to the stilted, court tradition and behavior of past centuries, or the attitudes of the pre-women's lib or civil rights era for that matter (before anyone misconstrues what I am saying), basic good manners and common decency are an absolute must.  Now more than ever perhaps.  And as I have mentioned here before, average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches would do well to remember this point and work on their manners in the broadest sense. 

Even if Mom and Dad did not, for some strange reason, stress polite behavior during your childhood and adolescence, that is no excuse to continue behaving like a cretin or philistine as an adult in public or private life.  You aren't a college-boy living away from home for the fist time with a bunch of stinky roommates anymore.  So, if you have even an ounce of self-recognition here, and realize that you might need some work in the area of manners and decorum, for the love of God, visit your local bookstore or  Find and purchase at least one book on etiquette.  I am particularly fond of the various titles by Peter Post, which contain a wealth of information on how we should behave with each other, and why it is necessary to do so. 

Whichever title(s) you end up buying, read, digest, and reflect on the material presented.  Revisit it as needed after a few weeks. . .  and later on.  Most importantly, internalize what you read and practice polite behavior in all areas of life, day in and day out.  And here's a secret about all of that presumed "artificiality" of manners that so many guys moan and groan about.  When you practice the social graces all of the time, they become a habit, which is the point.  You become practiced and comfortable with the idea of etiquette, making you a much more pleasant person with whom to live, work, dine, and interact.  Dare I say it?  You'll soon come across as someone with considerable polish, grooming, and sophistication. . .   regardless of the clothes you wear.  Just try it and see.  

Best of all, people around you will appreciate your efforts even if the matter never comes up in conversation.  Trust me.  People do notice, and nobody likes an uncouth boor for long.  But if you're one of those guys -- and there are many unfortunately -- who still don't see the point what I'm writing about here, and somehow interpret your lack of urbanity as an exercise of your imagined "right" to be who you really and truly are. . .   Well, just do the rest of polite society a favor.  Crawl back under your rock and stay there.  Please. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coming Soon. . .

The defunct Cloud Club during the 1930s as portrayed by the late Laurence Fellows.

Coming soon. . .  Suits, sports jackets, dress pants, and neckties at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style on Ebay.  Quality pre-owned menswear at very reasonable prices for average guys, who are looking to kick up their everyday style more than just a notch or two.  You can also find the link at right in the Interesting Style Links column.

-- Heinz-Ulrich