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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Wedding Guest Style. . .

Sedate, understated attire for an evening wedding and reception.

Here's how it's done for male wedding guests. . .  or should be but, sadly, is not always these days.  It took very little time to assemble the ensemble pictured.  The most time necessary was about 20 minutes yesterday afternoon, to iron the shirt, which has French cuffs.  These require a bit more time to press , fold, and crease into place, so that they look right once you are dressed and cufflinks are added.  Note, cufflinks and the metal fittings on your wristwatch should match.  Gold with gold, or silver with silver.  Don't mix the two if you can avoid it.

Otherwise, little time or thought was necessary before I dressed late in the afternoon yesterday.  It was simply a matter of opening the ol' wardrobe, selecting the suit (heavy wool flannel -- every bit as comfortable as pajamas), a silk Glen Plaid necktie, black shoes, and dark to-the-knee dress socks.  Took about three minutes, once again dispelling the common misconception that dressing presentably takes lots of time.  It took only another ten minutes, perhaps less, after a quick shower and shave to get dressed.  I was all ready to go in about half an hour. 

You'll notice that everything is subtle, staid, understated, and reserved -- take your pick of adjectives -- as it should be for more formal occasions like weddings.  After all, the bride and groom are the ones who should attract all attention on the big day, or evening as was the case yesterday.  My only concession to eye-catching craziness had to do with the socks which are navy with red stripes.  But no one saw these, and I certainly did not mention them.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.

Before anyone else asks about how appropriate the suit above was or was not, according to EmilyPost.com, a male wedding guest cannot go wrong with a dark gray suit, conservative dress shoes, conservative shirt, and a traditional  conservative necktie combination when attending a wedding and associated reception. No specific mention made of stripes. . . pin, chalk, rope, or otherwise.  In our now exceedingly informal world, where a lot of men might have one suit hanging in their closets, maybe, a three-piece suit with muted stripes is not something you see everyday.  It's far more likely that you'll see men in two-piece numbers either in black, charcoal, or, once in a while, navy.  When they wear suits at all. 

That said, no one turned to gawk when we entered the restaurant where the reception was held, my suit did not seem to distract attention from the bridal pair, and I even received a few quiet compliments later during the evening from women and men alike.  Not something I seek, of course, but it's always nice to hear a few kind words as a parenthetic aside during the general conversation.  So, when the next cold weather wedding invitation comes around, I'll once more don this particular combination of items and go forth with great aplomb.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Casual End of the Semester Style. . .

Who IS that dangerously unbalanced man??!!  My take on an off Broadway out-of-work actor's (a.k.a. a waiter's) uniform.

While I initially entertained thoughts of sending off the students from my Horror Cinema course with a double-breasted suit of some kind this afternoon, when we met one final time for them to turn in their term papers, I opted for corduroy and tweed in the end.  

A slight cold has kind of taken it out me today, and I simply did not feel like suiting up.  You know how over-the-counter medications can sometimes clear your head congestion, but at the same time you don't exactly feel 100%?  Yeah.  It's like that.  A bit woozy.  Hence the lopsided grin and rather more relaxed combination of clothes along with no necktie above.

Anyway, here's a breakdown of everything shown:

* Land's End Harris Tweed Jacket
* No-name Silver-Gray Italian Silk Pocket Square
* Land's End Corduroy Jeans
* L.L. Bean Shetland Wool Sweater
* Land's End Hyde Park Button-Down Tattersall Oxford Cloth Shirt
* Olive and Cream Argyll Socks
* Allen Edmond's Suede Camp Moccasins
* J. Peterman University College-Dublin Scarf (A Christmas gift from good, ol' Mom sold by The original REAL J. Peterman.  It's 20+ years old.)


The combination shown above consists of thrifted items, gifts, and things purchased at huge end-of-season discounts.  The point?  If you shop carefully, pay attention to getting things that will combine easily with stuff you already own, drop clear hints when gift-giving occasions like birthdays and Christmas are on the horizon, get decent quality items (not necessarily the most expensive), and choose classics over current trendy items, it's not hard to assemble a versatile classic man's wardrobe in fairly short order.  It just takes a little awareness,  desire, knowledge, and determination.

It strikes me that attire similar to that pictured might also be equally suitable for all but the most formal Christmas- and holiday-related activities, events, and meals in which most of us might be included over the next few weeks.  Certainly here in the United States where most people have developed an almost pathologic, unfounded, and irrational fear of anything approaching formality where dress and polite behavior are concerned.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.
It has finally occurred to me why so many people seem to fear dressing and behaving appropriately. . .  lack of familiarity with the concept of doing so.  That's it.  We tend to shy away from and avoid things with which we are unfamiliar, and sadly, thanks to a variety of social trends over the last almost half century, how to dress and conduct oneself within and outside the home are completely foreign concepts to more people than ever before.  I am sure many might take issue with that observation, but I remain reasonably certain that it is true nonetheless.  But isn't the notion of presenting ourselves in the best possible light at all time -- a greater awareness of what is appropriate and when as well as greater consideration for others -- something we should all work to reintroduce?  I think so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

24 Ways to Look (and Act) Better Than Average This Christmas Season. . .

An illustration from a 1950s advertisement for Schweppe's beverages.

With the 2014 Christmas and Holidays Season already in full swing, it's worth remembering our aim to dress and conduct ourselves better than has become the sad average among so many nominal "men" out there.  Coarse behavior and thoughtlessness seem to be the rule rather than the exception for too many in the second decade of the 21st century.  So, here are two dozen pointers to keep in mind when it comes to our appearance and actions at the various Christmas and holiday gatherings we might attend at this festive time of year.  Come to think of it, much of what follows below is also applicable at home and throughout the rest of the year.  Ready, guys?  Then, strap in and hang on tight, 'cause here we go!


1) Put on a blazer or sports jacket, or, heck, even a suit and tie when you attend those special Christmas and holiday events.  Nothing wrong with looking like an adult man whose slovenly undergraduate years are now behind him.  Right?

2) Wear a pressed oxford cloth button-down collar shirt in light blue, white, pink, or blue university stripes beneath your blazer or jacket.  It's a relaxed yet very pulled together look -- what used to be called 'casual chic' -- that will instantly mark you as a stylish man.  For an even more debonair look, a navy/black turtleneck pull-over below that blazer or sports jacket will work equally well.  Thank David Niven and Robert Wagner in The Pink Panther, and of course the early Beatles always looked superb in turtlenecks and sports jackets.

3) Ditch the jeans before you go out and put on a pair of charcoal or gray creased wool flannel dress pants with a belt that match you shoes.  After all, events that take place during the Christmas and holiday season are usually pretty special.  It won't kill you to leave the jeans at home once in a while, you know?

4) And if wool flannel dress pants don't float your boat, how about corduroy dress pants? A pair in golden tan is perhaps the most versatile and can be easily dressed up or dressed down without too much thought or effort.  Add a pair of loafers, an OCBD shirt, a crewneck wool sweater with a sports jacket over top, and you're ready for almost anything the holidays throw at you from shopping at the local mall, to attending all but the most formal of parties, and anything in between.  It's really hard to go wrong here with tan dress cords.  Unless you mistakenly put on a pair of over-sized white Jerry Seinfeld sneakers with them of course.  Whatever you do though, don't you dare attend a holiday party, Christmas open house, or set foot inside a church wearing sweat pants!  Even Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple by Neil Simon never did that.  What are you?  A complete cretin?

5) If you're going to wear a necktie, skip the goofy novelty varieties that proliferate at this time of year and opt instead for a more traditional and classic tartan wool tie.  These add an instant festive air to any ensemble without making you look like a clueless and cheesy goofball.  Know what I mean?


 A very pleasant 1950s seasonally appropriate image.


6) Or, maybe you'd like to shake things up and wear either a tartan wool vest or a pair of wool plaid "Go to Hell" dress pants.  Either garment would look good paired with a solid color OCBD shirt and a navy blazer, but wear only a single plaid item at a time.  We don't really need to say why, do we?  You're not Rodney Dangerfield or Ted Knight in the film Caddy Shack after all.

7) Leave the athletic shoes in the closet and put on a pair of leather loafers, either penny, or tasseled.  The latter are a bit dressier if you're going to wear a jacket of some sort and a tie on top.

8) Shine your shoes and dust the welts before you put 'em on too.  Don't forget to make sure your belt and shoes match pretty closely in color and gloss.

9) Don a classic adult male's overcoat of some kind -- trench, duffle, topcoat, tweed, etc. -- when you get ready to attend those Christmas and holiday events, and leave the cheap neon windbreaker, grease-stained hoodie, and/or Nascar emblazoned winter coat where they belong, hanging at home in the hall closet.

10) How about pulling up your damn pants and putting on a belt, hmmm?  No one really wants to see your ass and funky boxers anyway, and they should not have to.  Not even at Christmas time.  Now, you might labor under the delusion that your posterior is God's gift, but let me assure you that most of the rest of the civilized world does not share your opinion.  Cover it up, and if you're really that heavy, lose some serious weight and get a larger size of both underwear and pants in the meantime.  Got it? 


Was beer-drinking ever this glamorous?


11) Shave your face, clip, and clean you nails in advance!  Newsflash!  Even your close family at home deserves these basic considerations to say nothing of people who have been kind enough to invite you to their Christmas or holiday celebration or event.  Don't show up looking like Grizzly Adams, 'cause it's not 1975 anymore.  You know?  In case no one told you.

12) It amazes me how rude most of society has become when it comes to cellphone, I-pad, and/or other I-thingy use in public, so I'll just come right out with it.  Put your I-phone away (silence it first, or better yet leave the damn thing at home or in the car), and look at the people who are in the same room with and speaking to you.  Pay attention to them, respond to their attempts at conversation with more than single-syllable grunts, and do more than simply talk at each other while your attention is diverted elsewhere.  And do not, under the  penalty of death, get out your phones and check for new texts or e-mail at the supper table.  While we're at it, don't seek out the TV in someone else's house either and turn it on, so that you can stare at it like a zombie during the rest of the evening.  This happens a lot in my experience (though we hardly see that side of the family anymore), and it's unconscionable. 

13) Put on clean, crisp pajamas on Christmas Morning and or New Year's Day before appearing downstairs.  A nice flannel, silk, or wool robe over top is even nicer.  Not only do you look more presentable to everyone else, but imagine how decadently comfortable you'll feel until it's time to shower and dress later in the day.  Winston Churchill apparently ran much of the Second World War from his bed while wearing pj's and a dressing gown, so you can certainly put them on in a genuine attempt to kick up your own everyday style several notches come Christmas Day.  Bonus points if you wash your face, brush your hair, and clean your teeth too before heading downstairs, although you should do this anyway without the promise or incentive of extra credit.  It's called consideration for those you live with.

14) Mind your manners -- at the table and elsewhere -- when you attend Christmas and holiday events and dinners, or even if you're just having a quiet day with your nearest and dearest at home.  Frankly, you should do this the rest of the year too.  Do I really need to remind you?

15) Don't be the loudest voice in the room when you attend a Christmas or holiday party in someone's home, or in public.  It is anything but attractive or funny.  Whether alcohol is involved or not, you don't want to be that guy.  Trust me.  Other people will notice and pity your spouse or partner for having to endure such an obnoxious loudmouthed blowhard.  That's not really how you want to come across, is it?


Another beer ad!  People must have really liked their beer in the 50s although I suppose that was long before most people discovered wine in the United States.


16) Speaking of booze, watch how much you drink out on the town or in others' homes at their parties.  Don't make a spectacle of yourself due to a loud and ugly scene or simply because you puke on someone's shoes before the inevitable maudlin regret and contrition takes hold.  You won't be invited back the next time a gathering is planned.  Or, at least, you shouldn't be if you act like this.

17) Don't camp out over the buffet table and hog all of the Christmas and holiday treats , taking much more than your fair share when you've been invited to someone's home or at the numerous office parties that happen around this time of year.  Help yourself to a reasonable (smaller portions than you might think) amount of a few items, get a drink of something in your cup or glass, and then circulate to another part of the room, so that people who arrive after you might have a chance to sample some of that same holiday fare.

18) And since office parties have come up, I'll speak plainly here.  Keep the little general in check and do not let him think for you.  I don't care how cute and flirty that foolish and tipsy young intern or new hire might seem.  The world has moved on since the heady days of Mad Men, and you're just asking for trouble if you have a drunken quickie with someone from the office.  Capice?  Just don't do it.  Best case scenario, you'll live to regret it, and that's assuming you aren't terminated from your job outright. . .  or dragged into a legal dispute involving sexual harassment charges because people WILL find out about your daliance sooner or later.  So, be smart about this kind of thing and stay far away from office hook-ups and affairs.  Why screw up your life and/or career because your already poor judgment has been made even worse by a few drinks?  Keep your personal and professional lives separate and get your kicks somewhere else with someone who has nothing to do with your workplace.

19) Never show up for Christmas and holiday gatherings without some kind of tasteful host or hostess gift.  Some might scoff that it's overdone, but a bottle or two of decent, mid-priced wine, some sherry, port, good scotch whisky (better blends or single malt), or champagne are always nice as is a box of good quality candy or a seasonal flower arrangement.  But there are lots of other ways you might demonstrate your appreciation to your hosts.  Use your imagination, but it's a good idea to skip the joke gifts, which rarely go over well. . .  even if your hosts are polite enough not to say anything about your own appalling lack of good taste.

20) Drop in on aging neighbors or relatives with something seasonal to nibble on, or better yet, include them in your own celebrations.  This can be a very lonely time of year for many people for various reasons.  Why not try to spread a little bit of light and happiness into someone's life even for just a few minutes.  In most cases, your company and conversation will mean a lot to someone in this situation.  Remember them always, but especially at this time of year.


Clearly, the younger set liked their 7up and Vienna Sausages during the 1950s  if this old ad illustration is anything to go by though!

   
21) If you're planning an engagement of some kind in your own home, help your spouse or significant other to prepare for the event.  Turn off the TV, leave the online computer games for another time, put down your I-phone and ask him or her what needs doing.  Run the vacuum cleaner, pick up and straighten your place, sweep and/or shovel any snow from the front walk and porch, put down Ice Melt, or ask for the grocery list and make a run to the supermarket and liquor store.  In other words, get off your lazy duff and help!

22) When attending a holiday event to which you've been invited, keep an eye on the clock and don't under any circumstances overstay your welcome.  It's always better to leave your hosts wanting to see more of you the next time around. . .  rather than leave a sour taste in their mouths, ensuring that your name is struck from the list of possible invitees for their next party because you're a thoughtless boor/bore, who doesn't know when it's time to go.  Think about it for a moment.  We have all observed these kinds of people at parties, and it's not something you want to do yourself.  Knowing when to leave a social gathering is an increasingly rare talent.  Cultivate it!

23) Sending out physical Christmas and holiday cards has become less common than once was the case not that many years ago, but I suggest it is time we reconsider things.  Afterall, the now ubiquitous mass mailing of cards stuffed with the impersonal and, if we are completely honest, unimaginative xeroxed letters bragging all about the kids' activities of the previous 12 months is so overdone that it has become a bad holiday cliche.  There is even a song about it.  So, how about sending out some Christmas or holiday cards with actual hand-written notes/signatures inside rather than the obnoxious bragging that masquerades as the yearly holiday update letter?  You know the kind.  Make your own holiday greetings a bit more personal, even if you limit yourself to sending out just 8-10 cards to your closest friends and family.  Don't rely on email or online social media for that kind of thing though whatever you do.  Tacky, tacky, tacky!

24) Finally, don't forget your spouse, partner, or special someone in the general hubbub that is the Christmas and holiday season for most of us.  If possible, arrange for some time out for just the two of you.  Maybe a visit to your local cafe, have lunch, go to dinner at a nice restaurant, or simply take a walk through the park without children, cell phones, or pets in tow.  Just the two of you.  Even 30 minutes will help remind you of what first attracted you to each other in the first place, and why you fell in love with each other.  And isn't that part of what this time of year is, or should be, all about?


There you are.  As always, none of this should have to be said, but, looking around, it seems like we have reached a new low as far as pleasant behavior, consideration, and general conduct are concerned.  Not that I am sure when that happened exactly. . .  although I have my suspicions how it has happened, but in the cheerful and charitable spirit of the season, we'll leave that topic for another time.  We certainly didn't carry on like this in my extended family, and the people my family knew did not either.  All in all, it was an extremely pleasant, polite, and also fun extended group -- close family, a few different generations of relatives, neighbors, and friends -- looking back at it.  Sadly, as an adult, I've become more conscious of and have observed all of the awkward behaviors and social gaffs alluded to above at any number of gatherings, at Christmastime and during the rest of the year.  

High time then that we back away from the let it all hang out, anything goes, incredibly self-indulgent attitudes of the last 40+ years or so and rein ourselves in a bit as a society.  Don't you think?  Let's start on a more personal level with the kinds of suggestions I make above.  It won't hurt you, really, to elevate your standards of behavior and attire a tiny bit.  At least as far as special occasions go.  Moreover, it will make a world of difference on a day-to-day basis in how pleasant we men are to have around as party guests, housemates, or close family members.  Honest. 

Remember, it's all about learning how to present oneself as a cultivated sophisticate. . .  that is, an adult male with a certain degree of polish and grooming in his dress, speech, attitudes, and habits.  Not only do we want to make a favorable first impression on people we meet, but we also want to preserve that image over time through consistent polite behavior, an awareness of occasion and what might be appropriate for it. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Style in Early December. . .

 A cafe treat for the Young Master, who did not accompany yours truly on my paper grading mission to the local cafe this afternoon.  But how could I not purchase a gingerbread man for him when I saw them grinning from the glass case beneath the cash register?

A lot going on around here since Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd check in today with a few photos of stylish seasonal items. . .  of the edible kind.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


The first of this year's authentic Dresdner Stollen baked by the Grand Duchess each December and fresh out of the oven.  The aroma filling the house when I returned home a while ago was heavenly.  While a properly done stollen is not exactly sweet like a sticky coffee cake or birthday cake, it tastes amazing with fresh, very black coffee..


Finally, yours truly, happy to have plowed through 20 or so undergrad papers (5-6 page critical website reviews).  I have several days' respite until I get another stack of final papers from one of my classes this semester later in the week and from the other two early next week.  Then, no classes again until around January 20th next year!  My usual weekend and evening attire during the winter months on full display here.  Everything is old or very old here.  It sure ain't what you could call brand spanking new.  Well-worn corduroy jeans (Land's End), an old OCBD shirt (Land's End), and a very old -- 20+ years -- Norwegian fisherman's sweater (the real McCoy) from L.L. Bean, which the company is selling again in its catalogs right now.  Jump on them before they disappear!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Be Resourceful. . .

 Yours truly, checking the grill late in the afternoon of  (American) Thanksgiving Day.  A single-breasted navy blazer completed the ensemble when we finally sat down to supper.

Our oven finally died in the midst of pie-baking late Wednesday afternoon this week, the day before Thanksgiving.  For a few moments, as my wife dialed various appliance repair people at 3:30pm, it seemed like the traditional Thanksgiving meal would need to be postponed by a few days until a service man could squeeze us into his schedule. 

Then it occurred to me that we had enough charcoal from this summer left in the backyard shed next to. . .   our Weber grill.  Voila!  Problem solved, and everything had a slightly charbroiled flavor yesterday evening, Thanksgiving Day, which was a delicious change of pace.  It's not often you get to save the day like MacGyver (as played by Richard Dean Anderson long before he starred on the Battlestar Galactica reboot)!  1980s pop culture and bad TV references aside, the point is that a guy should, within reason, use his resources and mental faculties when those occasional unforeseen events occur that life occasionaly drops into our laps. 

Anyway, Christmas has arrived a few weeks early here with us.  Turns out the old (electric) stove required a control panel part that needs to be special ordered and is expensive enough that it made more sense to purchase a new stove.  So, we've now got a plumber scheduled to reconnect an old gas line and have purchased a new gas stove (gotta love Black Friday sales at Sears), to be delivered next week.  That was our somewhat unusual, but no less happy, Thanksgiving Day. 

At the moment,  it's about 11am on the Friday morning of a long holiday weekend here in the United States.  I'm listening to Norwegian jazz online via Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK), sung by a male vocalist in a style reminiscent of the young Chet Baker. American jazz standards that have been translated into a West Norwegian dialect of all things.  The Grand Duchess and Young Master have gone a callin' for the day to visit an aging relative.  The house is now still, I've made another mug of coffee, and all is right with the world.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Another useful skill a man ought to acquire by the time he leaves home is knowing how to set a table beyond the bare bachelor minimum of a castoff microwaveable plate, plastic cup, and utilitarian spork.  In our house, I'm the one who sets the table most evenings and for special holiday occasions too.  Recently, the Young Master has started assisting me.  Whoever he one day marries or sets up house with will appreciate it as my mother remarked a number of times during my own formative year while showing me how to do various domestic things like set a table, wash and fold clothes, genuinely make a bed (with all of the necessary tucks and folds), and iron dress shirts.



 Black Friday 2014 style, including a 20+ year-old navy and cream L.L. Bean Norwegian fisherman's sweater, from a time when they still sold the genuine 'Made in Norway' article.  I bought and began wearing this long before I had any idea that people actually wore sweaters like these outside Norway or the rest of mainland Scandinavia.  I've observed Swedes and Danes in very similar items when in those countries during the winter.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksggiving!


Thanksgiving greetings to Americans at home and abroad.  While the state of the world at the moment is woeful, I nevertheless maintain that there is still a great deal in life for which to be thankful.

--Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another Evening Sittin' around the House. . .

Ahhhh. . .  No more classes for a few days.  Pre-Thanksgiving 2014. . .  the calm before the final week of classes this term and then. . .   Finals Week!

Who says you can't relax and feel comfortable at home without looking like a pile of old, cruddy rags?  One of my favorite combinations of items during the colder months of the year.  A heavy pink Oxford Cloth Button-Down collar shirt, dark green corduroy jeans with an older dark brown belt, and a pair of suede camp moccasins.  Warm, cozy, comfy, and yet I won't embarrass myself if I must answer the frontdoor or venture down the street and around the corner to pick up a forgotten item for my wife at the supermarket.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich