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, December 5, 2016

It's That Time Again. . .

Mind your manners (table and otherwise) this holiday seasons, gents!

The holiday is once more upon us, and with it the annual lead-up the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's period.  While I naturally hope that regular and occasional visitors 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 -- or, frankly, any other common attire of the sort -- this post is not about that.

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  With that idea in mind, 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, most of 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.


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In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs and websites 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 cross paths.

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, not genuine, 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, dogs, or 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, likeable, 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 crass or even 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.   If serving yourself, don't pile heaps of food on your plate.  Take a small share (a slice or two of meat, and a serving spoon or two of other items), and leave enough for others.  You can always come back for a second helping later.

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, stabbing at or 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.  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 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?

Remember, guys.  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 during the Christmas season. . . and, indeed, anytime of the year.


-- Heinz-Ulrich  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Friday Style. . .


(In a Pathe Newsreel announcer's voice) Here's Heinz-Ulrich after the first sip of wine.  What a lightweight!  It doesn't take much to put him in the party mood.  More seriously, the salt shaker and pepper mill were my maternal grandmother's and were on her dining table all of my life until she presented them to me in 1994 when I left Pennsylvania to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  They have been on my own dining table ever since.  Oh, and out of sight on the lower half, a pair of balck tasseled loafers and some very subtle dark green and maroon plaid wool pants from Bill's Khakis of Reading, Pennsylvania. . .  My old stomping grounds in Berks County.


The Grand Duchess enjoys her meal.  We had only just started with the wine, honest!  She also wore a dark red wool skirt and a pair of dress boots with high heels.


 Up and around and into mischief once more, the Young Master models one of his ocbd shirts, a new pair of corduroy pants, and his trusty Sperry docksiders which get a lot of use.  As I explained while helping him dress before dinner, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and a few other occasions during the year are special, so we dress a bit more nicely for these than usual, an example set by my own (transplanted southern) family when I was a child, teenager, and young adult at home.
We celebrated the U.S. Thanksgiving here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold a day later than everyone else since the Young Master had his tonsils removed earlier this week.  So, Black Friday it was.  Still on soft foods for now, but he's not exactly complaining either about all of the pumpkin pie, buttery mashed potatoes, and as much chocolate ice-cream as he can hold.

Apropos the surgery and short hospital stay, we decided to cut back on the food preparation this year and limited Thanksgiving Dinner to pork tenderloin, roasted brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and apples filled with a walnut stuffing/dressing plus dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and spiced apple rings.  Pumpkin pie with coffee followed for dessert with a sip of single malt scotch (Laphroig) in front of the fireplace after the Young Master's bedtime.  

It was a delightfully calm meal and evening without the pressure of guests -- with one or two notable exceptions, I, for one, am not troubled by the fact that we are now not within easy driving distance of various extended family members and assorted hangers on -- or preparing a huge laundry list of dishes that go off before we can finish everything.  

While few, perhaps, will choose to see my point, I heartily recommend cutting back on the craziness that has become the near two-month "holiday season," here in the United States at least, and that people free themselves from the mental and emotional burden of feeling like they absolutely must accept every invitation, include everyone, and/or do everything.  It's much less stressful, which, in the end, makes for a much more satisfying holiday.  There is enough stress in our everyday lives already.  Why make it part of various holidays too? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!


To all U.S. visitors to Classic Style, I wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving Day wherever in the world you might find yourselves this year.  Regardless of whatever life drops in our laps, we nevertheless have a great deal to be thankful for in the everyday small things that we (probably) take for granted.  If we have the company of loved ones, a solid roof over our heads, enough on the table, gainful employment (maybe even a job we like), with a little extra for a rainy day, a few pleasurable diversions that bring us happiness, plus a life lived in relative safety, then we can count ourselves very fortunate indeed.  Many in the world lack one or more of these things and suffer for it.  We ought to keep that in mind.

--Heinz-Ulrich von B.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bingo Little Tweed Suit Tuesday. . .


The upper half today, featuring a wool challis necktie by Rooster.  Italian material hand-stitched in the U.S.A.  It's amazing what people will unwittingly unload on thrift/charity shops.


And the lower half, featuring those recently recrafted Allen Edmonds suede  brogues once more and a pair of flying geese Merino wool dress socks by Dapper Classics.

Decidedly nippy here in Mid-Michigan today, so a perfect excuse to trot out this heavy tweed suit by Chipp for its inaugural wearing.  A lined, winter weight garment here kids., so it's got to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to wear this one comfortably.  The only alteration necessary was to have the waist of the pants taken in a bit, but otherwise, it fits very well.  A pleasing silhouette with slight waist suppression and side vents, shoulders with almost no padding, not too tight, but not billowing around me either with a medium break in the pants, which I wore with actual braces today.  And it is finally cool enough that I can keep my coat buttoned at the center (o a three-button coat) without roasting away.

Found this particular suit on Ebay late last spring and, if memory serves, splurged a tiny bit, but still picked it up for far less than it would have retailed new.  I feel almost like I'm about fire up the old roadster and motor down to Aunt Agatha's for a long weekend of hunting, dinners, sing-alongs at the piano, late breakfasts, and the avoidance of romantic entanglements with scheming third cousins of the female persuasion.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, just one more  day to go until the long Thanksgiving weekend begins.  Not exactly the type of weekend I mention above, but I'll take it just the same.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donegal Tweed, Corduroy, and Ancient Madder Monday. . .


The upper half today, featuring a thrifted Donegal Tweed jacket (with Gaelic language labels inside) and a thrifted Ancient Madder necktie among other things.


And the lower half, featuring freshly polished and buffed shoes along with a new pair of Merino wool Argyll socks from Dapper Classics.

The weather has at least turned cold here at Totliegh-in-the-Wold, but I'm not complaining.  It is, after all, late November in Michigan!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prawn Necktie Thursday. . .

Every man should have a tie with shrimp on it in his wardrobe.


And the bottom half.  

It seems winter weather has finally arrive here in my neck of the woods, so it might be a while before these calfskin monkstrap loafers see the light of day again.

-- Heinz-Ulrich