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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Week Style. . .

The lower half of yesterday evening's casual ensemble.

Just because it's Christmas Week, there's been no real reason to venture out, and classes don't resume for your truly until January 8th, is no reason not to dress up a little bit when time and occasion call for it.  Yesterday evening, my wife and I were joined by a former colleague and her husband, retired professors of the German and French languages and literatures respectively. . .  and wine aficionados.  It seemed, therefor, like the perfect time to wear the Dapper Classics socks show above, which were a Christmas gift this year from my better half.  Here are the details of the full ensemble:

* Polo Univeristy Club navy wool blazer -- thrifted
* Brooks Brothers OCBD shirt red and white university stripe -- Ebay
* Land's End dress chinos (these hold a crease) -- sale 
* Land's End braided belt brown -- sale
* Dapper Classics to-the-knee dress socks -- Christmas gift
* Allen Edmonds loafers -- Ebay
* Italian silk pocket square in dark red with yellow hand-rolled edge and golden/orange paisleys -- thrfted

The evening was full of pleasant and interesting conversation, good food, and, of course, wine.  Best of all, our guests last night left just before 11pm, which is always nice when facing a formidable kitchen and dining room clean-up.  Such a timely and considerate departure is not something that always happens with many of our other guests, who tend to overstay their welcome (sometimes by hours) every time and never seem to return the invitation.  Time to sidestep their social awkwardness and find some new acquaintances.  Or do something about our chronic body odor and halitosis.  Yeah.  That must be it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 And, for good measure, the combination of things I put on for Christmas Dinner this year.  It sure beats showing up for what should be a special occasion in warm-up gear, sunglasses, and one of those godawful backwards baseball caps.  The red plaid thingy peeking out is a repurposed 16" swath of cloth from an old, worn out pajama top.  I had my seamstress hem the edges to make a color pocket handkerchief.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Feast of Stephen!

'Church in the Snow,' painted by Norwegian artist Theodor Severin Kittelsen in 1907.

Happy Second Day of Christmas!  Just contemplating, for a moment, the quiet joy that was Christmas Day this year in the von Boffke household, the first like that in several years.  Why can't we collectively have more similar days during the rest of the year?  Those quiet, relaxed, calm, uncomplicated times that are filled with the small joys of immediate family and pleasant company capped off by a special meal.  We all need more of that, I think, when we actually talk to and laugh with each other rather than stare vapidly into our phones, or check the damn things every few minutes.  Or, where we simply enjoy each others' company as we look over the books and other gifts we've received once again after we finally drag ourselves upstairs to get dressed by early afternoon and return to the living room or other gathering point in the family home with another cup of coffee or a glass of eggnog a short while later.  

It just might be possible.  And it costs nothing.  Here is what I propose to all average guys looking to kick up their everyday style in the broadest sense.  Let's make 2014 the year when we say "No more!" to the overly connected, overly scheduled, overly busy 24/7 way of life that has overtaken our post-postmodern existence.  I hardly suggest we turn our backs on modern conveniences like internal plumbing and central heating. . .  or the technological gadgets that many of us think we think we "need."  No need to adopt a Luddite approach since many of us work daily with computers or the like in any case, and it would be awfully difficult to function in the world of 2013 without any of that at this point.  

But the constant go, go, go and often needless, self-imposed obligation to be overly wired and tethered to our I-phones, I-pads, etc. -- something that these very devices seem to encourage -- cannot be good for us or those around us in the long term.  You know what I mean.  People always available and/or constantly checking for the latest texts, voice mails, and e-mails.  Just because you've got wireless at home, or it is available in a restaurant or cafe, doesn't mean you need to or should whip out your latest portable electronic non-status symbol for all to see and hear you use it.  Let's give some serious thought during this quiet Christmas Week to reducing the control that technology has over our non-work lives and interaction with others in the New Year and, hopefully, beyond it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, December 23, 2013

Warmest Compliments of the Season to You. . .

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and the children gather around the Christmas tree.

Wishing all of our visitors happy, peaceful, joyous days and compliments of the winter season regardless of your faith or level of commitment.  If you celebrate, Merry Christmas.  We'll be back with more tips on style in its broadest sense during the final week of 2013.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Avoid Endless Deliberation. . .

Anyone who has ever worked in the corporate sector, academia, or government at any level, will be familiar with the endless deliberation, dithering, and useless chatter of committee-based decision making.  It seems we just loo-oove our committees.  That must be because they prevent easy finger-pointing and accepting of responsibility if and when there is a snafu.

The longer I live, the more people, of all ages, I meet who seem to be incapable of making a decision.  It might be as simple as deciding which shoes to put on in the morning, which local restaurant to visit for an evening meal, whether or not to ask that new gal out  for a drink after work on Friday evening, or something more serious like whether or not to take that promotion and transfer recently offered to you by your company.  

Regardless of the precise situation, there is invariably a great deal of hand wringing, apron twisting, and endless talk without a decision being reached.  Arrggh!!!  This phenomenon is not a recent development although it seems worse now than ever before.  But we have certainly seen the problem reflected in popular entertainment like movies and TV for the last 20+ years at least.  Watch almost any rerun of Seinfeld or Friends, for example, and you'll quickly see what I mean.

As average guys concerned with kicking up our everyday style several notches, let's work to change this annoying trend.  Let's do our utmost to make conclusive decisions in all areas of our lives.  Efficiently, in fairly short order, and without round after round of endless and self-indulgent deliberation.  I am hardly suggesting careless disregard for others  and rash action.  What I do advocate, though, is for people to quickly take stock of a situation and its related possible choices, make a decision, and then stick to it.  Grow up, act like a man, and own your decisions, guys.  Accept the consequences, if there are any,  and move forward to the best of your skills and abilities.  Let's not live our own lives like Ally McBeal and forever row our figurative boat in circles without progressing in the river of life for Heaven's sake.

As for yours truly, I'm off to examine the contents of the upstairs hall closet and decide which of three odd jackets should go to the tailor's next for minor alterations.  But wait!  Maybe not.  Oh, I don't know.  What if I make the wrong decision?  Someone, anyone, tell me what I ought to do.  Let's meet up at Central Perk, grab a couple of lattes, and talk it to death.  Yeah.  That's it.  Oh, thank you.  I feel so much better now.   

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Control That Temper Guys. . .

No matter how upset you might get, rein in that temper, guys.  Losing it accomplishes nothing.

With the stress and numerous pressures of the Christmas and Holiday season, not to mention the rest of the year, it's all too easy for tempers to flare and angry words to escape from our mouths before we have had a chance to calm down.  So, I'd like to challenge average guys everywhere, who are making the effort to kick up their everyday style several notches, to exercise greater self control -- a concept no one ever seems to mention anymore -- and swallow that anger. 

Unkind words and/or physical violence do nothing to solve a problem or help a situation.  And most often, you'll succeed only in hurting whatever case you might hope to make.  Open any newspaper, or turn on the TV, and you'll see all kinds of daily examples of what has happened when two or more guys have been unable to control their respective tempers.  Childish behavior, violence, and all too often injury or even death are the sad result of the failure of many to control their respective tempers.  Of course, it is sometimes extremely difficult to do so.  I get it.  But it's far better, much more adult, and safer to swallow that anger, turn the other cheek, and walk away BEFORE you say or do something foolish. 

You will, of course, pardon the overt Christian reference in the preceding sentence, I hope.  But it is nevertheless applicable here.  Funny.  It seems that my latent Episcopalian background comes out in all kinds of unexpected ways.  My deceased maternal grandparents and the late Father Cosby would approve.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Very Simple Step toward Greater Style. . .

Trust me.  You don't want to be one of those guys who can't keep his gum in his mouth, or chew it quietly.

Here's a very simple tip for average guys who have set out to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Best of all, it's inexpensive and easily accomplished.  Are ya ready Steve?  Andy?  Mick?  All right fellas.  Let's goooooooooo!!!

If you are one of the legions of people who insist on having a wad of gum stuck in the side of your mouth -- and if no one has told you before, it's a pretty tacky and cheap habit to begin with -- chew it quietly and keep it in your mouth.  Anyone over the age of seven who cracks and pops his gum is annoying in the extreme, even if others around you are polite enough not to say anything.  That sort of thing is not even cute in children if we are perfectly frank with ourselves.  And it's also just plain gross for us to treat people to the sight of that chewed up, rubbery, neon wad of stuff in our mouths.  As inconsiderate and offensive as, for example, taking off your shoes and socks on an airplane and resting your feet against the nearest bulkhead.  

Nope.  Where Bazooka, Juicy Fruit, and Dentyne are concerned, my maternal grandmother used to advise, "If you insist on chewing gum, then go to your room and close the door where no one can see or hear you."  And that's not just solid advice for job interviews and office etiquette either.  Fewer things spoil the overall effect of a handsome and well-dressed man than when he tosses a piece of gum or five into his gaping maw and begins chewing vapidly away on his cud.  Yep.  Cheap and tacky.  And you don't want to venture anywhere near that territory. 

Since we take a holistic approach to everyday style here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, and acknowledge that the somewhat nebulous concept of style is about much more than our clothes, accessories, and hair, let's make a concerted effort to keep that gum in our mouths where it belongs and keep it quiet, guys.  Assuming we refuse to kick the habit altogether.  But I hope, Bazooka Joe, that you might try.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Do you have a mouth like a cesspit?

When you speak, are the words that come out of your mouth the verbal equivalent of raw sewerage spewing in all directions?

Late this afternoon, as I read through and graded student papers with a cup of coffee in a cafe and dining area on campus, I was reminded again how awful a steady torrent of obscenity sounds.  Two young men at a nearby table seemed unable to utter more than a sentence between them without peppering their speech liberally with the F-Word.  Keep in mind, these are university men.  Part of the huge "middle class" of which almost everyone is now a part in the United States, yet there was nothing remotely classy about these guys based on their speech and behavior.  You'd think they might have been able to express themselves a bit more eloquently after a few semesters on campus.   Guess not.

But maybe I'm completely out of touch.  Is the prevalence of this kind of thing a byproduct of the democratization of higher education specifically and society in general?  Or do people really speak to each other like that in all families now regardless of socioeconomic origin?  What in the world has gone wrong with society when a clear majority of people cannot sit quietly by themselves or in small groups and avoid being subjected to that kind of thing from the mouths of just a few.  Maybe I'm the one with the problem though.  I mean, why worry about the tangible decline in standards of behavior everywhere in less than a human lifetime?  Let's just let everything hang out and all behave like the worst of the worst.  That would be the easiest thing to do.  Right?  

No.  I refuse to accept that.   It's time to reintroduce more than a little self-control in how we act and speak.  Contrary to what some might argue, however, reining ourselves in and watching what we say, when, and where we say it is not an infringement on people's right to free speech.  Besides, that is a concept twisted by lots of less than fully informed people to mean something that the great minds of the Enlightenment did not necessarily envision or intend.  Neither is the issue simply about moving out of earshot if you don't want to hear some ignoramus demonstrate his extremely limited vocabulary.   

The heart of the matter concerns a complete lack of civility on the part of too many individuals, who can't bothered to think about anyone or anything but themselves.  As average guys who are concerned with rising above the commonplace and the banal, though, oughtn't we to demonstrate greater consideration for others and be more mindful of what is appropriate in public spaces.  Surely, spewing forth a torrent of obscenities anywhere and everywhere with utter disregard for everyone else is not.  Just because some of us might get some weird, juvenile charge out of it and cannot express ourselves another way is no excuse.  It's not ok and succeeds only in making a guy seem trashy.

Now, I'm no saint.  I've hit my thumb accidentally with a hammer many times, caught my toe on a high curb and fallen head over heels on a dark city street, and crashed my head into low-hanging beams over doorways.  I've smashed my forehead into a low shelf over a bed as the alarm clock jangled me into consciousness and split my brow open, bleeding all over the place while on the way to catch an early train.  I've worked in a warehouse unloading trucks as a young man, an environment rife with cussin'.  I've also experienced sudden heartache and extreme frustration, so I get it.  Sometimes, a fusilade of obscenities escapes from our mouths before we know it and despite our best intentions.  But, let's be reasonable here.  Many, if not most, people really don't want to hear a habitual and steady stream of curse words coming from someone's mouth.  Not in polite society at any rate.  No two ways about it, guys.  Having a mouth like a sailor is unattractive on a number of different levels.  Sadly, most of us are afraid to say anything when someone spews their verbal filth our way in restaurants, on airplanes, and in shopping malls, or on the street.  So, let's leave it like this.  

If you want to kick up your everyday style several notches and avoid coming across as nothing better than low rent, get with the program.  Your background, money, electronic gadgets, bling, car, and clothing make no difference.  Neither does that overly-inflated, artificially propped up self-esteem from which many young guys seem to suffer these days.  Here's the deal though.  If you are unable to express a thought without uttering an obscenity, if every second or third sentence is laced with what used to be called blue language, you've got a problem.  The solution is to become more upwardly mobile in how you present yourself to the rest of the world, and a large part of how we do that is through the language we use.  In other words, it's time to leave the habitual potty mouth behind once and for all.  The people around you will appreciate it, and you'll come across as a more decent, pleasant, and genuinely likeable person.  And who knows?  You just might find that people begin reacting differently to you, and your life somehow magically changes for the better.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Gentle Holiday Reminder. . .

The hilariously funny, but unexpected and uninvited, Cousin Eddie and Catherine in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

In the hustle and bustle that is December for many of us, it is worth remembering this tiny tidbit of a social grace, which average guys attempting to kick up their everyday style several notches should do their utmost to remember.  Don't drop in on people unexpectedly, and don't try to wrangle an invitation.  If people want to see or include you, they'll let you know with a phone call or an invitation.  You certainly don't want to add to anyone's Holiday stress by crashing the party uninvited.  It's high time to think of others and, hopefully, consider how your choices and behavior might negatively affect them.  Even if they are polite enough to say nothing about it.  Know what I mean?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Couple of Stylish, Cool Gift Ideas. . .

A classic Zippo lighter.  I've got two that look like this although I'm not a smoker.  Quite a step up from the usual disposable Bics!

That you won't see suggested on every other menswear website and style blog!  Whether you have a smoker on your giftlist.  Or you just want a couple of cool, classic accessories for your own jacket pockets.  You cannot go wrong with a chrome Zippo cigarette lighter and/or a leather cigarette case.  Even if you aren't a smoker, both items have all kinds of unanticipated uses.  After all, who knows when you might need to pull out that lighter at the campsite, or to light someone else's cigarette.  Always an amazingly suave and even retro move in our own era when coarse and common behavior rule the day most places.  And a leather cigarette case might be a neat way to carry the business cards you accumulate during the workweek.  Or, it might make a neat billfold in lieu of the more typical money clip.  Just some pre-Christmas food for thought.

-- Hienz-Ulrich

My dad always carried his cigarettes in a similar leather cigarette case, which was the only cool thing thing about his smoking habit.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Great Gift Idea. . .

Call it either a late birthday to myself, or an early Christmas gift, but I've got a pair of these purple, orange, and black socks on their way to me from Dapper Classics right now.

Another great Christmas or holiday gift idea for yourself, or the guys on your list, who are looking to kick up their everyday stay several notches in 2014, might include a pair or three of to-the-knee, American-made dress socks by Dapper Classics.  Their Black Friday Sale, with 25% off on all orders, is still going on for a few more hours, so click on the link, and have a look around.  You're sure to find a few designs that you cannot live without.

And here's a hint for you more sartorially conservative average guys out there.  Dapper Classics also offer a variety of extremely sharp, but slightly more muted models of socks for those more formal times and occasions, from weddings and funerals, to those few remaining offices (bless 'em) where business formal dress remains the order of the day.  

I've got a few pairs of Dapper Classics socks in my upper right dresser drawer already, and they are fantastic.  Long enough, they stay up all day, very comfortable, and they add loads of unexpected personality to any ensemble you might team them with.  In any case, I could not resist the pair shown above, and just placed an order for them a few moments ago.  Can't wait for them to arrive.  Be sure to place your own order with Dapper Classics right now!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Classic Masculine Gift Idea. . .

Royall Lyme, Bay Rhum, and Vetiver aftershave and cologne.  Three of my post-shower and shaving favorites.

With Black Friday and the approach of the Christmas gift-giving season upon us, it seems like a good idea to say a few brief words -- Yes, it IS possible. -- about possible gift ideas.  Here is one that you might hint strongly for, or to which you might just treat yourself.  The Royall aftershave lotions are delightfully fragrant, yet subtle, classic masculine scents that few men seem aware of.  Thankfully.  

I first learned about Royall products almost 30 years ago, when my maternal grandmother gave me a bottle of Royall Lyme one Christmas.  I've been a fan ever since.  This year, for my annual 29th birthday celebration, my four-year-old son, the Young Master, presented me with the bottle of Royall Bay Rhum you see above.  

Not exactly cheap, but by no means the most expensive male fragrances on the market, it's hard for average guys to go wrong with the Royall line when making the effort to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Ask for a bottle on this year's Christmas gift ideas list, or find and purchase a bottle for the guy in your life.  It's available through, various other online outlets, and in better department stores.  I've even seen it in the few remaining haberdashers hidden away here and there in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thanksgiving Sartorial Nonchalance. . .

Note the pink socks with green stripes, from Dapper Classics, peeking out from beneath the chinos.

Here is how the males of the Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style household dressed for Thanksgiving Supper late yesterday afternoon, continuing an example set many, many years ago by my maternal grandfather and great uncles, and later my father, all of whom wore at the very least a collared shirt and sports jacket to the table for holiday dinners.  More often, it was a suit, white shirt, and necktie for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and other special occasions.  And no.  Rest easy, gents.  The Grand Duchess did manage to slip upstairs right before supper and exchange her jeans and Birckenstocks for a dark top, skirt, and a pair of heels.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

The Young Master, who succeeded in looking much more relaxed and at ease than his father.  Chalk it up to the promise of pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy (American) Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Strangely (for a guy), I really like old-fashioned Victorian and Edwardian greeting cards.  Look what I found online this morning!

A day early, yes, but I've got a few moments to myself for another mug of coffee before pie preparation (pumpkin and raspberry) begins in earnest along with a few other dishes for tomorrow and running the vacuum cleaner around the first floor.  So, allow me to wish all American visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, wherever in the world you might find yourselves, a very. . .  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your day tomorrow be filled with family, friends, fun, and delicious food.  We do indeed have a great deal to be thankful for in whatever form our respective lives take, something that is all too easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, November 25, 2013

Celebrate the Holiday Season in Style. . .

If a pack of dogs can get dressed for a special occasion, then so can you.  Put on some dressy clothes for those upcoming holiday dinners and parties, damn it!

With the holiday season almost upon us it, it's time once more to remind ourselves -- average guys making an effort to kick up our everyday style a few notches -- of the need to put on some real clothes for all of those special dinners, cocktail parties, open houses, and other occasions that typically occur between the end of November and early January each year.  

Here's the skinny, guys.  Contrary to what many of you might think, or may have been led to believe up to this point in your lives, holiday-related events are special occasions. Your hosts or loved ones will have gone to considerable trouble and expense to organize and prepare these events in advance.  Occasions like these do not come around everyday, and therefore (Surprise!) are several notches above the usual weekend routine of watching TV sports with your buddies in the beer-stained, popcorn-littered, and flatulent-filled man cave.  

In other words, you need to be on your best behavior and dressed acceptably when you have been invited to someone's home for dinner or some other occasion during the holidays.  It's all about showing consideration and respect for your hosts, fellow guests, and the particular occasion. So, it should come as no surprise that sneakers, sweatpants, and a hoodie will not suffice this time around.  I've heard of families where it is accepted practice for the boys and men to turn up dressed like this for Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Day, for example, but I can hardly believe it.  Surely, that can't be true?  In any event, here are 13 tips to help you celebrate the holiday season with considerably more style than might hitherto have been the case.

1) Dress up a bit more than usual.
You're not hitting the gym or walking to a convenience store around the corner for a container of milk, guys.  You've been invited to someone's home for a special occasion.  Treat it as such.  Before leaving your place, shower, shave, and put on some real clothes.  Leave the weekend slobwear (sweats, sneakers, shorts, baseball caps, and the like) for another time.  Newsflash!  You are an adult.  It's time to demonstrate that you have somehow acquired at least a bit of flair and sophistication since high school, and that you have learned what is appropriate and when.  If you don't already know this, I'm telling you now.  Do not, under any circumstance, show up for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year's dinners looking like you're ready to watch the Rose Bowl Parade with a plate full of cheese nachos in your lap and a 12-pack of beer at your feet.

2) Often, Smart Casual will suffice.
You don't necessarily need to get out the suit or formal wear though.  A clean sports jacket or blazer, a clean, pressed and tucked in shirt worn with clean, unripped jeans and a belt, along with a comfortable pair of loafers, brogues, or suede desert (aka Chukka) boots will do the trick.  Make sure your belt and shoes are in the same general color family though.  Leave the over-priced designer ripped, torn, and artificially faded stuff for your weekly trip to the supermarket.  And it should go without saying that anything, which might make you resemble an athlete in training, a hip-hop wannabe, or the corner drug dealer also has no place at a Holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house.  This ain't a 6th Grade dance, boys.  We're all adults now, and there are times, places, and occasions where and when we must dress the part.  Got it?  Good.

Do you really want to turn up to a holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house looking like Napoleon Dynamite's slimy older brother when he took off with LaFonda?

3) Relax!  You can still be comfortable.
Don't want to wear a pressed a shirt?  Too much like Monday through Friday for you?  Too starched and constraining?  Ok.  Then how about a navy or black turtleneck under your sports jacket or blazer?  Comfortable, casual, and not something you see every other average guy out there wearing in 2013.  Dark turtlenecks even look good by themselves and more than just a little bit cool.  You'll be in good company should you opt for this particular sartorial route.  After all, the Beatles and Steve McQueen never went wrong with it.

4) Dressing to the nines is fine too.
Of course, there's nothing preventing you from wearing a necktie with your sports jacket or blazer and odd pants combo or suit.  The men in some families, mercifully, still dress up a bit more than has become the norm over the last 20-30 years for holiday dinners and occasions, so this is still a viable option.  And you know what?  If you end up being the most dressed man in the room, that's alright.  If asked directly, or people rib  you about your appearance, all you need to say is something like, "Well, this evening is kind of special.  Sue and Tom have gone to lots of trouble.  I'm pleased to be included, so it seemed like a nice idea to show my appreciation as a guest by dressing up a little for the occasion.  Thanks for noticing."

5) Don't show up empty handed.
Don't forget a host or hostess gift!  You never want to show up empty handed whenever someone has invited you over to his or her home.  But these kinds of gifts don't need to be big or horribly expensive.  It's really more about showing a little appreciation and thoughtfulness to your hosts.  A bottle or two of wine, flowers or a potted plant, a small box of good quality chocolates, or some kind of pastry or baked good for dessert should do the trick.

6) Remember to practice polite conversation habits.
Don't monopolize the conversation and do not talk solely about sports all evening.  I've got some sad news for you.  Nattering on endlessly about Welsh Rugby in the 1970s, or your Fantasy Football league, is boring in the extreme and risks putting many other guests to sleep.  Give others a chance to participate in more interesting two-way conversation by asking open-ended questions about news, current affairs, recent movies, books, and so forth.  Hold off on more personal questions though.  While many people see fit these days to share with absolutely everyone and blurt out their sometimes woefully uninformed views on politics, religion, and sex, as I've suggested elsewhere at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, it just might be better to leave these topics for another time.  Call it a hunch.  Besides, so many people are so quick to fly off the handle and get ugly about these topics and related issues that you really don't want to be remembered as the catalyst for an unpleasant scene during what was intended as a joyful occasion.  Right?

Keep your holiday dinnertime or party conversation light and cheery, turn off your cell-phones, and keep your darn elbows off the table if it's a sit-down event.

7) Let's come across as suave and sophisticated men.
If there is beer served, ask for a glass and refrain from slurping or sucking it directly from the bottle.  It looks and sounds common.  There's simply no other way to say it.  While that might be ok on a hot summer afternoon in the backyard when you take a break from mowing the lawn, you ought to show a little more decorum and grooming when you've been invited to someone's home for a holiday dinner or related event.

8) Remember, you are a guest in someone's home.
So, act like it!  Keep your shoes on unless instructed to do otherwise.  Keep your feet off the furniture.  Don't pick up things from shelves or tables without asking first.  And be sure to use cocktail napkins or coasters beneath your glasses in the living room or anywhere else that is not the dining room table with (hopefully) placemats and a tablecloth on top of it.  Some people actually might have expensive furniture, antique, or family pieces in their homes that they do not want marred or ruined with rings from wet glasses or careless spills.  Don't be that guest (and there are many) who persists in setting his beer bottle or sweaty scotch on the rocks glass on the surface of the coffee table even after he has been given a coaster and asked to use it.  Show a little consideration for your hosts' property.

9) Don't leave a mess.
If the event is a party with food and drinks served buffet-style with people circulating all evening, be sure you don't leave any of your empty bottles, wine glasses, or plates and napkins anywhere except the dining table, kitchen counter, and/or the kitchen garbage can.  Nothing is more annoying than finding beer bottles left festering on a hall table or bookshelf the next day.  Don't treat your hosts' home like it's a bar with waitstaff and barmaids to clean up after you.  That kind of thing puts you on the fast track to being uninvited the next time around.

10) Don't overindulge.
Keep careful track how much you drink and stop before you think you should.  In festive situations, it's all too easy to lose track and lose control of one's inhibitions, mouth, and temper.  No one likes a loud, obnoxious drunk who doesn't know enough to shut his mouth, who picks fights, or who fails to take a hint and leave before he is asked to go.  It's ugly, uncalled for, and is (or ought to be) an embarrassing situation.  If you start to get a bit more than tipsy, quietly draw your host to one side, apologize, and ask him or her to call you a taxi at once.  Then, wait in the front hall or front porch for your ride and leave without fanfare.  You can always return and pick up your car tomorrow or the next day.

 No one likes an ugly drunk, especially at an adult dinner or party.  You're not pledging at a fraternity house, guys, so watch how much and how fast you drink.

11) Don't take advantage of your hosts' hospitality
Stay on the first floor of your hosts' home.  Unless the bathroom is upstairs, there is no reason for you to disappear up the steps.  Don't snoop, and do not disappear into an upstairs bedroom with an inebriated female, guys.  Even if she is willing, it's just the height of tackiness to disappear for a quickie in an upstairs bedroom or bathroom during a dinner or party at someone's house.  Oh, sure.  It happens, but that doesn't mean it is right.  Let's try at least to show that we have a smidgeon of good sense, and wait until you have left the holiday party and gone somewhere else marginally more appropriate before you rip each others' clothes off in a fit of passion and "go loco in Acapulco."

12) Know when to leave.
Under no circumstances do you want to overstay your welcome when it comes to holiday events.  Even when everyone is having a really great time, you can bet that your hosts will begin to feel tired and worn out sometime during the latter half of the evening.  Especially when one considers how busy and over-scheduled most of us are in 2013.  So, it's always a good idea to leave people wanting to see a little more of you rather than less.  Keep an eye on how long you have been at a holiday dinner, cocktail party or open house, and take your leave sooner rather than later.  And if, when you approach your hosts to say thank you and goodnight, they say, "Oh, nonsense! You just got here," you can always plead an early morning, an out-of-town guest arriving on an early flight tomorrow, or something similar.  It's just a good practice to leave sometime before the bitter end, preferably by 11pm or Midnight at the very latest, depending on when the festivities began. 

13) Make sure to say "thank you" one more time.
Send a hand-written thank-you note to your host(s) (no, an e-mail does not count) shortly after the holiday dinner or event at which you were a guest.  It's the polite thing to do.  The next day, write a few lines of thanks to your hosts inside the card, thanking them once again for their hospitality and wish them the compliments of the season.  Sadly, this custom has almost completely disappeared from even polite society, so people notice when it happens, and the reaction is always favorable.  You'll be forever after remembered as the polite, pleasant, and thoughtful guest who actually remembered to say thank you.  And who knows?  You might even be invited back well before the holiday season rolls around again.

 Take a few moments not too many days afterwards to write a brief yet sincere thank-you note to your hosts for their holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house.  It's uncommonly stylish and thoughtful these days.

Remember, you want to show consideration and respect for your hosts, the other guests, and the occasion anytime you are invited into to someone's home.  Holiday dinners, cocktail parties, open houses, and related occasions are the perfect times for average guys to take the bull by the horns and begin kicking up their everyday style several notches.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"How do I get a good grade in your course?"

A generic professor type with students.  So, how does a student do well in university and college-level course?

Every semester, there are always one or two students (usually young guys), who come to me on the first day of the term at the end of the first meeting and ask, "How do I get a good grade in your course?"  Mind you, this invariably is after I have bored everyone, myself included, by reading through the entire multi-paged syllabus, which details, among other things, how students can do well.  But ok.  Let's attribute it to freshman or new semester jitters.  I'll play along.  For you average college-aged guys out there, here is how to become better, and maybe even stellar students during your undergraduate career.  Pay attention.  It's not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination.  There are no secrets or magic bullets.  Ready?  Here we go!

1) Buy the required textbook(s) ASAP and bring it/them to every class.  Don't show up without them.  Snap to it!  Don't wait three or four weeks to purchase them online or from the bookstore.  Don't depend on a buddy or roommate to loan you his or her copy.  Get the books and keep up with the reading.  Surprise!  That's why you are in school for the next four to six years, and part of the way we learn about subjects is by steeping ourselves in what scholars have to say about those subjects. 

2) Bring old fashioned writing materials (pencil, pen, and paper) and take notes the old-fashioned way on the more important points your professor covers.  There are plenty of studies out there now that show we tend to remember information much, much better and for longer when we write it down.  The amount and complexity of material in college or university is also much higher than in high school.  So, it is a colossal mistake to assume that you'll be able to remember everything you read or hear, and keep it well-organized within your mind in the three to five courses you take each semester.

3) Do the reading, exercises, and/or papers when they are assigned.  Start sooner rather than later, so that you have ample time to digest and assimilate what your hear and read.  Don't leave longer assignments until the night before they are due.  Once again, there are plenty of studies out there that show, without a doubt, most of us do not work well under pressure.  Quit kidding yourself about that.  And make it a habit to turn in assignments, in whatever form those might take, when they are due.  Do not e-mail assignments to your professors unless instructed to do so.  Unless everything is done electronically via applications like Moodle, or you are enrolled in a distance course, it is not your professors' responsibility to supply you with paper, ink, and staples.

4) Attend your lectures and classes routinely and listen attentively.  Surprise!  That means you put away the school newspapers, I-phones, and laptops, stop doodling in your notebook or on the desk itself, stop trying to see the clock from where you are seated, look at whomever is speaking at the front of the room and LISTEN.  Finally, leave your ego and attitude at the door, Keegan.  It does not matter to your professors that you might have gotten all A's in your high school courses.  College and university are different ballgames altogether.  As mentioned before, the material is harder, there is more of it, and much more is required and expected of you.  Get used to it.

5) Engage with the material and, in smaller seminars or foreign language classes, the planned discussion and/or activities for the day.  Don't sit there like stoned, or hungover bumps on a log, staring into space through red-rimmed eyes, slack-jawed, and drooling.  Ask questions and seek further clarification if you are confused by anything you read and hear, or if you simply flat out do not understand a particular concept.  Oh, and it might help to attend once in a while those office hours that professors are required to have.  Typically, these are posted online and by a professor's office door.  And don't make the excuse that none of a professor's office hours are convenient for you.  If you are having problems in Econ. 101 or Intermediate Statistics, arrange your own schedule, so that you can see your professor during office hours.  E-mail ahead of time that you are coming, and keep the appointment.

6) Seek out tutors if you are still having problems with the course material or writing coherently.  Many smaller colleges and most large universities these days have various kinds of tutoring available free of charge to enrolled students.  Tutors are most often upper division undergrad or graduate students, skilled in their respective subject areas, trained in how to be effective in their work with students, and provide useful constructive critique to those seeking help.  I visited a few writing tutors for feedback as an undergraduate and grad student during the 1990s at the mighty Universty of Wisconsin-Madison.  The comments and suggestions these tutors provided were extremely helpful in polishing my own paper projects and an early book review.  As a professor myself, I have also seen dramatic improvements in my own students' written work when they have finally decided to get serious and seek outside help.

7) Turn in highly polished projects and papers that present your findings and ideas through interesting, well-supported discussion.  Simply listing a bunch of poorly formed ideas and connecting them with a bunch of randomly chosen direct quotes lifted from a few books and websites on your topic is not -- Newsflash!  -- highly polished or well-executed.  At best, that's middle- or high school level work.  Your college and university-level work should be much more complex, informed, and presented thoughtfully.  It should also be free of any glaring spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors as well as things like sentence fragments, comma, splices, and run-on sentences.

8) Don't have your parents e-mail or call your professors.  You are the person registered for and enrolled in your courses during any given academic term.  By the same token, you are (presumably) the one doing the work.  You are also at least 18 years old, able to vote, serve in the military, behave very foolishly in a number of ways now that you are living away from home, and take responsibility for your actions when things head south.  You approach and talk to your professors if and when there are any challenges that arise in your completion of various college and university courses.

9) Don't waste am amazing opportunity.  It's time to grow up and get serious about your future.  You say nothing interests you?  How sad, considering that there are so many things of interest on the average college or university campus.  Forget sports and fraternities though.  These are overdone, and exceedingly narrow in focus.  Sure.  Both might provide a lot of fun, but besides allowing a guy to wallow in the reek of Axe-infused testosterone with his fellow dudebros along with the mere possibility of drunken, meaningless sex for several years, the two social outlets achieve little of consequence in the longer term.  No.  Think about about other things since, ideally, college and university ought to be about broadening your mind and awareness of the world.   Are you up to the challenge?

10) Finally, stop making excuses.  A large part of functioning as an independent adult involves doing what is required of you instead of ignoring and later whining about it after you have received a bad grade due to a lackluster performance in a college or university course.  You need to accept responsibility, realize the gift that post-secondary education is, engage with and absorb the material to the best of your ability, interact with your professors, and do you utmost to produce solid work.  And besides, if all of this is really too much trouble, you could always drop out of school and punch a clock six days and 50+ hours a week to make ends meet.

That, my friends, is how you approach being a college or university student with a bit more style and purpose AND do well (or at least marginally better) in your courses.  It's pretty simple really.  And while these thoughts are the results of working for many years with American undergraduates -- more than enough of whom are coddled in the extreme by their parents and K-12 teachers, immature, and unprepared for adult life, although they have great self-esteem and are overly confident in their actual abilities  -- I'll bet that there is something here of use for every average college-aged guy wherever in the world he might find himself.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Start 'em young. . .

YMP all ready to head with his mother for the final Saturday Morning Farmers' Market of the 2013 season.  Not all that different than the way my mother dressed yours truly in the 1970s, my grandfather dressed as an undergraduate in the 1930s, my grandmother dressed my uncle in the 1950s, and my father dressed as a university undergraduate in the early 1960s.  Classic and timeless.

Just because they are children does not mean young boys should go through the first five year of life dressed in nothing but Sponge Bob or Spiderman items, junior versions of bagged out t-shirts, sweat-, or cargo pants, or any permutation of what has become recognized and known in some quarters as thugwear.  Hopefully, we aren't raising them to resemble little meth heads, petty criminals, or various other types -- and there are many -- who look like they've fallen through the cracks of society.  Or they are about to.  

Nope.  Let's stop kidding ourselves.  Appearance most definitely is important for a host of reasons, personal and societal.  Get boys used to dressing nicely as soon as possible, and they might, just might, turn into teenagers and adults who realize the need for and advantages offered by dressing several cuts above what has become the accepted, sad, and pathetic norm.  As parents, shouldn't we foster certain habits and ways of being in our children that exceed the average and commonplace?  

Clothing, the way it helps us to think of and feel about ourselves, as well as the language it speaks to others, certainly falls in line with that.  And, aided by thrifting, watching for sales, and birthday or Christmas gifts, it is entirely possible to produce young people who feel comfortable in clothes that feature things like actual waists, collars, zippers, buttons, shoelaces, and sleeves.  And not a speck of camouflage, hunter's orange, athletic nylon warm-up wear, or over-sized and overpriced athletic footwear in sight.  Perish the thought.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sometimes, the Stars Line Up. . .

Yesterday's ensemble, detailed below.  This is as casual as I allow my Friday's get.

In just the right way.  Friday morning, before daylight, I managed to throw on the garments pictured above without effort or thought post-shower and shave.  In the dark.  And then forgot about them and strode forth into my day of teaching, meetings with students, and another with colleagues.  Never realized quite how nicely everything worked together until late afternoon, when I arrived home and changed into more casual attire.  Not bad for no planning at all, if I do say so myself.  Here's a break down of the clothing and accessories shown:

* Polo University Club wool blazer (thrifted)
* Brooks Brothers oxford cloth button down (Ebay)
* No-name, unlined wool necktie in MacDonald tartan (thrifted)
* Land's End Dress Chinos, which hold a crease (purchased on sale)
* Land's End braided leather belt (end of season clearance)
* Johnston Murphy loafers, worn on rainy, wet days to spare better shoes
* Target to-the-knee dress socks (purchased on sale)
* No-name Italian silk pocket square with hand-rolled edges (thrifted)

Could it be?  Might I have reached another level of dressing with this particular combination of items?  That coveted nonchalance and insouciance about one's appearance that we read so much about online -- I refuse to use that terrific but nevertheless overused Italian word.  -- and in the better books on how men ought to dress.  Yet, it still looked pretty good when all was said and done.  

The shirt collar rolled wonderfully, the tie (worn for the first time yesterday) knotted into a four-in-hand easily with a slight arch, and there was 3/4" of cuff showing beyond the jacket sleeve when my arms hung at my sides.  And nothing seemed to scream used car salesman in the making.  My best guess is that the dark blazer and plain paints anchored the more colorful shirt, tie, and pocket square.  The socks, of course, were invisible since I was on my feet most of the day.  Now, the question begs.  Can this stroke of dumb luck be repeated again anytime soon?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Matters of the Heart, Don't Be Desperate. . .

Why, oh why, does it seem these days like so many guys are afraid to be by themselves?

It never ceases to amaze me.  What, pray tell?  You really want to know?  Ok, here you go.  The sheer number of online exchanges, and actual conversations one overhears virtually everywhere, where people are apparently obsessed about the "problem" of being single.  What?  What??!!  

You read it right.  And it's not just something the gals trouble themselves over either.  Guys do it too.  But that sort of worrying to death and overthinking those much sought after, hoped for, and eventual relationships is hardly the way for average guys to kick up their everyday style.  Newsflash!  Sadness and desperation are anything but stylish.  Sorry for not being sorry about that.

Here's a different approach to try.  Live your life, behave like a reasonably pleasant, purposeful individual -- DO NOT become a player whatever you do under any circumstances.  That only breeds unhappiness for someone, you or the other person involved. --  and stop trying so hard to find "the one."  You know what, guys?  It's actually harder to meet a quality person when you come across as sad and desperate.  Most of the time, you'll succeed only in finding other sad, desperate men and women.  And that hardly provides a solid foundation on which to maybe build something lasting and special.  This starting to sound like an early Beatles tune!  "I'm so sad and lonely, baby take a chance on me. . . "

But -- Pow!  Bang!  Shazam! -- when you stop looking so hard, you'll find special men and women, who are available and, amazingly, looking themselves.  At times, it might even seem like you are tripping over them.  Honest.  It's how I met my own wife, for example.  And the story goes like this.

About 15 years ago, all of the interesting young women I met were either married, had boyfriends, were not looking at the time, were uninterested, or had "other interests."  Nothing seemed to work.  Ok, time to get my own house in order.  I finally decided to stop trying so hard and get on with my life.  I finished up one graduate program at UW-Madison, lived abroad for a while, and did few things I wanted to do before later moving back to the United States for another graduate program in Minneapolis.  And what do you think happened?  

Yep.  One day, lo and behold. . .  there she was.  Two desks away in the very same graduate teaching assistant office.  The Grand Duchess with her bright Swedish blue eyes, funny smile, freckled face, intoxicating laughter, and slightly crooked nose.  We later went Nordic skiing together one cold Saturday in February, and have, more or less, been together ever since.  Funny how things like that work.

Of course, this story is only pertinent to me.  Call it my Sleepless in Seattle moment.  My life as a chick flick. . .  or even a Bridget Jones story.  Pretty silly really.  But the example does, I hope, help to illustrate the point that if a guy concentrates on other things for a while, and stops looking and trying so darn hard, even desperately, for romance, that one special person will eventually emerge and find you.  It just take a little patience.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Strive to Be Better Neighbors. . .

The cast of the 1970s British situation comedy The Good Life, known in the United States as Good Neighbors.  From left to right Felicity Kendal, the late Paul Eddington, Penelope Keith, and the late Richard Briers.

If there are any super-intelligent lifeforms elsewhere in the universe observing life here on Earth in the second decade of the 21st century for useful tips on how a society ought to function cohesively, they must be chuckling to themselves right about now.  Think about it for a moment.  Even on good days, the news can make it seem like the world has gone mad in places, and that people on one part of the globe or another just can't manage to live together and get along.

It seems, moreover, to be frightfully easy for most of us nowadays to become cut off and even alienated from the people closest to us.  Without a doubt, the decline of community (in all senses) in the last few decades, the more recent rise of technology, and the abundance of various blinking, chirping personal gadgets that now inundate our lives and fill our pockets each contribute in a big way to that palpable sense of isolation, helplessness, and ennui from which many of us suffer or perceive at least.

Average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches would do well to stop and consider the issue for a minute.  What happened to our shared sense of community?  Where did it go?  And is it possible to stop the gradual slide to the lowest common denominator of human interaction and recoup at least some community engagement and interaction?  How might we achieve that?  Fostering more solid relations between ourselves on the one hand and our neighbors on the other is a good place to start.  That alone could very well help combat the social isolation that seems to permeate so much of society now and reestablish some sense of community between people, even at the micro level of the neighborhood street or block.

While many in the developed world might argue that they are "wired" and, thus, already highly connected to others, I argue otherwise.  It seems to me that we are, on the contrary, more isolated, cut off, and focused only on our individual selves than ever before.  With that very pointed critique of society in mind, here are a number of ways that average guys might become better friends and neighbors to other people in the era of I-phones, online social media, and  Here's what I suggest:

1) Be friendly.
Let's all try to be a bit more open to others around us.  Don't be afraid to smile and say good morning to someone when you pass that person on the street.  Try a small wave from the front porch as your neighbor across the street enters his or her front door at the end of the day and you do the same.  It can't hurt, and maybe, just maybe, stronger attempts to break out of our own, largely self-imposed, isolation might brighten others' day just a little.  You never know.  Certainly, going through life with a smile on your face and a pleasant word or two for others a bit more often ain't going to kill you, is it?

2) Be kind and considerate.
Likewise, it helps to keep things pleasant between neighbors when we at east try to show some kindness and consideration to each other.  Really.  This kind of thing used to be standard fare, but it seems to have receded into the woodwork in more recent years, so here's what I'd do.  If you've just had a large snowfall in the night, and you observe your neighbors struggling to dig out their car through your kitchen window, grab your boots, gloves, and snow shovel, cross the alley, and offer to help.  Don't expect anything in return.  Do it simply to be gracious and because others need some assistance.

3) Touch base from time to time.
Pick up the telephone, or cross the street, from time to time and say "Hello" to those who live near you.  You needn't feel like you've got to stand on the front porch jabbering for a quarter of an hour or anything, but  see how the couple who lives two houses down or across the hall is doing.  Ask them if you can pick up anything for them if you are headed out to the grocery store.  It might sound funny and intrusive, but I'd be willing to bet that many people would appreciate a quick "Hey, how are you?" and an offer to pick up a liter or gallon of milk.  These are the kinds of very small courtesies that don't require a huge amount of time or effort, but they grease the wheels of life in a most efficient way.  Whatever, you do though, don't quibble over a few pennies if your neighbors don't have exact change when you return with that new container of milk!  Just let it go and continue on your way.

4) Look in on older neighbors occasionally.
By the same token, it is an extremely nice gesture to look in on older neighbors from time to time.    Sadly, too many of these people are alone for one reason or another, and, in the United States at least, it has not been a given that family members live nearby to assist an older relative for quite a few years now.  Most older people are tickled pink (there's that expression again) to chat with a younger person about this and that.  In addition, whether they say it, or not, this kind of neighbor is usually very appreciative (touched even) to have some help around the house or in the back garden once in a while.  And as I've mentioned in a previous post recently, even a few minutes of your time can help an older person feel more involved and like someone cares, which isn't a bad thing at all.  Perhaps if more of us made some attempt to interact with retired and elderly neighbors, more of them might be able to remain in their own homes longer than seems to be the case for too many?  It's just a thought.

5) Lend a willing ear.
Too frequently, it seems, we are in a huge hurry , dashing from this commitment to that activity and back home again to inhale some sustenance while standing over the kitchen sink before rushing out once more to the net thing.  Thanks to that particular way of living, which seems prevalent in 2013, we've got no time for anyone else.  But how about slowing down for a moment and being a bit more receptive when it seems like a neighbor might want to talk for longer than 15 seconds?  I'll be the first to admit that some people are ponderous given the chance.  I also understand that we don't necessarily want to hear a 20-minute monologue on someone's dead goldfish or his or her problems on the job with that new intern.  But you know what?  Sometimes, people just need to talk.  Why not stop and exchange a few kind words with that neighbor before rushing off? 

6) Offer help and assistance in times of need.
Once in a while tragedy strikes: fire, tornadoes, floods, a death in the family, etc.  When there is a neighbor in need, if at all possible, try to help that person.  Don't butt into someone else's life uninvited necessarily, but do offer help should they want and need it.  The form that assistance might take varies, but it could include things like some spare blankets or clothing, extra food, a home-cooked meal, or simply offering to watch the children for a short, well-defined period while your adult neighbors work to salvage their lives and put things in order without distraction.

7) Watch out for others' property and children.
When people are away for several days at a time, say during a long weekend or summer vacation for example, there are at least a few things we might do to to become better neighbors.  How about offering to keep an eye on things, collect and hold the mail, and maybe water the plants while your neighbors are away?  Likewise, if the neighbor kids are playing in the front yard nextdoor, and you happen to be on your porch or working in your own frontyard, keep an eye and ear on things.  No one is suggesting that you become overly involved with the neighborhood children.  Not only has the world become and exceedingly paranoid and weird place nowadays, where too much attention paid to children is likely to result in false accusations of pedophilia coming from someone, but there are many of us (and I am one), who are not even particularly fond of children (much as I love my own).  All I suggest, however, is that an extra pair of eyes and ears can't hurt when it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being our own and our neighbors' children.

8) If a problem arises, be careful how you broach the subject.
Sometimes, depending on what the issue might be, it is simply better to turn the other cheek and ignore minor things that might arise with neighbors.  Of course, things like habitual loud music, drunken parties, spousal abuse, and obvious drug use are something else entirely, and I'd suggest calling the police rather than trying to intervene yourself.  Too much margin for errors in judgment and physical harm.  No, I'm talking about things like noisy children at play in the backyard during the day, an occasional barking dog, or a Christmas wreath or doormat in an apartment or condominium hallway.  Tread very carefully here, and think a long time before you open your mouth.  People are odd creatures, so why risk an unpleasant outburst from someone, which will very probably lead to tension down the road, for something like a few sunflower seed husks that find their way from his birdfeeder to your back deck?  Know what I mean?  Sometimes, it's just better to let things like that go than it is to kick up a fuss and breed hostility between your respective households.

9) Know when to keep yourself to yourself.
This last point is a biggie chiefly because so many people have forgotten how to keep themselves to themselves.  In 2013, the prevailing way of existence, for many people, seems to be in your face, whether it involves their music, behavior, interaction with others, speech, children, to attire or pets, to how often and loudly they come and go from their abodes.  It rarely seems to occur to them that they might very well be stepping on someone's toes, figuratively speaking, in some way.  And woe be to the person who says something like, "Excuse me, but I'd rather you didn't do that again, please."  Many people, inexplicably, forget themselves and do not react well to having an offense they have committed brought to their attention.  The best (and most childish) form of defense is attack after all, and too many people operate that way.  Few seem to be aware of the concept of living a quiet life in which they do not somehow infringe upon others.  The prevailing attitude seems to be, "Too effing bad!  I'll do what I like."  Sadly, we have indeed become that self-centered and inconsiderate.  We might do well, however, to take a page from the poet Robert Frost's book, who concluded his poem Mending Wall with the line, "Good fences make good neighbors."  In other words, be considerate of others and keep yourself to yourself.  It's not hard if you make an effort to become and remain sensitive to others.

There you are.  While there are certainly other things to keep in mind, these nine points will help average guys, who are looking to kick up their everyday style several notches, cultivate better neighborly relations. In no way am I suggesting with the above suggestions that we live in each others' pockets or attach our noses to each others' elbows 24/7.  No one likes, or should have to put up with, a nosy busybody.  But a little more friendly, pleasant, and helpful contact between us average guys and our neighbors might be a good thing.  It could very well help to make our neighborhoods friendlier, more cohesive places and help reverse recent disturbing societal trends.  Think about it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich