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, January 27, 2013

Consider the Pocket Square. . .

The one-time olive jar in which I keep my (too large) collection of silk pocket squares atop my dresser.

One easy way for you to kick your personal style a notch or two is by adding a few silk and/or wool pocket squares to your wardrobe.  Typically, these measure 10"-16" square, or slightly larger, and the better ones have plump, hand-rolled edges.  You'll know it when you see it.  Keep your eyes open while visiting your local thrift or consignments shops.  You stand a good chance of coming across a few cast off pocket squares from Italy, Great Britain, China, or Japan, or that still have lots of life left in them.

And no.  You don't need near as many as shown above.  Five or six in various patterns (paisleys, polka dots, foulards, stripes, etc.) ought to do it.  Even with, say, just a navy blazer and a sports jacket or two in your closet, you can change up your overall appearance each day without repeating one "look" too often.  Pocket squares never look exactly the same once they have been stuffed into the outter chest pocket of your jacket.  There is always a slightly different variation on what pokes subtly out of your jacket or blazer pocket.

Keep in mind though that you never want to match your pocket square chosen for the day too closely to your necktie if you wear one.  Why risk looking like you've purchased a matching set (cringe!) at the Men's Warehouse, Kohl's, or T.J. MaxxIt's far better to throw caution to the wind, demonstrating imagination and sartorial vision.  Don't worry.  It's hard to go wrong here.  Either pick a square that has nothing to do whatsoever with your tie, which is perfectly acceptable, or choose one that somehow compliments your tie in some way, picking out one of its colors for instance.  Maybe the necktie you've put on is a navy and yellow repp stripe, so try choosing a square that's got a bit of navy, or a bit of yellow in its designs.

And what about wearing the pocket square?  Well, there are all kinds of complicated folds that you can find and try thanks to the internet, but I suggest simply stuffing your pocket squares into your jacket pocket and leave it at that.  Far better to appear slightly nonchalant than overly self-conscious about your clothes and accessories.  What you are after is a pulled together, yet relaxed appearance that somehow does not look  as though you've spent hours planning everything the night before.  That is the elusive sprezzatura (a popular Italian word right now) that seems to be discussed so much in the menswear blogosphere these days.  

One thingI'd suggest exercising a bit or restraint here.  Just let a bit of your square show in your jacket pocket.  No sense in going too over-the-top at this stage of the game in your sartorial journey from sweats, sneakers, and backwards baseball cap to a pulled together, classic appearanceBetter to keep things understated and comfortable than risk looking like a cartoonish dandy from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical.  

Returning to the matter at hand, consider your attire and manner of dressing like an adult male to be an ongoing work in progress that you'll nail some days and not quite on others.  The fun comes in trying.  And most of the time, you'll look miles better than most other men on the street in most places these days.  So, really, don't obsess too much about getting it exactly right.  Have fun getting dressed in the morning, relax (you look great), and go forth!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday should be for dressing up a bit!

Who says Saturday attire must automatically mean fleece, sweats, grubby frayed khakis, or dad jeans with white sneakers? How about using a more relaxed day as an excuse to glam it up a bit?  Just what I did this morning for a half-day writing pedagogy seminar over on campus.  And hey, I actually received two compliments from female colleagues which added an extra, and unexpected spring to my step.  I dress this way for me, first and foremost, but it's nice when others occasionally let you know that they notice and appreciate it.

Anyway, guys, remember, this need not cost you an arm and a leg.  Here's the deal.  In the photo above , I'm wearing three thrifted items: a Corbin houndstooth tweed jacket, a Pendleton wool tie, and a Pierre Cardin silk pocket square (cream with tiny brown and red polka dots and brown edging) all of which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of US$14.  The shirt is an old Land's End "original" oxford cloth button-down shirt purchased on sale in August or September of 2003, and the Land's End dress corduroy pants were purchased at 50% off just after Christmas 2012.

On the feet, you see a pair of Allen Edmonds suede wingtips, which I bought on sale in November 2012.  Still something of a splurge, sure, but good shoes will last for years with routine care and maintenance.  Naturally, I had on charcoal and tan argyll socks socks by Merona, invisible here, that have been in the wardrobe for several years and stood up well (pardon the pun) to time, wear, and numerous washings in the machine.  The trick to their longevity?  Air dry socks on a wooden or wire drying rack since hot air dryers kill the elasticity of socks and shrink them appreciably.  

Now, how about jazzing up your own Saturday attire, men?  Send me a photograph or two of you in your most stunning Saturday (or Sunday) gear, and I'll share it right here at The Average Guy's Guide to Style.

Friday, January 11, 2013

10 Easy Ways to Kick up Your Style in 2013. . .

A closet full of tweed jackets reblogged from A Tailored Gentleman.

Here are ten easy things you can do right now to kick up your style in 2013 without taking the time to build a new wardrobe from the ground up. . .

1) Pull up your pants to your natural waist and keep them there!
Few things will make you look less pulled together than a pair of pants worn at your hips and all bunched up at your ankles.  Why so many guys let this happen is beyond me, since it’s so easy to avoid.  For one, purchase pants that are the correct length, or have them altered by a seamstress or tailor.  Another way to avoid the saggy-baggy pants look is to. . .

2) Buy a belt and wear it for cryin' out loud! 
Ideally, you’ll want to have a leather belt to match in color, as closely as possible, each pair of your dress and casual shoes (dark brown, tan, cordovan, and black).

3) Tuck in your shirt darn it! 
Repeat as necessary during the day each time you visit the men's room.  Again, something that’s very easy to do, and a tucked in shirt makes you appear slimmer and more pulled together instantly, regardless of the social or professional occasion.

4) Avoid shoulders that are too wide in suit coats and sports jackets. 
Try going down a chest size or two than you think you should wear.  Once again, it helps to have professionally taken measurements written down on an index card to take with you whenever you shop for clothes.  In other words, see your tailor!

5) Comb or brush your hair. 
Why in the heck is this so hard for so many ostensible adults?  Part and comb (or brush) your hair after showering in the morning, and repeat as necessary throughout the day when you visit the men’s room.  Not much more to say about that, is there?

6) Trim and clean your finger (and toe) nails routinely.
And don’t you dare chew on them or your cuticles.  Nothing says angst-ridden and neurotic man-child like gnawed cuticles and red, ragged fingertips.  Ick!

7) Invest in a few pairs of leather dress and casual shoes. 
This should be the most expensive thing you add to your wardrobe.  Don’t chintz or buy anything with squared toes!  Good leather shoes, with proper care and maintenance, will last for decades, and your feet won’t stink like they do in footwear manufactured from manmade materials.  Watch for sales online and in stores if you want to cut corners, or try thrift and consignment shops.  In any case, for the love of God, leave the sneakers, hiking boots, and flip-flops for the basketball court, hiking, and the beach or pool.

8) Get some interesting, calf-length dress socks. 
Don’t be afraid to add a splash of color here.  While the standard navy, charcoal, and dark brown have their place, don’t restrict yourself to just those three traditional stand-bys.  How about some Argyll, stripes, or polka dots?  People will dig it when they notice too.

9) Rein in any and all stray nose and ear hair.
It's not hard guys.  Use a battery operated trimmer that you can find in most drugstore chains at fairly reasonable prices.  You don’t want to look like my middle- and high school guidance counselor!  And no self-respecting (potential) romantic partner wants you to either.  Trust me.

10) Get routine haircuts that help you resemble an adult male. 
Find a good hairstylist or barber and make appointments for about every six or seven weeks.  Go for fairly conservative, classic masculine haircuts instead of something trendy that looks funny in three years.  And whatever you do, don’t get that funny looking teased up and moussed mohawk fringe that lots of guys are sporting right now.  Ugh!  That particular look succeeds only in making you look like you’ve experimented with a tube of your grandmother’s Alberto V05, following an afterschool snack and Transformers reruns on TV.

Let's at least try. . .

Eeewww!  Didn't his mother ever tell him not to do that?

Let's at least try, in the era of almost everyone over-sharing, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and nothing-ever-seems-to-be-kept-private-anymore to reclaim and maintain some standards of pleasant, polite behavior.  And I'm talking to us average guys.  It's as much a part of kicking up our personal style a notch or three as classic clothing, shoes, and accessories.  Really, it is.  You could be the best dressed, most educated, most financially well off, and most physically attractive person in a room, but crass behavior will undermine all of that.  Fast.  Trust me.

How we look and behave -- and no, it's not nice, but it's a fact of life -- speak volumes about us, who we are, and where we come from.  A sloppy appearance combined with bad language and unrefined behavior will keep lots of people -- family, potential dates, spouses, co-workers, and supervisors for example -- from 'hearing' anything that you might have to say.  Even if it is the most profound observation or vital piece of information.  

So, the message for today is this.  Let's stop glorifying the crass, the boorish, the stupid, the crude, and the ignorant in others and ourselves.  Let's begin by reigning in our own behaviors and strive for some sophistication and refinement.  There's nothing wrong with that.  

Pay attention things like grooming (in all senses), common courtesy and decency in all situations, and basic table manners.  Make it your business to learn the ropes of pleasant behavior.  The basic social P's & Q's if you will.  No more excuses.  These are extremely important skills, personally and professionally speaking.  And the chances are pretty good that those around you will appreciate your efforts even if they say nothing.

An easy-to-remember rule of thumb is this.  Think before you let it all hang out.  If there is ever any doubt in your mind about some habit or behavior of yours that might potentially embarrass, irritate, or offend someone else, you probably shouldn't do it.  And if you can't, or refuse, to see my point?  Well, there's nothing I can do about it.  But our paths will never cross for more than a few moments anytime soon.  Of that, I can assure you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Start with your shoes!

The Allen Edmonds suede 'Neumok.'  Quality footwear at an affordable price and EXTREMELY comfortable.  Watch for sales and get yourself a pair in 2013.

Guys, it's time to leave the sneakers and flop-flops behind for this classic in men's footwear. If you're looking for a good place to start in dressing up your feet, something that MANY people notice but don't necessarily comment on, then these Allen Edmonds kicks  are just the ticket.  Speaking from experience, these shoes are comfortable and yet very dressy at the same time. They'll work with either jeans and a sweater or an unstructured jacket, an odd jacket and dress pants, or a suit and tie (just make sure to match your belt as closely as possible). I recommend them highly for those guys who are interested in kicking up there personal style a notch of three in 2013.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year and Thoughts for 2013. . .

An old Apparel Arts illustration from the 1940s by the late Laurence Fellows, showing a variety of 'looks' to which we might aspire in our quest to spruce ourselves up beyond the bare slob minimum that is so common these days.

Happy New Year everyone!  In 2013, let's redouble our efforts to dress better and behave more nicely, not because it's required, but because doing so makes us better company.  And frankly, we should simply make these efforts for ourselves, even when we are alone.  

Dressing well boosts one's confidence level appreciably in almost any situation, and that ain't a bad thing.

With that in mind, here are ten related thoughts that have occurred to me during the last week.  For 2013, let's make a concerted effort to cultivate higher degrees of the following in our dress and conduct: 

1) Elegance.
2) Refinement
3) Ease.
4) Comfort.
5) Urbanity.
6) Nonchalance.
7) Good Taste (not as subjective as many might have us believe).
8) Sophistication.
9) Politeness.
10) Clever Wit.

In other words, guys, we're adults.  Let's make a conscious and concerted effort to move away from the backwards baseball caps, over-sized basketball shorts, ubiquitous saggy sweatpants , and the related "bro culture" behavior of our high school and college years.  Instead, let's start dressing like serious, purposeful adult men with some style, who know how to dress and act in any situation.  Think Sean Connery in the early James Bond films, Craig Stevens in the old Peter Gunn TV series, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, or Cary Grant in anything.  You can't go wrong emulating guys like these.

 A final Laurence Fellows illustration, also dating from the 1940s.