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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Isn't kicking up my personal style a notch or three going to cost a lot?"

Short answer, no.  It does not necessarily have to cost you an arm and a leg to begin dressing like an adult in possession of some education, grooming, sophistication, and (good) taste.  As I've mentioned here in recent posts, physical and online sales, thrift, and consignment shops are a great way to start revamping your wardrobe in the move away from over-sized t-shirts, grubby sweats, and cargo pants without breaking the bank or maxing out your credit card.  

With time, practice, and a plan, you can assemble a fantastic and unique wardrobe of shoes, odd pants and jackets, shirts, neckties, and a suit or two that will serve you well for a long, long time with proper care and maintenance.

But here's one important suggestion that won't cost you anything.  Zilch.  Nil.  Nada.  Nothing.  And it contributes immeasurably to kicking up your personal style a notch or three.  Ready?  Here ya go.

Unearth those dormant manners, table and otherwise, that your mother and father hopefully instilled in you and start practicing them.  All the time.  Even when it's just you by yourself.  If you make pleasant manners a habit, it's much easier than if you only practice them in social settings.  

And if you need to brush up, go to and look for any one of several titles by Peter Post, many of which are geared especially toward guys who want or need to brush up on polite conventions.  It's just one important part of kicking up your personal style.  Don't ignore it.  Remember, it's not all about the clothes and shoes.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sartorial Food for Thought. . .

The late Jack Klugman (as Oscar Madison) and Tony Randall (as Felix Unger) as The Odd Couple, the TV version of the roles made famous a few years earlier onstage and in film by the late Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon.

Sometimes, you have the oddest thoughts where you immediately remark to yourself, "My God!  That's right!"  In his day, TV's Oscar Madison was considered a lovable though  inveterate slob.  Yet, he usually dressed miles better than most guys do in our own time 40-odd years later.  Even when he wore plain old khakis, a gray sweatshirt, and tennis shoes.  Guys?  What the hell happened us?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pulling together a casual style ain't all that difficult.

Yours truly and Onyx the Cat (by my right foot), enjoying the Sunday New York Times magazine section.  The duds shown here are all by Land's End and L.L. Bean.  The shirt was a birthday gift several years ago, the tan cords were purchased on sale in the fall of 2009, and the footwear came from an After Christmas sale in December 2012.

Let's dispense with all of the talk about neckties, tweed jackets, wool flannel dress pants, and silk pocket squares for a moment and get comfortable.  It's still the weekend after all.  But hold it!  We're still talking pulled together and acceptable.  So don't reach for your sweatpants, the over-sized t-shirt with salsa and beer stains down the front, or that ratty baseball cap from your college daysStop!  There's an easy way to look nicer, more presentable, and like you give a damn while retaining a comfortable and relaxed feel to things.  Here's how.

Land's End, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and Eddie Bauer.  The profusion of clothing catalogs that has arrived in the mail from them since just after Christmas has been astounding.  After-Christmas sales.  Mid-Winter sales.  Valentine's Day sales.  End of Season sales.  And so on, and so forth.  Ad infinitum.  It dawned on me a few days ago, while looking at the latest offering from Land's End, that, even for those more style-challenged guys among us -- and there are MANY -- it's entirely possible to assemble a coherent, presentable, casual wardrobe without too much difficulty and without dropping a bundle.

For starters, examine the various photographs of the male models in these catalogs for ideas.  Oh, sure, the poses and environs, along with the "Hey, look at me!  I'm having a blast at this mountain resort in the company of these ski bunnies at the chairlift" smiles are contrived, to be sure.  But you can get a really solid idea of how to combine different garments that will far surpass rumpled pajama pants and stretched out sweat pants.  Any day.  Any time.  

Typically, most colors of shirts and sweaters, for example, will complement most of the pants shown in any given catalog regardless of the season.  Yes, you need to exercise a bit of care here and avoid going too hog wild with crazy patterns, but, by and large, it's an easy way for guys without a clue to start assembling a casual wardrobe of various items that can be mixed and matched without too much thought.  

As far as cost goes, that's easy.  Keep an eye out for overstocks, sales, and end-of-season close-outs both in the print catalogs that clog our mailboxes and via company websites.  I actually just stumbled onto a pair of five-pocket corduroy jeans from Land's End for less than five bucks, thanks to reduced prices on old stock, a sales promotion, free shipping, and an extremely helpful sales associate on the phone.  You might also drop big hints for upcoming birthdays and gift-giving holidays.  The point is, if you are careful and keep your eyes open, you can easily pick up several new casual pieces each season that will serve you well for years to come.  In other words, you can look fantastic and keep it casual at the same time.  Bye-bye sweatpants and over-sized t-shirts!

Strangely, lots of people out there sneer at Land's End, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and Eddie Bauer.  And, I must admit, why they might do so escapes me.  If you belong to that camp, so be it.  But, for decent looking casual clothes that will elevate you well above the lowest common sartorial denominator -- Slob Post-Post-Modern -- that has become the norm in our society over the last couple of decades, you can't go wrong with clothing purchased from these companies.  And remember, when you look better, you feel better about yourself, which directly affects so many other areas of your life.  So, don't you owe it to yourself and those closest to you to kick even your casual evening and weekend style up a notch or three? I know I do.

This afternoon, while visiting the "new" Goodwill store here in town I found an Italian-made Giorgio Armani Collezioni summer weight (VERY light, loose weave and only quarter lined) in a linen-wool blend.  The color is a lovely dark tan-khaki--taupe combo.  More nondescript than it sounds.  It fits well in the chest and shoulders, and, with a few minor alterations to the sleeves and dry-cleaning, it will be ready to go this summer when things turn hot and nasty here in the American Midwest.  Bring on the wrinkles!  Oh, and the price?  Less than US$20.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Let's take off those hats, guys. . .

Guys, if you insist on wearing some kind of hat, or the now ubiquitous backwards baseball cap (and who would have thought in the early 90s that the trend would still be with us twenty years on?), it's time to relearn basic hat etiquette.  Ok?  

At the very least, remove your hat or cap when you come indoors, and when you sit down to the table for a snack or meal.  Only crass rubes and bumpkins on the back of turnip trucks eat with their hats on (and their elbows on the table), and sadly the observant individual will notice quite a few in restaurants of all kinds, from Taco Bell to the (now, sadly defunct) Tavern on the Green in Manhattan.  What happened?  Surely our mothers raised us better than that.

Remember, part of our personal style, our presentation, what we communicate to the world about who we are, and the kind of upbringing we've had, has to do with basic courtesies like these.  Let's make every effort to practice them in all settings, not because we must, but because we want to.  It makes us nicer company for others, and it's one part of classic style that needs to be reintegrated into our daily habits.  And you know what?  It's not hard, takes no time at all, and others will appreciate it.  Even if they say nothing.  Honest.