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, March 25, 2013

Add Some Subtle Pizzazz to Your Look. . .

A good looking gray glen plaid pattern with a mustard yellow windowpane overlay.

The word for today is "pattern."  In short, guys, don't fear it or shy away from it.  Sure, navy and charcoal have their place for more conservative suits and blazers or sports jackets, but, as my grandmother used to say, "Live a little!"  

Glen plaid and houndstooth are two very traditional patterns that will easily liven up your wardrobe a bit.  And, contrary to what many guys fear, they'll do so without making you look like the slimy Herb Tarlek on the old WKRP in Cincinnati TV program.  The trick to avoiding Herb's look is to keep everything else really, really simple.  Especially because both glen plaid and houndstooth are such dominant patterns.  

Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati.

To avoid aping Mr. Tarlek's tacky 1970s appearance above, I'd suggest a plain light blue oxford cloth button-down shirt and with either charcoal flannel, or tan corduroy pants along with oxblood loafers or some kind of wingtip in oxblood, tan, or dark brown.  Don't forget to match your belt to your shoes as much as possible though!  Dress up the look even more with an understated wool necktie.  Maybe in a solid navy or gray?  Or, for a more jaunty look -- ala the late Steve McQueen -- how about a turtleneck like those shown in today's photographs?

The point is, guys, you need more than just a single suit and one navy blazer in your closet.  Those two items are a start, but they are only part of the picture when it comes to cultivating a more adult wardrobe.  Adding a couple of sports jackets like the ones pictured at the top and bottom of today's post will provide not only more visual interest to you wardrobe but also considerably greater versatility.  The trick is in keeping the rest of your clothing simple and understated, to avoid the used car salesman look like we see in the middle phototgraph.  

But with that in mind, there is nothing whatsoever to fear about patterns.  They can be our friends if we just give them a chance and learn how to incorporate them into our overall look, so that the result is visually pleasing.

An equally attractive brown and charcoal houndstooth tweed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Those standards? Keep 'em up!

Mr. Carson, head of the household staff along with Mrs. Hughes, on Downton Abbey.  This image comes from the website.

Lot's of men's clothing websites and blogs out there  have the word 'gentleman' displayed prominently somewhere on their landing pages, or embedded within their content.  But it's a mistake to assume that clothing alone will make the man.  

I'd even go so far as to suggest that it's more the way we men conduct ourselves, alone and in the company of others, that determines how close we come to actually being a gentleman.  And that has to do with standards of behavior.

Now, I'm not talking about arbitrary standards here, but accepted social conventions that, in many cases, have been around for centuries.  Things like:

 -- Basic table manners.  Think about your elbows, a napkin in your lap, chewing with your mouth closed, swallowing food before you speak, asking for things to be passed to you, etc.

-- Keeping your voice down in public spaces and in conversation.

-- Firm handshakes on meeting someone for the first time, accompanied by "How do you do?"

-- Looking at people you are speaking with. . .  Ooops!  I ended that sentence with a proposition.

-- Use of the words "please," thank you," "excuse me," and (occasionally) "I'm sorry," in all situations.

-- Careful consideration of how our actions and words might affect, inconvenience, or offend others before we do or say something. It's called self-control, and sometimes keeping things to ourselves is best.

-- Stopping a behavior others might find irritating or offensive when they ask without continuing or making any sarcastic remarks about it.  We are adults after all.

-- Not droning on endlessly about ourselves and our problems (outside of the therapist's office) in polite company.  When someone asks how you are, it's always better to say something like "Fine, thanks.  And you?"

-- Never asking someone else what they earn, how much they paid for something, or where/how they got it.  If they want us to know,  trust me, they'll volunteer that information.

-- On a similar note, and bucking the current predilection for over familiarity and false bonhomie, I suggest sticking to the old fashioned habit of keeping things like politics, sex, sexual orientation, money, and spirituality to yourself.  At least until after you know others really well.  And -- Surprise! -- that takes longer than a couple of drinks and chit chat at a bar or party where you've just met for the first or second time.  Far better to keep a few things private and maintain a bit of mystery about yourself.

-- Show some discretion when doing things like blowing our nose (never at the table), sneezing, or hiccuping.  A rapid and polite "Excuse me" always helps.

-- Not announcing loudly that we need to visit the men's room each and every time we are out and about at the mall, restaurants, or elsewhere.  And never, repeat NEVER discuss your activities or experiences therein.  Some things are best forgotten.

-- Peppering our conversation liberally with the f-bomb and various other obscenities.  Newsflash, guys. . .   It doesn't make us look or sound cool, edgy, or intelligent.  Quite the contrary.

-- And the biggy. . . absolutely no belching or passing gas around others, or in public spaces.  It's just base.  No one should have to endure your intestinal issues or puerile sense of humor.  If you can't control it, see your doctor, or visit the drugstore/pharmacy for an over-the-counter remedy. 

Undoubtedly, there are other polite standards and conventions that I'm not thinking of at the moment, but these are a few solid ones with which to start should you need to brush up.  Become reacquainted with them and practice religiously until they become ingrained habits.  They will certainly take you far in any interaction you have with others, both within and outside the home.  And -- Dare I suggest it? -- these polite conventions will also help you behave like and resemble a true gentleman far more than that expensive new pair of shoes or tailored suit might.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Become a Man of Letters. . .

Ok, one more time, guys.  This is your brain.  This is your brain on a steady diet of typical guy stuff --------------------------------------------------.  Right.  Try using your brain for something besides memorizing batting averages and recalling the number of touchdowns in last season's Superbowl.

Another part of kicking up one's style a notch or three that should not be forgotten is the mind.  In short, use it for something more than trivial crap.  There's more to life than large screen TVs, football jersey collections, being gross in the company of male friends, and your "little general."  Figure it out.  

In short, don't continue to be a nowhere man.  Get with the program.  Stretch yourself.  Step outside your comfort zone.  Learn another language.  More than half a dozen carefully memorized phrases.  Plan a trip somewhere besides Cancun or Cozumel.  Try to think in different ways.  Read some books on things besides sports, the American Civil War, Iraq, and WWII.  Try other more current non-fiction or, oh, I don't know, some REAL literature.  No, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lee Child don't count.  Hell, take a crack at some cultural critique and theory if you want to go whole hog.  It will piss you off, and keep you thinking about it for days. 

Otherwise, read a newspaper, online or hard copy.  But not simply the sports section.  Find out what's happening in the world today and why.  Here's an idea.  Take a look at news and current affairs publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Report, Scientific American, Psychology Today, or The New Republic from time to timeTime and Newsweek are empty shells these days, so save your money. 

Don't worry.  There won't be a quiz later.  No final exam.  You needn't memorize anything.  But become conversant in current events and discussions besides what is presented as news on Yahoo or ESPN. 

The point is this.  Become an intelligent and involved citizen of the world and develop informed opinions.  Sure, it might seem safer within the narrow confines of your own little microcosm.  But for the love of God, make it your business to find out what is happening beyond your man cave, outside your front door, beyond the borders of your state, and elsewhere on the planet.  Believe me.  It will help make you  much more interesting and contribute in no small measure to your overall style.  Remember, it's not always about the clothes and shoes. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

There are those days. . .

Last Friday's more casual, snowy weather gear.  My wife told me to go back upstairs and change my pants before I left for school.

There are those days when, despite your best planning the evening before, an ensemble just doesn't quite come together the way you thought it would.  And so it was with the clothes above last Friday when we had several inches of new snow on the ground, and I decided on a slightly less formal look for campus.  Nothing wrong with any of the garments, footwear, or accessories by themselves, but it was all a bit much once I was dressed and looked in the mirror.  My suspicions were confirmed by my wife (usually the more stye challenged of us), who sent me back upstairs to put on a pair of more sedate tan corduroy pants before I was able to leave the house.  

Later that evening, she gave me a hard time in the kitchen before supper about my initial appearance that morning.  There was much laughter on both sides, but I explained that the fun in nailing down a more adult style comes through experimenting with different things to learn what works, what does not, and so on.  You can't take yourself so seriously that you became fearful of doing something wrong and give up, returning to the sloppy saggy jeans, over-sized shirts, and backwards baseball cap 'uniform' just because it's easiest, and you don't want to stand out from the herd.

Then, there are those days when things come together more easily as was the case with the assemblage of clothing and footwear yesterday in the photograph below.  I think that's because things were kept much simpler with regard to color and pattern.  The only really wild thing was the socks, and those were invisible unless I was seated, which is not usually the case when I am leading a class at the front of the room.  In any case, the socks received wifely approval when I showed them to her later yesterday afternoon, once we were both home again.  So, balance was restored, and all was right with my sartorial world once again.

Monday's more sedate (??!!) ensemble.  You just cannot beat a navy wool blazer, charcoal wool flannel pants, and Allen Edmonds wingtips.

The message to take away from today's post is this, guys.  Try moving away from a strictly monochromatic appearance for those occasions when you dress (unless attending a funeral).  Navy and gray are fine and versatile, but they can be overdone.  No one is suggesting that you need to become peacocks and go overboard with a riot of color by any means.  But a little bit of color and pattern won't hurt you either, and it will help you kick up your style several notches once you become comfortable with and skilled in adding one or two eye-catching garments or accessories to your overall look for the day.  Don't take yourself too seriously here.  Give it a shot and realize that once in a while you won't quite nail it.  But you'll still look miles better than most of the other guys you'll bump into.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Financing Your New 'Adult' Style. . .

 Besides thrift and consignment shops, places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill can also be places where you can occasionally come across a choice piece or two of menswear that, with dry-cleaning and minor alterations via your tailor, can take their place of pride in your wardrobe.

As I've mentioned here before -- and a number of other great blogs discuss in considerable detail.  See especially An Affordable Wardrobe. -- you can easily kick up your style several notches into the realm of tasteful, adult menswear by visiting thrift shops.  But even on those days when the pickings are slim in your particular dimensions, don't ignore picking up thse gems that can be flipped and resold for quite a bit more.  

These funds can then be plowed back into your own clothing, shoes, and accessories budget for use at a future date.  Outlets like e-bay make this a very easy prospect.  For instance, this morning, I came across three pairs of men's Zanella dress pants in wool, priced at US$1.50 each at one of my local thrift outlets that are almost like new.  Typically, these pants retail for about US$295-$395+ at places like Nordstroms.  Sadly, the waists are just a bit too generous to have altered to my own 32" waist without throwing off the proportions of the pants.  But, I can probably more than recoup my minimal cash outlay many times over.  And who can complain about that?

So, there you go.  One more way to finance your new-found classic style without breaking the bank.