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.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Accessories: Those Smaller Bits of Classic Style. . .

A few smaller bits of classic style: a lovely old watch of good quality, a cigarette lighter, and pair of interesting cufflinks.

Often, in our quest to kick up our style a notch or three, it's easy to become fixated on clothing and shoes.  But there is a bit more to classic men's style than that.  "Accessories" also have their place in the more stylish guy's wardrobe.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that you might add to your own quest for classic style in the direction of Grant, Astaire, McQueen, Caine, Connery, and the Duke of Windsor among others.

1) A Chest Wallet or Money Clip 
 Why throw things off when you wear a snappy suit or sports jacket and dress pants by placing an over-stuffed wallet in your rear pocket?  Your look will become much (ahem) smoother with a chest wallet that you carry inside your jacket and/or a bill clip that you carry in a front pants pocket.

2) A Leather Cigarette Case
You hardly see these around any more, but you can find cigarette cases of various types via Ebay.  And they are a cool way to carry around your smokes (if you do), and an even cooler way to transport your own and others' business cards.  Again, carry this inside one of your suit coat or sports jacket pockets, NOT in your back pocket.

3) A Stainless Steel Cigarette Lighter
Zippos will do nicely although you can certainly find fancier and more expensive brands on the market.  It sure beats pulling a cheap Bic disposable out of your pocket to light up your own or someone else's smoke.  And even if you don't indulge, there are all sorts of unexpected uses for a cigarette lighter besides the obvious, for instance burning secret government documents, confusing enemy agents in the dark with false signals, and lighting campfires among them.

4) Collar Stays
A soft, relaxed button-down collar is one thing, but every guy ought to have at least two or three shirts with dressier spread or point collars hanging in his closet.  And you'll need collar stays to keep these shirts looking their best throughout the day.  Plastic collar stays will certainly do the trick, but metal ones last longer, hold their shape better, and their tiny bit of added weight ensures that your collar points stay where they should -- just touching the uppermost part of your chest.  By the way, wear spread and point collar styles ONLY with neckties.  They look stupid without.

5) A Wristwatch with a Leather Band
These might be considered unnecessary in the era of I-phones, but a decent quality, nondescript wristwatch lends an air of classic finish and sophistication to your overall look.  I'd suggest avoiding the larger, more ostentatious sporting watches with metal bands though.  Keep things understated with a slim dress watch of some kind worn with a leather band.  And remember, that leather watchband should match your shoes and belt for the day, so it's a good idea, eventually, to have at least two wristwatches on top of your dresser. 

 A few of the accessory items that go in my own pockets or on my wrist Monday through Friday each week (and sometimes during the weekends too).

6) A Good Quality (Leather) Brief or Attache Case
A expensive item when purchased new, but you can find decent brief and attache cases used on Ebay, or watch for retail sales in stores or online.   You might also be lucky enough to inherit one from a retiring or deceased male family member.  However you do it, though, make sure to acquire a brief or attache case and leave the Kelty bookpack behind.  For one, you'll ruin the shoulders and lining of any jacket (in the vicinity of your tailbone) that you wear said bookpack with.  Second, you'll resemble an overgrown junior high school boy, a look you presumably want to leave behind since you are reading this blog!  At some point, you might want to have two such cases, one in brown or tan and one in black, to coordinate with your shoes and belt for the day.

7) A Small Pocket Knife
An item you might not need often, but pocketknives are handy for opening envelopes and other occasional uses in the office and at home.  I'm partial to pocketknives made by Buck, Victorinox, and Wenger, but there are plenty of other decent brands out there.  Oh, one more thing.   Save yourself the frustration, and leave your knife at home when you are traveling by air, so you avoid having it confiscated by those charmingly over-zealous TSA agents who have populated U.S. airport terminals sine 9/11.  Clearly the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was a boon for the severely undereducated and otherwise unemployable.

8) A Leather Dress Belt. . .  or Two
If you are working hard to assemble a small but good quality wardrobe of menswear items in an effort to kick up your style a notch or three, you'll want to compliment it with at least one belt in brown (with a brass buckle) and another in black (with a stainless steel buckle) to match with your shoes, watchband, and briefcase for the day.  Good leather belts aren't cheap, but they look much better for much longer than plastic or vinyl.  And, here again, you can find gently used belts in thrift shops and online through outlets like Ebay.  It just takes some time and digging around.

9) A Good Quality Ballpoint Pen
You can add another layer of finish and sophistication to your newly found sense of style by making sure to carry a decent quality ballpoint pen (with blue or black ink) in an internal suit coat or blazer pocket.  You can pick up a stainless steel Parker pen fairly inexpensively at any office supply place like Staples, Office Max, or Office Depot that will look fine and serve you well.  If you want to spend a bit more, there are plenty of interesting models by Cross, which is my own preference.  If you really want to go all out, though, get yourself a fountain pen of some kind, but make sure you know how to load and unload the refills correctly.  Nothing is more frustrating than discovering an ink stain on your shirt and jacket that might be difficult or impossible to remove.

10)  A Pressed White Cotton Handkerchief
Another handy item to have along in your jacket pocket for cleaning eye glasses, discretely dabbing watery eyes or a runny nose on a cold day, or handing to a lady friend to dab off a small piece of mascara from the corner of her eye.  But, as mentioned here in a recent post, DO NOT make a habit of noisily honking your nose into that same handkerchief, wadding it up, and stuffing it back into your pocket several times a day.  Being discrete is part of kicking up our personal style several notches, and that means not drawing attention to ourselves through obnoxious and obtrusive behavior.  Take care of any nasal congestion issues brought on by colds or allergies by: 1) buying over-the-counter medication to help dry up the problem, and 2) retiring to the safety of the mensroom to blow your nose in private.  Whatever you do, don't treat everyone in the office/elevator/restaurant/classroom/elsewhere to your impression of an angry, charging bull elephant.  It's not attractive.

And there you have it.  Add a few, or all, of these accessory items to your daily wardrobe, and you'll kick up your style several rungs as you climb the style ladder from perpetually sloppy man-child to charming, urbane, and well-groomed adult male.  Try it. 

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