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, July 27, 2013

"But what if I'm just hanging around the house on a Saturday?"

Here's Heinz-Ulrich during August 2009, as casual as it gets, in khaki shorts (NOTE! -- not a cargo pocket in sight), with a madras shirt and (shudder) Teva sandals.  Cool, comfortable, and pulled together.  Oh, and everything worn was purchased on sale at one time or another.

Recently, I heard from a regular visitor to the Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, who asked about casual warm weather clothes for simply hanging around the house.  Well, the answer is to go classic and keep it simple.  In other words, go for khaki shorts combined with a knit polo or a short-sleeve, button-down madras shirt, and a pair of leather deck shoes.  Acceptable hot weather alternatives include poplin, Bermuda (Thanks, Jim!), or madras shorts along with seersucker and/or lighter weight twill shirts.

Here's Heinz-Ulrich with the Young von Boffke in early July 2011.  Von Boffke the Elder wears leather deck shoes, khaki shorts, and a knit polo shirt while von Boffke the Younger wears a madras shirt, navy camp shorts, and sneakers.  Outfit yourself with a few similar pairs of shorts and shirts.  Everything can be mixed and matched in various combinations.  Suddenly, dressing more nicely for those relaxed summer evenings, weekends, and holidays becomes easy and carefree.  And nary a ratty logo'ed t-shirt or rumpled pair of cargo shorts in sight. 

Garments like these will give you a simple and relaxed look that's timeless.  It's also easy to assemble without a lot of thought.  As I explained to a neighbor the other day, with a drawer of this stuff, a guy can simply pull out the clean clothes, unfold them, and be all dressed in about 90 seconds.  Various shirts and shorts can, in addition, be combined in a wide variety of ways without worrying too much about clashing colors or patterns.  And it doesn't get much easier than that unless one visits a naturist colony.  But I can't get too enthused about that prospect.  There are just some things best left to the imagination, thank you.  

Finally, here is Heinz-Ulrich during mid-July 2013 in a familiar summer activity. . .  chatting on the front porch.   This time, he is wearing (surprise) another pair of khaki shorts, a light weight twill shirt, and a pair of suede Allen Edmonds not-quite-your-average pair of deck shoes, recently purchased on sale.

Two final seasonal caveats this morning.  Sure it's hot.  It is the summer in the Northern Hemisphere after all.  But unless you're at the beach or the pool, keep those shirts on guys.  No one really wants to see our nipples, slight paunch, chest hair, or those rad outlaw tatts.  Trust me.  And if your brow is a bit sweaty, please resist the urge to use your shirt tails to wipe your face.  Ugh!  Carry a clean and folded cotton handkerchief in your pocket (always) and discretely mop your brow with it instead.  If you are that hot, retire inside to air-conditioned comfort, or, barring that, take a bracing shower or bath, towel off, apply baby powder, and put on some  fresh clothes.  A tall glass of iced tea with plenty of sugar and mint, or a bubbly gin & tonic, always helps too. 

Let's all work together to rediscover/maintain/project an aura of classic male style, grooming, and sophistication.  Even when it's hot, humid, and just plain uncomfortable during the dog days of summer.  Your mom, wife, girl-friend, boy-friend, live-in, partner, S.O. -- take your pick here -- will appreciate your efforts to present yourself and come across in a more polished way.  Even when no one else is around.  After all, you ain't ten years old or a college sophomore any longer.  Let's not dress or behave like it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why make an effort to dress well?

As if he needs any introduction. . .  Acting great Sean Connery as secret agent James Bond in Goldfinger (1964).

Why bother to learn how an adult male -- a man -- ought to dress?  Why  make an effort to dress well when so many others around the world look like slobs regardless of the social, academic, or occupational setting?  Briefly, learning how to dress well, and then making an effort to do so, signals lots of things about you and your character to those whose eyes are open, including the following:

1) Self-confidence
2) Self-respect
3) Respect for others
4) An awareness of, and respect for, settings and occasions. . .  as well as just plain ol' consideration for the people around you
5) Attention to detail and self-discipline
6) Grooming and sophistication

Without a doubt, there are other cues associated with the art of dressing well, but these six points spring immediately to mind every time I see the same old tired complaints in online exchanges about mens' clothing and style.  You know the ones.  Excuses and rationalizations like these:

* "People shouldn't have to dress up if they don't want to." 

* "What's on the inside is the only thing that matters."  

* "Who cares if I want to wear my pajamas, flip flops, and/or sagging gangsta pants with my underwear hanging out in public?"  

* "Dressing up is uncomfortable."  

* "At work, only my performance on paper should matter."  

* "Only 'the rich' can afford to dress like that." (My personal favorite).

 *And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.  

Obviously, clothes alone do not make the man, but they speak much more loudly and say much more about us than many people would otherwise like to believe.  And whatever happened to putting our best foot forward whenever we are in public? 

As I see it, there are two possible approaches take.  We can either try in vain to change societal views and perceptions, many of which are hundreds of years in the making, or we can take the easier road.  That means getting with the program, picking up the sartorial slack of the last 20+ years, and making a much better effort than we've seen recently to present ourselves in a more serious, adult way.  Really.

Still not buyin' it?  Well, there is all kinds of historical, sociological, and psychological research out there that suggests strong links between our attire, how people around us react, how our sartorial choices make us feel about ourselves, and the paths our lives often take because of it.  Check it out.  It's all over the 'net and easy to find.  

Yep.  Time to leave the  flip flops, hoodies, and cruddy jeans behind, guys.  You're not in the fourth grade anymore.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Style. . .

From head to toe: a cotton Land's End shirt (purchased on sale 2004), a lamb's wool tie by Bachrach (thrifted), a summer weight wool sports jacket by Hickey Freeman (Ebay), an Italian silk pocket square with hand-rolled edges (thrifted), old, comfy cotton Levi's Dockers khakis (purchased on sale Fall '07), and an old pair of tan monkstrap loafers sold by Land's End (purchased on sale Fall '07).

Two kinds of summer style demonstrated here today that can be easily approximated by average guys who want to leave behind forever the ubiquitous and awful camouflage cargo shorts, wife beater, flip flops, and off kilter baseball cap "look" that so many boys and men seem to sport these days whenever the temperature rises above a bracing 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ensemble pictured above was worn for a visit to the eye doctor last Monday.  The necktie is optional, of course, but if you're going out in public, for God's sake, pull yourself together, and at least try to look like you have some self-respect, grooming, and sophistication.  Do you really want to resemble the meth heads portrayed on the TV program Breaking Bad?  

Dressing like you give a damn also influences how receptionists, nurses, dentists, and doctors -- and educated people in general -- relate to you.  It's awfully nice to be spoken to without the patronizing, condescending tone that seems to be the norm these days, especially for visitors who look like they've just rolled out of bed two minutes prior to their appointments.  It really helps when you look like someone with places to be and things to do besides spending the afternoons camped out in front of the television.  Trust me. 

A more casual 4th of July style here.  Just old, well-worn docksider shoes in leather, poplin shorts, and a navy blue polo shirt.

What about those lazy summer days when you're just hanging around the house?  It's very easy to find decent looking warm weather gear in thrift shops or through online sales.  Regular readers might remember that I'm a fan of stuff sold by Land's End.  Make a habit of checking out the sale and overstock items as well as end of season deals.  Sure, it's not the most expensive clothing you can find, but for decent, ready-to-wear, classic style clothes, it's hard to go wrong.  
Regardless of where you find your clothes as you develop a sense of classic style and assemble your wardrobe, keep in mind this important point.  Clothes not only have an effect on how we feel about ourselves, but they also influence how others see us.  Even close friends and family who, presumably, know us better than anyone else.  Why give them reason to think less of us with gross behavior and/or a habitually sloppy appearance? 

So, here's an assignment for you guys who want to kick up your style a notch or three this summer.  Find and purchase a few pairs of khaki or plaid shorts WITHOUT cargo pockets.  Take a pass on those strange skater or hip-hop things that hang below your knees and fit like lawn and leaf bags.  Strive, instead, to create a more polished, adult look that also includes three or four short-sleeved summer sport shirts.  Keep it simple here and skip anything that serves as an advertisement for companies like Abercrombie or Aeropostale.  

Don't forget to add a pair of casual deck shoes that cover your toes.  There.  That didn't hurt, did it?  A comfortable, nice-looking summer wardrobe that is suitable for many if not most settings outside the workplace.  Easy.  In addition, your moms, significant others, and spouses will appreciate you sitting around the pool, patio, deck, or campsite in something else besides your boxer shorts or a stained t-shirt with some kind of oh-so-clever double entendre emblazoned across its front for all the world to see.  We're adults, right?

Remember.  Just because it's family, and you're at home on vacation or during the weekend with the front door closed, doesn't mean you should let everything hang out and behave like a complete pig.  Show the same respect for the people you live with and see every day that you give to co-workers, your boss, and people you pass on the street.  It's not stiff, overly formal, or artificial.  It's just plain old human decency.  And, like it or not, how we dress and present ourselves to those around us is part of that.