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, August 31, 2013

"Oh, my aching [fill in the blank]". . .

Besides discussing them with your doctor(s) and immediate family, it's just better to keep health issues to oneself.
Something occurred to me recently, as I sat in a group of 30-to-50-something friends at a small party we had on our backyard patio in mid-July that seemed like a valid point to bring up here.  Aches, pains, and ongoing health issues.  Many of us have them, especially those of us over 35 or 40.  Some issues are cleared up relatively quickly with a prescription or minor medical procedure, and some, unfortunately, are rather more serious and longer term.  But everyone has health problems arise in their lives at one time or another. 

The point, however, is that average guys looking to kick up their everyday style several notches shouldn't let aches and pains dominate our lives and conversation.  Sure, if one suffers from a serious, lengthy, and/or debilitating condition, it is on his mind most of the time.  I get it.  And I've been there myself.  More than once.

But when less serious aches and pains make up the bulk of one's conversation, or you find yourself starting every exchange of which you are a part with the latest update on, or moaning about, your particular health issues, it's a little much.  And even a bit dull for those around you.  That's a bit harsh, perhaps, but nonetheless true. 

And you know what?  Everyone has times when he doesn't feel well or hurts physically.  And those occasional more serious health issues?  Lots of us wrestle through that too.  But it doesn't require a half-hour dissertation on the reasons why you might be gluten free, lactose intolerant, suffering from kidney stones and a flare-up of gout, or that your ingrown toe nail makes it difficult to wear dress shoes.  I'll wager that most people would rather talk about other things and NOT learn about your less-than-savory internal problems.  Even if they are polite enough not to interrupt with a subtle attempt to distract you.  

Surprise!  There's a whole world of other stuff to talk about out there.  And at the very least, almost everyone can discuss music, movies, books, and sports. . .  although I'd exercise considerable caution on that last item since it can get mind-numbing awfully fast.  If you've ever suffered through a lengthy monologue about the heyday of Welsh rugby in the 1970s, or the old British TV program The Likely Lads for that matter, you'll know what I mean.  But I digress.

Here's the take-away point for today.  In the interest of improving our personal style in any interaction with most other other human beings -- with the exception your medical specialist(s) of course, and probably your spouse or significant other -- it's far better simply to reply, whenever asked how you are, "I'm very well, thanks.  And you?"

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It Doesn't Need to Be Brand Spanking New. . .

 Today's ensemble, featuring nothing that is anywhere close to brand new. . .  except maybe the socks.
Garments need not be brand spanking new to look good.  In fact, so long as they aren't visibly ripped, torn, faded artificially, or stained with BBQ sauce, clothes that show a bit of wear and "life" are preferable to anything right off the rack, regardless of the label inside or associated cost.  

Of course, routine care and maintenance should go without saying.  Take care of your clothes, shoes, and accessories, and they'll last a long, long time.  Keep 'em clean, pressed, and either folded in your dresser drawers, or hung up on decent hangers in the bedroom closet.  And no wire hangers ever!  Couldn't resist that one, sorry.

In the case of shoes, keep those shined and replace the heels or soles when they become worn.  Store them with cedar shoe trees inside to maintain their shape and keep them smelling pleasant.  Stay on top of things, and it hardly matters if the edges of your shirt cuffs are ever-so-slightly frayed, like they are on the shirt I sport above, or if there are a few nicks or scratches on your shoes.  Such features give your overall look loads more character than brand new stuff with the tags still attached ever will.  After all, you want your clothes to look like you actually wear 'em more than just twice a year!  Right?

So, today's combination features, as usual, a variety of items purchased at different times and for less than the normal retail cost.  The clothes are well-worn, have some character, fit me, and are extremely comfortable.  Even in this late August soup that has settled over the American Midwest for the last several days.  What more could you ask for?  Here's the low down:

* Corbin wool 3/2 roll sports jacket (thrifted)
* No-name silk pocket square made in Italy (thrifted)
* Ralph Lauren Polo shirt with straight collar (purchased on sale)
* Vintage Ralph Lauren silk polo player necktie (a gift)
* Land's End cotton twill dress pants that keep a crease (clearance)
* Allen Edmonds brogued captoe shoes (E-bay)
* Socks from Macy's (on sale) 

Note, that nothing except the socks is even close to new.  The shirt dates from August of 2000 and the pants from September 2006 or '07.  Other than that, I have no idea how old the other things are, but everything is kept clean and in good condition, which means it should remain wearable for many years to come.  Unless, of course, we are suddenly required by law to start wearing those silver jumpsuits like they wore on Lost In Space back during the 1960s.  

Returning to the point at hand, however, that's the cool thing about classic style.  It just goes and goes and goes without falling pray to too many fleeting trends.  Let's just do our very best to try and forget about those abnormally wide neckties and lapels of the early-mid 1970s, shall we? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And here's a close-up of the shoes and socks.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stop Fearing Color and Pattern. . .

A new pair of pink and green cotton, to-the-knee dress socks that I won from Dapper Classics last spring along with a pair of recrafted Allen Edmonds wingtip brogues.

One thing that average guys can do to kick up their everyday style a few notches is to embrace color and pattern.  Too often, when a guy dresses up, it's black (ugh!), charcoal, or, at best, navy blue with a white or blue shirt and some kind of tie.  When that is done right, the look can be extremely elegant in its simpilcity ala Beau Brummel.  But you're missing out on adding some life and dynamism to your appearance if that's all you ever wear.  

So, how about broadening your attire horizons a bit?  Have some fun here and experiment with color and pattern once in a while.  I'm certainly not suggesting that you go over the top with color in the same way that the crazy character "Mark" did on Ugly Betty, but a few well-chosen accents can help get your overall look up on its feet.  With that in mind, I submit for your consideration a photograph of the bottom part of my ensemble today:

* Girorgio Aramani pleated pants in dark grey, lightweight wool (E-bay)
* Allen Edmonds wingtips in dark brown (E-bay and then recrafted at the AE factory)
* Dapper Classics cotton, knee-length dress socks (won in a Facebook drawing last spring)

And on top:
* Georgio Armani three-button, linen sports jacket in wheat (An Affordable Wardrobe)
* Land's End straight collar shirt w/faint pink, green, and blue windowpane pattern (clearance)
* Bachrach wool necktie in forest green (thrifted)
* Italian silk pocket square in silvery gray and black paisley patterns (thrifted)
* Land's End leather belt in dark brown (clearance)

 On reflection, today's collection of garments and accessories was perhaps a bit overly coordinated and matchy-matchy as far as the light green and pink went.  So, I opted for a pocket square that had nothing whatsoever to do with the tie or shirt.  The jacket, I suspect, dates from the late 80s or early 90s given the strong shoulders, but the socks were only visible when I sat down to have some coffee during my office hour in the student center following an 8am class, so I didn't worry about things too much.  

I felt good, and, Heaven knows, I looked more presentable than most male professors or staff on my small campus this morning.  However, I dress more for myself at this point than to intimidate or impress.  If people like it and understand about setting, occasion, and the related appropriate attire, great.  But if others think it's somehow weird, or that I'm trying t0o hard, that is their prerogative.

The point is, unless one is in a more staid occupation like banking, finance, or the legal profession, have a little fun with your wardrobe, guys, and make things a bit more colorful sometimes.  Trust me.  It's OK, and your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other will almost assuredly be into it.  And that ain't a bad thing.  Who knows?  You might get the occasional compliment from someone you don't even know.  It happens.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Late August (HOT Weather) Style. . .

"Here's the thing about Horror films. . . "  The hot weather teaching ensemble for today.  And yes, those are a Wisconsin cheese head and a fake artichoke on the shelf over my right shoulder.

The mostly pleasant summer we've had in my part of the American Midwest has turned hot, sticky, and uncomfortable at last.  Just in time for the start of school and dressing like one gives a darn.  Typical.  Still, one can keep things pretty casual and comfortable without giving up completely and going the t-shirt, cargo shorts, flip-flops, and backwards baseball cap route.  Today's ensemble consisted of the following items:

* Giorgio Armani linen sportsjacket, made in Italy (thrifted)
* Neiman-Marcus hand-made, all silk necktie, made in Italy (thrifted)
* Brooks Brothers all-cotton, button-down, made in the USA (E-bay)
* Allen Edmonds spectator shoes, made in the USA (E-bay)
* Evan Picone silk pocket square, made in Italy (thrifted)
* Land's End braided brown leather belt (clearance)
* Levi's Docker Khakis (purchased on sale)

Strangely enough, lot's of people in Male Fashion and Style Blogland have problems with pleated khakis, especially Dockers.  Beats me.  Maybe it's because they get grubby quickly if you aren't careful?  Maybe they are too 90s?  If so, then pleated Dockers must certainly be one of the less offensive things still hanging around almost a decade-and-a-half later.  And if worn as part of a hot weather casual ensemble like this one, pleated Dockers don't look too bad.  In heat like this, you're going to look rumpled no matter what, so you might as well go with what you like and what looks good, i.e. well-broken in, comfy linen and cotton.

I felt relatively good about today's ensemble, and hey, my wife dug (I mean REALLY dug) it enough to snap a few photos of ol' Heinz-Ulrich emoting in the basement office.  So there we are.  The stamp of female approval.  And if my introductory remarks about Horror Cinema, the syllabus, and course policies bored any of my students during our first meeting, then at least I was fairly interesting, visually speaking, for 75 minutes, considering so many college kids these days seem to come from families where they have rarely seen a man don a jacket and tie for any reason other than a very occasional wedding or funeral.  

We can blame some of that, I suspect, on the over-casualization of American life these last 20 years or so.  Social change is fine and sometimes even necessary, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Unfortunately, that seems to have happened in many facets of life in recent decades.  A wee bit of familiarity and comfort with a few of the slightly more formal conventions of daily attire and behavior than we typically see most places in 2013 would be a good thing.  Who could possibly object to that?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The First Two Days. . .

Day #1 of the Fall 2013 semester: Allen Edmonds shoes, Brooks Brothers linen-wool-silk jacket made in Italy, Bachrach wool pants made in Italy, and an Italian parrot necktie (a gift transported all the way from Florence by dear ol' Mom in 1995).  The only items purchased new (on sale however) were the shirt, belt, tie, and pocket square. 

Until a couple of days ago, when the fall semester began in earnest, there has been little recent occasion for me to post photos of yours truly modeling my more professional gear here.  My wife and I are fortunate enough to enjoy two-and-a-half month summer vacations from the end of May to just after mid-August.  One of the benefits, you might say, of teaching college students and attempting to broaden their young minds.

So, it seems like high time to rectify that omission by sharing  a couple of  impromptu photographs from the past two days.  Now, my wife is rarely home when I arrive in the afternoons, to snap a few photos of ol' Heinz-Ulrich before he changes into more casual clothes, so you'll need to make due with these.  I just can't bring myself to take self-photos in the bathroom mirror! 

Anyway, both ensembles shown are fairly casual combinations of medium to light-weight odd sports jackets and pants.  Each combination would also look reasonably good without a tie, provided one wore a button-down collar shirt.  Straight and spread collar shirts look a little off when worn open-necked without a tie.  Kind of like the guy in question has forgotten something.  "Know what I mean?" as acting great Michael Caine might ask.  But that's just me.  There might be some out there who can pull it off.  I've just not met them in my neck of the woods.

As far as the fit of everything goes, I opt for a full break in my pants and have them tailored accordingly.  I also ignore the current trend for skinny and, instead, prefer a higher rise that comes almost to my navel and pleated waists on my pants. I prefer Classic over Trendy.  While I like and repeatedly ask my tailor for about 3/4" of shirt cuff to show at the ends of my jacket sleeves, it is hard to get her to cooperate sometimes, so it's usually more like 1/2" when all is said and done.  And I can live with that. 

Besides that one little finely nuanced point of disagreement, Mrs. V. and I have a good working relationship.  Kind of like Jeeves and Bertie Wooster I suppose.  Mrs. V.'s turnover time is relatively fast, and her rates are reasonable.  Not bad for a smaller city in the American Midwest where tailors are few and far between.  I don't know what I'll do when she finally retires.  We might have to find a new city of residence.  Hey, a guy can dream, right? 

Returning to the point at hand.  The next order of business is to have the waists of my suit coats and jackets suppressed a bit, time and money permitting, since I'm still fairly trim.  A 39R or 40R jacket, while fine in the shoulders and chest, more often than not has excess material in the waist area.  Part of that could be because so much produced and/or sold in the United States has that "sack cut."  That's great if one is going for the preppy or trad look, but I prefer a slightly more shaped British or Continental cut.  That, however, is a topic for another time.

Anyway, the point of all of this is simply to illustrate that an average guy can get with the program, pull himself together, and look sharp without it costing heaps of money and without wearing a dreaded suit.  Assuming that average guys do indeed dread traditional charcoal or navy blue business wear.  From what I observe, many do.  While I'm actually a fan of suits and have a few different kinds hanging in my closet, my favorite look is an odd jacket of some sort combined with a pair of wool or corduroy pants, depending on the season, and a necktie with some kind of white or blue shirt.  And I'm embarrassed to admit how many neckties now hang in my wardrobe.  I know, I know.

Well, that's more than my two bits of style philosophy for today.  Thanks for reading if you're still here, and do be good enough to drop by again soon.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Day #2 of the Fall 2013 semester:  Allen Edmonds suede shoes, Hickey Freeman wool sports jacket, Luciano Barbera wool pants, plus an Italian tie and pocket square.  Once again, the only items purchased new, though on sale, were the belt,  shirt, and shoes.

To what should we aspire precisely?

Couldn't resist another photograph of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster for this particular post.

To what degree should average guys, who are interested in kicking up their everyday style a few notches, aspire?  To be no less than spiffy in everyday appearance and behavior would be most spiffing.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

adjective: spiffy; 1. smart in appearance.  "That's a spiffy new outfit."

Brit. informal, dated
adjective: spiffing; 1. excellent; splendid.  "How spiffing you look!"

 A Laurence Fellows illustration, I think, showing a few very spiffy gents in their spiffing suits from the 1930s.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

16 Tips for Fitting into Any Social Situation with Ease and Style. . .

While the clothing depicted in this illustration is old-fashioned, how you ought to handle yourself in a social setting is much the same as it was 100 years ago.

Certain things about personal style are timeless, for example the art of meeting people and interacting with them, whether they are old friends or brand new acquaintances.  Here, in no particular order, then, are sixteen tips for average guys, who are making the effort to kick up their everyday style a few notches.  Practice these tips, make an effort to remember them, and put them to good use whenever you get together with others, whether it's old friends of your parents, the extended family, your buddies from college, or that new couple who has recently moved in across the street.  Ready?  Here we go! 

1) Shake hands firmly, but no death grip or damp, clammy hands.

2) Don’t talk about money, religion, politics, or sex right off the bat.  These subjects are best left until you know someone else really well.  And maybe not even then.

3) Pleasant table manners.  That is: Napkin in your lap, both feet on the floor, no elbows on the table, sit up straight with your feet under your chair, chew quietly with your mouth closed, pass items to and from your tablemates, don’t begin eating until all are seated/served, no slurping, burping, etc.   Not really asking that much, is it?

4) Don’t natter on endlessly about yourself.  Less is more as the saying goes and it's far better to say too little than to say too much.  Ask others about themselves instead.

5) On that note, don’t blab your whole life story to new acquaintances within the first five minutes of meeting them.  It’s sad, pathetic, and usually just succeeds in making you seem anxious and uncomfortable.

6) Don’t fidget, pick at your cuticles, bounce your foot incessantly, or bite your nails.  Become the master of your domain. . . Learn to sit still in other words!

7) Look people in the eye when speaking/listening to them.  Nod your head occasionally to signal that you are indeed listening and processing what is said to you.  Be careful not to interrupt others during conversation and wait your turn.

8) Turn off and put away all electronic and digital gadgets!  It’s terribly rude to mess with those when you are in a social setting despite what those under 30 might think.

9) Smile occasionally and at appropriate times.

10) Moderate your voice and laughter.  In other words, don’t be the loudest person in the room.

11) Skip the obscenities altogether.  It just makes you sound ignorant and tacky.  And on that note, it's probably better to save the off color stories and jokes for another time.  Or better yet, just keep 'em to yourself.  Believe it, or not, not everyone finds that kind of thing uproariously funny.

12) Stay abreast of national and word developments.  And we aren’t talking about what passes for news on OMG! or Yahoo News.

13) Read widely.  Fiction and non-fiction.  It helps make you well-rounded and interesting in social settings. 

14) Cultivate a few all-consuming interests.  Ditto.

15) Practice good grooming habits all the time.  Brush your hair before you appear in the morning and again as needed throughout the day.  Brush your teeth, floss, and use flouridated mouthwash twice a day at least.  Bathe or shower in the morning and again after sporting activities or yardwork.  Wash your face in the bath or shower, but don't scrub too hard, which will irritate your skin.

16) Wear clean, pressed clothes and good quality shoes (NOT sneakers or flip-flops) regardless of the level of formality.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

17) Use "please," "thank-you," "no, thank-you," and "excuse me" often, when, and where appropriate.  Don't forget it!

18) Where viewing habits are concerned, it's ok, and even healthy for your mind, to watch  films that don't rely on bathroom humor or an overabundance of shoot-outs, explosions, and car chases.  Try foreign language movies for a change, or even a few of the so called "chick flicks."  There's lots of interesting stuff out there, but you'll notice that I've not mentioned television at all.  And that's on purpose.  Keep the idiot box turned off because, as Bruce Springsteen once sang, there are (more than) 57 channels, and nothin's on.

Check Out This New Swedish Style Concern. . .

One of the many attractive neckwear offerings from Tie Room.

We here at The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style are always eager to spread the word about worthy new garment and accessory outlets that catch our attention.  So, if you are in the market for some good quality neckties, bow ties, or pocket squares at reasonable costs, check out Tie Room.  The company began in Sweden, but it has recently opened a U.S. outlet and started offering its products to guys on this side of the Atlantic.  Those who are looking to kick up their style a few notches at any rate.  

Since my own background is so heavily laden with Scandinavian and Nordic languages, literature, and familial links to southern Sweden, I have a strong desire to see the people behind Tie Room do well.  Be sure to have a look around their website and order something that catches your eye.  I've got my own on several of Tie Room's subtly patterned wool neckties.  "Good stuff!" as Cary Grant used to say.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, August 19, 2013

What's the #1 reaon you should kick up your everyday style?

Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) and James Bond (Sean Connery) leave the casino where they've just met in Dr. No (1962).

In a word, guys, women are the sole reason you need to kick up your everyday style a few notches.  If you don't buy into what I've mentioned previously about (self-) respect and making a solid impression with professional acquaintances, you need to look pulled together for women. . .  or the guys if that's your thing.

Thank of it this way.  If you're unattached, you want to catch the eyes of and be an attractive prospect to quality people.  And if you're already in a serious relationship, or even married, you want to remain attractive to that person rather than reverting to the sloppy attitudes, appearance, and/or behavior of a bratty 10-year old, which will definitely make you less attractive in the long run.  Right?

Now, you don't necessarily have to go the black tie route of Bond, James Bond in the photograph above.  But, you can certainly trade in the sneakers or flip-slops, cargo shorts, t-shirt, and backwards baseball cap for some quality leather shoes, creased wool pants, a pressed shirt (with or without a tie), and a blazer or sports jacket that fits you.  

Dress accordingly if your workplace will allow you out of khakis and the company logo'ed polo.  And during your off hours when you're headed out with that special gal or guy, you know what?  Show him or her that you care enough to pull yourself together.  Demonstrate a little grace and sophistication by dressing up for the occasion.  Even when it's just for some take-out Chinese food and a movie or coffee at the local cafe afterwards.     

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ugly sentiments are totally lacking in class and style. . .

Country singer Taylor Swift's childhood home in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.

Resentment and envy are ugly, ugly things.  As the old saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  The nasty tone of multitudinous remarks left by commentators today on Yahoo -- in connection to a story about singer Taylor Swift's childhood home, described as a "mansion" -- make my blood boil.  And I'm not even a fan of Ms. Swift or her music.  But let's get a few things straight.

This is a very nice home in an upper middle-class area just outside Reading, Pennsylvania, clearly taken care of and maintained very well.  Some other families in the area even live in renovated 200-year-old fieldstone farmhouses with the barn and outbuildings intact.  And still others have a couple of horses.  What?  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Horses?  The nerve!  

Anyway, you'll find many examples of both types of houses in SE Pennsylvania and elsewhere in nicer areas throughout the Middle Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States.  You'll also see similar types of houses like the one shown above in certain well-preserved, nicer urban areas, or their suburbs, in other parts of the country.  But Ms. Swift's childhood home is hardly a mansion, and it's hardly the kind of place lived in by "the rich." Upper middle-class educated professionals with some grooming and taste, yes.  

Resenting someone because he or she enjoyed a pleasant upbringing and did not come from the streets is bad enough.  Actually giving voice those kinds of opinions in a very broad, public forum and going on to lay all of one's own problems at the feet of someone else is mean (in at least two senses) and just plain crass.  And that's putting it mildly.  Let's work to stop ourselves before we behave in a similar fashion, ok guys?  It's not attractive.  Unless of course you  somehow think the world owes you something.  Let's do our utmost not to be like that.

For average guys working to kick up their personal style a few notches, it's always a better idea to keep any seething, festering resentment about someone else, and the remarks it might generate, to themselves.  If you want to write and distribute a manifesto identifying the vast litany of societal ills you perceive, fine.  So be it.  Grow your hair out, move to Latin America (or these days, Egypt), and start another Revolution.  Otherwise, let it go and work to make your own immediate life better in whatever way that might be.  Without taking to the streets and looting or burning others' property.  

If, however, we want to come across as more groomed, stylish, and urbane in our attitudes and actions, it's far preferable to keep our mouths closed.  Unless we can contribute to the general conversation, or even societal discourse, in a positive way.  Life is too short to grind away and moan about how others are somehow the root of society's problems because they were fortunate enough to have a fairly pleasant childhood.  As we began this post, let us end it.  If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Every Once in a While. . .

Not my neighborhood thriftshop, which is shortly to move into newly renovated premises, but a nicely appointed one from somewhere else.  A seasoned thrifter never, ever, EVER reveals the location of his shops of choice.

Most of the time, what you'll find in thriftshops is junk.  Especially where menswear is concerned.  But every once in a while, you'll strike gold.

This summer hasn't seen me in the three area thrift outlets in my neck of the woods very much.  You reach a point where, due primarily to closet space, you must become even more discerning and simply say no to most additional purchases.  After all, how many Brooks Brothers neckties, Harris Tweed jackets, and pairs of Allen Edmonds wingtip brogues can you hoard?

But sometimes, a guy has to throw caution to the wind and snap up those rare gems when he spots 'em.  And that is what happened yesterday evening and this afternoon when I visited two of my local thrift haunts for the first time in four weeks or so.  

At the first one yesterday evening, I stumbled across a pair of men's brown wool pants by Ralph Lauren with a subtle herringbone pattern.  They are cuffed, have a pleated front, were made in Canada, and are a medium weight.  Perfect for six or seven months of the year here in the wilds of the American Midwest.  Best of all, the pants will require no alterations, just dry-cleaning, pressing, and they'll be ready to go.  Oh, and the cost?  Just  US$2.68 with tax.

But hang on.  It get's better.

Today, on a whim, I stopped in the best of my three area shops and in two minutes found a summer weight, cream-colored sports jacket in a wool, silk, and linen blend, made in Italy and sold by Brooks Brothers.  Once again, it fits well already, especially in the shoulders, and even the sleeve length is fine, so no immediate alterations are necessary.  I plan, however, to have the waist nipped in just a bit this winter, to give the jacket a bit more shape.  I'll also have some some of the lining removed and the inner stitching finished up, to ensure the jacket is comfortable enough for all but the most miserable summer weather next year.  Still, an incredible find for only US$7.00.

So, average guys looking to kick up your style a few notches in an economic way, take note.  Two amazing new pieces to work into the wardrobe rotation for next to nothing.  Each looks almost new.  Probably worn a few times and then relegated to the back of the closet until they were given away for whatever reason.  I'll drop 'em off at the dry-cleaner's tomorrow on the way to pick up a few items from my tailor, and have them back in time for the start of the new semester midweek next week!  Certainly not bespoke gear from the finest old tailors of London or Milan, mind you, but great off the rack pieces nevertheless.  I'll certainly wear and enjoy them.  Stay tuned for a couple of new photos of ol' Heinz-Ulrich von B. next week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do It with Dignity. . .

Few men today come across more dignified in their attire and behavior than cardiologist Dr. Andre Churchwell on the left, or Italian clothing and style mogul Luciano Barbera on the right.  No one could accuse either man of lacking passion, depth, intensity, or humor when it comes to their respective lives and vocations, making both worthy of emulation in my book.

The concept of dignity, when it is thought of at all these days, seems to get a bad rap in many quarters.  Clearly, too many people perceive dressing and behaving with dignity as somehow dull, flat, lifeless, without color, and lacking in passion.  They, therefore, go so far in the other direction with their appearance and what can only politely be called 'behavior' that there seems to be little hope for us as a society sometimes.

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines the term dignity like this: 

1: the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed
2a : high rank, office, or position  b : a legal title of nobility or honor
3 archaic : dignitary
4: formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language

While that's a bit of a mouthful, who among us would not want to come across as worthy, esteemed, and (when necessary) serious among our family, friends, and professional acquaintances?  The Dignified Devil website provides a number of excellent (and humorous) illustration on how to dress and conduct ourselves with greater dignity.  Check it out by clicking on this link: Dignified DevilBe sure to scroll down through all of the examples of dignified versus undignified dress and activities.  

I don't know about you, but I'll risk coming across as slightly more staid in the sea of reality TV-inspired "boys" flooding the landscape currently by opting for a more dignified appearance and demeanor.  Any day.  And that's something other average guys, who want to kick their own style a few rungs up the sartorial (and social) ladder, would do well to consider too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let's Talk Partners, Part II. . .

Too many guys hop into bed with someone else too fast in 2013.  And it borders on the pathetic.  I'm no prude, but maybe more people would have better luck and less disappointment in the relationship department if they delayed sex and really got to know someone else well. . .  really well.  And guys -- surprise! -- that takes more than a few weeks of casual dating and "hanging out" in a group of friends.

In the previous post, we looked at a dozen things average guys would do well to consider when it comes to developing relationships with a special someone.  On the other side of the coin, what are some red flags to avoid (like the plague) in the search for a potential partner of quality?  Here are a few things to keep in mind.  Remember, no matter how "hot" she (or he) might be, ignore the following criteria at your peril because it most definitely can and will come back to haunt you later if you allow your libido to run the show.  He we go.

1) Is that new woman you've met for drinks and dinner a few times habitually and excessively loud in public?  A healthy laugh is one thing, but do people you've never met turn around to see where the noise is coming from on the street or in restaurants?

2) Is she too trendy/loud/flashy/slutty/over-the-top/childish in her attire?  Does she catch people's eyes but in the wrong way?  What might be cute (sort of) at 10 or 12 can look silly, desperate, or just trashy at 35 or 40.

3) Does she speak in that whiny, squeaky Kim Kardashian/Paris Hilton voice?  Is she an adult, or trying hard to seem like a perpetually awkward 11-year old? 

4) Does she suffer from "Upspeak"?  That dreadful habit so many people have now of phrasing everything as though it were a question.

5) What level is her education?  A two-year degree, while it might pay the bills, won't necessarily make someone an interesting partner in the longer term.  Does she have educational and career aspirations beyond that?  What are they? 

6) Does she seem narrow in her outlook and fixated on her country and culture of origin?  Need I say more?

7) Is she interested in very much besides watching TV, online gaming, caring for her parakeets, and/or getting high every afternoon?

8) Has she ever been anywhere?  And no, Spring Break in either Cancun, or on Cozumel doesn't count.

9) What is she like in her living space, personal habits, and at the table?  If she's a slob, walk away now, and save yourself the frustration.

10) Is she so busy and/or career oriented that it seems she has little time to fit you -- and, indeed, the TWO of you -- into her day-to-day existence?  Do you want to become a major part of her life, or simply the movie she goes to when she's bored?

11) Is she so focused on just one thing -- for example her pet chinchilla/being single/how drunk she was last Saturday evening/how much she loves the children at the daycare where she works -- that it's difficult for her to talk about much else?  Ideally, you want someone in your life who is well-rounded, able to think about and discuss a variety of things from the serious to the frivolous.

12) What's her immediate and extended family like?  Think over this point carefully.  You'll see these people occasionally, unless you enjoy a considerable buffer zone, and that can put a real strain on a relationship.  It's difficult for someone to recognize, acknowledge, and overcome those less-than-desirable traits that stem from upbringing and family culture.  It might also be unpleasant for you to endure these habits when it's the two of you alone or at family gatherings.  Seriously.  How many Christmas Eve dinners do you want to endure seated next to her Uncle Bernie, who asks you, year after year, to pull his finger and laughs raucously when you decline?

Bonus Tip -- Is there anything about this person that might embarrass you if and when she is introduced to your parents/grandparents/siblings/extended family?  Take a good hard look at the situation.  If there is any doubt in your mind, then there is no doubt.  She ain't the one for you.  It might make more sense now to avoid anything beyond a casual friendship -- which SHOULD NOT include sex -- with this person. 

As an average guy who is thinking about style in a very broad sense, you want to increase the quality of your life.  It pays, then, to be discerning and look before you leap.  When it comes to relationships with people more specifically, it shouldn't matter how beautiful/pretty/attractive/handsome someone might seem on the outside.  If he or she suffers from issues like those outlined in the second list, think again about the level of involvement you seek.  It might be possible to overlook two or three of the points covered, but more than that can present difficulties.  If not at first, then certainly later down the road once that euphoric new romance has settled down.   

Some readers might disagree vehemently with a few of the points I've covered here.  Maybe most of them.  Fair enough.  Romance and who we ultimately choose as partners are intensely personal things after all, and it's sometimes difficult to look at someone and your relationship with him or her in an honest light during that initial rush of physical attraction.  

Whatever your own views might be, it's still worth examining the above points since a pleasing exterior in no way guarantees a quality person.  Much of that comes from within and through how one interacts with others.  Therefore, it pays to be a bit more circumspect in matters of the heart than seems to be the norm these days.  It is far wiser to slow down and look at the bigger picture before leaping with heart in hand at the first pretty face that comes through the door.

Does that hot new young woman you're "sort of" dating routinely dissolve into tears and fall to pieces over fairly minor events and setbacks, like, oh, a chipped or broken nail?  I'm serious.  If so, walk away as fast as your feet will carry you.  However good looking you think she might be under all of that three or four-toned hair.  She ain't a well-adjusted adult with some depth to her personality.  Trust me.

Let's Talk Partners, Part I. . .

One example of an interesting woman is Jane Goodall, shown here with one the many chimpanzees she has devoted her life to researching.  Feminist Gloria Steinem, author Martha Grimes, and literary and cultural scholar Cecilia Sjoholm are three additional examples of interesting women, but the list is endless.

You knew we'd eventually have this discussion, didn't you?  Sooner, or later, the average guy in his quest for greater style and even quality -- of life as well as attire -- will realize that he must reexamine what he needs and wants in a partner or companion of longstanding.  I'll talk specifically about women in this post, but much, if not all, of what I mention here is applicable regardless of one's specific interests.

When it comes to women -- notice I do not use the word 'girls' since we are talking about adults here -- consider the following points before you get too involved (and I mean hopping into the sack):

1) The woman in whom you are interested -- really, seriously interested -- should have deep interests and aspirations of her own in something tangible. . .  but not to such a degree that there is no room for you.  If she is that busy and focused on herself, move on.

2) She is well-educated and has at least a bachelor's degree (preferably NOT in something like Retail or Telejournalism).  A graduate degree of some kind is even better.

3) She can hold down her end of a conversation for longer than five minutes and beyond initial pleasantries.

4) She has her own informed opinions and will not necessarily always agree with those you hold.  Maybe, she might even occasionally call you out to reevaluate and explain your own thoughts on an issue?

5) She reads.  And I'm not talking about the latest historical and/or vampire romance or the Harry Potter series as great as those are.  Something more cerebral and mature in its subject matter and perspective is ideal.

6) She has done interesting things with, and within, her life already BEFORE meeting you.

7) She has possibly lived in another country for a while and speaks another language besides English pretty well. . .  more than three or four carefully memorized phrases in Spanish, please.

8) She speaks and can converse like an adult. . .  both where the tone of her voice and her choice of subject matter are concerned. 

9) She has a clever sense of humor, generally avoiding easy laughs centered around bathroom humor and ethnic slurs.  We're adults after all.  What's her laughter like?

10) She is uniquely attractive, and even a bit quirky in her personality and appearance, although you can't quite put your finger on it.  But it's that certain something that makes her beautiful even without make-up or fancy clothes.  Don't discount freckles, fuller eyebrows, or some curves.

11) She has sophisticated tastes in her food, drink, and decor.  In other words, not every shirt, wall, or table surface in her apartment is covered with tiny figures or pictures of cows/moose/panda bears/Hello Kitty.  Hopefully we've gotten over that by our 25th birthdays.

12) She practices pleasant manners both at the table and in other areas of her life. . .  always.

Bonus Point -- When you broach the subject -- don't do it too soon, or you'll seem desperate -- she is able to perceive and acknowledge that there is somehow, some way room for a future that includes both of you as a couple.  She's flexible in other words.

There you have it.  At least a dozen positive attributes that a potential partner should possess before you pursue or become emotionally invested.  While not the whole picture, of course, these features help make a person interesting, attractive, and even beautiful to us, although that might not be in the way that too many people understand the term "beautiful" thanks to modern media's pervasive and narrow parameters.  Remember guys.  We're adults now, so it's time to stop thinking with the little general.  Let's be a bit more rational in our approach to people and how we view them. . .  especially when it comes to matters of the heart and mind.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It's been a fairly cool summer so far. . .

A snapshot of the winter version of Heinz-Ulrich's wardrobe, featuring a variety of tweed, heavy weight wool, and corduroy odd jackets along with too many pairs really of wool flannel and corduroy dress pants.

We've had a fairly cool summer thus far in our neck of the American Midwest.  Really only about ten days or so of beastly hot weather in the latter half of July.  The first few days of August have been delightful, but I'm waiting for  the other shoe to drop.  Surely, there is a prolonged period of unpleasant summer conditions yet to come during the rest of this month or after September 1st? 

Still, the below average temperatures make me look forward to October, when the Fall season really gets underway here, and things cool off enough to break out the the tweed along with other heavier weight garments in a serious way.  Until then, clothes like these are simply too much for the first six or seven weeks of the Autumn semester at my small university, which begins in about three week's time.  Sigh.  Time to revise course syllabi and make sure the book orders I submitted weeks ago are on the way to the bookstore.  Where in the heck did the summer go?  It seems like we just returned from our family vacation at the end of June.

But. . .  There is some neat stuff to look forward to wearing as the countdown moves yours truly ever closer the start of another school term.  Among other things, I've got a newly acquired and refurbished pair of stunning Allen Edmonds shoes in reddish-tan waiting in the wardrobe plus a beautiful cream-colored tweed jacket, which I must have altered in the meantime.  Currently undergoing minor alterations at the tailor's are some mid-gray flannel trousers and a couple of other odd jackets for warmer weather.  

The best part is that everything was thrifted last spring for only a few dollars except the shoes, which came from an E-bay purchase for an equally modest outlay.  A new pair of heels at the cobbler's plus a spit shine here at home made 'em look almost new.  Whoever said that dressing well must requires scads of money?  On the contrary, it's certainly something well within the reach of average guys, requiring only a small learning curve, time, and careful shopping.  In plain language, it means giving a damn about our appearance and how we present ourselves to the world.  So, how about kicking up your personal style a notch or three?

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Gentle Reminder. . .

This lovely reminder borrowed from Mad Dogs and Englishmen will go a long way in helping us average guys to kick up our style a few notches.  I'll add another point. . . if and when you use up the last of the toilet paper, remove the cardboard tube and put a new roll in the dispenser.

Personal style, when you think about it, is about much more than simply the clothes we might aspire to own and wear.  Sure, it's great fun talking and daydreaming about Harris Tweed jackets and John Lobb shoes, but I'd even be so bold as to suggest that the way we conduct ourselves is far more important in the quest to project an aura of style than an immaculately tailored suit made by Luciano Barbera.  After all, a person can have the means to wear the most expensive clothing, footwear, and accessories available, yet that individual can still be boorish in the extreme by way of rude, inconsiderate behavior.  Any claim of ignorance someone might offer in defense is no excuse.

One place where this is worth keeping in mind is the bathroom.  And even if you live by yourself now and habitually leave that area in a less than pleasant state, there will come a day when you want to share your abode with a special someone.  Making a concerted effort to overcome any lax habits in this most intimate of rooms now will pay you considerable dividends down the road once you find your lobster and settle down to a life together. 

In other words, if you don't already do so, start leaving the bathroom in a clean and neat state once finish your daily rituals before you move on to the next thing.  Leave the bathroom looking good enough so that you would not be embarrassed to have your grandmother use the facilities were she to visit.  Seriously.  Why give your girlfriend/boyfriend/S.O./fiance/spouse reason to rethink his or her feelings?  Why risk having someone for whom you have special feelings begin to see you as an inveterate slob?  

Still not with me?  I'll be frank.  What self-respecting person will want to get naked and take a sexy shower or romantic bubble bath by candlelight with you if your bathroom is a damp, smelly, mildewy pigsty?  Piles of old Sports Illustrateds on the floor by the toilet, toothpaste and hair all over the sink, and a cruddy bathtub that hasn't had a scrubbing brush and Comet taken to it in months?  Trust me, guys.  It's a real mood killer.  So, come on.  Time to get with the program and start picking up after ourselves like Mom and Dad taught us.  A good place to start is in the bathroom.

What We Wear and What It Suggests. . .

An interesting Norman Rockwell illustration that seems to present us with a man who seems a bit older than the typical (Ivy League) undergraduate.  Maybe this guy is taking advantage of the Post-WWII G.I. Bill to broaden his mind?

While the Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style does not have the American preppy aesthetic as its stated focus, there is admittedly some overlap now that I think about it.  That must be the subconscious result of where and how I grew up (the Greater Philadelphia area with a healthy dose of genteel North Carolina thrown in).  We certainly never thought of ourselves as preppy in any overt way though.  But the look, lifestyle, and more favorable modes of thought were definitely there come to think  of it.  Even if I did sport BIG 80s rocker hair for several years as a teenager.  No digitized photos to share here, sorry!

It should come as no surprise, returning to the point at hand, that yours truly checks in occasionally at several of the better such "preppy" blogs out there.  Muffy Aldrich of The Daily Prep expressed some interesting and cogent thoughts about clothing and style in her July 15th, 2013 post, entitled Do We Dare Criticize Clothes?.  Extremely well stated and thought provoking.  You'd do well to check it out even if the preppy look isn't your particular thing. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Vital Points to Keep in Mind. . .

Some may scoff, but the family depicted in this 60+ year-old photograph looks extremely pleasant.  Don't we want others to think something similar about us?

In many online discussion forums, some of which do not necessarily concern clothing, there are a lot people who view manners and dressing decently as somehow false, stiff, and unnecessary.  What a sad state of affairs that is.  How can basic polite behavior and consideration for those around us be bad things? 

The truth is that there is nothing at all fake about coming across as a nice and agreeable individual, whether at work, at a ball game with friends, or enjoying a glass of lemonade with the family on the back porch.  As average guys, let's strive for better standards in our personal interaction with others -- including our behavior at the table -- and the way we dress.  It's just the right thing to do.  

If we make an effort to remember and practice the things our families hopefully taught us*, good manners and proper decorum will not come across as insincere and forced.  They will, instead be what they should.  Natural, easy, and comfortable.  Like a well worn-in pair of loafers.  You don't even have to think about them, but they are there.  You wear 'em all the time without a second thought.  They're just part of the scenery.

Making a good impression with people -- friends of long standing and new acquaintances both -- is not about tacky and ostentatious displays, obnoxious bragging, or making others feel bad about themselves.  Demonstrating a certain level of basic respect for people, occasions, and settings is, however, vital when it comes to leaving a favorable impression with those we meet.  Even if you're knocking back a few cold ones at the campsite with your old college buddies after a day of fishing on the lake. 

Essential Reading*

Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion by Alan Flusser (2002)

Clothes and the Man: Principles of Fine Men's Dress by Alan Flusser (1985)

Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It, and Why by Peter Post 2nd Ed. (2012)

Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion by Berhard Roetzel (2012)

NOTE! -- There are many, many books available on dressing and conducting oneself like an adult with some grooming and sophistication.  These four titles, besides presenting their subject matter in engaging and interesting ways, offer insight into the basics and more advanced concepts of clothing and good manners.  All are excellent references to have on the bookshelf in the living room or the bedside table for easy referral.