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, October 31, 2013

Warm Style for a Rainy, Chilly Day. . .

Cool, wet weather gear without a nylon rain hat or pair of ugly Birckenstock sandals worn with socks in sight.  As Cheryl Crow might sing, "This ain't no country club.  This ain't Seattle after all."

Yesterday was a wet one in my neck of the woods, and I prefer not to wear the really good shoes when it's like that.  So, out came a pair of Johnston Murphy loafers, which, while not Allen Edmonds by any stretch of the imagination, don't look too bad with  more casual ensembles.  I almost got rid of these plasticy reverse grain leather shoes a year or so ago, but that I realized that a foul weather go-to shoe might be a good idea for those times when L.L. Bean duck shoes just don't cut it.  The combination shown above included:

* Land's End corduroy sports jacket (purchased new in November 2003)
* Land's End cotton button-down shirt (on sale)
* No-name silk necktie (thrifted)
* No-name Italian silk pocket square (thrifted)
* Corbin wool flannel pants (thrifted)
* Land's End braided leather belt (on sale)
* Johnston Murphy loafers (thrifted)
* Socks (purchased new at Target in 2011)

A bit busy, perhaps, but the dark, chocolately brown jacket and tan pants seemed to keep everything else in check (no pun intended), especially when I stood, and the socks were hidden from view.  At any rate, the ensemble did finally receive the coveted wifely approval, which ain't easy since my wife has, apparently, inherited her father's fear of any color or pattern at all.  Sheesh!  Talk about a monochromatic approach to life, the universe, and everything.  As my maternal grandmother used to say to my grandfather when she teased him, "Oh, come on, Dave.  Live a little!"

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Want to put people to sleep?

 Voltaire and his homeboy Frederick II of Prussia.

Voltaire said, "The secret of being boring is to say everything."  In other words, blab your entire life's story within the first ten minutes of meeting someone, and you'll cure their insomnia.  Fast.  So, avoid talking too much as well as the pervasive tendency to overshare.  Your family, friends, and new acquaintances will thank you.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three Is a Magic Number. . .

Today's clothing ensemble minus the Allen Edmonds chocolate brown captoe oxfords, creamy yellow oxford cloth button-down shirt, and gray crewneck Shetland Sweater.  The Pride of Wales tie was also thrifted (I thought very briefly about sending it to my Welsh step-father), and the pocket square was an early Ebay purchase.

Once the weather gets chilly, an average guy looking to kick up his everyday style a few notches can't have too much tweed!  Not only is it warm, but it's exceedingly stylish in that natty Bertie Wooster-down-at-Totleigh Towers-for-a-long-weekend way.  Plus, a tweed jacket when paired with an oxford cloth button-down shirt and wool necktie is much more visually pleasing than one of those ubiquitous man-made fleeces or ugly hooded sweatshirts with Dorito crumbs down the front.  Know what I mean, Alfie?

I submit for your review and approval three such tweed jackets that are part of my own Fall-Winter-Early Spring wardrobe.  I've also combined others items with each on a semi-permanent basis to simplify (speed up) dressing in the early mornings.  If you're like me, you sometimes can't be too bothered to think about too much at too early an hour of the day.  So, any minor innovation that might ease the process of dressing before, say, Noon, is a welcome addition.

A Donegal tweed jacket, also thrifted, with a pair of heavy wool herringbone Polo University Shop pants, which were also thrifted.  An no.  Those are not coffee stains on the front of the jacket but rather the way the light and shadow are hitting and forming on the mottled fabric.  I became paranoid and re-checked it just now to be sure.

The first two jackets shown were picked up from my tailor Mrs. V. late yesterday afternoon.  While they fit well in the shoulders, both were quite a bit too big in the body.  Must've belonged to gentlemen of rather more generous proportions than yours truly.  However, each garment was so beautiful and so inexpensive -- both less than US$8 -- when I spotted them at two of the three thrift outlets in my neck of the woods last fall that I snatched 'em up, had them dry-cleaned, and put them away in cloth garment bags until I had a chance to take them in for alterations two weeks ago.  

Mrs. V. wove her magic, and I was very pleased with the results when I tried the jackets on in her mirror yesterday before paying and returning home.  Still slightly roomy, the two jackets nevertheless fit much, much better now and are perfect over a thin wool sweater on cold days like we enjoyed today.  Besides, it seems somehow wrong to have tweed sports jackets fit like snug double-breasted Italian-made suit coats with hugely suppressed waists.

The inside label on the right side of the same jacket.

Finally, the Alan Flusser jacket below, which, although I really like it, is so heavy that it's suitable only on the chillest days of the fall and winter semesters.  It is also bold, so anything worn with it must be very plain in comparison to ensure that I don't resemble a walking circus wagon or anything.  We wouldn't want idle passers-by, in their over-sized sneakers or unlaced work boots, bright orange hunting hats, and camouflaged jackets  (it is downstate, small town Illinois we're talking about after all) to get the wrong idea or anything, would we?  This particular jacket is, more or less, permanently mated with a comfy pair of grass green Land's End corduroy dress pants and a wool vest ('waistcoat' for our British and Commonwealth friends) that I picked up somewhere along the way.  It might be an old L.L. Bean piece, but I can't swear to it.

An Alan Flusser tweed jacket, purchased for the ridiculously low price of US$20 on Ebay a couple of years ago just as the winter of 2012 was coming to an end.

The switch over from warmer to colder weather gear is now complete.  Let's hope Mother Nature has her mind made up, and we sail through November and into December without any of those bizarrely warm, Indian Summer days that sometimes occur here in the American Midwest late in the autumn when, suddenly and once again, khaki shorts and Madras shirts are more comfortable and appropriate than tweed and corduroy.  It's no fun feeling slightly sweaty by 10am because you've put all of the lighter stuff away for the year and can't easily access it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alan Flusser. . .

Coming Soon. . .

A sample swatch of Donegal Tweed, which is not from my jacket.

Stay tuned for the premier of a muted houndstooth tweed hacking jacket by Hart, Schaffner, and Marx plus a genuine Donegal tweed jacket just back from the tailor's and ready to enter fall-winter wardrobe rotation.  Best of all, the next few days are supposed to be quite chilly here, so a layered look with a crew neck or v-neck sweater below each along with a wool necktie peeking out ought to be just the thing!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 18, 2013

"High five me buddy!!!"

It's one thing when a couple of children or teenagers high five each other.  But lots of parents and other adult authority figures overdo this. . .  charming (really???) celebratory and congratulatory ritual.

It strikes me that there are many parents out there -- at least in the United States, land of overly permissive parenting -- who are afraid to be parents and more interested in coming across to their children as a buddy.  The problem with this misguided way of thinking and being is that when the time comes to get serious and get your kids back on track after a minor infraction, or mete out punishment for something more serious, you can't easily put the genie back in the bottle and restore the right kind of dynamic.  You're the parent and the rational, responsible one in the equation.  The one in charge.  Or that's how it's supposed to be.  

But it's much, much harder to be the authority figure with any degree of success when little Aoife, Conner, Bronwynn, Finnegan, Ashley, Tyler, and Madison see you as their "bestest" friend, playmate, confidant, and equal because that's the dynamic you've already established.  To my mind, many of the problems with children that we observe in our daily comings and goings -- Been shopping, or to a middle-of-the-road family style restaurant anywhere the last two decades or so? -- come directly from this strange child-centered, best friend dynamic that certainly didn't exist more than 30 years ago when adults still clearly ran things.  Neighbors and teachers were still Mrs. Parker and Mr. Matthews then instead of Miss Cindy and Mr. Steven.  My pre-school teacher sister-in-law informs me that the latter is the way teachers are addressed in many school districts across the United States now.  What in the hell happened and when?

In no way am I suggesting that average guys, who happen to be fathers, refrain from enjoying family life and having a good time with the kids when everyone is at home or out together.  Don't forget, even those overly strict (yeah, right) scions of American TV fatherhood from the 1950s through the early 1990s, Ward Cleaver, Jim Anderson, Mike Brady, and Cliff Huxtable, had fun with their children.  My own father and maternal grandfather were great fun, but they were parents and grandparents first.  They were ADULTS.  

Often, that meant saying and doing some decidedly unfun things, from a child's perspective, in the interest of rearing my sister and me to be reasonably pleasant, well-behaved young people, who turned into reasonably well-adjusted and pleasant adults later on.  A guy can't lean so far in one direction -- the constantly frenetic, barrel full of monkeys, snakes on a plane, home alone, anything goes direction -- with his children and parenting style that he undermines and even abdicates his authority.  The same goes for mothers too now that I think about it. 

It's funny, but whenever I notice children with their parents in public, and the former happen to be nicely behaved and relatively calm, it stands out precisely because they seem to be the exception these days, especially in the United States.  Some of the nicest small children I've ever met have been Mexican, French, Indian, and Danish.  A joy to meet and sit down with to a meal at the dinner table.  No muss, no fuss.  No hoopla, no obnoxious or obtrusive behavior.  The kind of kids you don't want to kill after five minutes, and you might actually not mind too much seeing them again. 

Too many American children, by contrast, seem to be off the leash entirely with no apparent attempt by the parents to control the situation.  Their children are rude (in all senses), far too loud, argumentative, unpleasant, and border on being out of control from what I've noticed since the late 1980s.  "But you've got to let kids be kids," goes the prevailing weak-kneed and trite argument.  Um, yeah.  Sure.  To be fair, you do occasionally meet the exceptions, I'll grant you.  For instance, the daughters of a German-American couple we know well are very pleasant, and my wife and I observed a pair of charming boys camping with their parents in South Dakota several years ago.  But these kids stood out because they were so unusual.  By and large, it seems that too many parents in the U.S. are going about it all wrong though. 

So, what's the point?  It's time for parents to get back in the driver's seat, guys.  Dads included.  If you're going to have kids, realize that there is a great deal of responsibility on your part as a parent to teach and reinforce pleasant behavior and discipline in your children once they are mobile and talking.  None of that will take hold if you leave it all to fall on the shoulders of Mom alone, daycare providers (shudder), public schools (SHUDDER), or the nanny.  Or if your interaction with the children consists entirely of bestowing an endless deluge of praise onto them as a verbal offering to the God of Self-Esteem.  Nope.  Acceptable attitudes, social skills, pleasant behavior, and good grooming won't take hold in children either if you wait until they are 9 or 10, so start teaching this stuff early.  And be sure to set a good example in this area yourself!  Remember, even many kinds of animals in the wild are socialized.  It's vital that we do the same for our children.

Fatherhood is much more than simply playing computer games with your kids, throwing a ball back and forth in the park, bedtime stories, suffering through school recitals and plays, or shuttling them to soccer practice later on.  Sometimes, it ain't fun, but you've got to play the heavy once in a while.  You simply must impose rules, limits, guidance, and occasional discipline without shying away from it.  Being a parent involves, in other words, more than simply putting a roof over kid's heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs, and (too many) toys in their hands.  

Last of all, it's essential to play a more authoritative role in your child's life from the beginning, and let his or her eventual classmates assume the buddy role later.  To do your job as a parent properly, you can't be a best friend to your kids and shouldn't try.  It just doesn't work that way.  Support, encourage, and praise (to a point), sure.  Pick up the pieces when you are needed.  Provide a ready shoulder for them to cry on.  Restore emotional equilibrium to the best of your ability just because you love your children.  But leave the incessant high-fiving to them.  Besides, it looks really stupid when anyone over the age of 18 does it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Fall Is in Full Swing. . .

Yesterday's clothing combo sans belt, which I forgot to include in the arrangement before I photographed it.

Fall is finally in full swing here, and today has been a delightfully chilly mid-October Friday with slate-gray skies and a crisp 48 degrees Fahrenheit (8.8 Celsius) temperature for a high.  Just the kind of weather we need for some more interesting sorts of seasonal attire like the kind shown above, which I wore yesterday (Thursday), the last day of classes for this week since this 4-day weekend is Fall Break Weekend  and commences today.  It's nice work if you can get it.  The ensemble shown above consisted of the following items:

* Huntin Horn 'Harris Tweed' jacket (thrifted)
* Land's End dress corduroy pants with pleated front and cuffs (clearance)
* Land's End university stripe oxford cloth button-down collar shirt (overstock)
* Allen Edmonds shoes (Ebay and then recrafted at the AE factory)
* Robert Talbott hand-dyed and sewn 'ancient madder' necktie (thrifted)
* Hand-rolled Italian silk pocket square (thrifted)
* Ralph Lauren (???) wool socks (on sale)

The female unit, a.k.a. Mom, has been away at a conference for a few days during the latter half of this week, so it has been the Young Master and me at home and school since Wednesday, or "just the boys," as he keeps mentioning.  Today has been a busy, fun-filled Friday for the both of us.  Following a quick breakfast, I dressed him in his favorite rugby shirt, tan corduroys, argyle socks, and a pair a small leather deck shoes ("top siders" or "dock siders" as they are known in much of the United States), and then it was off to the veterinarian's office with both cats for their annual check-up and inoculations.   We followed with a mid-morning visit to one of our local cafes, where we enjoyed a latte (Dad), some milk (the Young Master), and two pieces of heavily frosted spiced pumpkin bread.

Later, the Young Master and I dropped the cats at home and walked down the street to a small park that we like to visit.  By this time, it was after Noon, but since it was chilly and school was in session for older children in town, we had the park to ourselves.  Which suited both of us.  After an hour of mutual kicking of fallen leaves, examining tree bark, and running as fast as he could into my waiting arms only then to be lifted high into the air and tickled for a moment before starting the process all over again, the Young Master and I walked further down the street to a neighbor's house to see "Maggie."  

As luck would have it, Maggie (an extremely friendly Golden Retriever) was outside in her yard, so we spent several minutes petting her and throwing one of her toys back and forth for her to chase and bring back to us.  Much licking of hands (Maggie) and laughter (the Young Master) ensued for 15 minutes or so.  Lunch came later once we returned home, and then the Young Master and cats retired to his room on the second floor, where he used his large wooden building blocks to replicate downtown Manhattan until quiet time began at a little after 3pm.  We topped off the day with waffles and fruit for supper on TV trays at the foot of Mom and Dad's bed along with two episodes of Sesame Street online via Netflicks on a spare laptop PC before bedtime.  Contented sigh.  It has been one of those all too rare days where everything progresses just like it should and exactly like one envisions and hopes it will.

Today's ultra casual Fall Break Friday selection of items before I put them on this morning.  My wife still gives me grief about these corduroy jeans, which are, admittedly, pretty orange.

So, what in the world did yours truly have on for this casual and chilly Friday at home and out and about with the boy?  Glad you asked.  The uniform shown just above consisted of these items:

* Land's End corduroy jeans (seasonal clearance)
* Land's End university stripe oxford cloth button-down collar shirt (from yesterday)
* Wool sweater that must be at least 20 years old (Christmas gift from dear ol' Mom)
* Allen Edmond's suede deck shoes  (Fathers' Day gift from dear ol' Mom)
* Socks?  No socks today.

What?  No suit?  No tie?  No sports jacket with an odd pair of dress pants?  Heinz-Ulrich, you're slipping.  Yep.  Sometimes, kicking one's everyday style up a few notches simply means throwing together a few well worn, very casual, yet nevertheless comfortable items and rolling with it.  What don't you see?  That's right.  No stretched out sweatpants or hooded sweatshirt, no over-sized sneakers, frayed cargo shorts/pants, or backwards baseball cap, and salsa, sweat, and/or beer-stained t-shirt (with some stupid logo or saying on it) anywhere in sight.  Perish the thought. 

That's right.  It's entirely possible for a father and small son to dress casually, neatly, and appropriately for the season and a laid back day together without looking like trashy slobs.  I'd even suggest that if more parents made it a habit of dressing their children just a wee bit better than has become the norm from what I notice in public -- and no, it doesn't require loads of cash either, so let's not reduce the issue to an argument of simple economics; it has many causes -- that the problem of terminal pigness on the part of so many would solve itself in a generation or two because the little darlings would be acclimatized to dressing, looking, and maybe even behaving somewhat better than has become the accepted norm across and throughout so much of society.  

But wait!  Isn't molding and shaping the development of children in a favorable direction, through instilling values like discipline, self-respect, consideration for others, and pride in one's appearance, what parents used to do?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Flannel Wednesday. . .

The get-up for yours truly on Wednesday (yesterday).

Ahhh. . .   Hear that?  It's the sound of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.  And it has finally cooled off enough -- really, truly enough -- in my neck of the woods to put away the warmer weather stuff until mid-April or so next year, and break out the fall and winter gear.  Naturally, that consists of lots of tweed, wool flannel, and corduroy.  Yesterday's ensemble, for instance, consisted of the following items:

* Polo University Club navy wool blazer, made in the U.S.A. (thrifted 2011)
* Ralph Lauren gray wool flannel pants with 1.5" cuffs and pleats, made in Canada (thrifted 2013)
* Robert Talbott necktie (English Lawn Tennis Association stripe), made in the U.S. (purchased on sale 2004)
* Land's End pink Hyde Park Oxford button-down shirt (purchased on clearance 2010)
* No-name silk cream pocket square w/brown edging and brown and maroon polka dots (thrifted 2011)
* Land's End belt (purchased new 2004)
* Von Maur socks (purchased on sale 2013)
* Allen Edmonds shoes (Ebay 2011)

Obviously, nothing listed above is bespoke/custom made, or even of the very highest quality, but I have had the jacket and pants altered by my tailor Mrs. V., to fit my frame best.  The more moneyed menswear enthusiasts out there might sneer at some of the above items (or perhaps all of them?), but they illustrate that, once again, an average guy need not spend thousands of Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Kroner, or Yen to look more than halfway decent when he walks out the door in the morning.  I felt pretty darn good yesterday as I set off for a day of teaching and one of those darned lunchtime departmental social gatherings with colleagues.  These events always strike me as ill-timed, forced, and just plain awkward.  No one ever seems natural and relaxed at them for example.  Why in the world must we have get-togethers like this foisted upon us?

Anyway, an extra spring was put into my step when I later bumped into one of the college's administrators (wearing a suit, bless him!) with whom I am acquainted on The Quad.  He smiled, asked how I was, and then added that I was one of the best dressed men on campus.   While such a compliment is great to hear occasionally, that's really not why I bother to dress nicely.  I do it for me.  Still, it's nice when someone else notices and pays a compliment instead of asking something like the tired old "Why are you so dressed up?"

Now, the above combination of clothes was not without its challenges though.  One of the problems with pleated pants, which I prefer to the currently trendy plain-fronted trousers, is that the area around the fly does funny things -- ok, annoying -- when one sits down.  Suddenly, it appears to anyone whose gaze might drift in that direction like you are terminally and perpetually aroused.  See the photo below:

See the problem?  Yep.  I can assure you, however, that I was looking at nothing more racy than film theory and global cinema readers prior to snapping this photograph of my shoes and socks late yesterday afternoon.

Right. . .  I read somewhere recently that Frank Sinatra used to avoid sitting down and/or crossing his legs whenever he was really dressed to the nines, ostensibly to avoid those embarrassing wrinkles in the fly and crotch region of his suit or evening wear pants.  However, it might also have been to avoid situations like that shown above.  

Other than making the switch to trimmer cut, plain-fronted dress pants, however, I'm not really sure how to avoid this issue myself.  All the more reason to make certain I am either hidden away in my office at school and behind the desk therein while in a chair, or seated at and protected from view by a table in the Dining Commons.  But I'll definitely avoid sitting in front of my students during class time!  Just imagine what the more imaginative of them might think and say otherwise.  Oh, the shame, the shame!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Keep the Following Point in Mind. . .

"My God, does he ever shut up?"  As average guys making the effort to kick up our everyday style a few notches, we want to make certain others never have this thought about us.

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." -- Mark Twain 

The advice offered above has also been attributed to various other public figures but has its origins in biblical verse.  Regardless of who said it first, though, the words are very wise and well worth remembering in the continuous quest to improve our personal style. Talk is cheap as my father used to say, and unless you've really got something to say, it's far better to leave the endless stream of idle chitchat to others.  Practice greater economy with your conversation.  Sit back, observe, and let others do the talking. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Ways to Look Better Immediately. . .

"Bueller?  Bueller?  Bueller?"  The great Ben Stein in 1980.  Yep.  That Ben Stein.

Want to look better right away AND do it without spending any money?  Click here and visit the No Man Walks Alone Tumblr blog.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sartorial Personality. . .

This combination of garments was worn last Friday when I aimed for a Luciano Barbera vibe.

Friday's and Monday's ensembles met with that rarest of animals. . . wifely approval!   My poor other half grew up with male family members who rarely wore sports jackets and odd trousers, to say nothing of suits, neckties, and good shoes. . .  even when such things were still fairly typical back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.  So, it remains exceedingly difficult to get her enthused about classic male style, to say nothing of a little sartorial individuality.  However, yours truly managed to win that coveted spousal approval recently on not one but two days, which is one for the record books if you ask me.

The first photograph above includes a Canali wool sports jacket, charcoal worsted wool pleated pants by Zanelli, a no-name wool necktie made in the U.S.A., and some Land's End monk strap loafers.  The shoes, which were purchased new back in the fall of '07, are much higher quality than most of the footwear sold by the company.  Among other things, they feature welted construction on the leather soles, leather linings, and even cork footbeds, making them extremely comfortable.  Every bit as comfy as my Allen Edmonds.  The pants, tie, and pocket square, on the contrary, were thrifted for only a few dollars U.S., and the jacket was purchased second hand from Giuseppe at An Affordable Wardrobe a couple of years ago.

 Here's a close-up of the Italian silk, hand-rolled pockets square that was part of the ensemble above.  Not black but a very dark blue if you examine the square under direct light.  My wife really likes this one, something that isn't true of many of the other pocket squares that reside in the large glass jar on my dresser.

Today's combination of clothing, shown below, includes an amazing Ralph Lauren double-breasted jacket in wool flannel, which again came from An Affordable Wardrobe.  Dig those peaked lapels!  Other items included charcoal wool flannel pants by Corbin, an Italian wool tie by Rooster, and a pair of Allen Edmonds wingtips, which have shown up on The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style before.  The pants, tie, and pocket square were all picked up at different times at one of two area thrift stores near me that routinely have good stuff. 

Monday's flannel ensemble, which had a much more 1930s-ish feel to it, sadly without a good fedora though.

One problem I run into with thrifting menswear, however, is that I'm still reasonably trim even though I am well into my 40s.  I wear a 39R or 40R jacket, along with a 15"x33" shirt, and have a 32" or 33" waist, depending on the time of year.  This makes finding things that aren't huge on my frame at times kind of difficult.  For instance, I often come across lots of great Brooks Brothers shirts on the thrift store racks, but invariably their dimensions always seem be something in the neighborhood of 18"x36".  Or I find lots of great Harris Tweed jackets, but they are sized 46L.  It's maddening!

Of course, you can and should have things altered before wearing them, so that they fit you rather than the previous owner.  It's always best, though, to minimize what the tailor or seamstress will need to do to an item of clothing by looking for things that fit you pretty well to begin with.  Beyond an inch or two either way, depending on what it is, altering things too much risks throwing off proportions, pocket locations, and buttoning points, leaving you with garments that don't quite look or fit right.  Still, I've managed to find some amazing pieces over the last couple of years, expanding and improving my wardrobe ten-fold while at the same time selling off or donating older, lesser quality items as they are replaced with better things.

And here is another close-up of today's Italian silk pocket square, by Ashear, to which my other half also gave two thumbs up.  Not something that occurs very often here.

The point behind all of this silly fan-boy blather is simply to demonstrate that with a little time and patience, an average guy, who might not be rolling in dough, can nevertheless assemble a killer wardrobe without selling his soul to the devil, or auctioning his firstborn into indentured servitude.  What's more, thrifting enables you to assemble a totally unique wardrobe that is also rich in sartorial personality.  And in our current age of overly casual conformity in so many areas of life -- otherwise known as just plain old sloppy -- that's not a bad thing.  It's surprising the kinds and quality of classic menswear you can scare up if you just open your eyes.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coming Shortly: Three Is a Magic Number. . .

Any of you remember the old Schoolhouse Rock animated shorts that were on Saturday mornings, at least here in the United States, between cartoons and breakfast cereal commercials, back in the 1970s?

Be sure to drop by in the next day or two for thoughts on how to extend the range of even a small wardrobe without too much trouble or expenditure.  I'll also be sharing a few photos of a recent purchase from Giuseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe, which is just back from the dry cleaner's and needs only to have the sleeves shortened a tiny bit before it will enter the Fall/Winter rotation.  It's to die for!  And later next week, a post on mixing and matching clothes and accessories without fear and loathing. . .  and the result this past Friday morning even met with spousal approval, something which doesn't happen everyday here at The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style!  See you then.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"To acheive nonchalance. . . one article at least must not match."

The late Hardy Amis.  At work?  Or at play?

"To achieve the nonchalance which is absolutely necessary for a man, one article at least must not match. For instance, you can wear a dark blue suit and tie with a pale blue shirt and navy blue socks, but you must then have a patterned silk handkerchief say in dark red or a paisley design of green and brown; or you could stick to a blue handkerchief and have dark red socks." -- Hardy Amis

With those thoughts by Mr. Amis in mind, let's talk about that elusive sprezzatura (a word so overused these days that it is losing any meaning at all).  Ideally, you want to strive for an unstudied, relaxed look, regardless of how dressed up you might actually be.  Clothing that looks lived in, along with a relatively carefree demeanor from the man wearing the clothes, suggests absolute ease and comfort both internally and externally.  Think Cary Grant, David Niven, or young Sean Connery here.  In other words, you'll want to avoid perfection in your attire, which can make a guy seem too self-conscious about getting it right where his clothes and appearance are concerned.  After all, you don't want to look like you've agonized over your clothes for hours before finally putting them on.

So, try these tiny suggestions for a less tightly corseted look, which too many guys out there associate with dressing in anything other than cargo shorts and flip-flops.  Extend the life of your dress shirts and don't starch the collars and cuffs.  That will lend an instant, softer look and feel to your appearance.  You might also consider forgoing collar stays.  In addition, don't iron your shirts.  Instead, just toss them into the dryer with a fabric softener sheet, so that most of the huge, ugly wrinkles come out, but the shirt does not look perfectly pressed.  Be sure to hang 'em up when the dryer signals that the cycle has ended though.  By the way, the natural warmth from your torso will help any remaining small wrinkles disappear before long.  This method works especially well with oxford cloth button-down shirts when worn beneath a blazer, or a tweed jacket for those colder months, during the weekends.  

Add a pair of comfy corduroy pants or chinos that you've had for a while, some slightly pilled argyle socks, along with well-worn penny loafers, and you're all set to run a few errands midday on a Saturday before meeting that new special someone for a drink at your favorite watering hole, for instance, and then taking him or her out to supper afterward.  Crewneck wool sweaters and knit ties in muted colors also fit in well with this particular "relaxed" aesthetic, which is still a far cry from sweatpants and over-sized t-shirts.  The best part is that you'll look very pulled together, yet extremely casual for your weekends and off hours.  Oh, and clothes like these are extremely comfortable too.  So, it's a win-win situation all the way around.  
What about those times when you must dress with a bit more care, during the work week, for example, or before special occasions?  Well, for starters, don't fiddle with your necktie for 20 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror each morning, trying to get it absolutely right with any one of the myriad of complicated knots that exist.  Opt instead for the plain old asymmetrical four-in-hand knot.  Easy to do and classic.  And if the dimple is a little off, or the rear blade is a bit long one day, so be it.  

Don't worry about matching your socks to your dress pants exactly either.  Dark green, dark red (maroon), or royal blue to-the-knee dress socks make a nice departure from the usual charcoal, navy, dark brown, or black.  Likewise, don't worry if there are a few wrinkles in your suit pants or pairs of odd dress trousers or the elbows of your suit coat or sports jacket.  Sit down (ease the knees a bit when you do though to avoid stretching your pants out of shape at the knees), cross your legs, and bend those elbows as you lean in across the seminar table to make your point during that 10am meeting.  Only department store mannequins stand around all day doing nothing but smile and without wrinkling their clothes.  But you're a living, breathing man, not some mass produced, molded abomination in white, tan, or silver plastic.  So, put your clothes on, forget about them, and march forth into your day with confidence.

A word of caution here.  Everything you wear should obviously be clean.  While classic menswear should look lived in rather than brand new,  I'm in no way suggesting that you leave the house wearing rumpled, threadbare, chocolate and mustard-stained gear.  Your new "adult" clothes should be worn more than for the occasional wedding, funeral, or job interview, so put 'em on for the love of Pete!  You can't very well kick up your style a few notches if you shy away from wearing the things you've added carefully to your wardrobe over the last year or so.  Get it?  The sort of timeless male attire we are talking about here is meant to be worn and enjoyed.

Finally, don't fret about matching your clothing and accessories too closely.  You want to come across as casually unconcerned about your appearance.  Let's call it sartorial insouciance if a label is absolutely needed.  And one more thing.  Contrary to what a lot of menswear stores, outlets, retail websites, and formal wear rental places might have us believe, your pocket square should definitely NOT match your necktie.  Compliment it in some way, yes, but certainly don't contemplate purchasing a matching necktie and pocket square set.  Ever.  You don't want to look like a male extra in a community theater chorus line, or some unfortunate android posing as a groomsman in an overblown wedding, do you?  It's much better to be a bit absent-minded about it, almost as if to say, "Oh, that old thing?  Nope.  I didn't even realize it was in my jacket pocket."

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Style is usually something you acquire. . ."

German style expert Bernhard Roetzel, author of Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion.

"Style is usually something you acquire rather than being born with it. . . Style is very much about copying and imitating." -- Bernhard Roetzel

Read the rest of the interview at Torsten Grunwald's The Journal of Style by clicking here.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Style is neither superficial nor inconsequential."

 The always stylish G. Bruce Boyer.

"Those with little money must count on brains, hard work, and style to get ahead. Good manners and a sense of humor help as well. This is the nature of both the Dandy and Democracy: that our destinies are not written before we are born. I understood this from a very early age, and was lucky enough to have a mother who allowed me to experiment with my vision of myself. My belief is that we all invent ourselves to one degree or another. I tried all sorts of clothes, and noticed how people reacted to them. I carefully noticed how costumes on actors helped them play their parts. And I was quickly aware that some men in our neighborhood got more attention and respect because of their style. Style is neither superficial nor inconsequential." -- G. Bruce Boyer

Read the full interview here at

-- Heinz-Ulrich

The Word for Today Is. . .

Tweed.  Apparently, much cooler weather is on the way.  Can I hear an "Amen"?  And I'll bet you didn't think I could be so concise either.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 4, 2013

Suits and jackets predictable uniforms? Guess again!

I can hardly stand to put on my one pair of sweatpants anymore.

Something occurred to me early this morning as I looked quickly through a few menswear blogs that I visit all the time.  Usually over that first cup of fresh black coffee as I try wake up and become more cognizant before showering, shaving, and dressing.  Anyway, the recurring and lingering thought that popped into my head then did not originate with me sadly.  It stems, instead, from something my old Sociology teacher Mr. Youse observed way back during my last year of high school in the fall of 1984. 

Ready?  Here it is.  Blue jeans -- and later on sweatpants and cargo shorts. . .  along with any combination of backwards baseball caps, stained, stretched, or over-sized t-shirt or wife beater singlet, flip-flops, and/or sneakers -- have become a conformist uniform.  In much the same way that many people thought of gray flannel suits in the 1950s and 60s.

The baggy, lawn and leaf bag look has never made any sense to me either.  Even 20 years ago.

As the grandson and son of two executives, who operated in and around Lower Manhattan in New York City during the 1950s-1980s, I can assure you that the corporate look was not quite as humdrum as some would have us think.  Both my grandfather and father were confirmed Brooks Brothers men.  There were also afew things by J. Press and Jos. A. Bank creeping into their wardrobes here and there.  And there may also have been some HickeyFreeman and Hart Schaffner Marx pieces thrown in for good measure.  

But even within that fairly narrow preppy/trad/WASP paradigm, both men managed to look pretty snazzy five-six days a week without going over the top where color and pattern were concerned.  For example, neither would ever have thought about wearing anything in his breast pocket more colorful than a pressed white linen handkerchief.  Yet they still managed to avoid looking like dull corporate drones, or old-fashioned IBM repairmen, who were the butt of many jokes during the 1960s thanks largely to their gray flannel suited look.

And don't even get me started on the cargo shorts and pants, which, even new, can't manage to look clean and neat.  Never mind after several cycles of washing, drying, and wear.

Returning to the point at hand, the legions of contemporary guys who seem to live their every waking moment in sweatpants, cargo shorts, and the like are not, contrary to their beliefs (assuming they even think about such things), asserting any individuality or uniqueness.  Neither are these overgrown boys rebelling against anything.  They are, rather, conforming pure and simple, blending into, and becoming part of the slovenly herd that dominates the landscape and, indeed, playground sandboxes in so many places.  

When done right, however, suits, sports jacket and dress pant combinations (with or without a necktie), plus those more pulled together casual ensembles, offer remarkable scope for individuality and comfort.  Yep.  Imagine that.  You can actually feel pretty darn comfortable in a suit, or sports jacket, and tie.  Know what?  That negates both of the tired and far too common arguments against dressing well. 

 Demonstrating that he's a man of the people again.  You'd think that a highly educated legal scholar, president, and world leader would know better than to appear publicly like this.  Leaders of President Obama's caliber ought to look and behave like they are, in fact, leaders.

"Done right" in the above paragraph simply means dressing with a little more knowledge, care, and forethought than we typically see these days in many professional and social settings.  It also suggests that a man throw caution to the wind and feel secure enough in himself to experiment a bit, so that his attire is not drab and unimaginative.  I'd even suggest that dressing well -- like an adult who has his act together -- is an act of supreme individuality in 2013 and anything but boring or predictable!

So, how about we demonstrate that we do, as average guys, in fact, give a damn about how we look?  Let's get things back on track, sartorially speaking at least, and start dressing like adult males with some grooming and sophistication whether the workplace stipulates it or not.  For a variety of reasons, the world needs it now more than ever.  Dressing well isn't simply a matter of vain, superficial aesthetics.  It is, on the contrary, indicative of so much else.  Let's not continue to confuse the issue with a sloppy appearance that risks making exactly the impression we don't want to leave behind in our personal and professional interactions.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And before anyone comments on it or starts a flaming war, I was surprised and dismayed when the photograph of Barack Obama came up after a Google search for "slobs in baseball caps."  While I am not madly in love with the guy and some of his decisions during the last several years, neither do I fear and loathe him like some other people seem to.  The inclusion of his photograph as part of today's post was meant simply as further support for my point about conformity rather than a political statement about President Obama, his policies, or my own leanings.  Let's keep any comments you might be inclined to leave focused on attire and attitudes about it, please.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

An Unstudied Summer Suit Experiment. . .

Yesterday's assemblage of garments.  The jury is still out on how well it succeeded.

Although the days are noticeably shorter, and Autumn is definitely in the air, we are still having the occasional warm day here in my corner of the American Midwest.  With temperatures in the lower to mid-80s Fahrenheit recently, I haven't bothered dragging out the tweeds, flannels, and corduroys just yet. . .  or brushing down and stowing away the warm weather gear.  So, why not get a bit more mileage this season out of that vintage wool-silk glen plaid suit?

Which was the plan yesterday morning.  Something unstudied without too much additional pattern given that of the suit.  Initially, I was quite please with the result.  However, the more I thought about it, there just seemed to be something a little off about Thursday's combination of clothes.  I think it was the shirt, which is not my favorite.  Too bold a blue, and the plaquette-less design has never really appealed to me.  Time to donate this particular shirt I think, and replace it with something in a lighter blue.  But was it something else instead?  Should the tie have been navy or black?  What do you think?  Where does this particular clothing combo go wrong?

-- Heinz-Ulrich