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.

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


P.S.
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.

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