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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Celebrate the Holiday Season in Style. . .

If a pack of dogs can get dressed for a special occasion, then so can you.  Put on some dressy clothes for those upcoming holiday dinners and parties, damn it!

With the holiday season almost upon us it, it's time once more to remind ourselves -- average guys making an effort to kick up our everyday style a few notches -- of the need to put on some real clothes for all of those special dinners, cocktail parties, open houses, and other occasions that typically occur between the end of November and early January each year.  

Here's the skinny, guys.  Contrary to what many of you might think, or may have been led to believe up to this point in your lives, holiday-related events are special occasions. Your hosts or loved ones will have gone to considerable trouble and expense to organize and prepare these events in advance.  Occasions like these do not come around everyday, and therefore (Surprise!) are several notches above the usual weekend routine of watching TV sports with your buddies in the beer-stained, popcorn-littered, and flatulent-filled man cave.  

In other words, you need to be on your best behavior and dressed acceptably when you have been invited to someone's home for dinner or some other occasion during the holidays.  It's all about showing consideration and respect for your hosts, fellow guests, and the particular occasion. So, it should come as no surprise that sneakers, sweatpants, and a hoodie will not suffice this time around.  I've heard of families where it is accepted practice for the boys and men to turn up dressed like this for Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Day, for example, but I can hardly believe it.  Surely, that can't be true?  In any event, here are 13 tips to help you celebrate the holiday season with considerably more style than might hitherto have been the case.


1) Dress up a bit more than usual.
You're not hitting the gym or walking to a convenience store around the corner for a container of milk, guys.  You've been invited to someone's home for a special occasion.  Treat it as such.  Before leaving your place, shower, shave, and put on some real clothes.  Leave the weekend slobwear (sweats, sneakers, shorts, baseball caps, and the like) for another time.  Newsflash!  You are an adult.  It's time to demonstrate that you have somehow acquired at least a bit of flair and sophistication since high school, and that you have learned what is appropriate and when.  If you don't already know this, I'm telling you now.  Do not, under any circumstance, show up for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year's dinners looking like you're ready to watch the Rose Bowl Parade with a plate full of cheese nachos in your lap and a 12-pack of beer at your feet.


2) Often, Smart Casual will suffice.
You don't necessarily need to get out the suit or formal wear though.  A clean sports jacket or blazer, a clean, pressed and tucked in shirt worn with clean, unripped jeans and a belt, along with a comfortable pair of loafers, brogues, or suede desert (aka Chukka) boots will do the trick.  Make sure your belt and shoes are in the same general color family though.  Leave the over-priced designer ripped, torn, and artificially faded stuff for your weekly trip to the supermarket.  And it should go without saying that anything, which might make you resemble an athlete in training, a hip-hop wannabe, or the corner drug dealer also has no place at a Holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house.  This ain't a 6th Grade dance, boys.  We're all adults now, and there are times, places, and occasions where and when we must dress the part.  Got it?  Good.

Do you really want to turn up to a holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house looking like Napoleon Dynamite's slimy older brother when he took off with LaFonda?

3) Relax!  You can still be comfortable.
Don't want to wear a pressed a shirt?  Too much like Monday through Friday for you?  Too starched and constraining?  Ok.  Then how about a navy or black turtleneck under your sports jacket or blazer?  Comfortable, casual, and not something you see every other average guy out there wearing in 2013.  Dark turtlenecks even look good by themselves and more than just a little bit cool.  You'll be in good company should you opt for this particular sartorial route.  After all, the Beatles and Steve McQueen never went wrong with it.


4) Dressing to the nines is fine too.
Of course, there's nothing preventing you from wearing a necktie with your sports jacket or blazer and odd pants combo or suit.  The men in some families, mercifully, still dress up a bit more than has become the norm over the last 20-30 years for holiday dinners and occasions, so this is still a viable option.  And you know what?  If you end up being the most dressed man in the room, that's alright.  If asked directly, or people rib  you about your appearance, all you need to say is something like, "Well, this evening is kind of special.  Sue and Tom have gone to lots of trouble.  I'm pleased to be included, so it seemed like a nice idea to show my appreciation as a guest by dressing up a little for the occasion.  Thanks for noticing."


5) Don't show up empty handed.
Don't forget a host or hostess gift!  You never want to show up empty handed whenever someone has invited you over to his or her home.  But these kinds of gifts don't need to be big or horribly expensive.  It's really more about showing a little appreciation and thoughtfulness to your hosts.  A bottle or two of wine, flowers or a potted plant, a small box of good quality chocolates, or some kind of pastry or baked good for dessert should do the trick.


6) Remember to practice polite conversation habits.
Don't monopolize the conversation and do not talk solely about sports all evening.  I've got some sad news for you.  Nattering on endlessly about Welsh Rugby in the 1970s, or your Fantasy Football league, is boring in the extreme and risks putting many other guests to sleep.  Give others a chance to participate in more interesting two-way conversation by asking open-ended questions about news, current affairs, recent movies, books, and so forth.  Hold off on more personal questions though.  While many people see fit these days to share with absolutely everyone and blurt out their sometimes woefully uninformed views on politics, religion, and sex, as I've suggested elsewhere at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, it just might be better to leave these topics for another time.  Call it a hunch.  Besides, so many people are so quick to fly off the handle and get ugly about these topics and related issues that you really don't want to be remembered as the catalyst for an unpleasant scene during what was intended as a joyful occasion.  Right?

Keep your holiday dinnertime or party conversation light and cheery, turn off your cell-phones, and keep your darn elbows off the table if it's a sit-down event.

7) Let's come across as suave and sophisticated men.
If there is beer served, ask for a glass and refrain from slurping or sucking it directly from the bottle.  It looks and sounds common.  There's simply no other way to say it.  While that might be ok on a hot summer afternoon in the backyard when you take a break from mowing the lawn, you ought to show a little more decorum and grooming when you've been invited to someone's home for a holiday dinner or related event.


8) Remember, you are a guest in someone's home.
So, act like it!  Keep your shoes on unless instructed to do otherwise.  Keep your feet off the furniture.  Don't pick up things from shelves or tables without asking first.  And be sure to use cocktail napkins or coasters beneath your glasses in the living room or anywhere else that is not the dining room table with (hopefully) placemats and a tablecloth on top of it.  Some people actually might have expensive furniture, antique, or family pieces in their homes that they do not want marred or ruined with rings from wet glasses or careless spills.  Don't be that guest (and there are many) who persists in setting his beer bottle or sweaty scotch on the rocks glass on the surface of the coffee table even after he has been given a coaster and asked to use it.  Show a little consideration for your hosts' property.


9) Don't leave a mess.
If the event is a party with food and drinks served buffet-style with people circulating all evening, be sure you don't leave any of your empty bottles, wine glasses, or plates and napkins anywhere except the dining table, kitchen counter, and/or the kitchen garbage can.  Nothing is more annoying than finding beer bottles left festering on a hall table or bookshelf the next day.  Don't treat your hosts' home like it's a bar with waitstaff and barmaids to clean up after you.  That kind of thing puts you on the fast track to being uninvited the next time around.


10) Don't overindulge.
Keep careful track how much you drink and stop before you think you should.  In festive situations, it's all too easy to lose track and lose control of one's inhibitions, mouth, and temper.  No one likes a loud, obnoxious drunk who doesn't know enough to shut his mouth, who picks fights, or who fails to take a hint and leave before he is asked to go.  It's ugly, uncalled for, and is (or ought to be) an embarrassing situation.  If you start to get a bit more than tipsy, quietly draw your host to one side, apologize, and ask him or her to call you a taxi at once.  Then, wait in the front hall or front porch for your ride and leave without fanfare.  You can always return and pick up your car tomorrow or the next day.

 No one likes an ugly drunk, especially at an adult dinner or party.  You're not pledging at a fraternity house, guys, so watch how much and how fast you drink.


11) Don't take advantage of your hosts' hospitality
Stay on the first floor of your hosts' home.  Unless the bathroom is upstairs, there is no reason for you to disappear up the steps.  Don't snoop, and do not disappear into an upstairs bedroom with an inebriated female, guys.  Even if she is willing, it's just the height of tackiness to disappear for a quickie in an upstairs bedroom or bathroom during a dinner or party at someone's house.  Oh, sure.  It happens, but that doesn't mean it is right.  Let's try at least to show that we have a smidgeon of good sense, and wait until you have left the holiday party and gone somewhere else marginally more appropriate before you rip each others' clothes off in a fit of passion and "go loco in Acapulco."


12) Know when to leave.
Under no circumstances do you want to overstay your welcome when it comes to holiday events.  Even when everyone is having a really great time, you can bet that your hosts will begin to feel tired and worn out sometime during the latter half of the evening.  Especially when one considers how busy and over-scheduled most of us are in 2013.  So, it's always a good idea to leave people wanting to see a little more of you rather than less.  Keep an eye on how long you have been at a holiday dinner, cocktail party or open house, and take your leave sooner rather than later.  And if, when you approach your hosts to say thank you and goodnight, they say, "Oh, nonsense! You just got here," you can always plead an early morning, an out-of-town guest arriving on an early flight tomorrow, or something similar.  It's just a good practice to leave sometime before the bitter end, preferably by 11pm or Midnight at the very latest, depending on when the festivities began. 


13) Make sure to say "thank you" one more time.
Send a hand-written thank-you note to your host(s) (no, an e-mail does not count) shortly after the holiday dinner or event at which you were a guest.  It's the polite thing to do.  The next day, write a few lines of thanks to your hosts inside the card, thanking them once again for their hospitality and wish them the compliments of the season.  Sadly, this custom has almost completely disappeared from even polite society, so people notice when it happens, and the reaction is always favorable.  You'll be forever after remembered as the polite, pleasant, and thoughtful guest who actually remembered to say thank you.  And who knows?  You might even be invited back well before the holiday season rolls around again.

 Take a few moments not too many days afterwards to write a brief yet sincere thank-you note to your hosts for their holiday dinner, cocktail party, or open house.  It's uncommonly stylish and thoughtful these days.


Remember, you want to show consideration and respect for your hosts, the other guests, and the occasion anytime you are invited into to someone's home.  Holiday dinners, cocktail parties, open houses, and related occasions are the perfect times for average guys to take the bull by the horns and begin kicking up their everyday style several notches.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

1 comment:

Sanne said...

Lieber Heinz-Ulrich,
da Sie in Bozen leben und der Name darauf schließen läßt, schreibe ich in Deutsch. Hoffentlich kein Fehlschluß. Gratulation zu Ihren Beiträgen, ich wünschte, es gäbe einen Blog dieses Niveaus auch für Leserinnen. Oder möchten Sie nicht ein bißchen geschlechterübergreifender (was für ein Un-Wort) schreiben?
Noch lese ich nach und freue mich auf weitere Beiträge.
Herzlichen Grüße aus Wien
Sanne