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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Week Style. . .

The lower half of yesterday evening's casual ensemble.

Just because it's Christmas Week, there's been no real reason to venture out, and classes don't resume for your truly until January 8th, is no reason not to dress up a little bit when time and occasion call for it.  Yesterday evening, my wife and I were joined by a former colleague and her husband, retired professors of the German and French languages and literatures respectively. . .  and wine aficionados.  It seemed, therefor, like the perfect time to wear the Dapper Classics socks show above, which were a Christmas gift this year from my better half.  Here are the details of the full ensemble:

* Polo Univeristy Club navy wool blazer -- thrifted
* Brooks Brothers OCBD shirt red and white university stripe -- Ebay
* Land's End dress chinos (these hold a crease) -- sale 
* Land's End braided belt brown -- sale
* Dapper Classics to-the-knee dress socks -- Christmas gift
* Allen Edmonds loafers -- Ebay
* Italian silk pocket square in dark red with yellow hand-rolled edge and golden/orange paisleys -- thrfted

The evening was full of pleasant and interesting conversation, good food, and, of course, wine.  Best of all, our guests last night left just before 11pm, which is always nice when facing a formidable kitchen and dining room clean-up.  Such a timely and considerate departure is not something that always happens with many of our other guests, who tend to overstay their welcome (sometimes by hours) every time and never seem to return the invitation.  Time to sidestep their social awkwardness and find some new acquaintances.  Or do something about our chronic body odor and halitosis.  Yeah.  That must be it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 And, for good measure, the combination of things I put on for Christmas Dinner this year.  It sure beats showing up for what should be a special occasion in warm-up gear, sunglasses, and one of those godawful backwards baseball caps.  The red plaid thingy peeking out is a repurposed 16" swath of cloth from an old, worn out pajama top.  I had my seamstress hem the edges to make a color pocket handkerchief.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Feast of Stephen!

'Church in the Snow,' painted by Norwegian artist Theodor Severin Kittelsen in 1907.

Happy Second Day of Christmas!  Just contemplating, for a moment, the quiet joy that was Christmas Day this year in the von Boffke household, the first like that in several years.  Why can't we collectively have more similar days during the rest of the year?  Those quiet, relaxed, calm, uncomplicated times that are filled with the small joys of immediate family and pleasant company capped off by a special meal.  We all need more of that, I think, when we actually talk to and laugh with each other rather than stare vapidly into our phones, or check the damn things every few minutes.  Or, where we simply enjoy each others' company as we look over the books and other gifts we've received once again after we finally drag ourselves upstairs to get dressed by early afternoon and return to the living room or other gathering point in the family home with another cup of coffee or a glass of eggnog a short while later.  

It just might be possible.  And it costs nothing.  Here is what I propose to all average guys looking to kick up their everyday style in the broadest sense.  Let's make 2014 the year when we say "No more!" to the overly connected, overly scheduled, overly busy 24/7 way of life that has overtaken our post-postmodern existence.  I hardly suggest we turn our backs on modern conveniences like internal plumbing and central heating. . .  or the technological gadgets that many of us think we think we "need."  No need to adopt a Luddite approach since many of us work daily with computers or the like in any case, and it would be awfully difficult to function in the world of 2013 without any of that at this point.  

But the constant go, go, go and often needless, self-imposed obligation to be overly wired and tethered to our I-phones, I-pads, etc. -- something that these very devices seem to encourage -- cannot be good for us or those around us in the long term.  You know what I mean.  People always available and/or constantly checking for the latest texts, voice mails, and e-mails.  Just because you've got wireless at home, or it is available in a restaurant or cafe, doesn't mean you need to or should whip out your latest portable electronic non-status symbol for all to see and hear you use it.  Let's give some serious thought during this quiet Christmas Week to reducing the control that technology has over our non-work lives and interaction with others in the New Year and, hopefully, beyond it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, December 23, 2013

Warmest Compliments of the Season to You. . .

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and the children gather around the Christmas tree.

Wishing all of our visitors happy, peaceful, joyous days and compliments of the winter season regardless of your faith or level of commitment.  If you celebrate, Merry Christmas.  We'll be back with more tips on style in its broadest sense during the final week of 2013.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Avoid Endless Deliberation. . .

Anyone who has ever worked in the corporate sector, academia, or government at any level, will be familiar with the endless deliberation, dithering, and useless chatter of committee-based decision making.  It seems we just loo-oove our committees.  That must be because they prevent easy finger-pointing and accepting of responsibility if and when there is a snafu.

The longer I live, the more people, of all ages, I meet who seem to be incapable of making a decision.  It might be as simple as deciding which shoes to put on in the morning, which local restaurant to visit for an evening meal, whether or not to ask that new gal out  for a drink after work on Friday evening, or something more serious like whether or not to take that promotion and transfer recently offered to you by your company.  

Regardless of the precise situation, there is invariably a great deal of hand wringing, apron twisting, and endless talk without a decision being reached.  Arrggh!!!  This phenomenon is not a recent development although it seems worse now than ever before.  But we have certainly seen the problem reflected in popular entertainment like movies and TV for the last 20+ years at least.  Watch almost any rerun of Seinfeld or Friends, for example, and you'll quickly see what I mean.

As average guys concerned with kicking up our everyday style several notches, let's work to change this annoying trend.  Let's do our utmost to make conclusive decisions in all areas of our lives.  Efficiently, in fairly short order, and without round after round of endless and self-indulgent deliberation.  I am hardly suggesting careless disregard for others  and rash action.  What I do advocate, though, is for people to quickly take stock of a situation and its related possible choices, make a decision, and then stick to it.  Grow up, act like a man, and own your decisions, guys.  Accept the consequences, if there are any,  and move forward to the best of your skills and abilities.  Let's not live our own lives like Ally McBeal and forever row our figurative boat in circles without progressing in the river of life for Heaven's sake.

As for yours truly, I'm off to examine the contents of the upstairs hall closet and decide which of three odd jackets should go to the tailor's next for minor alterations.  But wait!  Maybe not.  Oh, I don't know.  What if I make the wrong decision?  Someone, anyone, tell me what I ought to do.  Let's meet up at Central Perk, grab a couple of lattes, and talk it to death.  Yeah.  That's it.  Oh, thank you.  I feel so much better now.   

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Control That Temper Guys. . .

No matter how upset you might get, rein in that temper, guys.  Losing it accomplishes nothing.

With the stress and numerous pressures of the Christmas and Holiday season, not to mention the rest of the year, it's all too easy for tempers to flare and angry words to escape from our mouths before we have had a chance to calm down.  So, I'd like to challenge average guys everywhere, who are making the effort to kick up their everyday style several notches, to exercise greater self control -- a concept no one ever seems to mention anymore -- and swallow that anger. 

Unkind words and/or physical violence do nothing to solve a problem or help a situation.  And most often, you'll succeed only in hurting whatever case you might hope to make.  Open any newspaper, or turn on the TV, and you'll see all kinds of daily examples of what has happened when two or more guys have been unable to control their respective tempers.  Childish behavior, violence, and all too often injury or even death are the sad result of the failure of many to control their respective tempers.  Of course, it is sometimes extremely difficult to do so.  I get it.  But it's far better, much more adult, and safer to swallow that anger, turn the other cheek, and walk away BEFORE you say or do something foolish. 

You will, of course, pardon the overt Christian reference in the preceding sentence, I hope.  But it is nevertheless applicable here.  Funny.  It seems that my latent Episcopalian background comes out in all kinds of unexpected ways.  My deceased maternal grandparents and the late Father Cosby would approve.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Very Simple Step toward Greater Style. . .

Trust me.  You don't want to be one of those guys who can't keep his gum in his mouth, or chew it quietly.

Here's a very simple tip for average guys who have set out to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Best of all, it's inexpensive and easily accomplished.  Are ya ready Steve?  Andy?  Mick?  All right fellas.  Let's goooooooooo!!!

If you are one of the legions of people who insist on having a wad of gum stuck in the side of your mouth -- and if no one has told you before, it's a pretty tacky and cheap habit to begin with -- chew it quietly and keep it in your mouth.  Anyone over the age of seven who cracks and pops his gum is annoying in the extreme, even if others around you are polite enough not to say anything.  That sort of thing is not even cute in children if we are perfectly frank with ourselves.  And it's also just plain gross for us to treat people to the sight of that chewed up, rubbery, neon wad of stuff in our mouths.  As inconsiderate and offensive as, for example, taking off your shoes and socks on an airplane and resting your feet against the nearest bulkhead.  

Nope.  Where Bazooka, Juicy Fruit, and Dentyne are concerned, my maternal grandmother used to advise, "If you insist on chewing gum, then go to your room and close the door where no one can see or hear you."  And that's not just solid advice for job interviews and office etiquette either.  Fewer things spoil the overall effect of a handsome and well-dressed man than when he tosses a piece of gum or five into his gaping maw and begins chewing vapidly away on his cud.  Yep.  Cheap and tacky.  And you don't want to venture anywhere near that territory. 

Since we take a holistic approach to everyday style here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, and acknowledge that the somewhat nebulous concept of style is about much more than our clothes, accessories, and hair, let's make a concerted effort to keep that gum in our mouths where it belongs and keep it quiet, guys.  Assuming we refuse to kick the habit altogether.  But I hope, Bazooka Joe, that you might try.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Do you have a mouth like a cesspit?

When you speak, are the words that come out of your mouth the verbal equivalent of raw sewerage spewing in all directions?

Late this afternoon, as I read through and graded student papers with a cup of coffee in a cafe and dining area on campus, I was reminded again how awful a steady torrent of obscenity sounds.  Two young men at a nearby table seemed unable to utter more than a sentence between them without peppering their speech liberally with the F-Word.  Keep in mind, these are university men.  Part of the huge "middle class" of which almost everyone is now a part in the United States, yet there was nothing remotely classy about these guys based on their speech and behavior.  You'd think they might have been able to express themselves a bit more eloquently after a few semesters on campus.   Guess not.

But maybe I'm completely out of touch.  Is the prevalence of this kind of thing a byproduct of the democratization of higher education specifically and society in general?  Or do people really speak to each other like that in all families now regardless of socioeconomic origin?  What in the world has gone wrong with society when a clear majority of people cannot sit quietly by themselves or in small groups and avoid being subjected to that kind of thing from the mouths of just a few.  Maybe I'm the one with the problem though.  I mean, why worry about the tangible decline in standards of behavior everywhere in less than a human lifetime?  Let's just let everything hang out and all behave like the worst of the worst.  That would be the easiest thing to do.  Right?  

No.  I refuse to accept that.   It's time to reintroduce more than a little self-control in how we act and speak.  Contrary to what some might argue, however, reining ourselves in and watching what we say, when, and where we say it is not an infringement on people's right to free speech.  Besides, that is a concept twisted by lots of less than fully informed people to mean something that the great minds of the Enlightenment did not necessarily envision or intend.  Neither is the issue simply about moving out of earshot if you don't want to hear some ignoramus demonstrate his extremely limited vocabulary.   

The heart of the matter concerns a complete lack of civility on the part of too many individuals, who can't bothered to think about anyone or anything but themselves.  As average guys who are concerned with rising above the commonplace and the banal, though, oughtn't we to demonstrate greater consideration for others and be more mindful of what is appropriate in public spaces.  Surely, spewing forth a torrent of obscenities anywhere and everywhere with utter disregard for everyone else is not.  Just because some of us might get some weird, juvenile charge out of it and cannot express ourselves another way is no excuse.  It's not ok and succeeds only in making a guy seem trashy.

Now, I'm no saint.  I've hit my thumb accidentally with a hammer many times, caught my toe on a high curb and fallen head over heels on a dark city street, and crashed my head into low-hanging beams over doorways.  I've smashed my forehead into a low shelf over a bed as the alarm clock jangled me into consciousness and split my brow open, bleeding all over the place while on the way to catch an early train.  I've worked in a warehouse unloading trucks as a young man, an environment rife with cussin'.  I've also experienced sudden heartache and extreme frustration, so I get it.  Sometimes, a fusilade of obscenities escapes from our mouths before we know it and despite our best intentions.  But, let's be reasonable here.  Many, if not most, people really don't want to hear a habitual and steady stream of curse words coming from someone's mouth.  Not in polite society at any rate.  No two ways about it, guys.  Having a mouth like a sailor is unattractive on a number of different levels.  Sadly, most of us are afraid to say anything when someone spews their verbal filth our way in restaurants, on airplanes, and in shopping malls, or on the street.  So, let's leave it like this.  

If you want to kick up your everyday style several notches and avoid coming across as nothing better than low rent, get with the program.  Your background, money, electronic gadgets, bling, car, and clothing make no difference.  Neither does that overly-inflated, artificially propped up self-esteem from which many young guys seem to suffer these days.  Here's the deal though.  If you are unable to express a thought without uttering an obscenity, if every second or third sentence is laced with what used to be called blue language, you've got a problem.  The solution is to become more upwardly mobile in how you present yourself to the rest of the world, and a large part of how we do that is through the language we use.  In other words, it's time to leave the habitual potty mouth behind once and for all.  The people around you will appreciate it, and you'll come across as a more decent, pleasant, and genuinely likeable person.  And who knows?  You just might find that people begin reacting differently to you, and your life somehow magically changes for the better.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Gentle Holiday Reminder. . .

The hilariously funny, but unexpected and uninvited, Cousin Eddie and Catherine in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

In the hustle and bustle that is December for many of us, it is worth remembering this tiny tidbit of a social grace, which average guys attempting to kick up their everyday style several notches should do their utmost to remember.  Don't drop in on people unexpectedly, and don't try to wrangle an invitation.  If people want to see or include you, they'll let you know with a phone call or an invitation.  You certainly don't want to add to anyone's Holiday stress by crashing the party uninvited.  It's high time to think of others and, hopefully, consider how your choices and behavior might negatively affect them.  Even if they are polite enough to say nothing about it.  Know what I mean?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Couple of Stylish, Cool Gift Ideas. . .

A classic Zippo lighter.  I've got two that look like this although I'm not a smoker.  Quite a step up from the usual disposable Bics!

That you won't see suggested on every other menswear website and style blog!  Whether you have a smoker on your giftlist.  Or you just want a couple of cool, classic accessories for your own jacket pockets.  You cannot go wrong with a chrome Zippo cigarette lighter and/or a leather cigarette case.  Even if you aren't a smoker, both items have all kinds of unanticipated uses.  After all, who knows when you might need to pull out that lighter at the campsite, or to light someone else's cigarette.  Always an amazingly suave and even retro move in our own era when coarse and common behavior rule the day most places.  And a leather cigarette case might be a neat way to carry the business cards you accumulate during the workweek.  Or, it might make a neat billfold in lieu of the more typical money clip.  Just some pre-Christmas food for thought.

-- Hienz-Ulrich

My dad always carried his cigarettes in a similar leather cigarette case, which was the only cool thing thing about his smoking habit.