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, November 29, 2013

Another Great Gift Idea. . .

Call it either a late birthday to myself, or an early Christmas gift, but I've got a pair of these purple, orange, and black socks on their way to me from Dapper Classics right now.

Another great Christmas or holiday gift idea for yourself, or the guys on your list, who are looking to kick up their everyday stay several notches in 2014, might include a pair or three of to-the-knee, American-made dress socks by Dapper Classics.  Their Black Friday Sale, with 25% off on all orders, is still going on for a few more hours, so click on the link, and have a look around.  You're sure to find a few designs that you cannot live without.

And here's a hint for you more sartorially conservative average guys out there.  Dapper Classics also offer a variety of extremely sharp, but slightly more muted models of socks for those more formal times and occasions, from weddings and funerals, to those few remaining offices (bless 'em) where business formal dress remains the order of the day.  

I've got a few pairs of Dapper Classics socks in my upper right dresser drawer already, and they are fantastic.  Long enough, they stay up all day, very comfortable, and they add loads of unexpected personality to any ensemble you might team them with.  In any case, I could not resist the pair shown above, and just placed an order for them a few moments ago.  Can't wait for them to arrive.  Be sure to place your own order with Dapper Classics right now!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Classic Masculine Gift Idea. . .

Royall Lyme, Bay Rhum, and Vetiver aftershave and cologne.  Three of my post-shower and shaving favorites.

With Black Friday and the approach of the Christmas gift-giving season upon us, it seems like a good idea to say a few brief words -- Yes, it IS possible. -- about possible gift ideas.  Here is one that you might hint strongly for, or to which you might just treat yourself.  The Royall aftershave lotions are delightfully fragrant, yet subtle, classic masculine scents that few men seem aware of.  Thankfully.  

I first learned about Royall products almost 30 years ago, when my maternal grandmother gave me a bottle of Royall Lyme one Christmas.  I've been a fan ever since.  This year, for my annual 29th birthday celebration, my four-year-old son, the Young Master, presented me with the bottle of Royall Bay Rhum you see above.  

Not exactly cheap, but by no means the most expensive male fragrances on the market, it's hard for average guys to go wrong with the Royall line when making the effort to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Ask for a bottle on this year's Christmas gift ideas list, or find and purchase a bottle for the guy in your life.  It's available through Amazon.com, various other online outlets, and in better department stores.  I've even seen it in the few remaining haberdashers hidden away here and there in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thanksgiving Sartorial Nonchalance. . .

Note the pink socks with green stripes, from Dapper Classics, peeking out from beneath the chinos.

Here is how the males of the Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style household dressed for Thanksgiving Supper late yesterday afternoon, continuing an example set many, many years ago by my maternal grandfather and great uncles, and later my father, all of whom wore at the very least a collared shirt and sports jacket to the table for holiday dinners.  More often, it was a suit, white shirt, and necktie for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and other special occasions.  And no.  Rest easy, gents.  The Grand Duchess did manage to slip upstairs right before supper and exchange her jeans and Birckenstocks for a dark top, skirt, and a pair of heels.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


The Young Master, who succeeded in looking much more relaxed and at ease than his father.  Chalk it up to the promise of pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy (American) Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Strangely (for a guy), I really like old-fashioned Victorian and Edwardian greeting cards.  Look what I found online this morning!

A day early, yes, but I've got a few moments to myself for another mug of coffee before pie preparation (pumpkin and raspberry) begins in earnest along with a few other dishes for tomorrow and running the vacuum cleaner around the first floor.  So, allow me to wish all American visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, wherever in the world you might find yourselves, a very. . .  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your day tomorrow be filled with family, friends, fun, and delicious food.  We do indeed have a great deal to be thankful for in whatever form our respective lives take, something that is all too easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"How do I get a good grade in your course?"

A generic professor type with students.  So, how does a student do well in university and college-level course?

Every semester, there are always one or two students (usually young guys), who come to me on the first day of the term at the end of the first meeting and ask, "How do I get a good grade in your course?"  Mind you, this invariably is after I have bored everyone, myself included, by reading through the entire multi-paged syllabus, which details, among other things, how students can do well.  But ok.  Let's attribute it to freshman or new semester jitters.  I'll play along.  For you average college-aged guys out there, here is how to become better, and maybe even stellar students during your undergraduate career.  Pay attention.  It's not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination.  There are no secrets or magic bullets.  Ready?  Here we go!


1) Buy the required textbook(s) ASAP and bring it/them to every class.  Don't show up without them.  Snap to it!  Don't wait three or four weeks to purchase them online or from the bookstore.  Don't depend on a buddy or roommate to loan you his or her copy.  Get the books and keep up with the reading.  Surprise!  That's why you are in school for the next four to six years, and part of the way we learn about subjects is by steeping ourselves in what scholars have to say about those subjects. 


2) Bring old fashioned writing materials (pencil, pen, and paper) and take notes the old-fashioned way on the more important points your professor covers.  There are plenty of studies out there now that show we tend to remember information much, much better and for longer when we write it down.  The amount and complexity of material in college or university is also much higher than in high school.  So, it is a colossal mistake to assume that you'll be able to remember everything you read or hear, and keep it well-organized within your mind in the three to five courses you take each semester.


3) Do the reading, exercises, and/or papers when they are assigned.  Start sooner rather than later, so that you have ample time to digest and assimilate what your hear and read.  Don't leave longer assignments until the night before they are due.  Once again, there are plenty of studies out there that show, without a doubt, most of us do not work well under pressure.  Quit kidding yourself about that.  And make it a habit to turn in assignments, in whatever form those might take, when they are due.  Do not e-mail assignments to your professors unless instructed to do so.  Unless everything is done electronically via applications like Moodle, or you are enrolled in a distance course, it is not your professors' responsibility to supply you with paper, ink, and staples.


4) Attend your lectures and classes routinely and listen attentively.  Surprise!  That means you put away the school newspapers, I-phones, and laptops, stop doodling in your notebook or on the desk itself, stop trying to see the clock from where you are seated, look at whomever is speaking at the front of the room and LISTEN.  Finally, leave your ego and attitude at the door, Keegan.  It does not matter to your professors that you might have gotten all A's in your high school courses.  College and university are different ballgames altogether.  As mentioned before, the material is harder, there is more of it, and much more is required and expected of you.  Get used to it.


5) Engage with the material and, in smaller seminars or foreign language classes, the planned discussion and/or activities for the day.  Don't sit there like stoned, or hungover bumps on a log, staring into space through red-rimmed eyes, slack-jawed, and drooling.  Ask questions and seek further clarification if you are confused by anything you read and hear, or if you simply flat out do not understand a particular concept.  Oh, and it might help to attend once in a while those office hours that professors are required to have.  Typically, these are posted online and by a professor's office door.  And don't make the excuse that none of a professor's office hours are convenient for you.  If you are having problems in Econ. 101 or Intermediate Statistics, arrange your own schedule, so that you can see your professor during office hours.  E-mail ahead of time that you are coming, and keep the appointment.


6) Seek out tutors if you are still having problems with the course material or writing coherently.  Many smaller colleges and most large universities these days have various kinds of tutoring available free of charge to enrolled students.  Tutors are most often upper division undergrad or graduate students, skilled in their respective subject areas, trained in how to be effective in their work with students, and provide useful constructive critique to those seeking help.  I visited a few writing tutors for feedback as an undergraduate and grad student during the 1990s at the mighty Universty of Wisconsin-Madison.  The comments and suggestions these tutors provided were extremely helpful in polishing my own paper projects and an early book review.  As a professor myself, I have also seen dramatic improvements in my own students' written work when they have finally decided to get serious and seek outside help.


7) Turn in highly polished projects and papers that present your findings and ideas through interesting, well-supported discussion.  Simply listing a bunch of poorly formed ideas and connecting them with a bunch of randomly chosen direct quotes lifted from a few books and websites on your topic is not -- Newsflash!  -- highly polished or well-executed.  At best, that's middle- or high school level work.  Your college and university-level work should be much more complex, informed, and presented thoughtfully.  It should also be free of any glaring spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors as well as things like sentence fragments, comma, splices, and run-on sentences.


8) Don't have your parents e-mail or call your professors.  You are the person registered for and enrolled in your courses during any given academic term.  By the same token, you are (presumably) the one doing the work.  You are also at least 18 years old, able to vote, serve in the military, behave very foolishly in a number of ways now that you are living away from home, and take responsibility for your actions when things head south.  You approach and talk to your professors if and when there are any challenges that arise in your completion of various college and university courses.


9) Don't waste am amazing opportunity.  It's time to grow up and get serious about your future.  You say nothing interests you?  How sad, considering that there are so many things of interest on the average college or university campus.  Forget sports and fraternities though.  These are overdone, and exceedingly narrow in focus.  Sure.  Both might provide a lot of fun, but besides allowing a guy to wallow in the reek of Axe-infused testosterone with his fellow dudebros along with the mere possibility of drunken, meaningless sex for several years, the two social outlets achieve little of consequence in the longer term.  No.  Think about about other things since, ideally, college and university ought to be about broadening your mind and awareness of the world.   Are you up to the challenge?


10) Finally, stop making excuses.  A large part of functioning as an independent adult involves doing what is required of you instead of ignoring and later whining about it after you have received a bad grade due to a lackluster performance in a college or university course.  You need to accept responsibility, realize the gift that post-secondary education is, engage with and absorb the material to the best of your ability, interact with your professors, and do you utmost to produce solid work.  And besides, if all of this is really too much trouble, you could always drop out of school and punch a clock six days and 50+ hours a week to make ends meet.


That, my friends, is how you approach being a college or university student with a bit more style and purpose AND do well (or at least marginally better) in your courses.  It's pretty simple really.  And while these thoughts are the results of working for many years with American undergraduates -- more than enough of whom are coddled in the extreme by their parents and K-12 teachers, immature, and unprepared for adult life, although they have great self-esteem and are overly confident in their actual abilities  -- I'll bet that there is something here of use for every average college-aged guy wherever in the world he might find himself.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Start 'em young. . .

YMP all ready to head with his mother for the final Saturday Morning Farmers' Market of the 2013 season.  Not all that different than the way my mother dressed yours truly in the 1970s, my grandfather dressed as an undergraduate in the 1930s, my grandmother dressed my uncle in the 1950s, and my father dressed as a university undergraduate in the early 1960s.  Classic and timeless.

Just because they are children does not mean young boys should go through the first five year of life dressed in nothing but Sponge Bob or Spiderman items, junior versions of bagged out t-shirts, sweat-, or cargo pants, or any permutation of what has become recognized and known in some quarters as thugwear.  Hopefully, we aren't raising them to resemble little meth heads, petty criminals, or various other types -- and there are many -- who look like they've fallen through the cracks of society.  Or they are about to.  

Nope.  Let's stop kidding ourselves.  Appearance most definitely is important for a host of reasons, personal and societal.  Get boys used to dressing nicely as soon as possible, and they might, just might, turn into teenagers and adults who realize the need for and advantages offered by dressing several cuts above what has become the accepted, sad, and pathetic norm.  As parents, shouldn't we foster certain habits and ways of being in our children that exceed the average and commonplace?  

Clothing, the way it helps us to think of and feel about ourselves, as well as the language it speaks to others, certainly falls in line with that.  And, aided by thrifting, watching for sales, and birthday or Christmas gifts, it is entirely possible to produce young people who feel comfortable in clothes that feature things like actual waists, collars, zippers, buttons, shoelaces, and sleeves.  And not a speck of camouflage, hunter's orange, athletic nylon warm-up wear, or over-sized and overpriced athletic footwear in sight.  Perish the thought.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sometimes, the Stars Line Up. . .

Yesterday's ensemble, detailed below.  This is as casual as I allow my Friday's get.

In just the right way.  Friday morning, before daylight, I managed to throw on the garments pictured above without effort or thought post-shower and shave.  In the dark.  And then forgot about them and strode forth into my day of teaching, meetings with students, and another with colleagues.  Never realized quite how nicely everything worked together until late afternoon, when I arrived home and changed into more casual attire.  Not bad for no planning at all, if I do say so myself.  Here's a break down of the clothing and accessories shown:

* Polo University Club wool blazer (thrifted)
* Brooks Brothers oxford cloth button down (Ebay)
* No-name, unlined wool necktie in MacDonald tartan (thrifted)
* Land's End Dress Chinos, which hold a crease (purchased on sale)
* Land's End braided leather belt (end of season clearance)
* Johnston Murphy loafers, worn on rainy, wet days to spare better shoes
* Target to-the-knee dress socks (purchased on sale)
* No-name Italian silk pocket square with hand-rolled edges (thrifted)


Could it be?  Might I have reached another level of dressing with this particular combination of items?  That coveted nonchalance and insouciance about one's appearance that we read so much about online -- I refuse to use that terrific but nevertheless overused Italian word.  -- and in the better books on how men ought to dress.  Yet, it still looked pretty good when all was said and done.  

The shirt collar rolled wonderfully, the tie (worn for the first time yesterday) knotted into a four-in-hand easily with a slight arch, and there was 3/4" of cuff showing beyond the jacket sleeve when my arms hung at my sides.  And nothing seemed to scream used car salesman in the making.  My best guess is that the dark blazer and plain paints anchored the more colorful shirt, tie, and pocket square.  The socks, of course, were invisible since I was on my feet most of the day.  Now, the question begs.  Can this stroke of dumb luck be repeated again anytime soon?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Matters of the Heart, Don't Be Desperate. . .

Why, oh why, does it seem these days like so many guys are afraid to be by themselves?

It never ceases to amaze me.  What, pray tell?  You really want to know?  Ok, here you go.  The sheer number of online exchanges, and actual conversations one overhears virtually everywhere, where people are apparently obsessed about the "problem" of being single.  What?  What??!!  

You read it right.  And it's not just something the gals trouble themselves over either.  Guys do it too.  But that sort of worrying to death and overthinking those much sought after, hoped for, and eventual relationships is hardly the way for average guys to kick up their everyday style.  Newsflash!  Sadness and desperation are anything but stylish.  Sorry for not being sorry about that.

Here's a different approach to try.  Live your life, behave like a reasonably pleasant, purposeful individual -- DO NOT become a player whatever you do under any circumstances.  That only breeds unhappiness for someone, you or the other person involved. --  and stop trying so hard to find "the one."  You know what, guys?  It's actually harder to meet a quality person when you come across as sad and desperate.  Most of the time, you'll succeed only in finding other sad, desperate men and women.  And that hardly provides a solid foundation on which to maybe build something lasting and special.  This starting to sound like an early Beatles tune!  "I'm so sad and lonely, baby take a chance on me. . . "

But -- Pow!  Bang!  Shazam! -- when you stop looking so hard, you'll find special men and women, who are available and, amazingly, looking themselves.  At times, it might even seem like you are tripping over them.  Honest.  It's how I met my own wife, for example.  And the story goes like this.

About 15 years ago, all of the interesting young women I met were either married, had boyfriends, were not looking at the time, were uninterested, or had "other interests."  Nothing seemed to work.  Ok, time to get my own house in order.  I finally decided to stop trying so hard and get on with my life.  I finished up one graduate program at UW-Madison, lived abroad for a while, and did few things I wanted to do before later moving back to the United States for another graduate program in Minneapolis.  And what do you think happened?  

Yep.  One day, lo and behold. . .  there she was.  Two desks away in the very same graduate teaching assistant office.  The Grand Duchess with her bright Swedish blue eyes, funny smile, freckled face, intoxicating laughter, and slightly crooked nose.  We later went Nordic skiing together one cold Saturday in February, and have, more or less, been together ever since.  Funny how things like that work.

Of course, this story is only pertinent to me.  Call it my Sleepless in Seattle moment.  My life as a chick flick. . .  or even a Bridget Jones story.  Pretty silly really.  But the example does, I hope, help to illustrate the point that if a guy concentrates on other things for a while, and stops looking and trying so darn hard, even desperately, for romance, that one special person will eventually emerge and find you.  It just take a little patience.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Strive to Be Better Neighbors. . .

The cast of the 1970s British situation comedy The Good Life, known in the United States as Good Neighbors.  From left to right Felicity Kendal, the late Paul Eddington, Penelope Keith, and the late Richard Briers.

If there are any super-intelligent lifeforms elsewhere in the universe observing life here on Earth in the second decade of the 21st century for useful tips on how a society ought to function cohesively, they must be chuckling to themselves right about now.  Think about it for a moment.  Even on good days, the news can make it seem like the world has gone mad in places, and that people on one part of the globe or another just can't manage to live together and get along.

It seems, moreover, to be frightfully easy for most of us nowadays to become cut off and even alienated from the people closest to us.  Without a doubt, the decline of community (in all senses) in the last few decades, the more recent rise of technology, and the abundance of various blinking, chirping personal gadgets that now inundate our lives and fill our pockets each contribute in a big way to that palpable sense of isolation, helplessness, and ennui from which many of us suffer or perceive at least.

Average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches would do well to stop and consider the issue for a minute.  What happened to our shared sense of community?  Where did it go?  And is it possible to stop the gradual slide to the lowest common denominator of human interaction and recoup at least some community engagement and interaction?  How might we achieve that?  Fostering more solid relations between ourselves on the one hand and our neighbors on the other is a good place to start.  That alone could very well help combat the social isolation that seems to permeate so much of society now and reestablish some sense of community between people, even at the micro level of the neighborhood street or block.

While many in the developed world might argue that they are "wired" and, thus, already highly connected to others, I argue otherwise.  It seems to me that we are, on the contrary, more isolated, cut off, and focused only on our individual selves than ever before.  With that very pointed critique of society in mind, here are a number of ways that average guys might become better friends and neighbors to other people in the era of I-phones, online social media, and Hulu.com.  Here's what I suggest:


1) Be friendly.
Let's all try to be a bit more open to others around us.  Don't be afraid to smile and say good morning to someone when you pass that person on the street.  Try a small wave from the front porch as your neighbor across the street enters his or her front door at the end of the day and you do the same.  It can't hurt, and maybe, just maybe, stronger attempts to break out of our own, largely self-imposed, isolation might brighten others' day just a little.  You never know.  Certainly, going through life with a smile on your face and a pleasant word or two for others a bit more often ain't going to kill you, is it?


2) Be kind and considerate.
Likewise, it helps to keep things pleasant between neighbors when we at east try to show some kindness and consideration to each other.  Really.  This kind of thing used to be standard fare, but it seems to have receded into the woodwork in more recent years, so here's what I'd do.  If you've just had a large snowfall in the night, and you observe your neighbors struggling to dig out their car through your kitchen window, grab your boots, gloves, and snow shovel, cross the alley, and offer to help.  Don't expect anything in return.  Do it simply to be gracious and because others need some assistance.


3) Touch base from time to time.
Pick up the telephone, or cross the street, from time to time and say "Hello" to those who live near you.  You needn't feel like you've got to stand on the front porch jabbering for a quarter of an hour or anything, but  see how the couple who lives two houses down or across the hall is doing.  Ask them if you can pick up anything for them if you are headed out to the grocery store.  It might sound funny and intrusive, but I'd be willing to bet that many people would appreciate a quick "Hey, how are you?" and an offer to pick up a liter or gallon of milk.  These are the kinds of very small courtesies that don't require a huge amount of time or effort, but they grease the wheels of life in a most efficient way.  Whatever, you do though, don't quibble over a few pennies if your neighbors don't have exact change when you return with that new container of milk!  Just let it go and continue on your way.


4) Look in on older neighbors occasionally.
By the same token, it is an extremely nice gesture to look in on older neighbors from time to time.    Sadly, too many of these people are alone for one reason or another, and, in the United States at least, it has not been a given that family members live nearby to assist an older relative for quite a few years now.  Most older people are tickled pink (there's that expression again) to chat with a younger person about this and that.  In addition, whether they say it, or not, this kind of neighbor is usually very appreciative (touched even) to have some help around the house or in the back garden once in a while.  And as I've mentioned in a previous post recently, even a few minutes of your time can help an older person feel more involved and like someone cares, which isn't a bad thing at all.  Perhaps if more of us made some attempt to interact with retired and elderly neighbors, more of them might be able to remain in their own homes longer than seems to be the case for too many?  It's just a thought.


5) Lend a willing ear.
Too frequently, it seems, we are in a huge hurry , dashing from this commitment to that activity and back home again to inhale some sustenance while standing over the kitchen sink before rushing out once more to the net thing.  Thanks to that particular way of living, which seems prevalent in 2013, we've got no time for anyone else.  But how about slowing down for a moment and being a bit more receptive when it seems like a neighbor might want to talk for longer than 15 seconds?  I'll be the first to admit that some people are ponderous given the chance.  I also understand that we don't necessarily want to hear a 20-minute monologue on someone's dead goldfish or his or her problems on the job with that new intern.  But you know what?  Sometimes, people just need to talk.  Why not stop and exchange a few kind words with that neighbor before rushing off? 


6) Offer help and assistance in times of need.
Once in a while tragedy strikes: fire, tornadoes, floods, a death in the family, etc.  When there is a neighbor in need, if at all possible, try to help that person.  Don't butt into someone else's life uninvited necessarily, but do offer help should they want and need it.  The form that assistance might take varies, but it could include things like some spare blankets or clothing, extra food, a home-cooked meal, or simply offering to watch the children for a short, well-defined period while your adult neighbors work to salvage their lives and put things in order without distraction.


7) Watch out for others' property and children.
When people are away for several days at a time, say during a long weekend or summer vacation for example, there are at least a few things we might do to to become better neighbors.  How about offering to keep an eye on things, collect and hold the mail, and maybe water the plants while your neighbors are away?  Likewise, if the neighbor kids are playing in the front yard nextdoor, and you happen to be on your porch or working in your own frontyard, keep an eye and ear on things.  No one is suggesting that you become overly involved with the neighborhood children.  Not only has the world become and exceedingly paranoid and weird place nowadays, where too much attention paid to children is likely to result in false accusations of pedophilia coming from someone, but there are many of us (and I am one), who are not even particularly fond of children (much as I love my own).  All I suggest, however, is that an extra pair of eyes and ears can't hurt when it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being our own and our neighbors' children.


8) If a problem arises, be careful how you broach the subject.
Sometimes, depending on what the issue might be, it is simply better to turn the other cheek and ignore minor things that might arise with neighbors.  Of course, things like habitual loud music, drunken parties, spousal abuse, and obvious drug use are something else entirely, and I'd suggest calling the police rather than trying to intervene yourself.  Too much margin for errors in judgment and physical harm.  No, I'm talking about things like noisy children at play in the backyard during the day, an occasional barking dog, or a Christmas wreath or doormat in an apartment or condominium hallway.  Tread very carefully here, and think a long time before you open your mouth.  People are odd creatures, so why risk an unpleasant outburst from someone, which will very probably lead to tension down the road, for something like a few sunflower seed husks that find their way from his birdfeeder to your back deck?  Know what I mean?  Sometimes, it's just better to let things like that go than it is to kick up a fuss and breed hostility between your respective households.


9) Know when to keep yourself to yourself.
This last point is a biggie chiefly because so many people have forgotten how to keep themselves to themselves.  In 2013, the prevailing way of existence, for many people, seems to be in your face, whether it involves their music, behavior, interaction with others, speech, children, to attire or pets, to how often and loudly they come and go from their abodes.  It rarely seems to occur to them that they might very well be stepping on someone's toes, figuratively speaking, in some way.  And woe be to the person who says something like, "Excuse me, but I'd rather you didn't do that again, please."  Many people, inexplicably, forget themselves and do not react well to having an offense they have committed brought to their attention.  The best (and most childish) form of defense is attack after all, and too many people operate that way.  Few seem to be aware of the concept of living a quiet life in which they do not somehow infringe upon others.  The prevailing attitude seems to be, "Too effing bad!  I'll do what I like."  Sadly, we have indeed become that self-centered and inconsiderate.  We might do well, however, to take a page from the poet Robert Frost's book, who concluded his poem Mending Wall with the line, "Good fences make good neighbors."  In other words, be considerate of others and keep yourself to yourself.  It's not hard if you make an effort to become and remain sensitive to others.


There you are.  While there are certainly other things to keep in mind, these nine points will help average guys, who are looking to kick up their everyday style several notches, cultivate better neighborly relations. In no way am I suggesting with the above suggestions that we live in each others' pockets or attach our noses to each others' elbows 24/7.  No one likes, or should have to put up with, a nosy busybody.  But a little more friendly, pleasant, and helpful contact between us average guys and our neighbors might be a good thing.  It could very well help to make our neighborhoods friendlier, more cohesive places and help reverse recent disturbing societal trends.  Think about it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Doublebreasted Jacket on Campus. . .

 A photo of yours truly, horsing around in the afternoon sun following school yesterday afternoon.

Who is that grinning and horribly overdressed ass?  Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright?  Augustus Fink-Nottle?  Or is it Tuppy Glossop?  Neither.  It's yours truly, Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke, once again modelling the Ralph Lauren Glen Plaid double-breasted jacket, purchased from An Affordable Wardrobe earlier this fall, yesterday afternoon.  The fit is great, and it's a very comfortable piece.  Heavy flannel, but not quite as heavy as my heavier tweed jackets, so for a sunny, late fall day, it was ideal with an overcoat for the walk to and from campus.  My Russian colleagues, who have remarked several times in the past how sloppily informal they find many American college and university campuses, complemented me on it, something that is always nice to hear.  About the jacket I mean.  The other garments included:

* Brooks Brothers red and white stripe oxford cloth button-down
* Daks silk necktie
* Bachrach charcoal wool flannel pants
* Allen Edmonds chocolate brown shoes
* Linen pocket handkerchief
* Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi pin on my lapel

-- Heinz-Ulrich


 
 A close-up shot, to illustrate the various patterns a bit more clearly.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Introductions, Thank-yous, and Excuse Mes. . .

 When you meet someone new for the first time, establish eye contact, shake hands firmly, and exchange correct verbal salutations.

A somewhat shorter post today.  I'm simply worn out after yesterday's marathon writing, proofreading, and editing sessions.  Almost 11am here, and so time for the first scotch and water of the day I think. . .  Joking, joking!  Only joking.  We wait until at least Noon on Sundays here at Stollen Central before the process of knocking 'em back starts in earnest.  In the meantime, let's briefly talk about introductions, thank-yous, and excuse mes, three areas of social interaction and exchange that too many average guys (and people in general) get wrong in the 21st century.

Where introductions are concerned, the correct thing to say when you meet someone for the first time, and hopefully shake his or her hand firmly is, "How do you do?"  Please, please, please do not use the ubiquitous "Nice to meet you" or the even more dreadfully common "S'up?"  To say that informal forms of address like these, and other similar ones, are overused in an understatement of the highest degree.  And don't you dare lapse thoughtlessly into the completely informal and totally inappropriate "Hey!", which now seems to be cropping up everywhere, even in more formal situations.  

If you are in Sweden, then sure, "Hej!" (pronounced almost the same way as our English word) might work although Swedish retains a more formal introductory form of address too, and if you're going to find yourself in Sweden or those parts of Finland where the language is still spoken, then it's a good idea to find out about Swedes' preferred forms of introduction and address in formal and informal settings.  But in the English-speaking world, remember that "How do you do?" still holds sway in formal and first-time meetings with people.  When you are meeting someone again, or getting together with an old friend or acquaintance, who you see fairly often, then the less formal "Good to see you!  How are you?"  might suffice.

What about thank-yous?  As far as these go, the correct response when someone thanks you for a courtesy, favor, assistance, or service rendered is "You're welcome."  An average guy who is concerned about kicking up his everyday style a few notches and standing out from the sloppy herd will not, under any circumstances, mumble the overused and incorrect "No problem," which always comes across as though it is an afterthought and seems to suggest that helping the person in question was somehow a huge imposition.  Know what I mean?  

I'm sure you've encountered it so many times already that you probably don't notice it.  The cashier or barista who was too busy talking to his or her co-worker to look at you as you handed over your payment.  That does not excuse "No problem" or mean it's anything approaching polite.  Newsflash!  If you are behind a counter or working the floor in any kind of retail establishment, restaurants and cafes included, customer service is part of your job, so of course it's not a problem to assist someone.  If it really and truly is a hardship of some kind for you, then you ought to be in a different line of work .  Otherwise, the correct response to "Thank you" is "You're welcome."

That brings something else to mind.  When someone says "Excuse me" as you brush past each other in a doorway or elevator, the correct reply is "Excuse me."  What you will hear instead much more often these days is a weak "Sorry," which now has to be one of the most overused words in the English language besides "love."  When certain words become such incredibly common currency, they cease to have any meaning attached to them at all.  Most of the time.  It's just an inconsequential sound we utter.  A stupid-sounding, shallow platitude.  And when there is any smidgeon of genuine sincerity behind a word as overused as "sorry" has become, how in the world is the other person in the exchange suddenly supposed to know that you are, in fact, truly apologetic?  

It's probably best in situations like going through doorways, bumping into people, and using elevators or escalators simply to allow the person in front of you to go ahead instead of schmunching yourself right in there with everyone else as though you are crowding onto the subway in New York City, the London Underground, Paris Metro, or a Tokyo bullet train at peak commuting hours.  When you absolutely cannot avoid those kinds of cheek-by-jowl situations, and you schimply musht schmunch together with your fellow humans, some of whom will most definitely be part of the great unwashed, then the correct and best response to "Excuse me" is simply another "Excuse me" before you continue about your business.  

Now, please excuse my intrusion on your Sunday morning.  Do forgive me.  In the fine tradition established many years ago by my lapsed Episcopalian, Baptist, and Methodist forbears from North Carolina and Georgia, I've got a scotch and water to mix.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And it's not "No problem" in reply to someone's "Thank you." 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Way You Speak Is Important. . .


 
You want to be heard, in at least two senses, anytime you talk to and converse with people, but how you speak might be getting in the way of that.

As some of you might have guessed from previous posts here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, I am a big fan of languages, dialects, and accents, both in my own native American English plus other languages I've been exposed to over the years.  Differences and deviations between the written word on the one hand and the spoken on the other are fascinating.

But how we talk is a huge factor in the way we come across to others during our interactions with them.  There is just no getting away from it.  Whatever your country or culture of origin and native language(s) might be, I'm willing to bet there are jokes floating around about the humorous misunderstandings that can and do arise due to differences in speech habits, patterns, and vocabulary.

A number of years ago, there was a very funny public service announcement on TV in Northern Germany helping to promote the use and preservation of the Platt dialect.  A bank robber arrives in a small, rural bank somewhere in the north of the country and attempts a stick-up.  The bankteller, who speaks Platt, fails to understand the robber, who speaks the more standard High German.  The robber, in turn fails to understand the teller.  The police, who also speak Platt it turns out, arrive a few moments later and shout repeated instructions at the robber to drop his gun and put up his hands.  In the end, after increasingly perplexed facial expressions on the part of the robber, the officers shoot him dead.  The message that flashes across the screen at the very end is something akin to, "This is why it is important for you to learn to speak and understand Platt."

Wonderfully dark German humor and my own consuming socio-linguistic interests aside, that public service ad raises issues about how our everyday speech fits into the notion of personal style, the presentation of ourselves, and what others might think or assume about us based on how we speak.  Sloppy and careless speech habits are things that might lead others to draw certain misguided conclusions about us.  Naturally, we want to avoid coming across as uneducated and inarticulate, so consider the following points and how they might function in this regard:


1) Upspeak
This is a biggie in American English currently and has it origins in the affluent San Fernando valley girl speak of the late 1970s-early 80s.  Valspeak achieved brief notoriety thanks to Frank Zappa's hilarious song Valley Girl in 1982 and a film that came out at about the same time called Valley Girl, featuring a young Nicholas Cage.  While terms like "Bitchin'!" "Gag me with a spoon!", and "Barf me out!" are no longer in current use, the phenomenon known as Upspeak remains and has since spread across the U.S.  What, pray tell, is Upspeak?  Very simply, the phrasing of everything that comes out of one's mouth as though it were a question, except it's not a question, with the characteristic rising intonation at the end of a sentence.  Believe it or not, you'll even run into extremely bright female academics with Ph.D.s and female graduate students who let it creep into their speech, in conference presentations no less!  But let's not single out women since there are also plenty of men who suffer from Upspeak too.  How can we take people with this particular speech habit seriously though?   Besides making someone seem, well, just stupid, Upspeak also makes it seem as though a guy is completely unsure of himself and whatever it is that he might be trying to say.

 

2) Poor Grammar
I could easily go on and on about this, but here's the shortened version of the message, and there is academic research out there to back it up.  Use correct grammar in your speech.  Always.  Otherwise you risk coming across as uneducated, uncultivated, and, well, ignorant.  Presumably, those are three impressions we do not want to leave with other people, and they will help relegate you to the socio-economic periphery.  So, a guy should think before he speaks and make some effort here.  And I don't wanna hear no stinkin' complainin' about it. 

 

3) Garbled Speech
You know what it's like when you can't quite tune in a station on an older radio?  Or when two or three stations are all interfering with one another on the same frequency?  You get frustrated, stop listening very quickly, and retune to something else, don't you?  Garbled speech has the same effect on people.  No one can understand much of what a mushmouth says, so they stop listening very quickly and avoid doing so again if at all possible.  So, be sure to stop mumbling if this speech habit has ever been pointed out to you as a malady you suffer from.  A guy might have the most profound, eloquent thoughts and ideas in the world.  But when people cannot understand what he is saying, how can he expect to bowl them over with his brilliance?  So, take pains to enunciate your speech clearly for the love of Pete, and stop having a private conversation with that little guy in your shirt pocket.  And the contraction of "did not" is pronounced "didn't". . .  not "din't".

 

4) No Eye Contact
Establish and maintain eye contact with people to whom you are speaking or listening.  It indicates interest, engagement, and that you are actually following and processing what is said even when it is not directly to you.  This is true whether it involves a team meeting with your project leader at work one Friday afternoon, to nail down some numbers and projections before the weekend, or those various informal gatherings most of us enjoy with friends and family during our downtime.  Looking at people when they speak to you, or you speak to them, is a very basic tenet of being polite.  And it's extremely rude when a guy fails to do so.

 

5) Mispronunciation
Presumably, this particular problem arises because 1) either people really don't know any better, or 2) they are making some attempt to sound more educated without double-checking a dictionary, old-fashioned doorstop or online version, for correct pronunciation first.  This particular issue is also made more difficult since there are numerous regional variations on and accepted ways of pronunciation.  At least as far as English is concerned in the second decade of the 21st century.  Consider, for a moment, the differences between and within the American, British, Canadian, Australian, and Indian varieties of the language.   These differences aside, what I am really talking about, though, are the habitual mispronunciations you'll hear, if you open your ears, of a word like "supposedly" for example.  "Supposebly" anyone?   Surely, you've heard it, and it sounds as sweetly harmonious as nails on a blackboard to someone who knows better.  It's just one of several similar errors that make a speaker sound inarticulate.  "Eunuch" is another one.  Make sure to say it correctly.


6) Incorrect Word Use
Often, this point is related to the one just above on mispronunciation.  Before you begin using new and unfamiliar words like the following in conversation (or in writing), make sure you understand what "epitome," "irony," "compel," "impel," "affect," "effect," "literally," "myriad" and a host of other commonly misused words actually mean and convey.  And sometimes certain words have particular prepositions that go with them,  When a wrong one is used, as in "based off" versus the correct "based on," it looks and sounds strange even when people can't quite put their finger on what the trouble is.  For the most part, it's painfully clear from the context of a statement or question that many people who attempt to use words like these don't have a full grasp of their precise meanings or uses.  So, average guys working on this particular facet of their everyday style need to exercise caution here and, again, consult a dictionary (Surprise!) to clear up any possible misunderstandings before embarrassing themselves by misusing a word publicly for the first (or 100th) time.

 

7) A Habitually Loud Voice 
Sadly, there seem to be many average guys out there who hold every conversation, regardless of setting or subject matter, at a high volume, just like they are with buddies at a crowded bar or in a football stadium with filled by a roaring capacity crowd.  In other words, the voice is raised all of the time, not quite to the level of a yell, but almost.  And lest you think this charming habit is the sole preserve of terminal man-children and their close cousins the slightly younger dude-bros, there are plenty of women out there who do this too.  My advice?  Be mindful of the environment in which you find yourself and lower your voice  accordingly.  Relax there Finnegan, Parker, Morgan, Connor, and Biff.  No one is suggesting that you go through life whispering like a cartoon spinster librarian.  Don't get your dude-bro hackles up and throw empty beer bottles at me.  But unless you are speaking to 500 people in an auditorium without the aid of a public address system, there is no reason to be that loud all of the time.  Keep your voice down.

 

8) Jargon and Slang
These too sometimes inhibit understanding and also possibly function as an invisible barrier between you and your listeners.  At best, overuse of jargon and slang might simply result in someone saying, "You aren't from around here, are you?" or "Boy, you've sure got that corporate HR-speak thing nailed!"  But certain stronger language risks making people shy away from you and avoid contact.  That's worth thinking about. Besides, fewer things sound sillier than an obviously middle-class white boy attempting to mimic stereotypical urban thug speech like we encounter so much in popular media now.  Specifically, I mean things like referring to women in any context as "hos" and "bitches".  Seriously?  There are many other similar turns of phrase out there, not all of which have to do with women, that are equally troubling.  Talk like that is offensive in the extreme on at least two counts, makes you sound incredibly and irredeemably ignorant, and risks alienating others.  There's no other way to put it.  Since we want to kick up our everyday style several notches, hopefully sounding more polished, articulate, and appealing in the process, this particular point is worthy of deep reflection.  It's time to set that king-sized attitude to one side for a while and think rationally about this.  How do you want others to perceive you, your background, education, and abilities? 

 

9) Distracting, Annoying, and Stupid Filler Words.
Little filler words that allow a speaker's mind to sych up with his mouth, and vice versa, like "um" and "uh"  immediately spring to mind.  Still other fillers include the ubiquitous "like" uttered at the start of, or within, every other sentence by some along with newer arrivals like "dude" and "bro."  These latter two seem to be largely the preserve of, though by no means exclusive to, the North American college fraternity brother subset, or those who aspire to behave and look like them.  But an overabundance of filler words in your speech risks making you sound like a you haven't got a clear, coherent thought in your head.  Have you ever overheard a loud group of high school or college-aged guys?  It really is "Dude this. . ." and "Bro, that. . ."  And if a guy is middle-aged, say, over 40 years old, beginning almost every statement with words like "dude" and "bro" succeeds only in making him seem pathetic in the extreme.  It's the verbal equivalent of a guy whose teens and undergraduate years are decades behind him still running  around most of the time in frayed cargo shorts, flip-flops, an old college or professional team sweatshirt, and a backwards baseball cap with the sunglasses on top also arranged oh-so-carefully to face backwards.  "Step off, George, just step off!"  Need I say more?

 

10) Routine Use of Obscenity
I've written about this particular point here before on The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, so I won't go on ad nauseam about it now.  But peppering his everyday speech with certain four-letter words, or their derivatives, makes a guy seem cheap, trashy, and common whatever his age, background, education, or occupation.  If you find yourself unable to express a thought without a choice word or four spilling out of your mouth, it's a problem.  At the very least, dial it down several notches within professional environments, around children, in mixed company at public places like restaurants or movie theaters, and in more solemn environments like church or temple, as well as various other religious and civic ceremonies.  Most people, sadly, seem reluctant to say anything these days to someone who spews forth vitriol like this with no apparent regard for others.  However, just because people might not tell you to shut your cussin' potty mouth does not mean it's inoffensive to many of them and thus somehow alright.  Let's not further mangle the enlightened idea of freedom of speech to save us the very real need for watching our mouths, eh?  Why not show a little respect for others, as well as a little self-restraint, and put a lid on it?  Thanks very much.
 


Now, I'm hardly suggesting that the average guys who take pains to kick up their everyday style several notches should attempt to sound like Cary Grant, 1940s-era BBC radio, or Pathe News announcers when they speak.  No point in coming across as strangely affected, since that kind of delivery would sound very odd in 2013.  But there is a happy medium to find somewhere between that extreme at one end and the careless speech habits outlined above on the other.  How others perceive you, right or wrong, often has to do with more than your external appearance.  So, the next time you think about your style, consider more than just the clothes on your back or the kind of "product" you smear through your hair.  In the broadest sense, style also has a great deal more to do with how we conduct ourselves as men in the company of others than the type of shoes, weave of a necktie, or kind of jacket lapel we prefer.  That is something rarely, if ever, mentioned in the online menswear community of websites, blogs, and discussion forums, but how we speak and behave are things that should get more attention than they do. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich