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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

A jolly 18th century scene to usher out 2014 and pave the way for 2015.

Wishing you a Happy and Stylish New Year from The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style!  Make 2015 the year you finally decide to kick up your everyday style several notches. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Dressing. . .

A quick shot of my lower extremities just prior to supper on Christmas Day 2014.

Christmas Day provided an all-too-rare chance to dress for dinner, and I seized the opportunity to do so.  Above, you can observe a so-so pair of Johnston-Murphy black tasseled loafers, brand new Dapper Classics candy cane socks, and some light gray flannel dress pants.  On top, I wore my usual heavy flannel navy blazer with a maroon, dark green, and yellow mini-plaid sportshirt, and a muted green knit silk tie.  Oh, and I tucked a rather festive blue, red, gold, and white Italian pocket square into the outer chest pocket of my blazer.  

I'll probably wear a variation of this ensemble for drinks and dessert with friends here at home tomorrow evening, and again with a couple of old grad school friends with whom we are dining out on January 2nd.  Rest assured, I'll not wear the exact same items again, since I have a few different blazers and several pairs of gray or charcoal flannel dress pants in the ol' winter wardrobe at this point.  A blazer and gray flannel pants have, it seems, become my default evening attire when I want to feel somewhat casual yet still 'dressed.'  I just can't bring myself to use the term 'smart casual' however.  Sorry.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Greeting. . .


Wishing all visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style -- regular, occasional, and random -- a peaceful and joyous Christmas.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Christmas Eve 2014 Style including a Dale Classic Norwegian sweater, a Christmas 2000 gift from Mom and Step-Dad.

Monday, December 22, 2014

11 Stylish Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas. . .

A seasonally stylish gent -- Bertie Wooster assisted by Jeeves perhaps? -- depicted on the cover of the December 24, 1927 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

If you have yet to finish your Christmas and holiday shopping -- especially where the men on your list are concerned -- you could do worse than the items suggested below.  Here are 11 last minute items that you can present to the men on your list to help them become more stylish, well-groomed, and sophisticated.


1) Zippo Cigarette Lighters
The cigarette, pipe, or cigar smoker on your list will appreciate a classic stainless steel Zippo lighter which automatically elevate his style several notches.  Do make sure though to supply a small container of lighter fluid along with the lighter.  Visit Zippo.com for these and related supplies, but keep whatever lighter you might select simple and understated.  In other words, it's probably best to skip any kind of conspicuous symbols or insignia.  These usually border on the tacky, and that is not really what we're after, is it?

2) Swiss Army Knives
A smaller model from either Wenger or Victorinox with a blade or two, some scissors, and perhaps the tweezer and toothpick features built into the handle will come in handy for all kinds of things besides opening mail.  Neat items to give and own, and lots of women like 'em too.  While better sporting goods stores might have some of these on display inside locked glass display cabinets, these days I'd suggest simply visiting Victorinox.com, Swissarmy.com, or Wengerna.com.

3) Slim Dress Watches
A bit pricier, perhaps, but few things convey sophistication and good taste like a slim dress wristwatch on a leather strap peeking out from beneath a shirt cuff and sports jacket sleeve.  Bulova and Seiko are two classic brands to consider although you can certainly spend much more.  But avoid the hackneyed, clunky, and ostentatious sports watch with a metal band.  Fewer things scream "trying too hard" than a Rolex or similar luxury watch.  I'd suggest looking around online for a wristwatch, however, rather than paying premium prices for one at a jeweler or department store.  Timex.com even has a few understated classic men's wristwatches for sale at very reasonable prices, but again, avoid the more expensive, gaudier models you'll also find there.

4) Leather Dress Gloves
Available from better online suppliers and physical department stores as well as haberdashers.  And nothing looks better with a trench coat or heavier overcoat during the cold months than a pair of brown, tan, or black leather gloves.  Alternatively, you might try visiting a sight like LeatherGlovesOnline.com, which offers a variety of men's leather dress gloves at numerous price points.

5) Shaving Mugs and Brushes
Introduce the man on your gift list the relaxing morning of 'wet shaving' with a traditional shaving mug and brush.  Even with modern triple- and quadruple-blade razors, shaving will be closer and more comfortable.  Easily found online and in better physical department stores and/or haberdashers.  Em's ShavePlace.com is just one of many online outlets where you can find shaving mugs, brushes and other 'wet shave' shaving equipment.

6) Woolen Winter Scarves
Give the man on your list a bit of dash by presenting him with a wool winter scarf to wrap around his neck and shoulders. Avoid the man-made stuff if at all possible.  Once again, you can find these online or in the better physical department stores and haberdashers.

7) Leather Wallets or Bill Clips
Wallets do eventually wear out, so this might be the year you want to replace you man's (or your own) with a new, shiny wallet in which to keep his driver's license, a credit card, emergency contact information, and any paper money he carries.  An understated metal bill clip might be a good alternative.  You can find these in many of the better department stores, haberdashers, and through various online outlets, but please, avoid anything with a skull and crossbones, marijuana leaves, or Harley Davidson logos!

8) L.L. Bean Boots
Excellent for wading through the snow, slush, and winter slop.  And extremely comfortable too.  Sadly, Bean Boots have already been out of stock for some weeks at L. L. Bean and on backorder well into 2015, due to a spike in popularity among millenials, but don't despair.  You can find similar boots from outlets like Sorel, J. Crew, Sperry, and Cabela.  Just look around online.

9) Quality Pipe Tobaccos
There aren't many pipe smokers left these days it seems, but a few men out there still enjoy smoking a pipe now and then.  If you know just such a man, how about presenting him with some special high quality pipe tobacco from a place like David's Gifts and Tobacco or SmokingPipes.com

10) Corduroy Jeans
Casual and warm for winter, and a darn sight better looking for evenings and weekends ar home (or out) than ratty khakis, over-sized jeans, or sweatpants.  Outlets like Land's End, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and others sell these, and you might even still be able to order a few pairs for the man on your list and have them arrive in the nick of time for Christmas.  I'd suggest seasonal colors like golden tan, russet, dark green, and brown, or even dark red for those more adventurous soles on your giftlist. 

11) Essential Manners for Men by Peter Post
If the young man on your list is an adolescent, a teenager, or even college-aged, a useful and necessary  book like Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It, and Why (2003) by Peter Post is just the thing.  It presents all kinds of useful and relevant information about how a stylish and considerate adult male should conduct and present himself in an engaging and accessible way.  I cannot recommend it enough.  The book is available from Amazon.com.


And with that, all that remains is simply for me to wish both occasional and routine visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style a  peaceful and joyous Christmas.  Thank you for your continued interest and support.  Be sure to tune in during Christmas Week and at the start of the new year for more of my usual take on male style in the broadest sense.  Merry Christmas!

-- Heinz-Ulrich


A Victorian or Edwardian image of Father Christmas long before he morphed into the now universal red-robed Coca-Cola Santa Claus.  I prefer these quieter, older images of  ol' Saint Nick.  Something about illustrations like this one reminds me of my own childhood although I came along long after these images first appeared.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Wedding Guest Style. . .

Sedate, understated attire for an evening wedding and reception.

Here's how it's done for male wedding guests. . .  or should be but, sadly, is not always these days.  It took very little time to assemble the ensemble pictured.  The most time necessary was about 20 minutes yesterday afternoon, to iron the shirt, which has French cuffs.  These require a bit more time to press , fold, and crease into place, so that they look right once you are dressed and cufflinks are added.  Note, cufflinks and the metal fittings on your wristwatch should match.  Gold with gold, or silver with silver.  Don't mix the two if you can avoid it.

Otherwise, little time or thought was necessary before I dressed late in the afternoon yesterday.  It was simply a matter of opening the ol' wardrobe, selecting the suit (heavy wool flannel -- every bit as comfortable as pajamas), a silk Glen Plaid necktie, black shoes, and dark to-the-knee dress socks.  Took about three minutes, once again dispelling the common misconception that dressing presentably takes lots of time.  It took only another ten minutes, perhaps less, after a quick shower and shave to get dressed.  I was all ready to go in about half an hour. 

You'll notice that everything is subtle, staid, understated, and reserved -- take your pick of adjectives -- as it should be for more formal occasions like weddings.  After all, the bride and groom are the ones who should attract all attention on the big day, or evening as was the case yesterday.  My only concession to eye-catching craziness had to do with the socks which are navy with red stripes.  But no one saw these, and I certainly did not mention them.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.

Before anyone else asks about how appropriate the suit above was or was not, according to EmilyPost.com, a male wedding guest cannot go wrong with a dark gray suit, conservative dress shoes, conservative shirt, and a traditional  conservative necktie combination when attending a wedding and associated reception. No specific mention made of stripes. . . pin, chalk, rope, or otherwise.  In our now exceedingly informal world, where a lot of men might have one suit hanging in their closets, maybe, a three-piece suit with muted stripes is not something you see everyday.  It's far more likely that you'll see men in two-piece numbers either in black, charcoal, or, once in a while, navy.  When they wear suits at all. 

That said, no one turned to gawk when we entered the restaurant where the reception was held, my suit did not seem to distract attention from the bridal pair, and I even received a few quiet compliments later during the evening from women and men alike.  Not something I seek, of course, but it's always nice to hear a few kind words as a parenthetic aside during the general conversation.  So, when the next cold weather wedding invitation comes around, I'll once more don this particular combination of items and go forth with great aplomb.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Casual End of the Semester Style. . .

Who IS that dangerously unbalanced man??!!  My take on an off Broadway out-of-work actor's (a.k.a. a waiter's) uniform.

While I initially entertained thoughts of sending off the students from my Horror Cinema course with a double-breasted suit of some kind this afternoon, when we met one final time for them to turn in their term papers, I opted for corduroy and tweed in the end.  

A slight cold has kind of taken it out me today, and I simply did not feel like suiting up.  You know how over-the-counter medications can sometimes clear your head congestion, but at the same time you don't exactly feel 100%?  Yeah.  It's like that.  A bit woozy.  Hence the lopsided grin and rather more relaxed combination of clothes along with no necktie above.

Anyway, here's a breakdown of everything shown:

* Land's End Harris Tweed Jacket
* No-name Silver-Gray Italian Silk Pocket Square
* Land's End Corduroy Jeans
* L.L. Bean Shetland Wool Sweater
* Land's End Hyde Park Button-Down Tattersall Oxford Cloth Shirt
* Olive and Cream Argyll Socks
* Allen Edmond's Suede Camp Moccasins
* J. Peterman University College-Dublin Scarf (A Christmas gift from good, ol' Mom sold by The original REAL J. Peterman.  It's 20+ years old.)


The combination shown above consists of thrifted items, gifts, and things purchased at huge end-of-season discounts.  The point?  If you shop carefully, pay attention to getting things that will combine easily with stuff you already own, drop clear hints when gift-giving occasions like birthdays and Christmas are on the horizon, get decent quality items (not necessarily the most expensive), and choose classics over current trendy items, it's not hard to assemble a versatile classic man's wardrobe in fairly short order.  It just takes a little awareness,  desire, knowledge, and determination.

It strikes me that attire similar to that pictured might also be equally suitable for all but the most formal Christmas- and holiday-related activities, events, and meals in which most of us might be included over the next few weeks.  Certainly here in the United States where most people have developed an almost pathologic, unfounded, and irrational fear of anything approaching formality where dress and polite behavior are concerned.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.
It has finally occurred to me why so many people seem to fear dressing and behaving appropriately. . .  lack of familiarity with the concept of doing so.  That's it.  We tend to shy away from and avoid things with which we are unfamiliar, and sadly, thanks to a variety of social trends over the last almost half century, how to dress and conduct oneself within and outside the home are completely foreign concepts to more people than ever before.  I am sure many might take issue with that observation, but I remain reasonably certain that it is true nonetheless.  But isn't the notion of presenting ourselves in the best possible light at all time -- a greater awareness of what is appropriate and when as well as greater consideration for others -- something we should all work to reintroduce?  I think so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

24 Ways to Look (and Act) Better Than Average This Christmas Season. . .

An illustration from a 1950s advertisement for Schweppe's beverages.

With the 2014 Christmas and Holidays Season already in full swing, it's worth remembering our aim to dress and conduct ourselves better than has become the sad average among so many nominal "men" out there.  Coarse behavior and thoughtlessness seem to be the rule rather than the exception for too many in the second decade of the 21st century.  So, here are two dozen pointers to keep in mind when it comes to our appearance and actions at the various Christmas and holiday gatherings we might attend at this festive time of year.  Come to think of it, much of what follows below is also applicable at home and throughout the rest of the year.  Ready, guys?  Then, strap in and hang on tight, 'cause here we go!


1) Put on a blazer or sports jacket, or, heck, even a suit and tie when you attend those special Christmas and holiday events.  Nothing wrong with looking like an adult man whose slovenly undergraduate years are now behind him.  Right?

2) Wear a pressed oxford cloth button-down collar shirt in light blue, white, pink, or blue university stripes beneath your blazer or jacket.  It's a relaxed yet very pulled together look -- what used to be called 'casual chic' -- that will instantly mark you as a stylish man.  For an even more debonair look, a navy/black turtleneck pull-over below that blazer or sports jacket will work equally well.  Thank David Niven and Robert Wagner in The Pink Panther, and of course the early Beatles always looked superb in turtlenecks and sports jackets.

3) Ditch the jeans before you go out and put on a pair of charcoal or gray creased wool flannel dress pants with a belt that match you shoes.  After all, events that take place during the Christmas and holiday season are usually pretty special.  It won't kill you to leave the jeans at home once in a while, you know?

4) And if wool flannel dress pants don't float your boat, how about corduroy dress pants? A pair in golden tan is perhaps the most versatile and can be easily dressed up or dressed down without too much thought or effort.  Add a pair of loafers, an OCBD shirt, a crewneck wool sweater with a sports jacket over top, and you're ready for almost anything the holidays throw at you from shopping at the local mall, to attending all but the most formal of parties, and anything in between.  It's really hard to go wrong here with tan dress cords.  Unless you mistakenly put on a pair of over-sized white Jerry Seinfeld sneakers with them of course.  Whatever you do though, don't you dare attend a holiday party, Christmas open house, or set foot inside a church wearing sweat pants!  Even Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple by Neil Simon never did that.  What are you?  A complete cretin?

5) If you're going to wear a necktie, skip the goofy novelty varieties that proliferate at this time of year and opt instead for a more traditional and classic tartan wool tie.  These add an instant festive air to any ensemble without making you look like a clueless and cheesy goofball.  Know what I mean?


 A very pleasant 1950s seasonally appropriate image.


6) Or, maybe you'd like to shake things up and wear either a tartan wool vest or a pair of wool plaid "Go to Hell" dress pants.  Either garment would look good paired with a solid color OCBD shirt and a navy blazer, but wear only a single plaid item at a time.  We don't really need to say why, do we?  You're not Rodney Dangerfield or Ted Knight in the film Caddy Shack after all.

7) Leave the athletic shoes in the closet and put on a pair of leather loafers, either penny, or tasseled.  The latter are a bit dressier if you're going to wear a jacket of some sort and a tie on top.

8) Shine your shoes and dust the welts before you put 'em on too.  Don't forget to make sure your belt and shoes match pretty closely in color and gloss.

9) Don a classic adult male's overcoat of some kind -- trench, duffle, topcoat, tweed, etc. -- when you get ready to attend those Christmas and holiday events, and leave the cheap neon windbreaker, grease-stained hoodie, and/or Nascar emblazoned winter coat where they belong, hanging at home in the hall closet.

10) How about pulling up your damn pants and putting on a belt, hmmm?  No one really wants to see your ass and funky boxers anyway, and they should not have to.  Not even at Christmas time.  Now, you might labor under the delusion that your posterior is God's gift, but let me assure you that most of the rest of the civilized world does not share your opinion.  Cover it up, and if you're really that heavy, lose some serious weight and get a larger size of both underwear and pants in the meantime.  Got it? 


Was beer-drinking ever this glamorous?


11) Shave your face, clip, and clean you nails in advance!  Newsflash!  Even your close family at home deserves these basic considerations to say nothing of people who have been kind enough to invite you to their Christmas or holiday celebration or event.  Don't show up looking like Grizzly Adams, 'cause it's not 1975 anymore.  You know?  In case no one told you.

12) It amazes me how rude most of society has become when it comes to cellphone, I-pad, and/or other I-thingy use in public, so I'll just come right out with it.  Put your I-phone away (silence it first, or better yet leave the damn thing at home or in the car), and look at the people who are in the same room with and speaking to you.  Pay attention to them, respond to their attempts at conversation with more than single-syllable grunts, and do more than simply talk at each other while your attention is diverted elsewhere.  And do not, under the  penalty of death, get out your phones and check for new texts or e-mail at the supper table.  While we're at it, don't seek out the TV in someone else's house either and turn it on, so that you can stare at it like a zombie during the rest of the evening.  This happens a lot in my experience (though we hardly see that side of the family anymore), and it's unconscionable. 

13) Put on clean, crisp pajamas on Christmas Morning and or New Year's Day before appearing downstairs.  A nice flannel, silk, or wool robe over top is even nicer.  Not only do you look more presentable to everyone else, but imagine how decadently comfortable you'll feel until it's time to shower and dress later in the day.  Winston Churchill apparently ran much of the Second World War from his bed while wearing pj's and a dressing gown, so you can certainly put them on in a genuine attempt to kick up your own everyday style several notches come Christmas Day.  Bonus points if you wash your face, brush your hair, and clean your teeth too before heading downstairs, although you should do this anyway without the promise or incentive of extra credit.  It's called consideration for those you live with.

14) Mind your manners -- at the table and elsewhere -- when you attend Christmas and holiday events and dinners, or even if you're just having a quiet day with your nearest and dearest at home.  Frankly, you should do this the rest of the year too.  Do I really need to remind you?

15) Don't be the loudest voice in the room when you attend a Christmas or holiday party in someone's home, or in public.  It is anything but attractive or funny.  Whether alcohol is involved or not, you don't want to be that guy.  Trust me.  Other people will notice and pity your spouse or partner for having to endure such an obnoxious loudmouthed blowhard.  That's not really how you want to come across, is it?


Another beer ad!  People must have really liked their beer in the 50s although I suppose that was long before most people discovered wine in the United States.


16) Speaking of booze, watch how much you drink out on the town or in others' homes at their parties.  Don't make a spectacle of yourself due to a loud and ugly scene or simply because you puke on someone's shoes before the inevitable maudlin regret and contrition takes hold.  You won't be invited back the next time a gathering is planned.  Or, at least, you shouldn't be if you act like this.

17) Don't camp out over the buffet table and hog all of the Christmas and holiday treats , taking much more than your fair share when you've been invited to someone's home or at the numerous office parties that happen around this time of year.  Help yourself to a reasonable (smaller portions than you might think) amount of a few items, get a drink of something in your cup or glass, and then circulate to another part of the room, so that people who arrive after you might have a chance to sample some of that same holiday fare.

18) And since office parties have come up, I'll speak plainly here.  Keep the little general in check and do not let him think for you.  I don't care how cute and flirty that foolish and tipsy young intern or new hire might seem.  The world has moved on since the heady days of Mad Men, and you're just asking for trouble if you have a drunken quickie with someone from the office.  Capice?  Just don't do it.  Best case scenario, you'll live to regret it, and that's assuming you aren't terminated from your job outright. . .  or dragged into a legal dispute involving sexual harassment charges because people WILL find out about your daliance sooner or later.  So, be smart about this kind of thing and stay far away from office hook-ups and affairs.  Why screw up your life and/or career because your already poor judgment has been made even worse by a few drinks?  Keep your personal and professional lives separate and get your kicks somewhere else with someone who has nothing to do with your workplace.

19) Never show up for Christmas and holiday gatherings without some kind of tasteful host or hostess gift.  Some might scoff that it's overdone, but a bottle or two of decent, mid-priced wine, some sherry, port, good scotch whisky (better blends or single malt), or champagne are always nice as is a box of good quality candy or a seasonal flower arrangement.  But there are lots of other ways you might demonstrate your appreciation to your hosts.  Use your imagination, but it's a good idea to skip the joke gifts, which rarely go over well. . .  even if your hosts are polite enough not to say anything about your own appalling lack of good taste.

20) Drop in on aging neighbors or relatives with something seasonal to nibble on, or better yet, include them in your own celebrations.  This can be a very lonely time of year for many people for various reasons.  Why not try to spread a little bit of light and happiness into someone's life even for just a few minutes.  In most cases, your company and conversation will mean a lot to someone in this situation.  Remember them always, but especially at this time of year.


Clearly, the younger set liked their 7up and Vienna Sausages during the 1950s  if this old ad illustration is anything to go by though!

   
21) If you're planning an engagement of some kind in your own home, help your spouse or significant other to prepare for the event.  Turn off the TV, leave the online computer games for another time, put down your I-phone and ask him or her what needs doing.  Run the vacuum cleaner, pick up and straighten your place, sweep and/or shovel any snow from the front walk and porch, put down Ice Melt, or ask for the grocery list and make a run to the supermarket and liquor store.  In other words, get off your lazy duff and help!

22) When attending a holiday event to which you've been invited, keep an eye on the clock and don't under any circumstances overstay your welcome.  It's always better to leave your hosts wanting to see more of you the next time around. . .  rather than leave a sour taste in their mouths, ensuring that your name is struck from the list of possible invitees for their next party because you're a thoughtless boor/bore, who doesn't know when it's time to go.  Think about it for a moment.  We have all observed these kinds of people at parties, and it's not something you want to do yourself.  Knowing when to leave a social gathering is an increasingly rare talent.  Cultivate it!

23) Sending out physical Christmas and holiday cards has become less common than once was the case not that many years ago, but I suggest it is time we reconsider things.  Afterall, the now ubiquitous mass mailing of cards stuffed with the impersonal and, if we are completely honest, unimaginative xeroxed letters bragging all about the kids' activities of the previous 12 months is so overdone that it has become a bad holiday cliche.  There is even a song about it.  So, how about sending out some Christmas or holiday cards with actual hand-written notes/signatures inside rather than the obnoxious bragging that masquerades as the yearly holiday update letter?  You know the kind.  Make your own holiday greetings a bit more personal, even if you limit yourself to sending out just 8-10 cards to your closest friends and family.  Don't rely on email or online social media for that kind of thing though whatever you do.  Tacky, tacky, tacky!

24) Finally, don't forget your spouse, partner, or special someone in the general hubbub that is the Christmas and holiday season for most of us.  If possible, arrange for some time out for just the two of you.  Maybe a visit to your local cafe, have lunch, go to dinner at a nice restaurant, or simply take a walk through the park without children, cell phones, or pets in tow.  Just the two of you.  Even 30 minutes will help remind you of what first attracted you to each other in the first place, and why you fell in love with each other.  And isn't that part of what this time of year is, or should be, all about?


There you are.  As always, none of this should have to be said, but, looking around, it seems like we have reached a new low as far as pleasant behavior, consideration, and general conduct are concerned.  Not that I am sure when that happened exactly. . .  although I have my suspicions how it has happened, but in the cheerful and charitable spirit of the season, we'll leave that topic for another time.  We certainly didn't carry on like this in my extended family, and the people my family knew did not either.  All in all, it was an extremely pleasant, polite, and also fun extended group -- close family, a few different generations of relatives, neighbors, and friends -- looking back at it.  Sadly, as an adult, I've become more conscious of and have observed all of the awkward behaviors and social gaffs alluded to above at any number of gatherings, at Christmastime and during the rest of the year.  

High time then that we back away from the let it all hang out, anything goes, incredibly self-indulgent attitudes of the last 40+ years or so and rein ourselves in a bit as a society.  Don't you think?  Let's start on a more personal level with the kinds of suggestions I make above.  It won't hurt you, really, to elevate your standards of behavior and attire a tiny bit.  At least as far as special occasions go.  Moreover, it will make a world of difference on a day-to-day basis in how pleasant we men are to have around as party guests, housemates, or close family members.  Honest. 

Remember, it's all about learning how to present oneself as a cultivated sophisticate. . .  that is, an adult male with a certain degree of polish and grooming in his dress, speech, attitudes, and habits.  Not only do we want to make a favorable first impression on people we meet, but we also want to preserve that image over time through consistent polite behavior, an awareness of occasion and what might be appropriate for it. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Style in Early December. . .

 A cafe treat for the Young Master, who did not accompany yours truly on my paper grading mission to the local cafe this afternoon.  But how could I not purchase a gingerbread man for him when I saw them grinning from the glass case beneath the cash register?

A lot going on around here since Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd check in today with a few photos of stylish seasonal items. . .  of the edible kind.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


The first of this year's authentic Dresdner Stollen baked by the Grand Duchess each December and fresh out of the oven.  The aroma filling the house when I returned home a while ago was heavenly.  While a properly done stollen is not exactly sweet like a sticky coffee cake or birthday cake, it tastes amazing with fresh, very black coffee..


Finally, yours truly, happy to have plowed through 20 or so undergrad papers (5-6 page critical website reviews).  I have several days' respite until I get another stack of final papers from one of my classes this semester later in the week and from the other two early next week.  Then, no classes again until around January 20th next year!  My usual weekend and evening attire during the winter months on full display here.  Everything is old or very old here.  It sure ain't what you could call brand spanking new.  Well-worn corduroy jeans (Land's End), an old OCBD shirt (Land's End), and a very old -- 20+ years -- Norwegian fisherman's sweater (the real McCoy) from L.L. Bean, which the company is selling again in its catalogs right now.  Jump on them before they disappear!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Be Resourceful. . .

 Yours truly, checking the grill late in the afternoon of  (American) Thanksgiving Day.  A single-breasted navy blazer completed the ensemble when we finally sat down to supper.

Our oven finally died in the midst of pie-baking late Wednesday afternoon this week, the day before Thanksgiving.  For a few moments, as my wife dialed various appliance repair people at 3:30pm, it seemed like the traditional Thanksgiving meal would need to be postponed by a few days until a service man could squeeze us into his schedule. 

Then it occurred to me that we had enough charcoal from this summer left in the backyard shed next to. . .   our Weber grill.  Voila!  Problem solved, and everything had a slightly charbroiled flavor yesterday evening, Thanksgiving Day, which was a delicious change of pace.  It's not often you get to save the day like MacGyver (as played by Richard Dean Anderson long before he starred on the Battlestar Galactica reboot)!  1980s pop culture and bad TV references aside, the point is that a guy should, within reason, use his resources and mental faculties when those occasional unforeseen events occur that life occasionaly drops into our laps. 

Anyway, Christmas has arrived a few weeks early here with us.  Turns out the old (electric) stove required a control panel part that needs to be special ordered and is expensive enough that it made more sense to purchase a new stove.  So, we've now got a plumber scheduled to reconnect an old gas line and have purchased a new gas stove (gotta love Black Friday sales at Sears), to be delivered next week.  That was our somewhat unusual, but no less happy, Thanksgiving Day. 

At the moment,  it's about 11am on the Friday morning of a long holiday weekend here in the United States.  I'm listening to Norwegian jazz online via Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK), sung by a male vocalist in a style reminiscent of the young Chet Baker. American jazz standards that have been translated into a West Norwegian dialect of all things.  The Grand Duchess and Young Master have gone a callin' for the day to visit an aging relative.  The house is now still, I've made another mug of coffee, and all is right with the world.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Another useful skill a man ought to acquire by the time he leaves home is knowing how to set a table beyond the bare bachelor minimum of a castoff microwaveable plate, plastic cup, and utilitarian spork.  In our house, I'm the one who sets the table most evenings and for special holiday occasions too.  Recently, the Young Master has started assisting me.  Whoever he one day marries or sets up house with will appreciate it as my mother remarked a number of times during my own formative year while showing me how to do various domestic things like set a table, wash and fold clothes, genuinely make a bed (with all of the necessary tucks and folds), and iron dress shirts.



 Black Friday 2014 style, including a 20+ year-old navy and cream L.L. Bean Norwegian fisherman's sweater, from a time when they still sold the genuine 'Made in Norway' article.  I bought and began wearing this long before I had any idea that people actually wore sweaters like these outside Norway or the rest of mainland Scandinavia.  I've observed Swedes and Danes in very similar items when in those countries during the winter.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksggiving!


Thanksgiving greetings to Americans at home and abroad.  While the state of the world at the moment is woeful, I nevertheless maintain that there is still a great deal in life for which to be thankful.

--Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another Evening Sittin' around the House. . .

Ahhhh. . .  No more classes for a few days.  Pre-Thanksgiving 2014. . .  the calm before the final week of classes this term and then. . .   Finals Week!

Who says you can't relax and feel comfortable at home without looking like a pile of old, cruddy rags?  One of my favorite combinations of items during the colder months of the year.  A heavy pink Oxford Cloth Button-Down collar shirt, dark green corduroy jeans with an older dark brown belt, and a pair of suede camp moccasins.  Warm, cozy, comfy, and yet I won't embarrass myself if I must answer the frontdoor or venture down the street and around the corner to pick up a forgotten item for my wife at the supermarket.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Remember Your Table Manners This (and Every) Holiday Season!

A seasonally appropriate scotch whisky advertisement.

The American Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us, and with it, the start of the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's Season.  While I naturally hope that regular readers of and occasional visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style will have to good graces NOT to show up to any special holiday dinners or other events dressed in hoodies, sweatpants, sagging jeans, and flip-flops or sneakers -- or, frankly, any other common attire worn by "the great unwashed" -- this post is not about that. 

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  With that idea in mind, here is a reprise of a post from November of 2012 (with a few small recent edits by yours truly), which presents all kinds of useful tabletop information, which used to be common knowledge.  At least in my particular dimension.  Sadly, however, that very knowledge about how to conduct oneself pleasantly at the table seems to have become more arcane and even esoteric in recent decades.  In any case, here we go. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich


*****

In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs that talk at length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting/perceiving ourselves as gentlemen.  Good.  That's a decent enough goal by itself.  However, it's only one small part of the picture.  There is another hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs and websites on the subject that I peruse and read each week.  What is it, you ask?  

Why, table manners of course.  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Yep, I said it.  And I'm making no apologies.  Table manners should be as much a part of our personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so.  Average guys ought to keep that in mind.  Even when we are at home with the door closed.  Newsflash!  Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.
 
However, because table manners are associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are a potentially explosive issue, prompting knee-jerk accusations of snobbery and arguments about elitism.  Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds come together socially.  

Sadly, lots of people labor under the delusion that table manners -- or indeed polite behavior and social niceties in general -- are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, and outmoded with no place in modern society.  And if that's your attitude, fine.  I can't change it.  

But let me make a few relevant points.  We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here.  Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around.  We are not cavemen, dogs, or farm animals eating from troughs after all.  Moreover, actions speak louder than words.  And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where and who we come from, as well as the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.    

Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with.  But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time.  Likewise, and I would argue even more important, we want to remain attractive, likeable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners.  The people with whom we share our lives and selves on a daily basis 24/7.  Why risk spoiling that with crude behavior?  Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children.  We want, hopefully, to teach our youngsters to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication before they are unleashed on the world.  Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not.   

So, without belaboring the point any further, here are 14 tips to remember that will go a long way in helping us average guys to be pleasant dining companions -- and more gentlemanly -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation.  Here we go:


1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally.  Don't forget it!  

2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you.  Don't slouch in your chair, and keep your feet confined to the space beneath your seat.  Don't swing your feet or stretch out your legs beneath the table into someone else's space.  Keep yourself to yourself.  Finally, keep your feet off the darn chair!  In other words, don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level. . .  something that seems to have reached epidemic levels these days.  Buck the trend, and just keep your feet where they belong.  On the floor.   

3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal.  Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.  Your napkin that is.  Not your elbow.   

4) Ask for things to be passed to you.  Don't reach.  

5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces.  Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth.  Ick!  

6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't hunch over your plate with an arm around it, picking through your food with your fork as though someone will swoop down and steal it.  We aren't vultures, so let's not act like it.   

7) Slow down!  Don't gobble your food as fast as you can.  This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.  

8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table.  Excuse yourself if and when this happens although it really  shouldn't at a table of older children and adults.  Chewing with your mouth closed might help.  

9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full.  No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion in the middle of relating something to him or her.  Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.  Oh, and try not to leave food particles on the edge of your glass.  Better yet, make sure you don't.  

10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils.  We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer.  

11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread.  Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is.  By the same token, DON'T lick your plate or utensils clean.  Yes, I know.  I've actually heard of families where this is the norm.  

12) Finally, please don't wipe your mouth with your hand or the back of your wrist when you are finished.  Use your napkin!  That's what it is for, but be discreet.  Your napkin is not a washcloth/face flannel for Heaven's sake, so don't scrub your entire face with it.  And it should go without saying that you never, ever blow your nose into it!  If you run into nasal issues during a meal, excuse yourself from the table without going into details and, once again, take care of the problem in private, well out of earshot of your dining companions at the table.

13) Avoid picking food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table.  I actually witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students.  Ugh!  But then, she was sitting with her knee bent and a foot on the seat of her chair, airing her differences to the other three young "ladies" (sarcasm intended) at the table with her, so I should not have been surprised.  In any case, if or when you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the matter privately in the restroom.   

14) Here's a final tip to keep in mind.  While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, etc. ) that is best left for another time.  If you absolutely need to discuss it at all.  Talking about things like that during meals is just plain crude and will probably put at least one other person at the table off of their food.  Really.  Our mothers raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be.  Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.  Right?

 
There we are.  Behaving like ravenous street curs at the table is not attractive (understatement of the year).  So, let's make sure we take the necessary steps to avoid coming across that way.  Start by making the various and sundry pointers above habitual.  Yes, even when you are alone.  Make pleasant behavior at the dining table a normal part of your routine, and you will be well on your way to becoming an extremely pleasant dining companion in most situations you'll encounter.  And, as I indicated previously, if you take issue with what I've said here and persist in ignoring it, that's fine.  We are certainly permitted our different points of view.  But there is probably little danger of us sitting down to enjoy a meal together anytime soon. 
 


A little pre-Thanksgiving wackiness from Heinz-Ulrich, who desperately needs a trim and will visit the barber tomorrow, so he looks somewhat more presentable for Thanksgiving Day.  The vintage Botany 500 wool overcoat is a recently purchased acquisition, less than US$14 via Ebay.  The pattern reminds me of many of those great old Laurence Fellows illustrations from the 1930s and 40s, a number of which featured men's overcoats.





 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Southwick 3/2 Houndstooth Suit. . .

The inaugural wearing of this particular Southwick suit, a fine tweed houndstooth number with a 3 roll to 2 coat.  

Our frigid weather has moderated somewhat, but today was nevertheless a good one for a heavier suit, and yesterday afternoon, I finally managed to reclaim this tweed number from my tailor Mrs. V. with whom it had resided for several weeks after the usual minor alterations.

Not only is the fabric weight heavier than any other suit I own, but the pants are fully lined to the ankles, so it's definitely not something to wear during the warmer months.  Or even late Spring and early Fall.  The suit did, however, keep me nice and toasty warm during the walks to and from campus today for classes and meetings with students to discuss their upcoming term papers.

As you'll notice in the above photograph, the size of this particular suit coat is a 40 Long, quite a bit longer than the current trend for ultra short sports jackets and suit coats.  And while detail freaks might sneer, I don't feel like the proportions are that off for my body.  I've got fairly long legs with a long torso too, and jackets and suit coats in a regular length sometimes look and/or feel a bit short on me.  

I prefer my seat to be well and truly covered by the jacket or coat in any case, so I don't worry too much about wearing sports jackets, blazers, and suit coats that are longer than current trendy tastes seem to dictate.  In fact, a number of items in my wardrobe are longer than what you might see in the pages of GQ, Esquire, or Men's Health at the moment (and how far we've sunk from the days of Apparel Arts), but that doesn't bother me one iota.  

Within reason, I'd advise guys to follow their own sartorial paths and go with what they like and what looks acceptable rather than to follow up-to-the-moment trends too slavishly.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


A close-up of the suit pattern, necktie, and pocket square.  Neither rhyme, nor reason be, but I was reasonably happy with it since I prefer to avoid the dreaded matchy-matchy disease that claims too many unsuspecting men.  I like to live a little dangerously where my attire is concerned, you know.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Betweeded for an Early and Frigid Winter's Day. . .

With eyes still watering from the cold outside, here's Heinz-Ulrich still in a Pendleton tweed overcoat and 20+ year old woolen scarf (a Christmas gift from Mom and Step Dad) but sans the 29-year old brown leather gloves (another Christmas gift from Mom).

Brrrrrr. . .  A frigid, and unseasonably cold, day for mid-November in my neck of the woods!  About 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a -8 degree windchill, and the sun is dropping fast at 4:43pm.  But we have nevertheless been provided with a perfect excuse to bundle up in tweed and flannel today.  

Everything show in today's pictures was thrifted for very little, or, in the case of the tweed overcoat, purchased via Ebay for very little.  Only the suede brogues, brown belt, and the dark red Argyll knee socks were purchased new.  Proof again, that a guy can look more than a little presentable in classic attire without breaking the bank.

One thing occurs to me with classic clothing items.  Whether you frequent thrift/charity shops, watch for sales, or pay full retail price, whenever you spot all-cotton light blue oxford cloth button down collar shirts, or wool flannel pants in gray, snap 'em up!  A guy can never have enough of these two items in his wardrobe.

The shirt in this instance is a very heavy-weight item sold under the Bass label, that I picked up in a thrift shop for almost nothing a week or so ago.  I'm not sure it was worn more than once.  The pants, made in Italy if that still means anything, were another item I stumbled across back in September at the other of my two reliable thrift outlets.  While I've already got a few of each item, typically one comes across so much junk in thrift/charity shops that it makes good sense to buy better quality items in decent shape when you find them.  

Of course, it is entirely possible to have too much stuff, but my way of thinking is like this.  To begin with, both of these items are extremely versatile "go to" pieces within the context of classic men's style, so it makes good sense to have a few of each clean and either folded in your drawer, or hanging in your closet.  Second, when you have a few, or even several, each of certain key items like these within your wardrobe, the general wear and tear that comes through normal wearings, washings, and dry-cleanings is spread out among them.  As a result, your clothing lasts much longer than if you depend on, for example, a single OCBD shirt, or a single pair of flannel pants.  

And there's your classic men's style tip for the day.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


And here's Heinz-Ulrich again in that recently acquired brown Harris Tweed jacket (made in the U.S.A.) from Land's End.  The subtle windowpane pattern consists of navy, maroon, and mustard yellow lines, and darned if I can't feel a partial canvas lining in the chest of the jacket.  It's certainly not fused.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tweed for a Blustery November Day. . .

Striking a pose in Zum Stollenkeller before a shelf of various books on horror films and plastic tubs of toy soldiers.

It has finally turned cold here in our neck of the woods, although we are not getting the snow that Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are supposed to receive during the next several days.  Our favorite X-country ski area, in fact, is ABR Trails just outside Ironwood, Michigan right across the state line from Hurley, Wisconson, a favorite summer vacation spot for the notorious Al Capone.   

Although we live approximately a day's drive south of the area, it's still exciting news for my family since the Grand Duchess and I are enthusiastic cross-country (Nordic) skiers, and the Young Master is excited to try it.  Santa Claus actually placed an order for a child's ski package last night, so with any luck, he will find his ski legs this winter and be seasoned after a few more years.   His mother is actually much better at going down hills than I am thanks to her extensive downhill skiing experience, so she'll have plenty of good advice for him when we get there.

But back to clothing.  The unseasonably early cold snap means it's high time for the tweeds and corduroys.  Today's combination of items included an Alan Flusser tweed jacket, a heavy pair of large wale Land's End corduroy pants, a recent thrifting find, a wool challis necktie hand-dyed in England, and those Allen Edmonds long-wing brogues (yet again).  

Tomorrow, during my lunch hour, I'll pick up a couple of recent tweed jacket acquisitions from the tailor's, a window pane Harris Tweed from Land's End and a very bold blue and gray number by Southwick.  Stay tuned for those during the next few days.

Finally, one of my students asked, as we packed up at the end of class late this afternoon, "So, like, do you sit around the house dressed like that on Saturdays and Sundays?"  I chuckled and quickly assured her that, no, I don't hang around the house in a jacket and tie during the weekends.  But if I were independently wealthy with a household staff to take out the garbage and recycling, do the laundry (my big weekly chore), and occasionally run the vacuum cleaner over the rugs?  Well, then I might consider it.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich


"Let me tell ya all about it!"

Monday, November 10, 2014

"How large should a starter wardrobe be?"

 
 Another great old Laurence Fellows illustration.  Or perhaps by Leslie Saalburg?  In any case, most young guys don't need to look quite this elegant in 2014, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make a solid effort to look pulled together once you leave college or university and enter the real world.

An e-mail was in my in-box this morning from a young guy, currently in his senior year of college.  He points out that his funds are limited (for now), but he wants to begin dressing a bit better in preparation for graduation next May and embarking on his career path. He concluded by asking, "How many clothes does a young guy need when he is just starting out like me?"

I'd suggest the following as a bare minimum with plenty of room for possible later expansion or diversion, depending on your own goals, company culture, and the type of work you'll be doing.  Here we go:

*1 wool sports jacket. . .  2 in slightly different patterns are even better!
*1 navy blazer

*1 charcoal, mid-gray, or navy two-piece wool suit

*2 pairs of  better khakis that keep a crease (Bill's or similar)
*2 pairs of creased wool dress pants in charcoal, navy, gray, or taupe for instance
*1 pair of dark dress jeans (without rips or fading) that actually fit.

*1 pair of lace-up brown leather dress shoes (with leather soles) and a brown belt to match
*1 pair of same in black. . . 
*1 pair of cordovan/oxblood penny loafers with matching belt

*7 long-sleeved cotton dress shirts, mostly in light blue or white, with precise neck and arm dimensions.  Stick with button-down collars to start since these look great even sans a necktie.
*5-6 traditional, fairly conservative neckties (repp stripes, foulards, etc.)

*7 pairs of to-the-knee dress socks -- In navy and charcoal.  Save the wilder statement socks for later.
*7 white t-shirts
*14 pairs of underwear -- If you're an adult, you should have two weeks worth at least!


Now, this amount of clothes and undergarments might seem excessive as a starter wardrobe, bit I'd be willing to bet that lots of young, college-aged guys already own many of these items, at least in part.  With the notable exception of t-shirts, socks, and underwear, which, to be perfectly frank, should only be purchased brand spanking new (Eeeew!!!), you can add missing items by visiting thrift/charity shops where you can usually find decent quality stuff that has lots of life left in it for almost nothing, or by perusing physical stores and/or websites of establishments like Brooks Brothers, L.L. Bean, and Land's End, for example, and keeping an eye out for sales and seasonal clearances.  However you beef up your wardrobe though, do spend the money to have any necessary alterations made to your clothes before you wear them for the first time, as I've mention before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, so that you look your best. 

Keep in mind too that you might be able to skip the suit given the woefully informal nature of many workplaces in 2014, although it is my firm opinion that every guy ought to have at least one clean suit in his closet that actually fits and is in a good state of repair for the occasional formal event like weddings, funerals, special dinners, job interviews, and meeting that special someone's parents for the first time.

Of course, if working part-time in the local cafe until your early 30s is part of the plan once you graduate from college, then, of course jeans, a hooded sweatshirt, and the ubiquitous knit ski cap, or "beanie" in current parlance, along with the requisite five-day beard will do just fine.  Knock yourself out.

Otherwise, I'd advise that you add the above items to your wardrobe gradually, but have most of them by at least the end of your first 6-12 months out of school. . .  Unless you live in a very warm part of the world, or the expected standard of dress in your particular field is extremely casual.

Finally, even if your company has an "everyday is casual Friday" ethos, with neither suits nor ties required. . .  ever, I'd still suggest wearing a sports jacket or blazer over a long-sleeved dress shirt most days.  It's a good look and helps even very young guys appear a bit more pulled together, focused, capable, and in charge of their particular duties and responsibilities rather than resembling one more doofus-slob intern, who has trouble sorting the mail, taking lunch orders, and fixing copier jams.  Just my two cents on the matter.

-- Heinz-Ulrich