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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fall and Cooler Weather Are on the Way. . .

Since we are talking three-piece suits below, this graphic seems apt.  The Monty Python boys in action, circa 1970.

We are in the midst of the three-day Labor Day Weekend here in the United States, traditionally seen as the end of the summer season and the start of fall, although warm temperatures hang on in many places across North America until at least October, and Autumn does not begin officially until the Equinox 'round about September 21st, give or take a day.

Which brings us to clothing and today's thrift/charity shop find.  I've wanted a heavier weight three-piece suit for quite some time -- my father used to have and wear several during his executive days on Wall Street in Manhattan during the 1970s and 80s -- but have had no luck turning up anything locally or online.  And, let's be honest, male academics aren't really in need of a such a garment these days either.  Most of them look as bad as the students they teach.  Nevertheless, you can imagine my surprise when I came across a Polo Ralph Lauren suit, made in the good ol' U.S. of A., in heavy, very soft wool flannel during a quick stop at one of my two reliably good local thrift/charity outlets earlier today.

As you'll see once the camera has finished charging, and I upload a photograph or two, the suit is a lovely, mottled mid- to dark gray with chalk stripes.  The previous owner must not have worn it very much because there is no sign of wear on the elbows, across the seat of the pants/trousers, or anywhere else on the three pieces that comprise this suit.  No holes, snags, pills, or stains leapt out at me either as I examined everything in the shop before making the decision to buy.  

The coat is fully canvased and features a single vent.  It's even got a functioning boutonniere hole on the left lapel.  In addition, there are double forward facing pleats on the pants/trousers, which are lined to the knees, with brace buttons inside the waistband.   Finally, the young lady behind the cash register even threw the shaped wooden suit hanger into the transaction with a smile.  How's that for service?

The two coolest bits of information about this suit are yet to come.  First, it cost less than US$5, including tax.  Second, once I returned home and tried everything on calmly for a second time, it fit like it was made for me.  My wife, the Grand Duchess, confirmed it when I modeled the suit for her a short while later.  And as far as I can tell, only the waist of the pants/trousers will need to be altered.  It needs to be let out an inch or so, and I'll also ask my tailor Mrs. V. to remove the belt loops since I plan on wearing this with braces. 

Otherwise, the inseam and sleeve lengths are perfect, with the former having a medium break on the tops of my shoes, and the latter allowing about 3/4" of linen to show.  The vest/waistcoat fits snugly but not too tightly, and when buttoned the coat fits well with a neat upper back, shoulders, and chest.  It features a suppressed waist, but nothing too pronounced or tight.  Just right.  I suspect at this point that some wags might scoff and say "You'll look like Bertie Wooster in that get-up. . .  or an old-fashioned bank manager from the 1930s.  You had better get yourself a bowler hat and a black umbrella, old boy!"  Bowler hat notwithstanding, there are certainly worse things a guy could resemble.

The lesson in all of this excited blather about three-piece suits is that if you look long enough, you will eventually find that item you covet and at a rock bottom price.  Dressing with some classic style and sophistication need not cost an arm and a leg. . .  contrary to what many might think.  You must simply have a clear idea of what you want to add to your wardrobe and be persistent in your search for it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, August 25, 2014

What a long, strange trip it's been. . .

 Another view up Bascon Hill, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, toward Bascon Hall and the statue of Abe Lincoln with Van Hise Hall (my old stomping grounds) peeking out just to the right.

Today's post has nothing to do with attire, conduct, or, indeed, style in any sense.  Instead, it has to do with pure nostalgia.  It was exactly 20 years ago that yours truly left Pennsylvania and headed west to Madison, Wisconsin as a transfer student to the mighty UW-Madison to continue my education. Right about now in '94, I was starting a part-time work-study job in the Geography Library (in the beautiful and historic Science Hall below) and settling into the newest chapter in my life by exploring the isthmus downtown and mainlining plenty of caffeine in the various cafes that line State Street, the largely pedestrian thoroughfare that stretches from Library Mall at the edge of campus all the way to Capitol Square right downtown. 

 An autumn view from Van Hise Hall of part of campus and downtown Madison.

Notable courses that first semester included Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: Sagas to 1900 taught by the late Professor Niels Ingwersen, with whom I later worked closely as a graduate student and teaching assistant.  He was a mentor of sorts although he was not my official adviser.   There was also Russian History 417: The Middle Ages to 1814, and my absolute favorite, the first semester of Second Year Norwegian.  The less said about my computer science course the better.  Not especially interesting, exciting, or relevant. . .  even then.  But otherwise, what an incredibly thrilling time the next five years were.  

Van Hise Hall with Lake Mendota, University Bay, and Picnic Point beyond.

If I could change just one thing about those years in Madison, it would be to have met and spent time with my wife, the Grand Duchess, while I attended UW-Madison.  I had to go a short distance up Interstate 94 to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, to meet her at the University of Minnesota, where I continued my studies in a Ph. D. program in 2000.  Madison would have been amazing to experience with her beyond the occasional weekends we have enjoyed there since meeting and eventually marrying in '06.

 An old favorite on State Street close to Capitol Square.

As I think I mentioned here recently, my nostalgia for Madison always comes to the fore each August, but it is stronger this year.  If I could figure out an easy way to return and establish residence in the city, I would do so in an instant.  Barring that, somewhere in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Bergen (Norway), Berlin, Bremen, L├╝beck, or maybe Hamburg in Germany would do equally nicely, thank you.  All places with water strangely.  And then there is always Bolzano in Northern Italy where I've not yet been, but it looks delightful.  And Italian men know how to dress!  But Madison comes as close to feeling like "home" for me at this point in my life more so than anywhere else.  Funny how the mind and memory combine with pleasant life experiences to create these wistful longings for a certain place and time.

Back at the edge of campus, Science Hall at the foot of Bascom Hill, where I worked for three years in the Geography Library on the second floor at left through the arched windows.

On another note, imagine my surprise and delight to discover yesterday that I do not, in fact, begin teaching until Tuesday this week (tomorrow).  So, one last relatively carefree morning at home before the long summer vacation comes to an end.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Focus, focus, focus. . .

Another great, old Laurence Fellows illustration.  This is how it's done, guys although admittedly the white gloves and walking stick might be a bit, um, twee in 2014.

Whether it involves working to kick up your everyday style several notches, doing well in school, advancing your career, or improving some aspect of your private life. . .  Focus Grasshopper!  Ignore and avoid the butterfly tendencies that plague the masses.  You must focus.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, August 22, 2014

Damn straight!

A snappy looking 1950s-era businessman.  Bring it on baby!  It's time to put the poorly conceived and invariably badly executed 'business casual' to bed once and for all.  If you look like hell, your attitude and efficiency in the workplace are going to follow suit.  Do you really want someone who resembles an itinerant worker, perhaps better suited to raking leaves in your yard and shoveling snow from your front walk, handling your business and legal affairs, to say nothing of keeping you healthy, running your country, or educating your children?

This was but one of many comments in reply to this question, posed a few days ago, on the Daily Prep blog: Will suits and ties return as a business staple?

"A coat & tie, heavy starched OCBD, shined Aldens,white pocket square,shaved, & barbered up represents a standing rebuke to the forces of moral & cultural relativism. It makes the great unwashed uncomfortable. To me, it constitutes an old school grownup, which all should aspire to be. Gravitas, maturity, & respect...speaking softly & carrying a big stick....a steaming dreadnaught parting the waves. Wear a sport coat every day & a suit on Friday's as a means of silent protest. When asked about the suit, I reply that I am having lunch with some grownups downtown at my club. They get the message and no follow up questions." -- Anonymous

Priceless.  And damn right.  While I do not secretly long for a return to the Cold War, the Red Scare, or second class status for women and minorities, it's time to stem the tide of the great unwashed and the attitudes that go with it.  Practicing basic standards of accepted polite behavior and professional appearance in the white collar world, as well as elsewhere in society, would be a sound idea.  Hey, a guy can dream right?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BE a Guest for the Love of Pete!

A very funny old movie that is worth seeing.

This little tidbit of social info will seem decidedly anachronistic in our current era of extremely informal backyard barbecues and/or beer and all-you-can-eat buffalo wings, chips, and runny salsa for US$3.99 as you hold up the bar in the local sportsbar and stare mindlessly at the flat-screen TV on the wall without actually looking at the people to whom you are speaking, but it's still worth knowing if you aspire to kick up your everyday style several notches.  Sooner, or later, you will be invited to a more formal evening sit-down dinner with tablecloths and place settings.  So, you'll naturally want to come across as polished, urbane, and practiced in how you conduct yourself before and during the evening.  You don't want to embarrass yourself (or anyone else) after all.

When you are invited to someone's home for the evening, it is polite to bring some kind of tasteful host/hostess gift.  That should go without saying.  This item might be a small potted plant, a bunch of flowers, a small box of good quality chocolates, or the ubiquitous bottle or two of table wine.  You are showing your appreciation for the invitation with things like these.  Beyond that, and unless you are asked to do so specifically -- or if the event is one of those (usually. . .  but not always) godawful stand-up potluck affairs -- do not under any circumstances confuse the issue by asking "Great!  Now, what can I bring?"  

Assuming care and forethought have gone into the meal to which you have been invited -- We aren't talking about pizza and beer for the Big Game on TV with your best buds from college! -- there is no need for you to bring the salad, the rolls, the first course, the last course, the dessert, or whatever else might enter your mind in the middle of the night.  If you are actually asked to bring something for the meal, great.  If, instead, the answer is "No, thank you.  We've got it all taken care of," then accept that and stop insisting to the contrary.  You might think you are being nice, but the chances are pretty good that your host(s) have put some care into planning the meal, and what you bring might not fit in with that very well with the evening's theme or menu.

Besides that, a spate of nervous last minute telephone calls asking, "Are you sure I can't bring X, Y, or Z?", like the kind we invariably get from the wife of a couple with whom we are good friends whenever we invite them for dinner, is obnoxious in the extreme during the 90 minutes before arrival time as your hosts race through final preparations.  That's almost as bad as badgering someone for an invitation.  Don't do it!  You don't want your hosts to consider striking you from their mental future invitations list after the evening is over and everyone has gone home, right?  I didn't think so.

Nope.  It really is better when you accept a dinner invitation to purchase the host/hostess gift beforehand and leave it at that.  Be a guest for the love of Pete!  It might also be a good idea to shower, shave, clip your finger nails, and put on clean clothes before leaving home too.  Don't forget to tuck in your shirt and wear a belt either.  Remember.  You're not having a cold one with your cousin in the backyard after helping him install a new sump pump on a steamy Saturday afternoon in July.  A sit-down dinner is a more formal occasion and deserves to be approached as such.  Your hosts will appreciate your efforts. Even if they say nothing.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Earn Reasonable Grades in Your College and University Courses. . .

At least this professor has his shirt tucked in and wears a belt.  Some of the 30 to 60-something male professors at my small university look as bad as the students!

The following is a reprise of an earlier post from a year or two ago here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, but it seems like a good idea to revisit it in view of yesterday's post of dressing and behaving better on college and university campuses.  Here we go.

How do you succeed in my courses?  Easy.  Here’s how:

1)     Buy the required textbook(s) ASAP and bring it/them to every class.  Don’t show up without it.  Don’t wait three or four weeks to visit the bookstore or order the book(s) online.  Don’t depend on your buddy, teammate, or roommate to borrow his or her copy outside of class.  Buy it now!

2)     Come to class with writing materials (paper, pens, or pencils) for every class period.  You aren’t six, and this ain’t grade school.

3)     Do the assigned reading, exercises, and papers when they are assigned.  Turn the latter in on the days they are due.  And do not e-mail your work to me unless I request it.  It’s not my responsibility to supply you with paper, ink, and staples or try to open a corrupted file you’ve sent me.   And the old excuse “I e-mailed it to you, didn’t you get it?” is just that.  An excuse.  A very poor one.

4)     Attend classes routinely and listen attentively.  Surprise!  That means you put the laptops and I-phones away, unless they are part of the course design, stop doodling in class, stop trying to see the clock from wherever you are sitting, and look at me or whoever else might be speaking at the front of the room or lecture hall!  Finally, leave your ego and attitude somewhere else.  It does not matter to me that you might have gotten A’s in your high school courses with little or no effort.  College is a different ball game altogether.  The material is harder, there is more of it, and more is required of you.  Get used to it.

5)     Engage with the material and planned class activities for the day.  Show some initiative.  Don’t sit there like a bump on a log.  Ask questions and seek further clarification if you are confused or don't understand something.  Maybe attend my office hours once in a while?

6)     When you get a paper and a grading rubric back, don’t just grumble or whine about that low B or C grade.  Look at my comments and suggestions to you!  That is where you will learn what you might do to improve your grade the next time around.

7)     Seek out a writing tutor if and when you still have problems expressing and developing and articulating your ideas, whatever the subject matter might be, or if you still have various mechanical issues to eradicate from your writing.

8)    Turn in highly polished papers that present your ideas through interesting, well-supported, insightful discussion.  Your work should also be free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation problems.  This is college, not the first grade.

9)     Don’t have your parents e-mail or call me.  You are the one registered for the course and, presumably, doing the work.  You are also at least 18 years old, able to vote, serve in the military, behave foolishly now that you are away from home, and take responsibility for your actions when things head south.  You talk to me about your challenges.

10)  Don’t waste time, either your own, or everyone else’s.  It’s time to grow up and get serious about your future.

11)    Stop making lame excuses.  A large part of functioning as an adult involves doing what is required of you instead of bitching about it.  Make sure you do solid work and accept responsibility for your choices and behavior. 

12)  Realize and accept that not everyone earns (or deserves) an A.  A’s are awarded for exceptional work over and above the basic requirements laid out in the course syllabus.

That is, in a nutshell, how to succeed in my classes and finish with a passing grade (usually at least somewhere in the C range).  I'd stake money that these tips will help you do better in your college or university courses wherever you might attend school.  Hmmm.  I might just go through an abbreviated version of this with my own students when classes begin next Monday and Tuesday.  Now, there's an idea!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Quick & Dirty Guide to Better Dress and Behavior on Campus. . .

Bascom Hall, at the top of (you guessed it) Bascom Hill, on the campus of my alma mater the mighty University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I get nostalgic for my own five years there every August.  It was exactly 20 years ago that I moved to Madison, as a transfer student, to continue my undergraduate education and complete one of my graduate programs.

Today's Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style post is a bit uncomfortable, but it is something that needs saying as we gear up for yet another academic year on college and university campuses here in the United States and elsewhere.  I'm talking about the way far too many average young guys present themselves for public consumption on campus.  Yep.  I'm gonna bell that particular cat.

Now, I am hardly suggesting that college men in 2014 should aim to resemble the movie version of those always evil, sadistic, and moneyed prep school kids in various teen films from the 1980s.  Think of young Jimmy Spader's "Blaine" in Pretty in Pink.  And neither am I suggesting that you present yourself dressed like an ivy leaguer circa 1962.  While nothing is actually wrong with either look, they might risk coming across as a bit too costumey in today's world depending on where you are.  

No.  Let's be a bit more realistic and practical, though, about the "cultural capital" (a nice way of saying background and upbringing) of young people on college and university campuses today.  Many of them, clearly if we go by their appearance, speech, and behavior, have not had much of an example set by parents, or parental figures, when it comes to presenting themselves for public consumption where either clothes or conduct are concerned.  Let's be blatantly honest about that.  So, say it with me, guys.  How we look and come across to others is important and has a direct bearing on the impression we leave with people and how they, in turn, react to and treat us.

In a nutshell, how a young man looks and acts is important, whether that is at home in the TV room, the back yard, or in the public sphere.  Especially if a degree and career in the white collar sector is the goal.  Looking and acting decently is part of that.  It's also part of the Social Contract and, by the same token, part of one's own social literacy.  Sadly, that is an area where many people are lacking given our collective devotion to the gods of comfort and doing whatever, whenever, and wherever.   You know what I mean.  But that's no way to go through life to coin the infamous Dean Wormer in the 1978 movie National Lampoon's Animal House.  Before anyone protests to the contrary, however, it is entirely possible to look pulled together and behave politely for one's classes and social activities on campus while remaining comfortable and relaxed.  Yep, it's true.  There is a happy medium, and coming from money and privilege is not necessary.  Here's how to do it: 

1) What's on you feet?
Lose the flip-flops and opt instead for some genuine shoes -- penny loafers, dock-siders, white canvas deck shoes, or less obtrusive sneakers are ideal -- whether socks are part of the equation, or not.  The male foot is not an attractive part of the body, and no one should have to see it.  Especially since so many guys can't seem to keep their toenails clipped.  Your feet also get dirty really fast in flip-flops and sandals, which are beachwear, guys.  So, save 'em for the beach!  During the winter, if you are in a place where rain and snow are issues, heavier shoes, or something like LL Bean duck shoes or Bean Boots are fine.  In any case, your feet do not belong on the chair or desk in front of you in the classroom or lecture hall.  Tuition paid by your parents, government loans, and/or scholarships do not entitle you to treat the world around you like your own personal basement rec room, got it?

2) Is it raining?   
Snowing?  115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade?  Your overtaxed brain isn't about to explode out the top of your head?  No?  Good.  Then, take off that eff-ing backwards baseball cap when you enter the classroom.  You look like a fool, and it's polite to remove your hat in most instances when you are indoors anyway.  Same thing with the sunglasses.  Forgetting the current public discourse about why sagging pants and hooded sweatshirts are somehow permissible and not a sign of someone looking for trouble, college or university campus ain't the 'hood, and your professors and lecturers ain't your homies, guys.  A classroom is a more formal environment than the street or your parents' TV room.  It's time to learn that different environments require different levels of formality and, yes, attire.  Pull-on athletic shorts and a dirty t-shirt , while they might seem appropriate for that late-night munchies run to Wal-Mart, really have no place outside the gym or your backyard at home.

3) Get in the habit of using a belt.
Put on some actual pants -- jeans, khakis, whatever. . .  anything with actual beltloops --  and hold 'em up at your waist with a belt.  It's called underwear for a very good reason, and no one wants to see your actual bare rear-end either.  Even if you think it is a work of art.  Unless you're hitting the gym, lose the sweatpants and those ultra thin to-the-knee basketball shorts too.  They leave nothing to the imagination -- the rest of the world doesn't need to see the equipment you think you're packing -- and those flimsy nylon shorts were never intended as anything other than athletic wear.  See my remarks in Item #2 above.

4) Tuck in your shirt.
It's always a nice idea to tuck in your shirt when you go out in public, especially if it is a dress shirt or slightly more casual sports shirt with buttons down the front.  You know?  It's not like anyone is asking you to eat broken glass or walk through red hot coals either.  T-shirts and two-three button, short-sleeved golf shirts are a different story.  Hopefully, you will not rely too much on the former, though, at least not when you attend classes and socialize during the days or evenings.  It's always a good idea to put your best foot forward regardless of the place, time, or occasion.

5) Do not offend!
Where personal hygiene is concerned, shower in the morning, comb or brush your damn hair, and brush your teeth.  Mouthwash might also be a good idea.  You have an adult male  body now, and you presumably do not want to go through your days stinking like a wet badger's armpit.  Don't overdo it with the aftershave though, especially the cheap stuff like Axe, and make ding-dang sure to put on a clean pair of underwear daily.  If general appearance and aroma are anything to go by, many young men on college and university campuses, for whatever reason, are not taking care of these related things consistently in the mornings, or following their athletic activities in the early mornings or afternoons.  When you get up in the morning, at the very least, wash your face, comb your hair, and brush your teeth.  You'll be much more pleasant for your classmates to sit near as you sleep through that 10am Western Civilization course. 

6)  It's a good idea to have some real dress clothes handy.
Make sure you've got a suit, or navy blazer and creased charcoal or mid-gray wool dress pants, plus a couple of long-sleeved dress shirts (one in white and one in light blue. . .  skip the black, maroon, or navy) and an unobtrusive necktie or two hanging in your closet.  Diagonal repp stripes are fine.  A pair of leather dress shoes with leather soles and a matching belt is a sound idea too.  Believe it, or not, there are still occasions when you'll need to appear in something besides the ubiquitous jeans or shorts and a t-shirt.  Occasional award ceremonies, music or choral concert performances, and (in the United States) fraternity activities come readily to mind.  If personal finances are an issue, you can find all of this stuff in thrift/charity shops for very little money, but make sure to have the pants and jacket sleeves altered so they are not too long.  Keep a few pairs of dark to-the-knee dress socks handy too.  Solid navy blue goes with anything.  In any case, you are an adult now and moving toward the professional world.  Besides thinking of yourself as a grown-up, it makes good sense to begin developing a professional's wardrobe at this point.

7) Make sure your dress clothes look sharp always.
Learn to use an iron for those times when you need a pressed dress shirt.  It's a good life skill to have in your bag of tricks, boys.  Otherwise, keep the suit or blazer and creased dress pants hanging up, with enough space around them to breathe and avoid wrinkles from overcrowding, until you need them. 

8) Keep your everyday clothes clean and neat too.
Do your laundry BEFORE you absolutely need to and fold or hang it as soon as the cycle finishes in the dryer, so your clothing looks good when you put it on.  Don't make a habit of turning up for your classes looking like you've slept at the bottom of your laundry bag.  It will definitely not make a a good impression with your professors, lecturers, or graduate teaching assistants.  Neither will it make that attractive, young gal working behind the counter at that off-campus cafe sit up and take notice of you.  You'll simply look like one more aimless schlubb to her if you make a habit of walking around in badly wrinkled clothes.  It should also go without saying that if you've worn an item of clothing already and have been unfortunate enough to get food or beverage stains down the front of it, it might be time to either wash or retire said garment from your weekly rotation of public clothing.  Call it a hunch.

9) While at the table. . .
In the dining room, take off your baseball cap, get your napkin in your lap, elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed, don't talk with your mouth full, and keep your voice down.  Oh, and it's time to stop holding your cutlery like a shovel and stabbing at the food on your plate.  It might also be a good idea to refrain from belching contests with your buddies to see how loud and/or stinky you can manage.  You are not four years old anymore, so do not continue to make a gross spectacle of yourself by behaving like a baboon (or just a clueless peasant) with your team or suite-mates at mealtimes.  It's both foul and definitely not the way to impress that really cute pre-med major from  your Organic Chemistry class, who is trying to enjoy a pleasant meal at the next table with her friends.  Basic table manners are yet another life skill to cultivate.  Forever. 

10) And where young women are concerned. . .
For those young men with an interest in the female sex, "No!" means "No!"  Don't be the kind of slimy creep who takes advantage of an inebriated or high young woman.  Even if she is already your girlfriend.  And if you ever find yourself in a group of guys where this kind of thing is starting to occur, whether the girl seems willing or not, get out of there immediately and call both campus security and the police ASAP.  Do not, repeat, do not wait to make those calls.  Date rapes happen to far too many young women on or around college and university campuses each year because too many "boys" get carried away in the moment and fall prey to the pack mentality. . .  To say nothing of the neanderthal sexist attitudes that so many boys and men apparently still have when it comes to their female counterparts.  It's no laughing matter.

Bonus Tip 
You don't approach college or university professors and staff in the same way that you might interact with your new-found friends and floor mates in your dormitory.  Starting an e-mail with the very informal "Hey _____," isn't the professional way to open your communication about grades, a missed class, an upcoming paper, or financial aid disbursements.  Opening salutations like "Good Morning/Afternoon _____," or "Dear" Professor So-and-so, are preferable.  A tiny bit of respect for your instructors, or college or university staff, whoever they might be, and demonstration of correct e-mail etiquette is an excellent idea here.  It's also good practice for functioning well in the professional world once your idyllic undergraduate days are behind you in just a few short years.  Unless you plan on spending your twenties working as a hipster barrista with a five-day beard, or waiting out the weak economy by hiding out in a lengthy graduate program somewhere until things improve.  Maybe. 

There we are.  Ten + 1 very useful pointers for dressing and behaving better on college and university campuses.  Contrary to what many think and say, people in college and university are no longer "kids."  It is time to grow up, take responsibility for oneself, and act like an adult in all of your interactions.  

Without a doubt, there are numerous other ideas and concepts for young men to keep in mind too, but those outlined above seem to be a huge problem and/or lack for many who enter my classes each fall.  It really makes me pause and wonder what in the hell some parents have been doing for the previous 18 years before I finally meet their delightful and charming offspring.  

In the name of fairness, not every young man lacks these skills and habits as they step onto campus for the first time each August and September, but far too many seem to.  We as a society have some very serious work to do to reverse some of the sad trends of the last 30-40+ years.  I fear, however, the genie is out of the bottle for many with regard to decent, very basic attire and conduct.  

Raw intelligence and gaining admission to a college or university program is one thing, but, even when one is academically and professionally credentialed, there is a great deal more personal growth and development that needs to occur before a person is culturally and socially literate.  That literacy needs to happen for a young man to be truly educated and, dare I say, socially acceptable.  A strong understanding of, and grasp on, how to present one's best side to the world -- as well as those closest to you -- is a vital part of that.  Like it or not, being an informed, thinking, and pleasant individual involves much more than just the coveted college or university degree.  It's high time we remind ourselves of that.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shhhhhh. . .

Here's a simple peace (get it?) of advice for average guys who realize the need to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Keep your voice down, and reduce the amount of noise you produce with music, digital effluvia, and the like.  Don't be the loudest, most obtrusive presence in a room or on the street.  Surely, you don't want others to turn around and gawk at you because you are creating such an annoying spectacle?  No.  I didn't think so.  Yes.  Calm and quiet are infinitely preferable.  And when you finally open your mouth to speak, moderate your voice.  It's but one of the many ways you can demonstrate some grooming and sophistication.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, August 3, 2014

10 Style Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs. . .

The pattern-loving late Duke of Windsor.  While I hardly suggest that you fear wearing patterned garments, it's best to exercise a bit of forethought, care, and restraint here.  A little goes a long way in other words.

Time to get back to clothing and accessories methinks!  As usual, I've been observing the world, both the physical and the virtual, during the last few days as well as taking stock of what's in my own wardrobe since the coming academic year now looms threateningly on the horizon.  Several things have occurred to me that might be good to share with other average guys who either want to, or are in the midst of kicking up their everyday style several notches.  So, here we go!

1) Be Careful with Patterns.
And I say that as  guy who is extremely fond of bold windowpane checks, houndstooth, Glen Plaids, and the like.  However, exercise some healthy restraint here.  While you shouldn't shy away from these patterns totally, neither do you want to stick to charcoal, gray, or navy all of the time.  What I propose is to keep everything else simple if you opt for a bold sports jacket or suit on a given day.  Stick with understated neckties, pocket handkerchiefs, and odd pants for the plaid tweed sports jacket.  Although with the latter, you might be able to get away with some corduroy pants in an interesting color.  Consider, for instance, mustard yellow, dark, or olive green.  Maroon or wine too will work nicely with many tweed jackets.

2) Resist the Urge to Over-accessorize.
Don't go crazy with loud suspenders/braces, bright silk pocket squares, cufflinks, tie clips, pocket watches, crazy socks, and so forth all at the same time.  Like artistic painting, something I dabble in, one of the hardest things to learn with classic male attire is knowing when to stop.   And like a novice artist, it can be very tempting as a guy into kicking up his everyday style by way of classic menswear to keep piling on the accessories.  But you risk looking overwrought, much like an overworked canvas, if you geet carried away with all of the cool stuff.  So, here's a good tip that might help.  When you are all dressed, look yourself over in a full-length mirror and remove one item.  Or possibly two.  Far better to strive for and achieve something akin to understated elegance than look like you're attending a Dr. Who or steam punk convention in character.  Know what I mean?

3) Walk on by the Cheap Shoes.
Eurosko, Dansko, Lugz, et al.  Never.  Under any circumstances.  Cheap, ugly shoes will spoil the most expensive and best tailored clothing ensembles.  And make you look like you have no clue about what you're doing.  So spend more here than on almost any other part of your wardrobe, whether you buy retail or develop your wardrobe through visits to thrift and charity shops.  And avoid at all costs those overly long, cheap-looking square-toed abominations, which never looked good.  Even way back in 1999.

4) Don't Get too Trendy. 
Stick to classic colors, patterns, lines, and proportions with your attire.  Stay classic in other words.  You'll look equally sharp next week, next month, next year, and in 15 years. 'Nuff said?

5) Don't Wear 'em too Tight.
 In keeping with the previous item, make sure your clothes fit correctly.  Unless you're in a Beatles tribute band and wearing tight, Edwardian-inspired suits ca. 1962, it's best to skip to the currently snug look with any item of clothing other than your t-shirts and your Levis 501s. . .  or your lycra spandex bicycling gear.  Ok?

6) Don't Go too Short.
Likewise, make sure your jacket sleeves and dress pants are long enough.  Unless you actually want to look like Pee Wee Herman of course.  And you know what they arrested him for back in the early 90s, don't you?

7) Skip the Ostentatious Sports Watch.
I'll never figure out this one.  Often enough, we see guys who are dressed reasonably well, but their overall look is spoiled by an over-sized, clunky sports watch with a metal band that is far too big and fits more like a loose bracelet.  Lots of Rolex wannabees out there I guess, purchased by guys who are trying too hard to show that they have achieved some level of affluence and success, real or imagined.  But if you wear one, it's better to keep your watch understated and sedate, so that it's 's not the first thing people notice about you when you enter a room.

8) Avoid Unusual Colors.
Especially with suits.  It's not 1975 anymore, so hopefully no one has actually suggested that you show your face, as one of the groomsmen pressed into service, dressed in a rose or powder blue suit or tux.  Instead, stick to charcoal, medium gray, and navy, or perhaps tan, light gray, and/or cream for warmer weather when it comes to suits.  There is a bit more room to play when it comes to odd blazers, sports jackets, and tweed jackets though.  The right kind of Madras or Gun Club plaid can look amazing, depending on the season, and the other items combined with either jacket for example.  But once again, keep everything else simple when you don a bold color or pattern.  Say it with me. . . 

9) Go Easy with the Visible Jewelry.
Two pieces at most.  Ok?  An understated watch and a ring (preferably a wedding band. . .  go easy with signet rings and the like).  That's it.  You ain't 19 and attempting to project a slightly dangerous image of your bad self to the world anymore, so ditch the diamond stud earring along with the edgy toe ring, International Male.  Likewise, it's perhaps best to get rid of the facial piercings and those overly large plug things in your earlobes.  It's awfully hard for the rest of the world to take you seriously (if you aren't holding a knife to our throats that is) when you resemble the Son of Iron Man.  And all of that facial hardware makes people's eyes water when they are forced to look in your direction for too long.  If you simply cannot resist the bizarre trend of self-mutilation, it's really better to keep any other piercings out of sight and to yourself.  Ca-ching!

10) Don't Forget to Have Minor Alterations Made to Your Clothes.
And before your wear them in public.  Don't be a tightwad.  Spend the money to make your clothes look as good as possible specific to your own personal dimensions.  Don't walk around with your pants and jacket sleeves too long like so many guys do everywhere.  You'll risk looking like a doofus.  At best.   By the same token, don't wear jackets that are too big for you either.  Have the waist of your sports jackets and suits coats suppressed slightly to enhance your masculine figure. . .  within reason of course.  And avoid shoulders that are too big and boxy.  Shoulders cannot be altered successfully, so try going down a size if possible if buying retail.  When thrifting, on the other hand, put any jacket that is too large (or tight) in the shoulders back on the rack at once and move on.  It will never look quite right on you if the shoulders don't fit to begin with.

A Special Bonus Tip
Finally, don't wear those sleek sporting sunglasses, like the kind worn by professional bicyclists, if and when you are not actually engaged in sporting, fishing, or hunting activities.  Get some actual "dress" sunglasses in a classic faux tortoise shell to wear when you are dressed for public consumption.  Otherwise, you'll resemble a cheap Eastern European street hood.  And surely, that's not what you want, is it Boris?

There we are.  Undoubtedly, there are numerous other style boners and gaffs to avoid, but the ten + one mentioned above came readily to mind this morning and are a good starting point when it comes to improving one's everyday sense of style.  Remember, if you do it right, even items as banal and commonplace as a blac or navy t-shirts, a sports jacket or blazer, jeans, and cowboy boots can look super.  It's all in what you wear and how your wear it.  A bit of knowledge and care can go a long way to helping you kick up your everyday style several notches.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, August 1, 2014

Three Axioms for More Civilized Living. . .

As I've gone through life the past few days or so, a few things have occurred to me while observing people and overhearing their interactions.  These admittedly rough ideas might be useful for average guys working to kick up their everyday style several notches.  Here goes: 

1) Just because you are paying for something (or, if you are under 22 or 23, your parents or the government via student loans) -- on campus, in a restaurant, at the supermarket, while traveling, or in a place as tacky and awful as Las Vegas has become -- you do not have the right to abandon polite social convention and behave like an obnoxious and entitled moron.  Lose the unsavory the-customer-is-always-right attitude, and do it now!  It's definitely NOT the way to win friends or influence people.

2) Learn to enjoy the company of women.  Ignore this rule to your detriment.  By and large, women are more interesting personalities than most of us men, and they are better able to discuss a wide array of interesting subjects.  Guys, endless nattering on about sports statistics, or those ponderous war stories about your alcohol-induced sexcapades during your undergraduate years are duller than dishwater.  There.  I've said it.

3) Sometimes, give something to someone else just to be nice. . .  without any possibility for gain on your part. . .  monetary, material, or otherwise.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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-- Heinz-Ulrich

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