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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Little Late October Style. . .

Yours truly, looking a bit reflective and/or tired by late afternoon the day before Halloween 2014.

A chilly, gray, and slightly drizzly late October afternoon, so let's liven it up a bit with some seasonally appropriate garments.  Above, the full ensemble, including a thrifted  houndstooth tweed jacket with 'natural' shoulders by Corbin, a Phi Kappa Phi necktie that I trot out once in a while to remind myself of my membership in the society, those recently acquired Allen Edmonds 'longwing' brogues yet again, and a brand new pair of Merino wool socks from Dapper Classics, in an orange & brown herringbone pattern, that I purchased on sale earlier this week.  Dapper Classics is, by the way, offering all of their orange socks at 25% off through midnight on October 31st as part of their Halloween sale.  Be sure to check it out, and use the promotional code TREAT.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And here is a close-up of the socks.  These are not simply Halloween novelty socks, but they will look good with various sports jacket and odd pants combos thoughout the remainder of fall.  You know.  Autumnal colors and all.  I like them, but, more important, my wife REALLY likes them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Casual Need Not Mean Slovenly, Part II. . .

Heinz-Ulrich strikes a pose before burying wife and child in a shower of crunchy fall leaves.

It's amazing how something as simple as tucking in your shirt and putting on a belt can make a guy look a lot more pulled together for a weekend outing with family or friends.  Nothing new or particularly expensive here.  An old, comfortable blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt, some old cotton shorts, a battered, old hat that I've had for about 20 years, an equally old leather belt, and the recently acquired, but now well broken in Sperry Tops-siders.  Perfect for an extremely relaxed and warmer autumn afternoon.  Yet more proof that dressing presentably need not cost scads of money, require lots of time or effort, or be uncomfortable.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Ideal Autumn Afternoon. . .

The latest acquisition (for less than US$8), a Harris Tweed jacket by Land's End when they still produced their items in the United States.  A medium weight 40 Long with moderate shoulders, fully lined, a working boutonniere hole in the lapel, and just roomy enough for a thin sweater underneath.  How could I pass it up?

Every once in a while, you have one of those incredible fall days.  You know the kind I mean.  Besides the bright sunshine and warm temperatures, it has been breezy, quiet, and calm.  After a quick trip following lunch, to browse my best local thrift/charity spot (where I found the jacket above), we loaded into the car and rode five minutes over to a large local park where we usually ski and toboggan in the winter.  

Once there, the three of us spent a glorious 90 minutes or so there, walking the paths, playing in the leaves with the Young Master, taking some pictures of him, and letting him run up and down the huge hill where we toboggan in the snow before we piled into the ol' jalopy yet again and headed to our favorite cafe for some coffee, hot chocolate, and milk along with a couple of large cookies.  The Young Master, who turns five on Monday, suggested that we sit at one of the tables on the sidewalk out in front, and the three of us lazed away there for an hour before coming home.  

It is now just after 4:30pm here.  The Young Master is reading quietly on his bed for his daily "quiet time."  Richard Scary's Best Storybook Ever was the choice for today.  The Grand Duchess is making a list before running over to the supermarket for a few things, and yours truly is enjoying a bit of time to himself here in Zum Stollenkeller.

Two moderately amusing stories from today to share.  Just bear with me.

First, the jacket above was actually handed to me by another shopper (trailing along behind his wife) at my favorite local thrifting haunt.  He was a tall, trim, handsome man, around 50, with lots of silvery hair, who must've spotted me perusing the racks of suits and sports jackets.  He walked over and handed the jacket to me, saying ,  "Here.  Try this on.  It's a Harris Tweed."  Ah, I thought to myself.  A kindred spirit.  There aren't many in my small Midwestern city.  

Since my anonymous helper had apparently just tried on the same jacket, my guess is that he had also determined it would not fit his frame.  He was, after all, somewhat taller and a bit heavier than me.  Well, what could I do but try it on right then myself?  Since the fit was so nice, it took no internal dialogue whatsoever with myself before I thanked my fellow sartorial voyager and waltzed up to the cash register to pay for the item in question.  The jacket needs the usual dry-cleaning and sleeve shortening, care of my tailor Mrs. V., but what an addition to the autumn and winter wardrobe!  I'll never turn up my nose at a Harris or Donegal tweed sports jacket.

The Young Master and yours truly, fooling around with late October leaves in the park on a beautiful, quiet Saturday afternoon.

Much later this afternoon, as the Young Master and I waited at our sidewalk cafe table for the Grand Duchess to join us with the beverages, I began speaking to him in German, the language his mother has spoken to him since he was a baby.  Although he is effectively fluent in that language at this point, the Young Master answered me in English with, "Dad, please speak in English."  When I countered in German, reminding him that he and I can also speak together in German, plus some Norwegian, he replied in a humorous yet firm tone, "Yes, but we don't want to right now!"  Sigh.  Young Master -- 50. . .  Dad -- Zilch.  

It is worth noting that the Young Master's response did provoke considerable laughter from us.  This latest linguistic defeat notwithstanding, it has nevertheless been a truly wonderful family weekend afternoon.  Happy, contented sigh.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Mindset of Dressing Nicely. . .

The late Cary Grant (nee Archibald Leach) remains, in the minds of many, the very embodiment of urbanity where attire, actions, and personality are concerned.  Perhaps somewhat ironically, his origins were decidedly humble and somewhat less than happy.

Besides making the decision to start dressing better than average and acquiring the various skills and items to make that possible, average guys with more than a passing interest in kicking up their everyday style several notches need to develop a particular mindset when it comes to dressing nicely.  

 "Dressing nicely" might come across as a somewhat arbitrary and subjective concept, so let's clear the air and define our terms before continuing further.  What I mean by "dressing nicely" is when a man presents himself in such a way that he comes across as having a bit of polish and sophistication behind him.  More directly, he ain't coarse.  Naturally, a guy doesn't have to come from a privileged background to be polished and sophisticated either.  It is entirely possible, and even desirable, for a guy to make a concerted effort to improve himself, learn the ropes, and become well-versed in how best to present himself.   A bit of personal upward mobility is key in all of this however.

Right.  With that out of the way, let's consider the mindset of dressing nicely.  Off the top of my head, there are at least eight things for a guy to consider and keep in mind as he makes the sartorial journey from clueless slob to polished sophisticate:

1) Develop an awareness of how good a guy can look when he is really dressed.
You don't have to walk around looking like you just rolled out from beneath a pile of stinky, dirty, wrinkled laundry. Open your eyes a little and look around you.  Start noticing the men who tend to dress better than average.  They really do exist, you just have to look for them.  Start noting how these guys do it, and what sets them apart.  Ask yourself what might work best, and, conversely, what doesn't quite do it.  Is it how they combine colors and patterns?  Is it how their clothing fits them?  Or is it a clean, uncluttered, almost sombre and yet elegant look?  What kinds of shoes do they combine with what clothing combinations?  What are their manners and behavior like?  How do they conduct themselves with others?  Pay attention to details like these and imagine how you might do it yourself.  Because you are, or you are about to.

2) Cultivate deep curiosity about classic men's attire.
Learn about what's out there, how men (at least some of them) dressed in the past, and how you can improve your own daily look ten-fold in the present.  In other words, read widely, but don't limit yourself solely to authors like Alan Flusser, Bruce Boyer, or Bernhard Roetzel alone.  There is actually lots of relevant, albeit low-key, material on classic masculine attire to be found on the 'net these days too, but you have to find it and sift out the more garish, trendy I-gent chaff.

3) Maintain a whimsical sense of humor.
Others might rib you occasionally about your attire and, perhaps, make fun once in a while.  So, it's a good idea if you learn to laugh along at yourself and maintain a sense of humor about working to kick up your everyday style several notches above that of most guys in 2014.  Keep your sense of fun and don't let things get too heavy in your sartorial journey.  Besides, if others see that you don't take yourself too seriously, it becomes less interesting to razz you about your gear.

4) Be willing to experiment and try new things.
Don't let the idea of color, texture,  and pattern scare you off.  The world of classic men's attire is more than simply grey, navy, or black.  What about houndstooth, herring bone, chalk stripes, and plaids?  The point is to maintain an open mind and be willing to try new and different things once you've made up your mind to start dressing better than is now required of most men in most walks of life.  Realize that some days you'll nail it, and other days you won't quite get there with a particular combination.  No matter.  The fun comes in trying and learning what works best for you. 

5) Learn to recognize what works. . .  and what doesn't.
As suggested above, do your homework here and read up a bit on classic male attire to learn what it is, what it most definitely is not, what kinds of clothes are appropriate for certain situations, and how you might put together various ensembles for various occasions.  Much like professional musicians develop their ears through practice, a guy interested in kicking up his everyday style should make the effort to train his eye through both reading and examining illustrations and actual photographs of men wearing classic attire.  But steer clear, by all means, of the übertrendy online "mimbos," invariably in jackets and suits that are too sort and too tight, which abound in the 'net.  Physical publications like GQ and Esquire also feature too many guys dressed like this, so best to cancel your subscriptions, or simply let them run out.

6) Maintain the sartorial precedent set in your family.
If dear ol' Dad, or another male family member, set an example for you at a young age by dressing well for work and (possibly) at home, or at least better than average, your own internal journey to dressing better than average becomes easier.  There is no psychological baggage to lose, or chains to break free of, before you can allow yourself to jettison certain habits and, perhaps, also negative attitudes about dressing nicely.  This particular point helps when a young man decides that it's time to kick up his own style several notches, naturally, but, as I indicate above, it is not entirely necessary.  Even if a guy lacks this sartorial precedent, a wee bit of perspective and awareness on his part will certainly help as he embarks on his sartorial journey.  Geeze Louise!  This is beginning to sound like a Bildungsroman.

 7) Get a set of brass cajones.
No explanation necessary, but it helps if you've got some chutzpah (self-confidence in other words), so that you don't feel and therefore appear self-conscious and uncomfortable in those newly acquired clothes.  The easiest way to get that self-confidence, if you don't have a bit of it already, is to wear your clothes.  Put 'em on, wear them most of the time, and make 'em part of your usual scenery.  If you see yourself dressed in, and others see you wearing, nicer clothing and shoes all of the time, those items will stand out less over time and draw less attention. You forget they are there, your spiffier attire becomes, again, part of the scenery, and your clothes become simply an extension of you.  You have finally reached that coveted nonchalance. . .  Oh, this old thing?
8) Stay focused and steer the course.
Don't deviate from your aims and remain firm in your resolve to dress and act better than has become the sad, accepted norm in many (most?) places.  Not everyone will necessarily get it or appreciate your efforts though.   Be aware of that from the start.  Some might even be openly hostile, in one way or another for one reason or another, but don't let that put you off.  See my previous point and continue to cultivate better dress, more polished behavior, and urbane interests and attitudes.  The "civilized" world needs more of all four in 2014.  Oh, yeah!

To my mind, that's the mindset a guy needs to turn things around and kick up his everyday style several notches where clothing and personal habits are concerned.  As always, I'm interested in your comments and opinions, but let's keep it clean, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

All Creatures Great and Watkyn Bassett. . .

Tristan and Siegfried Farnon?  The Earl of Grantham?  Or Tuppy Glossop?  Nope.  It's Heinz-Ulrich, channeling his best 1930s country gentleman on the way to the local village fete.

Going for a 1930-ish English country vibe today. . .  although sadly my horse, riding boots, and pack of hounds are nowhere to be found.  The above combination of clothing consists of various items all anchored by an old tweed jacket that I found almost right off the bat when I began visiting thrift/charity shops in the summer of 2010 and discovered that there was all kinds of good quality classic menswear for the taking at rock bottom prices.  

Here's a breakdown of everything:

*Hunting Horn brand Harris Tweed Jacket (thrifted)
*Land's End Sweater (seasonal clearance)
*Land's End Dress Chinos (new in 2005 or '06)
*Club Room Oxford Cloth Button-down (a sale item in late '06 pr early '07)
*Rooster Plaid Wool Necktie (thrifted)
*Allen Edmonds Long-wing Brogues (Ebay)
*Italian Silk Pocket Square (thrifted)
*Ralph Lauren Charcoal and Olive Argyll Socks (new some years ago)
*Land's End Tan Leather Belt (new in '04)

The jacket is, admittedly, a bit long on me, but I think it still looks pretty good all things considered, and it's always fun to pull it out in mid-October and wear it during the colder months.  Speaking of which. . .   It has been a cool, gray fall day outside today, so the Grand Duchess and I had a few minutes of fun snapping three or four photographs before heading our separate ways back to opposite ends of campus for our respective afternoon classes.  

My particular batch of undergrads did nicely this afternoon.  We had another student-led discussion today, this time on the John Landis horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London (1982), and the two young ladies in charge ran a good session.  Of course, it always helps when the rest of the class has an "on" day, and indeed, there was lots of lively discussion, commentary, and laughter about the movie and related readings.  You can't ask for more than that.  I always have one group of students per year that I genuinely enjoy spending time with thanks to just the right mix of personalities, and this is the group for this semester at least.

I also touched base briefly with an old professor of mine, via telephone, at UW-Madison for a few minutes, and it was nice to hear her voice after so many years.  A good afternoon all the way around, and tomorrow is a fairly easy day, so no lesson planning or related course preparation this evening.  Who knows?  I might just enjoy a wee bit of single malt after the Young Master's bedtime before turning in early myself.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Stand still, will ya??!!

Normally, I'd button my jacket, but it seems a shame to hide such a pretty sweater, and it wasn't quite that frigid outside this afternoon either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Damnable Popinjay, Part II. . .

"Unchain my heart!  Baby set me free.  Unchain my heart!  For you don't care about me. . ."  Doing my best Ray Charles on the way back to campus for a late afternoon class today.

Double-breasted suits, despite apparently being trendy once again from what I see here and there online, still get a bad rap.   Apparently, lots of people feel they are the preserve of old, fat guys like the late actor Sydney Greenstreet, early-mid 90s Frasier and Niles Crane wannabees, or guys aspiring to resemble a young Jimmy Spader, who wore some double-breasted stuff in a few of his late 80s-early 90s movies. 

On the contrary, double-breasted suits are classic garments with a long history.  Indeed, many public figures -- celebrities, politicians, and the like -- wore double-breasted suits during the mid-20th century.  So long as you wear a jacket or suit coat that actually fits you, they are not the huge, lawn&leaf bag monstrosities that some maintain.  Instead, double-breasted suits and sports jackets enhance the male figure in a way that single breasted models do not.  I like double breasted suits and have three in the fall-winter rotation.  The Italian number shown above is, however, the only 4x1 in the mix.  The other two hanging in the ol' wardrobe are 6x2 suits.  I've also got several 6x2 double-breasted sports jackets and a couple of blazers that I wear often during the fall, winter, and early spring months.

While the suit coat pictured above could perhaps use a wee bit more waist suppression, it has a good shape already, and fits cleanly across the chest, back, and beneath the arms without being tight.  The buttoning point, by the way, is just below my naval at my waist.  Maybe a bit low, but not too much.  I am therefore reasonably well pleased with the suit and trot it out on cooler days given its relatively heavy weight.  A nice, thick wool flannel.  While natural shoulder Ivy/Trad/Preppy purists might scoff at the fairly strong shoulders of this suit coat, it certainly doesn't call Joan Crawford to mind in my book. . .  or even Crockett and Tubbs on Miami Vice.  In any case, I routinely mix bits of American, British, and Continental style in my daily dress. . .  but no wire hangers ever!!!

All kidding aside, and as I say here sometimes, I still manage to look nicer than most other male faculty and staff walking around loose on campus.  So, if someone does not like my shoulder pads, well, that is his or her prerogative.  My clothes make me feel good, and if they are somehow amusing to others, that's fine.  I certainly get occasional compliments about my clothes, so I must be doing something right most days even if the occasional detail is not quite in line with whatever dreck GQ, Esquire, H&M, Abercrombie, Aeropostale, or Old Navy are dictating and/or serving up at the moment.  

To paraphrase a now sadly deceased professor from Denmark, with whom I studied during my undergraduate and Master's programs, feel free to write a paper (or blog post) about your irrational fear of my sartorial choices.  In the meantime, I've got a stack of undergrad papers to read and grade for a morning of mind-numbing student appointments tomorrow.  Sigh.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Keep Your Mind Nimble. . .

How does an average guy, who is working to kick up his everyday style several notches,  exercise his mind and keep it nimble?  Not by dulling out on whatever loud and lengthy professional sporting event happens to be on the idiot box, or online, at any given moment.  Neither do you keep your mind in fighting trim by surfing internet porn sites, or killing 'people' and stealing their virtual stuff with any of the apparently hundreds of computer games available for Playstation or Xbox (or their online cousins).  Nope.  How about instead trying the following to raise your level of mental acuity, maturity, engagement, and awareness, making yourself a more interesting and well-rounded person in the process?  

1) Readings is fundamental.
As the old RIF public service announcements on Saturday morning kids' TV used to say.  Reading is an excellent way to engage and broaden your mind, but read books about something else besides sports, the American Civil War, Vietnam, or anything by Dean Koontz or Lee Child.  All are done to death.  There is a great deal of interesting and thought-provoking fiction and non-fiction out there, and that's just considering what's available in English.  And by the way. . .

2) Learn another language.
And learn it well enough to have an unscripted conversation in it.  Ths will take a few years, but doing so will open up new worlds, experiences, and ideas to you in the meantime, and enable you to make better sense of your own mental place in the world.  It might be better to take a few classes to get started though.  Self-study is also an option, but beware of the various DVD packages on the market.  Not all are created equally.  Rosetta Stone packages are, for example, pedagogically weak and overpriced.  Since the advent of the web, accessing actual cultural materials, so called 'realia', is easier than ever, and along with the right kind of self-study tools, they can be really helpful in learning the ins and outs of another language and, by extension, culture.  In any case, listening to online radio and TV in your target language (even when you don't understand much at first) as well as looking at online versions of newspapers, magazines, and catalogs will support your class time/self-study efforts.  Before you know it, you'll be able to do more in Urdu or Swahili than simply ask for a beer and where the nearest public toilet is located.

3) Do crossword puzzles.  
Not always easy and sometimes maddening beyond belief, but you learn as you go, get better over time, and add appreciably to your working vocabulary, which ain't necessarily a bad thing.  Nope.  Not at all.

4) Have more conversations.  
Actual conversations where you are looking at the other person or people involved and truly listening rather than talking at each other as you stare like moon-eyed zombies at the flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.  Sound familiar?  I encounter men of various ages all of the time, who have difficulty with even simple conversations.  My wife and I often chuckle about a student trip we led to the annual German Christmas Market in Chicago about ten years ago, which concluded with a lovely evening meal at an old German restaurant downtown.  At my end of the long table, I sat next to a charming young lady of 22 or 23, from our own university, on one side and her high school boyfriend, who attended a different university in Chicagoland, on the other.  She was gregarious, amusing, full of plans for her future, and could easily carry on a conversation.  He, on the other hand, was like talking to a tree stump.  Monosyllabic responses about Baseball and his upcoming Certified Public Accountant exam were about it.  No more than that.  The point is, you've got to be able to carry on interesting conversation for longer than 90 seconds.  And don't you dare talk about sports or whatever tripe you've heard recently on talk radio.  Speaking of which. . . 

5) Listen to something else besides talk radio.  
Ever tried to have a conversation with someone who subsists on a steady diet of talk radio?  Regardless of whether their particular source of infotainment is slanted politically to the left or the right, these people seem able only to parrot back whatever the latest on-air rants might be for a given week.  Not only does this kind of programming provide the absolute wrong kind of model for public discourse and discussion, but for God's sake, moderate your sources of information and resist the tendency to use talk radio as a form of self-affirmation!  You know the sort of thing I mean.  "My own uninformed, poorly supported, off-the-wall opinion MUST be right because there is a radio host who says so, and there are other ignorant, narrow-minded wackjobs calling in who think the same way!"  Try, instead, getting your information about the world, events, developments, and people from various different sources once in a while instead of continuously listening to the blowhard-of-the-moment who is pushing some kind of bizarre, unbalanced, and one-dimensional sociopolitical agenda.

6) Broaden you palate.  
Sure, we've all got our favorite foods and drinks, but there is so much else out there that's tasty and interesting.  Food and beverages are interesting subjects in their own right.  So, how about eschewing the usual beer, burgers, pizzas, and generic Olive Garden food for a bit, hmm?  If you want something different, it's also a good idea to skip microwaveable crap like Hot Pockets, Slim Fast meals, or Pizza Combos.  Likewise, you might want to look beyond the ubiquitous Chinese and Tex-Mex too.  How about considering slightly more esoteric cuisines like Nepali, Thai, Indian, Turkish, Persian, Afghani, Korean, East African, North African, or Middle Eastern instead? All of these look delicious and smell delightful when they are brought to the table, and the various flavors will knock your socks off.  That's not to suggest the level of piquancy, necessarily.  It's simply a figure of speech.

7) Develop several different consuming interests.  
I've mentioned this before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, but it bears repeating.  You need something to think about  and occupy your mind besides work, TV sports, or mindlessly surfing the web.  Average guys working to kick up their everyday style several notches should keep that in mind.  And no.  Sorry, boys.  Sex doesn't count either.  Unless you actually aspire to be like Dirk Diggler in the film Boogie Nights.  Then by all means.  Carry on.  Kidding aside, there's actually lots else out there in the world that is interesting and will help you develop and maintain a nimble mind.  Just look around.  Take some enrichment classes in the evening at your local college, university, or community center, go to museums, take up fly-tying, learn to paint with watercolors, join a book discussion group, or visit your local library if you're coming up empty.

8) Volunteer your time.  
How about giving freely of yourself without expecting anything in return?  Churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, community centers, scouting, boys clubs, animal rescue centers, adult literacy programs, elder hostel programs, Habitat for Humanity, and the like are all viable options for volunteering.  All might welcome an extra set of hands and/or mind and simultaneously provide you with interesting new perspectives about the world and the people in it. . .  plus your own life and values.

9) Work with animals.  
Training animals like horses and dogs is highly interesting and immensely rewarding.  I urge everyone to give it a try and make a concerted effort to learn how it's done properly.  And hey, one less untrained dog leading its owner by the leash down the sidewalk would be a step in the right direction for everyone concerned.

10) Listen to different kinds of music than you usually do.
Popular forms of music are fine, and there are many terrific artists, past and present, out there.  But how about giving jazz and/or classical music a try.  They are infinitely complex, challenging, and demand active engagement on the part of listeners.  I guarantee you'll hear something new each time you give a listen to Coltrane, Mingus, Baker, or Desmond.  Or perhaps Bach, Strauss, Mozart, and Vivaldi are more to your liking?  Of course, you could always try your own hand at learning to play an instrument well yourself.

There we are.  At least ten different ways to keep your mind nimble regardless of your age and specific interests.  And remember.  Your mind is much like a muscle.  If you don't use it and challenge it beyond what is comfortable, it will atrophy, and you too will risk turning into that very tree stump I describe above.  Push yourself to try, accomplish, and achieve new things in your personal life.  Always.  Now, what are you waiting for? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 17, 2014

Casual Need Not Mean Slovenly. . .

The attire for a mid-October Casual Friday at home in the basement den.  Or as we like to call it around here, Zum Stollenkeller.

You know, it's entirely possible, and not that difficult, to look presentable and 'be comfortable' (an apparent obsession for the 99% here in the United States).  For instance, throw on an old oxford cloth button-down collar shirt (tucked in) with a sweater over top, a well-worn pair of tan corduroy jeans (with a belt), and a pair of leather docksiders, or the suede version thereof, on a cool, crisp mid-October morning, and you're all set.  Drop off the Young Master at preschool, vacuum the rugs on the first and second floor, and put away said boy's clean laundry.  Or just sit down for some quiet 'me time' with the felines and another mug of coffee before getting to all of that.  You look relaxed, yet pulled together. . . Nice even.  Three-piece suit and tie not required.

The Norwegian fisherman's sweater pictured above -- the genuine 'Made in Norway' article actually -- is a recent purchase of an old model that used to be sold by L.L. Bean.  Sadly, the company ceased offering these quite a while ago although I managed to purchase another, in navy and cream, on seasonal clearance during the winter of 1993.  That sweater also gets routine wearing during cooler months and has also cropped up here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style now and then.  

This particular cream and charcoal model is identical to one given to me for a birthday way back in '92 by Mom and Step-dad, which I still have and wear.  However, when I spotted it in the An Affordable Wardrobe online store 10 days or so ago, I snapped it up since I prefer these more plain, 'everyday' versions of the Norwegian sweater to the fancier (and much more expensive) versions made and sold by Dale of Norway.  I've got a couple of those too, but they work less well for casual wear. 

By the way, and in much the same way as quality leather dress shoes, Norwegian sweaters wear like iron and will last for years with just a bit of care and maintenance.  They are perfect attire for a fall afternoon raking leaves outside, a walk around the neighborhood, joining some friends or the family at the local cafe for some hot chocolate and something sweet, or a snowy winter's evening before the hearth.  They also look good peeking out from beneath a tweed sports jacket. . .  or even the right sort of leather jacket.  In much the same way as I wrote recently in a letter of reference for a student, I recommend the Norwegian fisherman's sweater without reservation.  It is an ideal and slightly more sophisticated replacement for the ubiquitous, and invariably grubby,  fleece or 'hoodie.' 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

My more usual pose. . .  A coffee addict's version of mainlining.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Damnable Popinjay. . .

 Today's ensemble, built around a wool flannel three-piece suit made by Ralph Lauren for Mark Shale.

Not the greatest of photographs, but today was the first wearing of that Ralph Lauren woolen flannel three-piece that I stumbled onto for less that US$5 back at the start of September.  When I wear the suit again next week, and the weather, hopefully, is better, I'll ask my wife to snap a brighter photograph outside and replace these with better ones.

Apropos the title, I wore an Italian silk necktie featuring parrots that dear ol' Mom and Step-dad brought me 18 or 19 years ago after they spent the summer in Trento one year, where the latter was doing some things for the U. N.  They also had quite a bit of time to visit several places in Northern Italy before coming home, and Mom picked up the tie for me during several days in Milan.  My first really good necktie by the way, and it still gets worn often.  I figured it offset the very traditional suit with a bit of playful irreverence.  Amazingly enough, while on campus today, I spotted our university provost from across The Quad in a similar charcoal three-piece!

Anyway, while I think the jacket sleeves could maybe be a hair shorter, and perhaps the inseam a bit longer, I'm extremely pleased with the general condition, look, and fit of the suit.  I'll wear it again before making up my mind on these two points and, if necessary, take it back to Mrs. V. for those adjustments at the end of the month.  A cool day today in any case, which was good because a woolen flannel three-piece suit is quite warm.  And extremely comfortable.  If more men were aware of that one feature of flannel suits alone, maybe a lot more of them would leave the house looking considerably better than they do.

But back to the suit.  Particular details include, among other things, pants lined to the knees, brace buttons on the inside of the waistband (I'm wearing blue and red paisley silk braces here), inward facing pleats, a fully canvased coat with natural shoulders, and an actual real boutonniere hole on the left lapel.  I'm not sure what the fabric weight is, but the suit is quite heavy even without yours truly in it and drapes very well.  I really like the lines/silhouette of the suit too.  The nap of the fabric is also in amazing condition everywhere (unusual for previously owned items), and I can only conclude that the suit was worn once or twice***, if at all, before finding its way the thrift/charity shop where I discovered it.  I've wanted a three-piece suit for a long time, and this one fits the bill wonderfully.  

As the song by The Doors goes, people are strange.  My father and maternal grandfather both owned and wore a number of Brooks Brothers and/or Southwick three-piece numbers during the cooler months when they worked in Manhattan during the 1950s-1980s, and I always liked the look even as a boy and teenager.  I suppose you could say things have come full circle here.  I'm finally dressing like Dad and Granddaddy after years of swearing to myself (and others) that I would never, ever -- under any circumstances -- do so.  An apple never falls far from the tree I guess.

A second, less stiff shot of same.  Doing my best Betty Grable.  In this suit, I feel almost like one of those old Laurence Fellows illustrations.  Almost.  It's the silhouette most of all I think.

***A useful thrifting tip.  Don't waist time and money buying things in thrift and charity shops that are within an inch of becoming threadbare. . .  or with tears, holes, pulls, stains, etc.  They'll look like you bought 'em from the back of the neighborhood ragman's cart.  Instead, purchase only items with minimal to no wear, ensuring that you can wear and enjoy said garments for years to come.  After getting any necessary minor alterations from your tailor or seamstress of course!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dressing for a Damp, Cool Autumn Day. . .

Look!  Up in the sky!  It's a bird, it's a plane, it's. . .  Bertie Wooster?

Nothing like tweed, corduroy, and a pair of vintage 'Phi Bates' brogues by the Bates shoe company on a chilly, wet mid-October afternoon.  Besides the cheap IKEA umbrella, the ensemble pictured above includes a tweed hacking jacket by Hart, Schaffner, and Marx (made in the U.S. of A. and featuring a functioning boutonnière hole and leather buttons), the old Phi Bates shoes (still in remarkable condition given their presumed age***), and a hand-printed and unlined wool Ravetz necktie made in Great Britain. . .  all worn with a pair of Land's End corduroy pants, a Ralph Lauren oxford cloth button-down collar shirt, and a tweed vest whose precise provenance escapes me at the moment.  

My wife remarked that I had a jaunty look going today when she snapped this picture on the front walk of our schloss, and, indeed, jaunty I felt when I dressed this morning.  All very fitting since tomorrow (Wedenesday) is P. G. Wodehouse's birthday.  Sadly, I lack a gentleman's personal gentleman the caliber of Jeeves, so I'll have to pack and load up the ol' two-seat roadster myself for the trip down to Totleigh Towers later today.  Hopefully, neither Madeline Bassett, Honoria Glossop, nor Bobbie Wickham will be lying in wait once I've arrived.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

*** The Bates Footwear company still produces military and police footwear, but civilian shoes have not been manufactured since the early 1960s, making my shoes at least 5o years old, if not older than that.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How are your 'other' social skills?

Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, the highly clever and sadly defunct comic strip by Bill Watterson, being rude as only Calvin can.

In today's post, we're not talking about various 'soft skills' like the kind beloved and espoused by human resources folks in the workplace.  Neither are we considering more basic social skills like firm handshakes, listening attentively when speaking with someone, pleasant table manners, or certain exceedingly unpleasant personal habits that too many adult males still revel in and consider funny.  We're going to take a a quick look, instead, at 'other' personal habits and behaviors that average guys working to kick up their everyday style several notches should remain aware of and do their utmost to practice. . .  Or not as the case may be.  Ready Teddy?  Then, here we go.

1) Control your temper!
Losing it now and then is ugly enough, but when it happens routinely, the inability to control your anger is inexcusable.

2) Avoid offensive speech.
Shouldn't have to say this in 2014, but sadly it remains necessary.  A gentleman does not allow sexually or racially derogatory words to creep into his speech.  It just sounds awful.  There is not other word for it, and it's also highly offensive to more people than you might think.

3) Watch your #%$@&*!!#%$ language! 
The same thing applies when it comes to obscenities, and the number of people who fail to realize this and fill their everyday speech with this kind of talk is mind-boggling.  As my maternal grandmother cautioned us, "Not only is swearing extremely common and a sign of people not having much of any worth to say, it's also a sign of an extremely limited vocabulary."

4) Keep it down.
Lower your voice in both personal interactions in personal spaces AND when you are out in public.  No one is suggesting that we whisper.  Don't misunderstand my point here.  But the rest of the world neither needs, nor wants to know about your intestinal issues, your ingrown toenail, what Da Bears should have done to win the big game last Sunday, or why your 3rd cousin's neighbor's best friend from high school is no longer talking to your great aunt on your father's side.

5) And when others are talking. . .
Avoid habitually interrupting conversations that you are not a part of as well as interrupting people in general.  It's obnoxious, intrusive, and irritating.  If the people in said conversation wish to include you, and solicit your, no doubt, valuable and informed opinion in the process, they'll make it clear.  Enough said?  And hey, sometimes it's just better to keep your mouth closed and keep those witty replies to yourself.

6) Avoid making an inordinate amount of noise.
Don't make all kinds of unnecessary noise in your daily movements or comings and goings to and from home, the workplace, or anywhere else.  Keep yourself to yourself, and that includes opening and closing doors/drawers loudly, slamming things when you put them down, or tossing your keys noisily onto a table or desk top each time you empty your pockets.  If Mom never told you, being obtrusive is nothing to be proud of.  Ok?  Be quiet.

7) Pick up after yourself.
You're not eight years old anymore.  Surprise!  Besides leaving a room or space the way you find it, it's also a sound idea to avoid leaving a trail of detritus and effluvia in your wake everywhere you go.  You know what I mean?  So, make sure to sweep any area you've been with your eyes, push in any chairs you've pulled out from a table or desk, and pick up things like paper clips, thumbtacks, bits of paper, pocket change, food crumbs, snack food or candy wrappers,  soda bottles, discarded clothing, and the like.  Not only will it make future clean-ups much easier and faster, but it is considerate of others, and will make you much easier to live with for those poor souls forced to share a dwelling with you.

8) Honk!  Honk!  Hooonnnkkk!
Sound familiar?  We've all experienced it, and I'm not talking about an irate driver sounding his or her horn incessantly in traffic.  I'm talking about blowing one's nose loudly, habitually, and obtrusively in public.  The issue is not whether someone uses facial tissues, or a cotton handkerchief.  It's simply about not doing something that is loud and just plain gross if others are within earshot, or worse having a meal at the dining table.  Excuse yourself and go somewhere private to take care of the problem.  Likewise, don't be a chronic sniffler.  Blow your nose!  Oh, and an over the counter nasal decongestant like Duration will help dry up those sinuses when you have a bad cold and congestion.  Buy it and use it until your head clears.

9) Avoid touching and/or picking at yourself.
Another pointer that should not need any mention, but if you spend any time with people from different backgrounds, it will become clear that it DOES need to be said.  So, here we go.  Stop touching, poking, picking, or prodding at your face, your nose, the corners of your eyes, or frankly anywhere else on your clothes or body.  Not only is it distracting for anyone forced to look at you, but doing so also makes you seem nervous and uncomfortable in the extreme.  In addition, it's just downright icky for others to witness.  Besides, who among us, assuming we are more mature than a group of 8-year old boys at summer camp, wants to come across and be thought of as disgusting and socially awkward?  Right.  I didn't think so.

10) Clearing your nose and throat.
Constantly 'snorking' mucus from your sinuses and/or clearing your throat is another gross, irritating, and apparently very common habit that far too many men -- and amazingly also quite a few women -- indulge in all of the time besides just first thing in the morning.  In short, don't.  Just stop it.  It is a jarring, disgusting noise that is so far removed from anything approaching gentility that I don't know where to start.  In a word, it's offensive.  Incredibly so.  If you are aware of it and genuinely cannot stop the problem, see either a medical doctor, a mental health professional, or, if you've got a bad cold, purchase some over the counter decongestants in the form of pills, nasal spays, or syrups to solve the issue.  Anyone who is forced to spend time in your company at work, at home, on the street, or a long flight will be silently grateful.  

Bonus Tip
Don't spit!  Ever.  If I've failed to mention it elsewhere here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, I should have because loads of people everywhere still exhibit this charming habit.  Not only is it disgusting, but it's also highly unhygienic.  Spitting spreads germs, no one should have to see you do it or walk through the remains, and, as an older female friend and former colleague once remarked a year or two ago, "Gentlemen don't spit."  There really isn't much else left to say, is there?  If a guy is proud of being a crass rube, so be it.  But any man worthy of the term, who genuinely wants to come across as a bit more polished, sophistiated, and well-bred should take great pains to break the spitting habit and never look back.  Ugh!

There we are.  Ten 'other' social skills and habits for us to become better aware of and make a concerted effort to either practice, or eradicate from our personal behavior, so that we do not come across to others as rough around the edges.  Paying attention to the kind of things I describe above will also help ensure that you become a more pleasant person to be around. . .  even at a distance, and certainly up close and personal.  It will also help you to kick up your everyday style several notches.  Perhaps even more than might an expensive suit, necktie, or a pair of shoes.  Personal style is, after all, about so much more than simply our attire.  Rather, it has a great deal to do with the kind of person we are beneath  those clothes.  A guy can drive an expensive car, have a high status job, an MBA from a first class university, and a vapid 'trophy' wife 20 years his junior, sure.  But if his personal habits and behavior are, shall we say, less than attractive. . .  Well, he can hardly be thought of as pleasant or stylish.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 10, 2014

Make It a Double-Breasted Flannel Fall Friday!

Today's clothing combo included a nice, warm pair of salt and pepper, charcoal wool flannel pants, barely visible here, along with the wool flannel sports jacket shown, which is terrific on a cooler fall day.  It also has a fantastic shape with just enough waist suppression, although I must confess that the sleeves still are a bit too long and need to be shortened about 3/4" to allow some cuff to show.  However I threw caution to the wind and wore the jacket anyway.  I know, I know.  The shoes were some nice, shiny black Allen Edmonds short-wing brogues along with a black leather belt.  Oh, and a Phi Kappa Phi pin on the  lapel, which is an academic honor society I've been part of since my undergrad days.

Some days, everything goes just right.  It's Friday, always a good thing.  I wrapped up early for the day.  It's a crisp, cool autumn afternoon, my favorite kind.  I felt reasonably good about today's attire, even with the too-long jacket sleeves.  And I picked up something nice at my best thrift spot before heading home, the wool overcoat pictured below.  Best of all, my wife and I had a bit longer than usual for our semi-regular Friday afternoon cafe rendezvous before the Young Master finished with preschool and had to be picked up.   Sometimes, everything works out just right.  If the rain holds off, we'll bundle up and enjoy a campfire in the fire pit out back tonight after supper.  Ahhhhh. . . 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Look what I found at the better of my two local thrift/charity haunts on the way home this afternoon!  A nice medium weight wool overcoat by Chicago's venerable Hart, Schaffner, and Marx.  I picked it up for less than US$10 thanks to a full customer punch card, which got me the coat at 50% off.  Not bad, and it doesn't even have that awful thrift/charity shop funky stink, but I'll have it dry-cleaned just the same before wearing it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

That Boy Took My Love Away. . .

This model of 3/4 size acoustic steel string by Ibanez is on the way to Stollen Central!

A completely unrelated post here, but I'm excited.  At the end of the month when he celebrates his 5th birthday, the Young Master will receive a guitar like the one above from Ol' Dad.  Like many children, he loves music, often requesting Diana Krall for suppertime listening when we sit down at the table together.  Sting, Peter, Paul, and Mary,  and The Beatles are among his other favorites, and he enjoys listening to me play the guitar on rare occasion.  Yours truly first received a guitar on the day I celebrated my own 5th birthday way back in 1971 (truly the Stone Age), and it seems like a sound idea to continue the tradition.  I think he'll be thrilled when he unwraps it.  For my part, I'll certainly be thrilled to present a guitar to the Young Master on the big day.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wool Flannel, Ancient Madder, and Suede. . .

Today's clothing combo, featuring the Canali jacket once again, pants by Zanella, a hand-made Ancient Madder tie, and chocolatey brown, suede wingtip brogues by Allen Edmonds.  All items shown, except the shoes and shirt, were thrifted.

Wool flannel.  As comfortable as a t-shirt and sweatpants.  But much more presentable, polished, and sophisticated.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Critical Mass, Part II: Dressing Well Made Easy. . .

Today's ensemble: navy wool flannel blazer, gray wool flannel pants, cotton oxford cloth button-down collar shirt, silk necktie, and silk pocket square.  Black leather belt and tasseled loafers not shown.

Forget for a moment how exciting it is to rediscover forgotten items twice each year when you switch from warmer weather clothing to cooler weather gear each fall and vice versa in the spring.  Let's return to one of last week's posts about reaching critical mass with your attire.  Here's the magic formula according to my way of thinking.  If you've got three or four sports jackets and a blazer, four or five pairs of dress pants, and four or five pairs of dress shoes -- all of which can, more or less, be mixed and matched easily -- along with two dozen dress shirts, maybe 6-10 neckties, and two dozen pairs of dress socks, you've reached the critical mass.  

You've got enough items in your wardrobe that you won't be wearing the same thing every seven days, yet you can assemble an infinitely varied and presentable adult combination of classic male attire quickly and easily.  Your clothing will remain visually interesting to you, and people won't notice that you wore the same item two days previously because you're able to change things up a bit.  Moreover, each individual item will last much longer because 1) you won't wear it to death on your body, 2) it won't be beaten to death with weekly laundering in the case of shirts and socks, 3) fall apart from too many trips to the dry cleaner's.  Simple, right?  As I asked rhetorically last week, who says dressing better than average has to take lots of time?  Guys who voice such a complaint just don't know what they are talking about.

Building a versatile classic wardrobe like this takes a little time, of course, but it needn't break the bank as I've said before here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  Just watch for retail sales online and in physical stores, or shop consignment, thrift, or charity shops routinely.  It simply takes a bit of time (not much) and effort (not much).  If you've done your research and learned about classic male attire in the meantime, you'll know what to look for and recognize it when you spot it.  And if you live somewhere where the thrift pickings are better than they are in my small Midwestern city, you might even be able assemble a functional classic wardrobe in a year or two.  

Buy what you need, have it altered to fit your frame in the best way possible, and wear it with aplomb.  It's no good to anyone if those newly acquired clothes are left hanging in your closet.  Grow a backbone, become immune to those "Why are you so dressed up?" questions, and  put 'em on.  You look great.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autumn Is Underway!

The bottom half today.  These shoes by Allen Edmonds are by far the most comfy of my four such pairs of long-wing brogues.  Time to donate or sell a couple of the others I think.

Cooler weather is here, and I actually managed to get out the warmer attire for the fall and winter months yesterday and brush down and stow the lighter weight clothes in the hall closet at the top of the rear staircase.  Today is mostly sunny, cool, and breezy, perfect for a tweed jacket, wool necktie, corduroy pants, and a pair of brogues.  Here's a breakdown of the various items worn today:

* Gray and Charcoal Herring Bone Harris Tweed  jacket w/real leather buttons -- Thrifted
* Land's End OCBD shirt with light blue and yellow tattersall pattern -- Thrifted
* Navy Wool Necktie w/mustard yellow and green foulard pattern -- Thrifted
* Brown, Dark Green, and Yellow Italian Silk  Pocket Square -- Thrifted
* Land's End Forest Green corduroy pants -- Purchased On Sale
* Brown and Charcoal Argyll pattern socks -- ''  "
* Land's End Brown Braided Belt -- "  "
* Allen Edmonds "MacNeil" Wingtip Brogues -- Ebay

Who says you've got to spend a bundle to look halfway decent?  I felt pretty good in any case since I prefer cooler weather, and Fall is my favorite season.  It must have shown on my face and movement, because a student whose face I recognized, although I could not place her name, smiled as we passed each other on The Quad this morning and said, "You've got an extra spring to your step today, Professor von Boffke!"

Best of all, I finally made it to my tailor Mrs. V. with all of that stuff that has been hanging in the backseat of the car since last Friday, and tried on the various items for her to make notes for the necessary alterations.  It seems, she will be able to let out the side seams of the double-breasted coat, part of that amazing flannel suit in a muted cream and charcoal Glen Plaid pattern, so that it does not pull at the buttoning point.  Hurrah!  I feared there might not be enough material left in the shell to do so, but Mrs. V. seems to think there is more than enough.  Hey, she's the expert, right?  

With any luck, I ought to have the suit back by midweek next week along with the other recently acquired cool/cold weather items!  Stay tuned for a photo or two here.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Saturday, October 4, 2014

What do you wear on a chilly fall day at home?

Perfect for a chilly Saturday in October.  Allen Edmonds 'Catskill" loafers in chocolatey brown suede, Land's End corduroy jeans, and an almost worn out but extremely soft blue and white 'university stripe' cotton Land's End oxford cloth button-down collar shirt on top.  Oh, and a comfy old 'oxblood' colored leather belt to keep the pants up.

As I've written before, or at least strongly suggested (I think in a February 2013 post), it is entirely possible to dress very comfortably during evenings and weekends at home, yet you can still look more than half-way decent if you need to answer the front door.  Or you've got to make that all-important milk run down the street and around the corner to your local convenience store or super market.

Listen, I enjoy snuggling up in a pair of flannel pajamas, or my University of Wisconsin sweatshirt and sweatpants, as much as the next guy on a chilly autumn or winter's evening.  But I don't want to live my every waking hour at home in garments like that either.  I enjoy being an adult and dressing like one.  And while I'll always have a soft spot for my Levi's 501 button-fly jeans and Dan Post cowboy boots (it's perfectly true as Hans Christian Andersen wrote), I'm not riding the range. . .  or revisiting my local honky-tonk with a filthy concrete floor somewhere off Highway 61 in the arrowhead on Minnesota either.

Nope.  For a relaxing weekend or holiday at home, why not dress a tiny bit better than that?  Ditch the perpetually worn (in at least two senses) sweat pants, and get yourself some comfortable casual wear for your evenings and weekends at home.  It's not hard, or expensive, if you watch for sales on items from companies like L.L. Bean, Land's End, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, or Eddie Bauer for example.  And while arguably those companies might not be quite what they once were, given their recent attempts to cater to the broad masses, you can still turn up decent looking, good quality items at reasonable prices if you keep an eye on their websites and paper catalogs.

And hey, even if you don't care yourself about dressing a bit better during your downtime, do it for the people in your life who share a dwelling with you.  The chances are awfully good that they'll appreciate you not looking like an habitual (and inconsiderate) slob.  No one is suggesting you've got to get up at the crack of dawn to shower and shave on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but it would be nice for those around you if, barring silk pajamas and robe, you appeared at the breakfast table with your face washed, hair brushed, and wearing somewhat more presentable clothes than yesterday's smelly t-shirt and those ratty old sleep boxers with worn out elastic from your college days.  Not even your spouse should have to witness that pleasant sight.  Know what I mean, Biff?  

I'll be so bold as to suggest that it is our duty, as adult men, to continue making the effort to remain attractive and pleasant to be with as far as our spouses/partners/significant others are concerned. . .  even long after wedding vows have been exchanged (or renewed).  Looking pulled together at home, and keeping your personal habits in check for that matter, are two easy ways to accomplish that particular aim.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time for Tweed, Flannel, and Corduroy!

"Do ya feel lucky?  Well?  Do ya?"  Dirty Harry Callahan as portrayed by the fabulous Clint Tweedwood.

The weather has at last turned really cool here and looks to remain so for the next week according to the National Weather Service website.  

Hurrah!  Looks like it's time to brush down and zip up the warm weather gear and bring out the flannels, tweeds, and corduroys.  I've also got a newly acquired pair of Allen Edmonds 'longwing' brogues to give their inaugural wearing next week.  

Now, if only my tailor had not been inexplicably and maddeningly closed when I took that load of stuff by late this morning, things would be toppermost of the poppermost.  It doesn't seem like I'll ever manage to get that darn double-breasted Glen Plaid suit in delightful cream and charcoal flannel in for alterations.  Grrrrr. . .   Go ahead.  Make my day!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reaching That Critical Mass. . .

Ignore the stiff, goofy expression, please.  My wife either snaps a photo after my natural smile has waned and a pained expression takes over, or before I've relaxed and can give her a genuine smile.  Maybe one day, we will get ourselves coordinated a bit better.  A mix of Brooks Brothers and Land's End items here with Cole Haan tasseled loafers on the feet.  These shoes my black rainy day pair, the reason I have not yet replaced them with something a bit better.

How do you know when you've got the right amount of stuff?  When you can easily assemble a different combination of clothes at the start of your day almost without thinking about it.  A guy does not need a huge amount of stuff in his wardrobe either.  Neither does kicking up your everyday style several notches and dressing better than average need to take a lot of time (a common misconception).  The main thing to keep in mind is, with all acquisitions, add only items that can be combined, without too much trouble, with stuff you have already in your wardrobe.  

As for things that work with relatively few other items, either jettison them from your wardrobe, or don't buy them in the first place.  I'm actually in the midst of weeding out a number of items that just don't get much wear, or aren't as great in practice as they seemed when I first got them.

The ensemble shown above took about two minutes to assemble after showering and shaving this morning with maybe another five minutes to put on everything.  Add the necktie, and I was back downstairs and ready to walk out the door about 15 minutes after replacing my shaving mug and brush on the shelf.  Factor in the shower and shave, and we're talking 30 minutes tops to appear reasonably presentable for public consumption.  

Looking decent does not, repeat does not need to take an inordinate about of time.  The belief that dressing better than average somehow will take more time that you have is fallacious and an excuse.  I'd be willing to bet that very few average guys are so busy that they can't find half an hour to pull themselves together a bit more than has become the  sad, pathetic norm  in our pilled fleece world of 2014.  Heck, you can always get out of bed 20 minutes early, right?

Tomorrow is the Friday of Homecoming Weekend at my small liberal arts school.  While administrative offices will be open, there are no classes.  Yes!  Time for yours truly to take two recently thrifted wool flannel suits -- a double-breasted Ermenegildo Zegna number in creamy Glen Plaid and a chalk stripe three-piece by Polo Ralph Lauren --  to my tailor Mrs. V. for a few minor alterations before I can wear them.  I must also drop off a pair of gray flannel pants and corduroy sports jacket and retrieve my wristwatches from the jeweler between walking our son to preschool early in the day and picking him up in the early afternoon.  Somewhere in there, my wife and I will meet for our semi-regular Friday cafe date too.  Busy, busy, busy. . .  but a nice kind of busy

-- Heinz-Ulrich