The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Be Resourceful. . .

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

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

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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksggiving!

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


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another Evening Sittin' around the House. . .

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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

A seasonally appropriate scotch whisky advertisement.

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Southwick 3/2 Houndstooth Suit. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tweed for a Blustery November Day. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

"Let me tell ya all about it!"

Monday, November 10, 2014

"How large should a starter wardrobe be?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, November 7, 2014

On 'Classic' Clothing, Conduct, and Comfort. . .

It's not just limited to petty crooks, the homeless, or tough guy wannabees, on the streets anymore.  This look is now the typical daily "go to" mode of dress for many young guys on college campuses and their slightly older twenty-something cousins.  Or, as I like to call the latter, terminally part-time baristas.  What planet are we on, and how in the world did we get here?

A common protest heard from many average guys, who aren't used to dressing in anything more than jeans, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirts, runs something like this.  "I just hate dressing up!  It's so uncomfortable."  What exactly lies at the root of that oft heard complaint?  I feel that guys' aversion to dressing better than something resembling a walking lawn and leaf bag is based on various physical and psychological factors with, perhaps, the latter being the more significant of the two.  Together, these fuel that perceived discomfort claimed by so many guys when even the mere prospect of "dressing up" is raised.  Consider the following:

1) Too many guys wear clothing made, in whole or part, of synthetic materials.
Even with regular washing, garments made from man-made materials can get funky after a while and rarely feel what you might call "soft" against the skin even when new.  Then, there is the issue of fabric pilling through wear, which is not only uncomfortable, but can make something like a fleece look crappy really fast.

By contrast, attire made from natural materials like cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, linen, etc. breathes better and, with a tiny bit of care and maintenance, maintain its shape and appearance better than any of that man-made garbage that too many people buy, often paying exorbitant prices for it, and wear in public without a second thought. 

2) In addition, lots of guys wear stuff that doesn't fit them.
Size matters, guys.  At least when it comes to the clothes we wear.  For some bizarre reason, lots of guys on the loose out there either wear items that are far too large, or they try to squeeze into things that are way too small.  Much like a comb-over on a follicle challenged individual, neither approach to clothing will ever leave you looking and feeling your best, or help you make and leave behind the kind of impression you hope to make.  

Instead, find, try on, and purchase stuff that actually fits you.  But don't get something a size too large, or, worse, try to stuff yourself into an item that is too small to begin with.  And under no circumstances do you want to force your body into something that you have outgrown thanks to too much beer and too many cheese bratwursts during the five years since you last wore that one suit hanging at the back of your closet.  You want to grill brats, not look like one.

3) Some guys just aren't discerning when it comes to what they wear.
And, remarkably, they don't seem to care how bad they might look, although I remain convinced that many average guys, who might protest to the contrary, are bluffing in a weak, misguided attempt to save face.  I suspect lots of guys just don't know any better, and it's easier for them to maintain that they don't care than it is for them to seek help.  Guys like this need to become, within reason of course, more fastidious about their appearance where clothing is concerned instead of taking the more cavalier, "It's close enough" approach.  

But too many of these same guys seem to be worried about seeming effeminate if they pay attention to their appearance.  Hogwash!  That way of thinking does not usually result in your feeling comfortable or appearing entirely confident when in adult male attire.  Call it a hunch, but it might help to learn a little something about about clothing and accessories to look and feel your best.  You've also got to know what works best for you when it comes to classic attire and exude  a certain degree of self-confidence.

4) Most guys fail to make a tailor part of their sartorial routine.
Don't forget to have each new piece of clothing -- typically items like sports jackets, blazers, pants, and suits -- altered to fit your unique physical dimensions.  And we aren't talking about bespoke Saville Row suits, made from the ground up, either.  Off the rack items can look almost as good with the right alterations.  Keep in mind, though, that to a certain extent, higher quality items can be altered to fit you better.  

At the very least, you need to have jacket/coat sleeves and pants inseams altered so that you don't look like a little boy in his father's suit.  Don't ignore this vital trick of the trade when it comes to looking and feeling your best in clothes that you wear for public consumption, that is outside of your own backyard or TV room.

5) Still other guys seem oblivious to climate and season.
Take care to wear items that are the appropriate type and weight for your location on the globe and the time of year.  You wouldn't think of wearing a heavy tweed jacket and corduroy pants in Mississippi or Alabama during July, August, or September, would you? Neither would a lighter weight gabardine suit be appropriate for Minneapolis-Saint Paul during a typical Minnesota winter.  And let's not get started on the apparently millions of doofi (the correct plural of doofus) out there who wear shorts any time the temperature rises above 25F./-3.8C.  

Suffice to say that you should remember to pay at least some attention to the thermometer and time of year before you get dressed.  Doing so will help you feel much more comfortable, especially when you wear classic male attire.

6) Then, there are the guys who habitually buy poor quality items.
One more reason many feel uncomfortable whenever they need to "dress up" has to do with the fact that they've bought the cheapest, crummiest stuff they could find, which, at some level, they realize.  And while low price might seem like a good idea at the time, you get what you pay for.  Too often buying something for a cheap price means poor craftsmanship, poor fit, and low overall quality.  Sometimes, that will have a direct effect on how comfortable a piece of clothing  is. . . or is not.  

Assuming clothes fit your body reasonably well to begin with and are seasonally appropriate, better items are, in general, going to wear better, last much longer, and be more comfortable than cheaper, mass produced garments that usually, though not always, feature poor workmanship among a host of other problems inherent in them.

7) And of course, far too many guys have other bad sartorial habits. 
This point has to do with how a guy wears his clothes and, depending on the kind of garment under consideration, how often he does so.  While a necktie should be drawn up enough to hide the hopefully fastened top button of your shirt, it should not be cinched so tightly around the neck that it feels like a hangman's noose.  Put another way, the whites of your eyes and face should not be turning deep red, or your pulse pounding in your ears minutes after you finish knotting your tie.  

Neither should your belt be cinched so tightly around your waist that it gives you a muffin top.  Of course a belt is meant to help keep our pants up, but there is a happy medium between too loose and too tight.  Find it.  

Similarly, if you wear that one pair of leather dress shoes in your closet just once or twice a year, spending the other 363 days in athletic shoes, "mandals," or flip-flops, then of course you'll feel self-conscious and unsteady on your feet when you absolutely cannot avoid donning dark socks and dress shoes for Great Aunt Marge's memorial service.  Hopefully, you aren't actually planning to wear sneakers and that old pair of Levi's Dockers.

8) Still other guys lack any sense of occasion and what is appropriate.
Make sure that you wear clothing appropriate for a given occasion.  What might be suitable (get it?) for raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or changing the oil in your car is not necessarily appropriate attire for weddings, funerals, religious services, jury duty, special dinners or events, parent-teacher conferences, or, indeed, many offices.  

Very often, people feel uncomfortable (or should) when they show up dressed in such a way that is not in accordance with the occasion and, perhaps, the kind of attire that those around them are wearing.  To be blatantly specific, I am talking about people arriving woefully underdressed relative to the kind of event they attend.  For example, consider the number of weddings these days where no one, except maybe the bride, groom, their bridal party, and the person officiating are dressed in anything other than jeans, sneakers, and shirt sleeves.  Same thing with how many people apparently now attend church services on Sundays.  It's as if they are on the way to the beach and decide on a whim to drop by a church service along their way.  

No, no, no.  It's time to reintroduce a certain level of respect and decorum for certain places, events, and occasions, and that comes, largely, through awareness and consideration for other people and things besides oneself.  What a concept, eh?  It is worth noting, and rather interesting, that this terminal state of arriving underdressed does not seem to be a problem for people attending services in synagogues or mosques from what I've seen.

9) Some guys are burdened by emotional baggage from their formative years.
If certain attitudes and practices were (or were not) conveyed during one's upbringing, it's easy to see why so many guys claim to be uncomfortable when faced with the prospect of dressing presentably, in something besides ill-fitting sweats or jeans, for work and/or recreation.  They've been conditioned to think that way, their psychological discomfort instilled by others, who have moaned and groaned about the imagined hardship of wearing  a suit or a jacket and tie.  

I actually have a former in-law in the United States and another relation in Great Britain like this, so there must be plenty of other guys around who think in a similar way.  Call it an unfounded and irrational fear of looking presentable, which lots of guys attempt to disguise through bluff and false bravado.  Or, as some of my own family members now quietly chuckle in less guarded moments it's one more example of the "No, I'm not taking that promotion to a leadership position because I don't want to wear a suit and tie!" syndrome.

Um, guys?  If you're out of high school and over the age of 17 or 18, it's time to get over that and start paying more careful attention to how you present yourself -- and what your clothes are saying -- to the rest of the world anytime you walk out of your front door.  An increased level of self-reflection and greater awareness might help here.

10) And many guys suffer from very low expectations for themselves.
Or they simply don't aspire to more than the lowest common denominator in terms of clothing and conduct.  It might be a case of not knowing any better, a conscious decision, or perhaps a little of both.  Where the latter is concerned, I find that there are many "men" who take a bizarre and perverse kind of pride in looking and/or acting coarse for want of a better word.  Why?

Hopefully, that does not describe any visitors to The Average Guys Guide to Classic Style.  If my observation does strike and uncomfortable chord, however, consider revisiting the way you think about yourself and your life.  Examine what you want and expect for yourself personally and professionally.  What kind of attire and life do you want for yourself, and what expectations go with what you envision?  Do you want to resemble the legions of guys in perpetual disarray, who are sloppy in appearance, habit, and mind?  Or, do you want something better for yourself. . .   and those around you?  

Like it or not, external appearance is a part of this.  We can use clothing, however, to present ourselves in the best way possible, inspiring confidence within ourselves and those around us when it comes to our education, skills, abilities, talents, and level of seriousness. . .  Or just our general level of pleasantness.

11) For many guys ripped, torn, stained, orange and/or camouflage clothing is the daily norm.
I don't even know where to start when it comes to this, but Judas H. Priest!  And I don't think it's always an indicator of socioeconomic status hence my sense of frustration with the situation.  Isn't there someone, a parent or parent figure, who can set these clowns straight?  Since I grew up in the country and cared for several horses, ponies, and sheep among other farmyard animals during my youth, though, I feel safe in suggesting that this kind of clothing should be relegated primarily to chores in and around the barn.  

Otherwise, don't appear for public consumption wearing it. . .   Unless you are actually freezing your baguettes off in a blind during deer season, or some other hunting season, when it comes to all of that orange and camo gear.

12) Last, too many guys are crippled by a self-defeating mindset.
An awful lot of guys I've rubbed elbows with invent any number of reasons and give all kinds excuses for why they do not, will not, or cannot dress any better than they do if and when the subject comes up.  I also suspect that there are lots of unstated reasons and ways of thinking that come into play too.  Enough is enough!  

It's time to stop viewing dressing presentably, together with decent behavior, as things to fear, loathe, and deride.  Dressing (and conducting oneself) like a man with some grooming, polish, and sophistication should instead be seen as an opportunity to look and feel your best and put your best foot forward.  A change in how you view yourself, along with dressing and acting like an adult, who has things to do, places to go, and people to see -- plus the well-practiced social skills to match -- is called for when it comes to feeling comfortable in classic male attire or a social setting besides the dreaded and stinky "man cave." 

Where do we go from here?  
Surely, there must be additional points I am not thinking of at the moment, but those outlined above go some way in explaining how and why lots of guys claim to feel physically uncomfortable, or just mentally and emotionally ill at ease, whenever they are faced with wearing something that conveys somewhat more gravitas than that ratty Cozumel t-shirt, from college Spring Break a dozen years ago, with a pair of blown-out jeans or cargo shorts. 

Now, I might be off the mark with some of of the problems I identify above, but quite a few years spent meeting and observing people, in various walks of life, suggest otherwise.  It's my considered opinion that lots of guys, of various ages and occupations, suffer from one or more of the ills described above, consciously or subconsciously.  Moreover, I'll venture that these same individuals, who clearly are in the majority, are to some degree physically uncomfortable in and/or mildly embarrassed by their clothing and appearance.  However, they attempt to mask that discomfort in a haze of cheap aftershave and testosterone-induced bluster if the subject is ever broached.  Smoke and mirrors in other words.  Or as I like to think of it, the emperor has no clothes on at all.  

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest something quite radical at this point however.  If a guy goes about it the right way, re-imagining his self-image and approach to presentable dress, a suit and necktie, or even just a sports jacket or blazer, odd pants or jeans that fit, and a blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt -- worn open-necked without a tie. . .  what constitutes "dressed up" to a lot of people these days -- can be every bit as comfortable as a pair of pajamas.  Try it and see. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Fun with Hart, Schaffner, Marx and Ralph Lauren. . .

 "Made ya laugh!"  My wife seems to have a real knock for snapping the shutter at precisely the wrong moment.

Our respective paths crossed for a few minutes this afternoon before I headed to campus.  What better opportunity to snap a few pictures of yours truly in that Hart, Schaffner, Marx overcoat that I picked up a few weeks back for less than US$10.  A fairly dark, chilly day today, so I kept it subdued with various grays and a pair of black Allen Edmonds.  The double-breasted jacket, which has appeared in various post previously here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, is by Ralph Lauren.  The one splash of color in today's ensemble was the pretty green foulard necktie.  The brand is unknown, but according to the label, the tie was handmade in England.  Good enough for me.  Everything shown here was either thrifted, purchased for a song on Ebay, or from An Affordable Wardrobe in the Boston area.  Yet more proof that you can dress presentably -- fancy-schmancy even -- without spending thousands of dollars to do so.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 Here's a slightly more sedate photo from a few moments later.

And one with the hands not in the pockets.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Style. . .

We had a dragon visit the von Boffke household during Halloween 2014 (von Boffke jr.), and a most stylish dragon he was too.

Halloween 2014 has come and gone, and it seems like it was a reasonably successful one.  The occasion is an enjoyable one for younger children, and they were certainly out in force during our designated trick-or-treat times yesterday evening.  

This year, we set up a self-serve arrangement on our front steps, so that yours truly could accompany the Grand Duchess and the Young Master around the neighborhood.  It was quite chilly though, so we visited about 10 houses before the Young Master announced that he was ready to head home.  It was just the right amount of time, an hour or so, on a crisp, October evening with a pretty, pink sunset on the horizon.

Back at home, we even managed to go through all of our candy by the end time designated by the city, fortunately, so no snacking on leftovers for ol' Dad this weekend. Simply by cutting out lunch, limiting breakfast to 24 biscuits of Kellogg's Frosted Miniwheats, and keeping supper portions small with few second helpings, I've managed to shed five pounds in the last four weeks without too much effort or hardship.  Ten to go before I hit my target.

But back to Halloween.  And I fully realize that the following makes me seem like an awful, dusty, crusty, old fuddy-duddy, but so be it.  Here are a few observations after yesterday evening's foray with the Young Master:

1) While it's not exactly my thing, it is fun to see some parents get into the spirit of the occasion and don a witch's hat, or something similar, to accompany their children around the neighborhood.  But, please remind your kids to say "Thank you" at the conclusion of the trick-or-treat transaction.  To be fair, we did hear these magic words from some groups of children with whom we mixed yesterday evening during our own dragon's Halloween jaunt around the neighborhood, but the practice of "Thank you" wasn't exactly universal from the mouths of many of these babes either.

2) Halloween is for younger children everyone.  Junior high and high school kids, and/or college-aged adults (teenagers to early 20-somethings) are far too old to be trick-or-treating for free handouts.  Grow up!  Some parents out there need to do a better job of suggesting that as certain milestones come and go in a young person's life.  

3) What is the deal with all of the clearly middle class kids clearly dressed as the 21st century version of marauding street thugs -- right down to hooded sweatshirts and/or knit ski caps -- complete with plastic whiffle ball bats and backpacks to hide the loot?  What in the hell are their parents thinking?!  In which universe is this a "cool" costume for your child, much less permissible?  And don't give me the weak argument that it's the most/best these kids can come up with.  Bull.   

4) Can someone please explain to me the apparent mindset that handouts, regardless of whatever those might be, are somehow a God-given right, and you should, therefore, scoop up as much of whatever is being doled out as you possibly can?  What is that all about?  Each year at Halloween, we notice carloads of children (and their parents), who we never see around our ethnically and economically mixed neighborhood. . .  except at Halloween, when the "children" (often young teenagers already a little old for trick-or-treat) are dropped off from shiny, fairly new late model vehicles by their parents to sweep the streets for whatever they might be able to get before piling back into the car to hit a different neighborhood in another section of town.  This way of thinking -- having one's figurative or literal hand perpetually out for freebies -- is unconscionable.  Is that really the kind attitude and behavior we ought to instill in our children?  

Ok.  Saturday morning rant over.  Bring on the American Thanksgiving holiday, a nice one that, unfortunately, gets lost in the manic run up to Christmas.

 -- Heinz-Ulrich