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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Week Casual. . .

 The top this afternoon includes a red and white university stripe ocbd and a gray crewneck Shetland Wool sweater that I bought on clearance from L.L. Bean two or three Januaries ago.

Who says you've got to look like a schlub when hanging around the house on a cold Christmas Week afternoon?  This is what I changed into following a visit to the pediatrician with the Young Master for his yearly check-up midday today.  I wore a tweed jacket and primarily navy plaid tie plus navy dress cords with a crease for that appointment by the way. 

I find that medical and dental personnel tend to be less patronizing when you go in looking like you know which way is up.  Know what I mean?  You can always tell by the tone in their voices.  Same thing with airport ticketing agents, security personnel, and airline crews as well as other service providers.  That's reason enough for me to suggest with a perfectly straight face that an adult male above the age of 18 should always be dressed a cut or three above the herd when venturing out in public.  It greases the wheels of life in so many ways.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the bottom, featuring L.L. Bean duck shoes (it's slushy here in Lower Michigan at the moment) and red ski socks peeking out.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Feast of Stephen Casual Style. . .

Modelling a new rugby jersey, a Christmas present yesterday from the Grand Duchess.

Things are relaxed here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold the day after Christmas. . .  but they are by no means sloppy.  Corduroy jeans and a rugby top are every bit as comfortable as, and a damn site better looking than, ratty sweats and an old t-shirt or hooded sweatshirt.  If you don't dress up a bit better than average for yourself, then at least do it for the others around you.

For Christmas Dinner yesterday evening, I wore an ocbd shirt in pale green and white university stripes with a red and white MacDonald tartan wool necktie, a navy double-breasted blazer, a pair of herringbone pants in a mottled brown with black tasseled loafers and black leather belt.  The combo was topped off by a very festive red, navy, silver, and orange paisley silk pocket square that I purchased new several years ago just before Christmas in a downtown Chicago department style close to the annual Christkindlmarkt on Daley Square.

The Christmas and New Year's holiday period is a time to have a bit of fun with dressing presentably even though many of us are able to take some time off and remain at home among family and friends.  I suggest we men pull ourselves together not because we must, but because we want to, which might require a shift in our general attitude about how we present ourselves to the world. . .  and those nearest and dearest to us  Would that really be so terrible a thing?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from Classic Style for the Average Guy. . .


Warm holiday greetings from Classic Style for the Average Guy!  May your Christmas and New Year's Season be understated, stylish, and nonchalant in a classic sense.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


 All dressed for a casual stroll at a nearby nature center during the mid-afternoon of Christmas Eve 2015.  The shirt beneath the sweater was an L.L. Bean pink and white University Stripe ocbd.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Pre-Christmas Reminder. . .

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

Here's a reprise of a piece I wrote and shared last year at this time. . .


With the 2014 [now 2015] Christmas and Holiday Season already in full swing, it's worth remembering our aim to dress and conduct ourselves better than has become the sad average among so many nominal "men" out there.  Coarse behavior and thoughtlessness seem to be the rule rather than the exception for too many in the second decade of the 21st century.  So, here are two dozen pointers to keep in mind when it comes to our appearance and actions at the various Christmas and holiday gatherings we might attend at this festive time of year.  Come to think of it, much of what follows below is also applicable at home and throughout the rest of the year.  Ready, guys?  Then, strap in and hang on tight, 'cause here we go!


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

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

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

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

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



 A very pleasant 1950s seasonally appropriate image.


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

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

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

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

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


Was beer-drinking ever this glamorous?


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, December 18, 2015

Casual Mid-December 2015 Style. . .

The top half for today, a cold, blustery one with some snowflakes in the air.

Not much to report style-wise on this end.  With our move from our temporary digs on Monday this week, I've mostly been up to my waist in cardboard moving boxes and packing materials as I've tried to get the first floor of the new house in order at least.  Wednesday saw us touring what will be our son's new school come January, so I did manage to pull on a blue and white University Stripe ocbd shirt, red wool necktie, tweed jacket, corduroy pants, and a pair of long-wing brogues for that, but no photographs sadly.  

However, this morning, I had to journey into campus to pickup several student papers that were left in my mailbox AFTER the deadline on the final day of class last week.  The assumption by young people that this is some how permissible and ok drives me crazy.  Especially when it has not been discussed and arranged with me beforehand (a policy laid out clearly in the course syllabi by the way).  But that is another subject entirely.  Let's not get started on it today.

Anyway, since I wanted to look presentable but did not feel like shaving (I know, I know), I went for a slightly more casual look today, which consisted of the items shown in these two photographs.  Not shown beneath this sweater is one of my several light blue ocbd shirts.  This is just one more example that demonstrates how a man can be casual and comfortable with just a little forethought and care. . .  and without straying anywhere near sloppiness.  I'm still wearing  this gear (minus the duffle coat and scarf) as I type this particular blog entry. 

My favorite item shown here is the L.L. Bean Norwegian fisherman's sweater, the genuine 'Made in Norway' item.  I was given a very one by Mom and Step-dad for my birthday in November 1992, which I still have and wear, and purchased a navy and cream one after Christmas at a substantial discount in January 1993.  I also jumped on this one when I saw if for sale at An Affordable Wardrobe in September 2014when Giuseppe was still selling vintage and used menswear online.  While I have and wear a couple of much fancier sweaters made by Dale of Norway, my favorites remain these fairly simple cream and charcoal ones which go with just about anything.

Happy (Almost) Winter Solstice from Lower Michigan!

-- Heinz-Ulrich 


And the bottom half.  Glad I was able to locate my Bean Boots and 'duck shoes' quickly.  We are supposed to have several inches of snow in the night.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A DB Suit and Granddaddy's Cufflinks. . .

Here's a so-so shot of today's attire and accessories combination.  Just out of sight is the dismounted hunter in a red coat and black riding helmet, holding the reins of his rearing mount.

The final day of classes for yours truly today, so why not glam it up a bit with a wool flannel double-breasted suit, a shirt with French cuffs, and a pair of my late maternal grandfather's cufflinks?  I added an Italian silk necktie, a pair of oxblood captoe oxfords, navy Merino wool socks, a white linen pocket handkerchief, and a pair of navy silk braces with red and silver paisleys hidden beneath the coat.  One of my students complimented me with, "You always look so dapper!"  

However, it was the numerous handshakes at the end of classes today and accompanying thank-yous from my students for the semester just concluded, plus an anonymous little bag of pre-Christmas candy treats with a candy cane, carefully wrapped with a bow and left quietly on my briefcase for the semester just ended that made me feel like a giant today.  I count myself very lucky indeed for the reminder that I have truly found my vocation.  Not everyone can say that.  Teaching undergraduates is not without its particular set of challenges, but I wouldn't want to do anything else.

Best of all, we move into our house Monday next!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More Advent Style -- December 08, 2015. . .

The upper half today.  I call this my Yankee Candle "Bayberry" look.

A bit matchy-matchy today, but it's the final week o classes or the semester, and I won't have much o an opportunity to dress quite as presentably in the coming weeks with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.  Just cords and a rugby top or crewneck sweater most days as I get the house in order. . .

On that note, we closed on our new house yesterday, received the keys, and will take up residence from Monday the 14th.  Just in time to prepare for Christmas.  Ahhhhhhh.  The Grand Duchess, as chair of her department, will be otherwise occupied, so I will be able to unpack and arrange without distraction.  You know.  Too many chefs in the kitchen and all that.

-- Heinz-Ulrich.

And the lower half.  I actually had a couple of student visitors this morning during office hours for the first time this semester.  Can you tell the final paper is almost due?



Monday's upper half featured another one of my wool tartan ties and my corduroy 3/2 roll jacket.


The socks here nicely echo the jacket without being exactly the same color.   I think the yellow silk pocket square prevents everythng in this particular ensemble from being too matchy-matchy.  That was the hope at any rate.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Coming out from My Dark Place. . .

Not a house belonging to anyone I know, but it reminds me of my maternal grandparents' house in SE Pennsylvania whenever there was snow, which we had many Decembers and Christmases in the 1970s and 1980s.

Closing on the new house tomorrow afternoon with moving day a week later when we'll take up residence.  Lots to do in that time, of course, but we'll manage.  I cannot wait to bid goodbye to the movers, shut the front door that first evening at home, have some kind of supper with the Grand Duchess and Young Master, tuck the latter into bed in his new room at 8 o'clock, and then poor a glass of something medicinal to celebrate with the Grand Duchess in front of the working fireplace in the library.  While the style of our new house is more modern that the one pictured above, it does nestle down much like it in a bunch of trees at the edge of a large wood, hence my borrowing unashamedly from Mr. Wodehouse.  Totleigh-in-the-Wold, which my sister finds riotously funny.

--Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Early Advent Season Style. . .

The top half today, featuring a red and white university stripe ocbd Brooks Brothers 'Makers' shirt and a wool necktie (one of my favorites) by Pendleton.  While I wear them all winter long, usually with tweed jackets, the three or four wool tartan neckties in my collection seem most suitable during the holiday season.

Going for a slightly festive and seasonally appropriate look this morning since we have just over a week of classes left here at MSU before Finals Week and Christmas Break.  However, you'll note there is no sign of Tweety Pie (or Sylvester the Cat et al) in a Santa Claus hat.  Perish the thought although we certainly see plenty of goofuses each year at this time who think such ties are subversive and thus riotously funny.  Puh-leeze!  Maybe the first time, or at the big middle school winter solstice dance.  But after you've seen the same thing 500 times on any guy older than 21 for too many Decembers running?  Um, no.  Give me a pretty wool plaid necktie any day.

Heinz-Ulrich

Keeping everything else reasonably sedate, I opted for charcoal Merino wool socks and gray wool flannel pants with brown shoes for the lower half.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The First Sunday in Advent, or Can It Really Be the End of November 2015 Already?

Bruce Boyer's latest.  Easily one of the most delightful reads on men's attire that I've come across.

Sounds like a conference paper title, eh?

Spent a delightful 90 minutes or so last night perusing True Style and came across a few pointers that are worth pondering when we consider how we present ourselves to the world.  Especially since we are now in the midst of the (sadly) frenetic Christmas and New Year's season with its various gatherings and parties that, hopefully, at least, some men will dress for. These are taken from Chapter 16, entitleed 'Maxims', of Mr. Boyer's book:


12. Clothes talk.  In fact, they never shut up.  And if you don't hear them, perhaps you aren't the intended audience.

16. Being inappropriately dressed has the potential to be more embarrassing than saying something stupid.

22. Dressing decently should be a matter of politeness, if nothing else.

24. Clothes are social tools, like language, manners, and a sense of humor.


With those ideas in mind, I humbly request that we not make a habit of appearing at special holiday occasions looking/smelling/behaving like we've slept at the bottom of of the laundry hamper for the last six or seven days.  Even if you plan on a small dinner with the immediate family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, shave and dress before the meal. . .  for them. 

So, are you listening guys?  Say it with me.  Put on a a pressed shirt in white or light blue, creased wool pants, and some kind of blazer or sports jacket  that isn't borrowed and actually fits you.  Add a belt, some dark or Argyll socks, and a pair of non-dusty loafers.  If you want to get really crazy, toss on a festive wool tartan necktie.  Don't forget your pocket square, which shouldn't match your tie.  There you are.  Cool, casual, and pulled together as well as appropriate for the (special) occasion. 

Remember.  It ain't gonna kill you to look nice once in a while.  Not only will you set a good example for any children in the picture, but spouses, partners, and significant others will also appreciate your efforts whether they comment on it, or not.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.
This marks the 400th posting here at Classic Style for the Average Guy.  Thank you for dropping by and suffering through my sometimes strident, and always pompous meanderings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


Since tomorrow is the annual day of Thankgiving here in the United States, I thought it high time to rerun a piece that has been featured here at Classic Style for the Average Guy for at least the last couple of years.  Take it in the spirit it is meant.  Part of kicking up our everyday style several notches involves our behavior, which might, in some instances need some work.  So, while I hope you might don, at the very least, a pressed button-down shirt and jacket or blazer plus some leather loafers before you join your loved ones at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow, remember, it ain't just about the clothes.  Here we go. . . 


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, this post is not about attire

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  It's about maintaining a proper sense of decorum, an awareness of occasion, and about coming across as someone with a smidgen of polish and sophistication when you sit down to the table.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  Yep.  That's right.  I can almost hear the collective groans now.  Go on, boys.  Get it out of your systems.  All done?  Good.

As I started to say, 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, wild dogs, or half-starved 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, likable, 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.  But 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 hopefully 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.  Now go put on a shirt with a collar and some clean pants without an elastic waist, damn it!

Playful Irreverence for a Pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday. . .

The upper half, featuring my other Harris Tweed jacket sold at one time by Land's End.  American made and not as boxy as some of their jackets became by the early 2000s.  I used to own several and gradually donated them to thrift/charity shops as I acquired nicer blazers and sports jackets.


And the lower half, featuring dark green and navy herringbone socks in Merino wool by Dapper Classics (yet again), charcoal wool flannel pants, and those Allen Edmonds 'Schautal' suede wintips/brogues.  Most of the snow is gone from our sidewalks and walkways on campus, and the sun is out today, so. . .  I'm also wearing a newly acquired chocolate suede belt by Allen Edmonds, another gift received for my most recent 29th birthday.

Yet more playful experimentation with different items of clothing and accessories here today.  One of my more visually appealing combinations lately I think.  Happy Thanksgiving to visitors from Classic Style for the Average Guy to visitors from the UNited States.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If it's Tuesday, this must be Michigan. . .

The upper half early this morning included a Land's End British regimental striped necktie that I purchased back in 2004 when LE was selling a whole bunch of these.  I want to say it is the stripe of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but that might be incorrect.  Regardless of whch particular regiment the stripe represents it would be extremely bad form to wear this tie were I visiting the U.K., never having served in the regiment in question.  However, we are such a messy, crass post-postmodern hodgepodge here in the U.S., that I hope I might be excused (just maybe) for sporting it on this side of the Atlantic where fewer people recognize such associations.  The color combination is delightful in any case.


And the lower half, featuring a new pair of Dapper Classics yellow Merino wool socks and a pair of vintage Corbin khaki pants in medium to heavy wool flannel.

Having fun combining a few different items this morning.  Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, and something blue.  I also received Bruce Boyer's latest title from Amazon.com yesterday ( a birthday gift from good ol' Mom), and it is fascinating based on the cursory skim I've had the time to give the book in the last 24 hours.  True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear (2015) is very literate yet eminently readable.  A well-written handbook of sorts with  just the right mount of wry wit and pith, it also presents sound advice for men interested in kicking up their everyday clothing style several notches.  Packed with information, the book is both entertaining and indispensable.  I would go so far as to say -- if classic men's style mavens and devotees will forgive me -- that True Style surpasses anything I have read by the great Alan Flusser.  There.  I said it.  No hate email, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Snowy Monday in Late November. . .

Spartan Stadium at MSU from the rear of the library early today with the Red Cedar River in between.  Still lots of snow everywhere although some attempt has been made to clear the walkways around campus since the snow fell on Saturday.


One way to keep warm: a heavy duffle coat and a 20+-year-old J. Peterman woolen scarf.


Of course, a Harris Tweed jacket and a heavy oxford cloth button-down collar shirt also help.  Seemed like a good morning to fish out my vintage L.L. Bean cross-country skier necktie too.  Sadly, I have not been able to locate the box with our own ski boots in it although I have spotted the long bag containing our skis and poles.  Otherwise, we would have been out on Saturday and Sunday.


And finally, those golden tan dress corduroy pants again with heavy socks and L.L. Bean duck shoes.  Today was not the day for fine footwear by any stretch.

A few shots of out first taste of winter and my response for a Monday morning.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Tweed and Cord Thursday. . . .

The upper half today, again featuring the J.Press herringbone jacket that has show up here before.  As much as I wear and enjoy all of my various bolder tweed items, this one is becoming the go-to tweed jacket in the wardrobe simply because it works with so much else thanks to its less obtrusive pattern.

Channeling Mr. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster this morning as I dressed post-shower and shave.  We're off to visit Aunt Dahlia at Brinkley Manor late this afternoon and help Tuppy Glossop out of some romantic predicament or other, while hopefully avoiding accidental engagement to an eager young lady ourselves.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the lower half, which includes a newly moisturized, polished, and buffed pair of Allen Edmonds MacNeil brogues/wingtips and a new pair of Dapper Classics Merino wool Fair Isle pattern socks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Allen Edmonds Resole. . .

The Shoe Snob - How to Polish Your Shoes Properly. . .

As Comfortable As Pajamas. . .

The upper half for today.  A Made in the U.S.A. three-piece wool flannel chalk stripe number from Polo Ralph Lauren and sold by Mark Shale.  The necktie is a hand-sewn Robert Talbot.


And, as always, the bottom half.  I was fresh out of navy and charcoal wool socks, so I went with these, which kind of echo one of the colors in the necktie above.  As usual, I opted for braces instead of a belt with the pants, which have brace buttons along the inside of the waistband.

Today's suit was purchased for between US$5.99-7.99 a year or so ago from one of my old thrift/charity haunts back in Central Illinois.  As far as I could tell at the time, it had been worn maybe once, if ever, before finding its way to the thrift shop, and required no alterations at all.  Even the coat sleeves were short enough to allow some shirt cuff to show with my arms at my sides.  And absolutely no wear on the seat of the pants, elbows of the coat, or anywhere else.  The suit fits as though it were made for my body, and the cut of the suit resembles those wonderful Laurence Fellows illustrations of the 1930s.  So, I have a delightfully vintage appearance when I venture out in this one.  Easily, one of my best thriting finds ever along with that J. Press tweed jacket.  

Best of all, this particular suit, because of its flannel nap is as comfortable and warm on a blustery day as any pair of cruddy sweatpants or pajama bottoms.  And a lot better looking too.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Make it a double-breasted Tuesday. . .

The upper half early this morning.  Although it could stand an inch taken in along the back/sides, the 6x2 coat fits more nicely than it appears here, but I was, of course, sitting and holding my stupid phone out in front of me and down low to avoid including my tired, middle-aged face in the shot.  The wool suit is medium weight and features a really nice nailhead finish.


And the lower half.  I always give my shoes a once over with the horsehair brush before putting them on, but I think it's time for a bit of TLC, and this pair of shoes has not had it since sometime late last winter, or early spring.  I wore some navy braces in lieu of a belt by the way.


I decided to wear the faux Drones (Brooks Bros. Makers) necktie this morning with a navy double-breasted number I haven't worn since last spring.  Hmmm. . .  Not horrible, but I should have kept it simple and gone with plain navy or charcoal wool socks instead of stripes.  And the shoes could use some leather lotion, a new coat or two of polish, and sole dressing if we are honest.  Grumble, grumble, grumble

On another note, a young man in one of my classes today wore a single-breasted gray suit with double monk strap shoes (without socks it turned out) and a white shirt with French cuffs and cufflinks no less.  His skateboard kind of spoiled an otherwise nice look, but you've got to hand it to the guy for making the effort regardless of the reason behind it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, November 16, 2015

One Monday in Mid-November. . .

Were I to do this over again, I would reach or my solid navy wool necktie, I think, instead of this one whose design is too similar in scale and appearance to the houndstooth pattern of the tweed hacking jacket.


More successful with the bottom half today.  Hard to go wrong with olive green, navy, and tan suede.

Sometimes you nail it, and sometimes you stumble a bit when it comes to combining various items into a cohesive ensemble.  The necktie today, sadly, didn't quite work with the jacket.  Well, you can't be afraid to get it wrong sometimes I suppose.  One never learns what works together and what does not otherwise.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Imagine My Surprise. . .

The repp stripes point in the wrong direction, but otherwise, there is a striking similarity between this tie and the kind that might have been worn by Messrs. Wooster, Glossop, et al in the dining room or bar of Wodehouse's Drones Club.

Late last Friday afternoon, as I wasted a few minutes online before the Grand Duchess arrived home with some fabulous Middle Eastern take-out dishes for supper, I stumbled onto a description of the Drones Club necktie.  That's right, the Drones Club as mentioned in numerous P.G. Wodehouse stories.  "My, that sounds awfully familiar," I thought.  "I believe I have something similar hanging from my own tie rack."

Demonstrating with no apologies what a truly frivolous and empty-headed popinjay I am, I threw open the doors of my wardrobe to check, where, lo and behold, I discovered that there is indeed an old Brooks Brothers necktie bearing a striking resemblance to the plum, black, and yellow colors described on the webpage at which I looked.  I am not sure whether to feel slightly embarrassed, horrified, or tickled pink to discover an item in my wardrobe so much like the fictitious Drones Club necktie pictured below.  Ah, well.  I'll wear it anyway with careless abandon when Monday morning rolls around.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


The apparent necktie color and stripe configuration of Wodehouse's The Drones Club.