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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Hodge Podge of Random Thoughts. . .

Yet another great old Laurence Fellows illustration from Apparel Arts magazine.  Strange as it might seem, I wish I could put on a suit everyday, but lack of a household staff to take care of domestic chores and the Young Master make that less than practical much of the time.  Tweed jackets or blazers and odd corduroy pants combinations are a bit more forgiving (and warmer) most days in the middle of winter.  Still, a guy can daydream, right?

Another Friday evening and busy times indeed here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  In real life, I teach writing (what we used to call English Composition) and various related subjects at a small liberal arts college here in the midst of the American Midwest.  Midterm is fast approaching (believe it, or not), and there has not been a lot of time to share photos of my various get-ups this week, or write and upload another lengthy manifesto like the last one about sending the wrong social signals with various unconscious (and rude) personal habits.  Too many student papers to read and grade along with the usual daily reading/review, other course preparation, and/or professional commitments.  It drives me crazy when real life intervenes so much into evenings and weekends at home, but there you are.  Nevertheless, I though I'd direct your attention to a few interesting things this evening.


First off, there is a recent interesting short piece featured in The Atlantic online the twilight of the suit and nostalgia (featuring actor Colin Firth).  The article is not written all that well, and I don't agree with all of the author's points and pronouncements necessarily, but the piece is still somewhat interesting for those of us, relatively few in number, who care what we look like privately and in public. . .  and actually enjoy wearing suits.  Yes.  I know.  Guilty as charged, so send me to Coventry.  In the meantime, give the article a quick once over, and see what you think.


Along similar lines, I ran across the following on one of the men's style blogs or websites I read routinely.  Tweedland I think.  If you need a bigger fix of classic male style how-to than you get here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style -- you know, without all of that irritating and unreasonable stuff about improving our table manners and practicing more pleasant personal habits -- then check out How to Dress: A Guide for The Modern Gentleman with Gustav Temple.  Mr. Temple has been the editor of The Chap magazine since 1999, so some of the information presented in the four-part video course might seem straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse Bertie Wooster and Jeeves story set during the 1920s or 30s.  I am, however, reasonably certain there is much sound and still relevant information to be had that the more polished and cultivated average guys among us might apply to our own everyday style.


One of the young men in my 10am class this morning turned up looking rather natty.  Imagine that.  Probably a presentation in a Business or Accounting class, for which he was required to dress professionally, later in the day.  Or maybe a fraternity event?  Can't be any other reasons in my experience.  Anyway, he was freshly shaved with combed and parted hair.  He wore a light blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt neatly tucked in, maroon necktie, dark tan chinos, black belt, charcoal socks, and (sadly) some of those awful squarish-toed comfort sole things in black that masquerade as dress shoes for so many men in 2015.  

Still, the student in question looked reasonably pulled together and better than any other young man (and most male faculty members) I encountered today on campus.  He also writes well and makes occasional offhanded and amusing references to The Beats of the 1950s in his essays, so he's all right in my book, and I applaud his sartorial efforts whatever the reason behind them might have been.  

What was missing from his ensemble, though, was some kind of sports jacket or blazer.  Too bad, because our young friend looked pulled together otherwise.  So, remember guys.  Don't neglect to add a sports jacket or a blazer when you put on dressier (creased) pants, shirt, and a necktie.  You risk looking like a male clerk at Best Buy or Family Video, or a greeter at The Olive Garden otherwise.  Moral of the story?  If you're going to attempt dressing better than the sloppy herd, and you are not choosing a suit for the day, make sure that your overall look is complete.  It's analogous to leaving things not quite finished in the boudoir if you take my meaning.


Finally, socks.  I am a fan of them and probably have too many at this point.  Certainly, when everything is washed, and pairs have been balled up and put away in my sock drawer, it is jammed absolutely full.  That happens most often in the summer months when I am free from school, at home most of the time, and go without socks beneath my penny loafers or dock-siders.  Between late August and Mid-may each year, however, a third of my socks are typically in the laundry basket, others are hanging on the drying rack in the basement laundry room, with the final third waiting in said sock drawer.

While so called bright and fancy 'statement socks' are currently very popular, and I have my fair share of these, it occurs to me that average guys working to kick up their everyday style would do well to have several pairs of rather more subdued over-the-calf dress socks in their weekly sock rotation.  Here, I prefer colors like navy, charcoal, dark green, and maroon, which I wear regularly with suits and flannel odd pants-sports jacket combinations.  

A selection of my own wool and cotton dress socks, both the loud and the more sedate.  The latter, navy and charcoal in the middle row, are the more versatile of the two thanks to their simplicity.

It is all too easy to get carried away with wilder socks though.  And on those days when you've got a lot of color and/or patterns happening elsewhere on your body -- between your shirt, necktie, and jacket, or perhaps also a pocket handkerchief -- it's best to resist going overboard.  I know, I know.  I like wild socks too, but if you go too crazy with colors and patterns from head to toe, you stray into that dreaded and tasteless Herb Tarlek/Ted Knight territory of the 1970s.  And that's not quite the effect we're after.  

When laundering your socks, avoid using a dryer if at all possible, which will shrink your socks and kill the elastic in them before long, turning your over-the-calf socks into crew length at best in fairly short order.  Instead, air dry your socks using a wooden or vinyl covered metal drying rack.  A little more time and labor intensive, sure, but well worth the extra effort since it extends the life of your dress, leisure, and athletic footwear by no small measure.

Far better most of the time to steer clear of the Rodney Dangerfield in Caddy Shack aesthetic, then, where your socks are concerned.  A good rule of thumb is to keep the rest of your garments fairly restrained and sedate for those days when you feel like wild and crazy statement socks.  Otherwise, navy and charcoal socks (should) reign supreme.  Both colors are extremely versatile thanks to their simplicity, so it's almost impossible to run into sartorial trouble when combining them with other items.  I humbly suggest, therefore, that you have more navy and charcoal pairs of over-the-calf dress socks than anything else in your top drawer.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Tony Lupton said...

Curious why you should think suits are more maintenance than a trouser and jacket combination? Unless it's a 3-piece job, it's just two pieces of dry-clean only clothing, no?



Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, too many men today see a necktie in the following way:

Sewanee Alum said...

Hard to believe, but once-upon-a-time that Laurence Fellows illustration of a gentlemen's club could actually have depicted two profs at a university faculty club. Now, as you said, most male faculty members at most campuses look no better than male students, the Sewanee faculty being a notable exception.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Sewanee, eh? Good school! My maternal uncle and his oldest daughter did their undergraduate work there.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Agreed. I still maintain, however, that if a man has the correct neck size for his shirt and ties his tie correctly, it will not feel like a hangman's noose. Lots of men have he attitudes they do because 1) they simply are not used to wearing a tie and/or are hardly ever called on to do so, and 2) they have rather unpleasant attitudes lurking below the surface about many of the people who do wear neckties. "The shirts" or "the man" if you will.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Well, not that I am unloading the dishwasher or running the vacuum cleaner in a tweed jacket or suit. I don't want to leave that impression. Typically at home, I change into corduroy jeans and an older shirt, sweater, or rugby top during the colder months. Then I worry much less about possible drips, spills, or tears in the day-to-day domestic activities expected of husbands in 2015.

Tony Lupton said...

Ahh. Yes.