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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools. . .

"I pity the fool. . ."  The great Mr. T, so over-the-top and bad in his day back in the early 80s that he was oddly appealing.  And I never even watched The A Team.

Today was April 1st, a warm, sunny spring day in my neck of the American Midwest.  I held a relaxed session of office hours this early morning in the still quiet dining commons, softening somewhat the always jarring experience of reading and grading a bunch of hastily crafted undergraduate papers with a steamy fresh medium French roast  coffee.  While working through the stack, I noticed once in a while that quite a few of the female students on campus were turned out rather nicely this morning.  Besides having their hair actually fixed, or at least pulled back, many of these young ladies wore pretty sundresses, skirts, blouses, and sandals, while others wore leather dock-sider shoes with skinny jeans and a cardigan to ward off the early morning chill, and so forth.  Good.  It's always a pleasant surprise to see people of any age making the effort and taking pride in their appearance.  Then, there were the boys.

Almost without exception, they were dressed horribly and wearing one of three "uniforms."  There were the guys in workboots, sagging jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps, often with some visible camouflage gear, who looked like they would have been more at home spitting into the dirt from the seat of the John Deere tractor as they plowed the back 80 acres rather than attending classes on a college campus.  Then, there were the "Badger" and "Skinny Pete" methamphetamine dealer wannabes (read up on your Breaking Bad characters if you need to) in their overly long shorts, hoodies, cheap bling, and all manner of visible body "art" peeking out from their clothing.  Finally, we had the warm-up/track suit crowd, probably college athletes, or guys who fancy themselves as such.  

Can someone enlighten me?  Why do so many members of the male gender think it is so much trouble to pull oneself together?  Even when I was a young man 30 years ago, and remember, everyone already wore jeans all the time then, most boys and young men still managed to look more pulled together when they left the house than people typically do now.  My male friends and acquaintances at least still had some clue about how to tuck a shirt in for example.  Keep in mind, I grew up in a rural area where there were many farm families, quite a few blue collar manufacturing families, and the occasional white collar oddities like my family who bought country homes when they moved, or were transferred into the Philadelphia area and its rolling exurbs.  The point is that we looked all right, whatever kind of home we came from, and sometimes we looked pretty damn good even at a very casual level.  I've got a few as-yet-undigitized photographs that prove it when I look through them.  It's not just an idealized figment of my imagination.

Returning to the present day, we have the more vexing question: why do so many young women give the time of day to guys who look so terrible, much less become involved with them?  Looking around the dining commons between papers this morning, I noticed quite a few obvious couples sitting around the large space, quietly pitching woo before the first class of the day.  Most of the young women looked really rather fetching in their spring clothes, but the male halves of these romantic couplings mostly looked like they had been sleeping rough for several nights and grubbing for nuts and wild mushrooms during the days without any attempt to clean up afterwards.  Regardless of their ages, why would any woman bother with a man in visibly dirty, ragged clothes with cruddy hands and fingernails that stand out from across the room?  As the question goes, "What's up with that??!!"  Do so many young women really think so little of themselves that they take up with the first loser who comes along and mumbles something highly articulate along the lines of "Um, like, yer really hawt!"?

Of course, it's not just the college and university set here in the United States who have the market cornered on looking like they live at the bottom of a garbage barrel or dumpster somewhere.  Boys and men of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and occupations suffer from this perpetual disheveled state in 2015.  The condition knows no social boundaries and is apt to strike anywhere at any time [Thank you, Minimalist].  

Naturally, lots of people pretend to themselves and argue vehemently that appearance isn't important and should not matter.  A nice idea in theory.  Awfully egalitarian and all that.  It's no longer necessary to aspire to anything better in appearance or action, so don't bother.  It doesn't matter.  I'm ok.  You're ok.  It's all good.  Everything is equally valid.  That seems to be the prevailing message with which we are bombarded from so many directions these days, starting with our political leaders right on down the line.  

Um, here's a dirty little secret of which more people need to be made aware however.  How someone presents himself is, very often, indicative of a great many more things besides simply the fact that a guy might remember to wash his neck and behind his ears in the shower.  I suppose personal habits and dressing presentably -- not upscale, mind you, just presentably -- are similar to table manners.  People either choose to get it, and see the need, or they don't and continue festering in their figurative swill and literal clutter.  Don't believe it?  Stop going through life with your blinders on, Ebeneezer.  Open your eyes, and look around you.

I'll close today's tirade of righteous indignation with a variation of my usual plea.  Guys, do yourselves a huge favor.  Whatever your age, it's time to get with the program and set aside those belligerent protests you might make and whatever misguided group allegiances you might have about dressing and presenting yourself just a tiny bit better than the absolute lowest common denominator.  That way of thinking is a huge millstone around your neck, and it's drowning you.  Pull yourselves up, and get yourselves together instead.  Make a conscious decision to present yourself a little better in daily life, which might, just might help you turn your lives around in a number of unanticipated ways.  And that ain't necessarily a bad thing.  

That is, in no way, meant to suggest, however, that you absolutely must wear a suit, or even a sports jackets and necktie five days a week.  How about small steps, though, like losing the baseball cap, brushing and parting you hair, tucking in your shirt, and wearing a belt?  What about tying your shoes, or, oh, I don't know, showering, washing your face, and brushing your teeth when you get up in the morning?  Who knows?  You just might start to feel a bit better about yourself and your life in general.  Stranger things have happened.  And for you single guys, it might become easier to find and keep a girlfriend as well as make a somewhat more favorable impression with those connected to her.  You know?  Like parents, siblings, family, and friends.  Right? 

Nah!  Who on earth would want to do that?  Sorry everyone.  Just another frivolous thought.  Never mind.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Old Trad said...

Male college students are a scruffy lot, indeed.

Minimalist said...

Re: "The condition knows no social boundaries and is apt to strike anywhere at anytime."

Shouldn't that be "anytime" or "at any time "?

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Thank you, Minimalist!

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Simon said...

HR wrote "Can someone enlighten me? Why do so many members of the male gender think it is so much trouble to pull oneself together? "

Well, who are the role models for young men? I would guess that in the 1920s to 1950s it would be movie stars (who were usually well dressed).

Since the 1950s rock n roll stars have been a huge influence on how young men dress. The double whammy of the late 80s hip hop movement and the early 90s grunge scene have blown apart any type of "smart" style in young mens dress. The less formal the better, seems to be the idea.

Or am I on the wrong track here..?

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head. The tech boom and its preferred aesthetic certainly has not helped either.

Best Regards,


Simon said...

There is a secondary "economic" factor at work here as well. The manufacturers love people to wear baggy, simple clothes. They can have these types of clothes made cheaply by unskilled workers in Asia, stick a fancy label on them, and make a huge profit.

And the retailers love these clothes too - you don't need well trained sales assistants to sell them. And they sell for less than locally made clothes so they sell well because shoppers think they are getting a bargain. Plus, they fall apart quickly, so the shopper goes back and buys more!

Welcome to the 21st century.