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, April 18, 2015

Classic Style Saturday: The "Difference" Debate. . .


Just to clarify, and in view of recent comments here at Classic Style for the Average Guy, what I cannot abide are poor social skills (around the dining table and away from it) and the apparently almost complete lack of self-respect that leads too many people to give up as far as personal appearance is concerned and leave the house looking like they've spent several weeks either living rough (at best), or exploring and living in the sewers of a major city somewhere.  I am familiar with the labels and invectives that might be hurled my way in reaction: "elitist," "snob," judgmental," "an air of smug superiority," or worse. 

That is fine, and to some extent, I will not argue with observations like this.  I am discerning and selective as far as my tastes in clothing, people, interests, and so forth go, and I make no apologies for it.  Neither will I make apologies for sharing details about my upbringing, which was comfortable and without undue hardship, something that might, and probably does, undermine my street cred with lots of people. 

As I also mentioned in one of my replies to these comments, my utter frustration with men- behaving-like-barnyard-animals-at-the-trough-situation has led to my stridency, rather pointed language in some instances, and perhaps getting a bit carried away with myself.  I have been very specific about the kinds of appearance and behaviors that are the problem and really should not be emulated by anyone.  I suppose too that my directness, pointed out to me once by a Swedish friend, can make for uncomfortable reading and could easily be construed as class-based hate.  

I take issue with use of the term"hate," though -- either directly, or indirectly -- for those who are not like me.  Cold indifference, where terminal slobs are concerned at least, is more apt since the term hate, to me, implies considerable thought and energy put into the act of hating itself.  I am frustrated to no end by and feel sorry for, to some extent, boys and men who look and act like slobs, especially when doing so is not really necessary, but that's where it ends.  My annoyance with others' lack of social sense doesn't pay the bills, or put food on the table after all.  So, believe it, or not, there are more important things that do occupy the larger portion of my waking consciousness.  

Likewise, when it was suggested that I am uncomfortable with difference and those unlike myself, I was a bit taken aback.  You see, we have close friends and quite a few acquaintances from places all over the world.  Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, India, Italy, Poland, and several countries in Latin America as well as the more usual suspects like Germany, Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden, and Norway.  

We also have several gay and lesbian friends, a few of whom we count among our nearest and dearest.  Like family really.  And we have some good friends from right here in the U.S. of A. who are of Latino and African-American backgrounds.  Our friends are every color under the rainbow; they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and non-observant; they are recent immigrants, U.S. citizens, or on long-term visas of some kind; some of our friends speak with amusing foreign accents (Peter Sellers anyone?), a few have that Upper Midwestern Minnesota and Wisconsin nasal twang that everyone laughs about, and a few even speak the Queen's English or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  

Some of our friends hail from very humble backgrounds, while others go to often humorous lengths to downplay their rather privileged upbringings.  Again, because the latter are evil by definition -- or so the prevailing mode of thought goes right now across much of society -- and many tend to identify with the underdog(s). You know, because if you resemble the corner methamphetamine dealer, or you are rapper thug wannabe, or just someone who can't be bothered with much of anything because playing the latest version of Xbox takes up all of your spare time, then you must be all right, fine, and upstanding.  It's those evil one percenters after all.  Right?  Sigh.

Think about it for a moment.  Pampered, overly educated rich girl, who, despite the improbability of it given the vast social and cultural gulf separating them, and against the predictable parental protest, sees the errors of her ways and takes up with a rough around the edges, uneducated poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks, who may, or may not have some shady dealings on the side (we never know for certain, but he certainly looks and behaves the part), and the two live happily ever after.  Or vice versa.  That sort of trope (cliche even) makes for great stories on TV, in films, and popular literature, and we've seen it hundreds and hundreds of times, but I digress.

While some of our friends tend to be a bit ponderous when holding forth about their respective subjects after a drink or two, a hazard in the academic world I'm afraid, most are funny, fun, interesting, and lively company, with whom we talk about many different things besides what we do for a living, and we enjoy spending time with them when mutual schedules permit.  For instance, we had dinner with a gay couple we've been close to since graduate school (about 14 or 15 years now) -- G. and R. -- two weeks ago.  At one point, R. and I began discussing the facial moisturizers we prefer, something that cracked up my wife and G., and hilarity ensued for the next 15-20 minutes.  You had to be there as the saying goes.  

Returning to the point at hand, while quite a few of our male friends don't dress like I do, none of them are anything close to what we'll call "slobs" for want of a better term.  Neither are these women and men lacking in the basic social graces.  A few actually have lovely, even impeccable manners that are hard to fault in my experience.      

The point is we like all of these people, very much.  They are an important part of our lives, we see them socially as often as we can, sometimes also during the workweek, and we will be sad to leave the ones who live locally when we pull up stakes and head to Michigan in June.  So, the accusation that yours truly is uncomfortable with, and does not like, people who are different from me is not entirely true.  Finally, and for what it's worth, I also work with a number of different languages besides English myself and have traveled, lived, and worked in a few different countries to refine those linguistic skills.  One thing study of languages does is make a person comfortable with the notion of "difference."

What I absolutely do not like and cannot abide are the points mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Crass, low behavior, exhibited, overwhelmingly though not exclusively, by terminal men-children of different ages from various socioeconomic/demographic groups, who cannot be bothered with polite convention in any sense or, for example, with tucking in their shirts, putting on some close-toed shoes for a change, and securing their pants somewhere above their rear-ends with a belt.  For want of a better explanation, I am forced to conclude that things like this were never taught to many of these guys as children, and they honestly don't know any better, or they simply do not care.

That is what I have a huge problem with, don't like, don't wish to be around, and do not see as having any worth.  Not my cup of tea.  Not my kind of people.  That is not to suggest, of course, that those who are socially awkward in one way or another are not worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but I'll sit somewhere else if you wouldn't mind. 

If my refusal to embrace the prevalent attitude that everything should be somehow equally acceptable and equally valid means that I am. . .  Out of step?  Hateful?  Mean-spirited?  Haughty?  Ungentlemanly?  Unworthy?  Something worse?  Well, I guess that must be my cross to bear, and something to be settled between me and my maker (G-d, God, Goddess, the Supreme Being, etc.) when the time comes. 

For now, we will just have to shake hands across the table and agree to disagree because this is a point that I feel very strongly about.  Granted, not everyone needs to wear a suit and tie in 2015, not everyone wants to dress in a "classic" sense, and an awful lot of poor schlubs out there just don't know any better.  Regardless of whatever one's particular aesthetic of choice might be when it comes to attire, however, there is no denying that our increasingly collective sloppiness in attitude, action, and appearance during the last 20-30 years, or so, does not bode well for us as a society.  But we will have to leave the serious discussion and dissection of that particular issue to the sociologists and social anthropologists out there who have a better handle on it than I do.

Ok, that's my two cents on the matter.  Let's move on, please.  If nothing else, I hope some of you might continue to drop by Classic Style for the Average Guy now and then for a wry laugh, on whichever side of the fence you might find yourself.  I'll keep dishing up the entertainment.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

13 comments:

Gaz Shaw said...

The West has become so morally confused that for some even being judgemental about the clothes people wear is a sign of 'intolerance', which of course cannot be tolerated. I think it's laughable that you felt you even had to clarify your position in this regard (although not laughable that you actually did, you understand). There is nothing wrong with exercising discernment and I think it justifiably lamentable that, as Theodore Dalrymple puts it, 'Where fashion in clothes, bodily adornment, and music are concerned, it is the underclass that increasingly sets the pace. Never before has there been so much downward cultural aspiration.'

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Agreed on all counts.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Old Trad said...

I can't agree that sociologists and social anthropologists have a better handle than you do on our increasingly collective sloppiness in attitude, action, and appearance. My experience has been that they would steer clear of such a topic as they have a collective allergy to making value judgements. I read Classic Style for the Average Guy on a regular basis (sorry, but I don't know how to italicize that) to remind myself that there are still gentlemen who attach importance to propriety in behavior and appearance including expressing oneself in more than monosyllabic grunts.

Glenda Moore said...

I understand your comments: I have friends from all walks of life, and I say such like, "I don't like them because they are X (male, lesbian, whatever) and I don't dislike them because they are X; I like them because they are good, compassionate, considerate people, and I prefer not to be around people who are not good, compassionate, considerate people no matter what else they are or are not." I have found in my life that without exception those who are good, compassionate, and considerate people groom themselves, and wear clean clothes that are considered by most to be rather conservative and cover the body in a way that is "non-offensive" to "the average person"...

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Well put, Glenda. Thank you.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

I have no problem with making value judgments myself. Good God, someone needs to in our current state of merely "being."

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich

Simon said...

Wow - that's a long post.

It's interesting that you are tolerant of people from so many countries, so many religions, those that are rich or poor, straight or gay.... but you "get your knickers in a twist" with guys who don't tuck in their shirts or wear shoes with open toes.

Why don't you just ignore them? That's what I do with stuff I don't like (rap music, football, celebs etc.).

Anonymous said...

Regardless, of background or economic class one's personal style is more about character than about clothes. It is more about attitude than affluence. The image you project makes visable your inner self. Anyone who thinks appearance doesn't count is simply wrong. Everyone has a personal style if they like it or not. It is not about money or education. It is about you. Same holds true for manners.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

You make a good point, Simon. As I mentioned in a recent reply, if I am totally honest, the problem is mine more than anyone else's. Would that ignoring the visual blots on the landscape were so easy.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Agreed on all parts. An outwardly sloppy appearance, while perhaps not always a reliable indicator of what's on the inside, often enough IS indicative of many more things about a person that might be problematic in one way, shape, or form. And as was made clear here in the last few days, the exact same thing can be said about an apparently pleasant external appearance that hides a rotten core.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Something else that occurs to me. As far as our friends are concerned, I don't even think about our various relationships in terms of tolerance, acceptance, or what have you. These friends are simply people we like an awful lot because they are interesting, funny, kind, etc., and they seem to feel likewise about us.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich

Simon said...

I think it depends on what crowd you hang out with.

I have been friendly with what you might call "alternate" arts and creative people and they were a disaster as far as dress goes. And not that great with table manners or social graces. But they were, as Gelnda put it, good, compassionate, and considerate people. And fun.

Some of them were pretty scary to look at (or listen to) but when you got to talk with them a bit they were very nice.

I don't think a nice exterior appearance = a nice person.

As the old saing goes "don't judge a book by its cover".

Anonymous said...

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."
Mark Twain

You just have to love Mark Twain. Keep up the great posts Heinz.

DrCSP