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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Classic Style Sunday: Random Thoughts. . .

The late John Belushi as "Blutarsky" in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).  I thought this movie was hysterical when I first saw it as part of a drive-in double feature with my mother and sister in 1980 as a 13-year old.  However, on watching part of it again in 1996 or '97 late one night on cable TV, I found the film had not weathered well.  And, mentally speaking, I had moved on by that time.

Random style thoughts here at Classic Style for the Average Guy this Sunday afternoon.  Here they are:

My wife and I watched a new DVD of John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941) last night late.  Not the most interesting film noir visually speaking -- typically it was directors like Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, or Anatole Litvak who directed the visual masterpieces that better reflected the angst and inner turmoil of the characters onscreen -- but the story and characters are top notch as is Humphrey Bogart's attire.  I submit for your review this shot, featuring Bogart as Sam Spade and Elisha Cooke Jr. as clumsy gunman "Wilmer."


I love the double-breasted and three-piece suits that the various male characters wear in The Maltese Falcon.


**********

While on campus with our five-year old son, the Young Master, Friday afternoon, where we killed time on the quad and had lunch together while our real estate lady showed our home to potential buyers, a group of young male students pushed past us coming into the dining area as we attempted to exit back onto the quad after purchasing lunch items.  Our hands held sandwiches, drinks, and small bags of processed, preserved, artificially flavored heart unsmart snack goodies.  

The last guy, however, on noticing that our hands were full, stopped, smiled, and apologized.  He then held the door for us while my son and I filed through the doorway.  I thanked him with a "Thank you" and a smile, which he returned before catching up with his friends.  I happened to notice that he was also the most nicely dressed of the group in khaki shorts, leather loafers or dock-siders, and, I think, an untucked light blue ocbd shirt although I won't swear to it.  Draw your own conclusions.


**********

As always, I spend a little time visiting and reading new style blogs and websites when I have a spare 30 minutes or so in the late afternoon or evening on the ol' I-pad.  There is a profusion of so called 'preppy' stuff out there as you might imagine in the form of blogs, websites, and so forth.  As far as clothing goes, unless it is a blog that veers toward being an over-the-top caricature of what many people think of as the preppy lifestyle and look, the clothes featured are simply nice, fairly traditional, and unfussy items.  Much like I grew up wearing in rural southeastern Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.  

The various people my grandparents, parents, my sister, and I knew in our circles -- or more correctly socialized with and/or had as friends -- simply wore these kinds of things when it came to their work or school lives Monday through Friday, or their less formal times at home during the evenings and weekends.  It was just how things were.  My maternal grandfather and father, for instance, wore blue oxford cloth button-down shirts (occasionally white) and suits with repp stripe ties during the week and loafers with navy blazers or tweed jackets during the weekends when they ventured out to parties and dinners with friends and acquaintances, for example, in the company of my grandmother or mother, who usually wore cocktail dresses and heels to such gatherings.  

Clothes like this were simply part of the scenery, and no one thought anything more about it.  We had an extremely comfortable life, lived in restored colonial fieldstone homes appointed with colonial furniture (the genuine article in many instances) in Berks County (neighboring Bucks County was THE place to live, and then there was The Main Line just outside Philadelphia), had a few horses, took music lessons once a week, and two weeks of YMCA/YWCA summer camp each year.  We were, and remain (mostly) non-practicing Episcopalians, barring my rather conservative uncle, who was ordained a minister in the Anglican church while living, studying, and then working in the U.K. during the early to mid-1970s, and converted with his family en masse to Roman Catholicism in the mid-late 1990s.  Rest easy though, and please don't throw sticks.  We did not play golf, tennis (but I had a few lessons one year at camp), or belong to a country club.  

My then stockbroker father fly-fished (he tied his own flies), collected English fly rods, shotguns, and hunting rifles.  He also trained Labrador Retrievers for show and actual hunting although he did not hunt himself.  Mom attended private parochial schools for girls and young women that were run by a French order of nuns, while my uncle attended prep schools (and later Sewanee) when they were children and teenagers.  No one I knew ever used the term preppy about our clothes or lifestyle as far as I can recall though.  Certainly not within the family. 

In fact, other than in the saccharine 1970 Erich Segal movie Love Story (groan), which I remember seeing in a drive-in with my parents and sister when I was about five, I was never even aware of the term preppy until about 1980 or '81 when Lisa Birnbach's The Official Preppy Handbook made a splash in the national media.  My sister and I were friends with a few young people in the public high school we attended, however, who seemed to miss the tongue-in-cheek nature of the book, and took it as gospel instead.  My high school girlfriend in 9th and 10th grade, was one, but her family had ties to the University of Pennsylvania (or perhaps Temple University), if I remember correctly, and her father was a tweedy anthropology professor at the local state university anyway, so she was pretty preppy in outlook and style already.  But she got a little carried away as did many others in those days during the prep revival of the late 70s-early 80s.

At the time, my only concession to the craze for the self-conscious fascination prep appearance and lifestyle was a white t-shirt with a large stylized, green alligator that clearly resembled the Izod alligator.  My reptilian was much bigger though and had a huge grin on his face as he licked his lips.  Above him, it read "Love to eat them preppies!", which used to crack up a few of my teachers in high school whenever I wore it with my layered mop of Eddie Van Halen-styled rocker hair.  But I certainly never thought of myself, or my family in idealized terms, or viewed us as, to use the current flavor of the month term, privileged.  

Flash forward to 2015, and it is a profoundly strange experience to read blogs and websites dedicated to the so called preppy lifestyle that so closely mirrors my own upbringing and family history.  I never know whether to feel some kind of pride, slight discomfort, perhaps a smidgeon of self-loathing, and/or perhaps a dash of affirmation.  Or a combination of the four.  Nevertheless, it's a weird sensation seeing a label put on all of this, but nothing that a good swig of single malt scotch whisky before bedtime can't fix.


**********

Despite my small town North Carolina roots on one side of the family, I've never really understood the whole redneck thing of the last 15-20 years or so.  As a result, the whole Larry the Cable Guy "Get 'er done!" and Jeff Foxworthy's early "You must be a redneck. . ." schtick has never really resonated with me, and I've been only vaguely aware of these semi-humorous portrayals, idealization, and embrace of redneck/whitetrash/southern working class or blue collar culture.  

In short, I don't get it.  However, I'll take a page from Mr. Foxworthy's book and address the peculiar phenomenon of dudebros below.  Ready?  Here we go. . .


**********

How do you recognize that you might be a dudebro in desperate need of an attitude and behavior adjustment?  Remember, acting like an entitled, hyper-masculine, self-centered, idiotic mimbo (whatever your precise chronologic age) is no way to go through life.  Even if you've been lucky enough to attain the coveted college or university degree.  But back to the issue at hand.  Here are a few symptoms to watch out for. . .


1) If you cannot utter a thought without beginning or ending your statement, observation, exclamation, or questions, with the words "dude" or "bro," then you might be a dudebro.  This particular speech habit is already tiresome when a guy enters his 20s and becomes pathetic in the extreme once he hits 35.

2) If you cannot greet someone, especially another male, without fist-bumping or high-fiving them, then you might be a dudebro.  On a related note, not everyone -- especially women you know only casually -- wants to be greeted with a bear-hug either, you dolt.  Save that for your closest family members.  A firm handshake is never out of place.

3) If, at any kind of social event, a red plastic Solo brand cup (or a beer bottle) is permanently attached to your hand from the time you arrive until you barf and pass out in a puddle of your own (or someone else's) sick early the next morning, then you might be a dudebro.

4) If you cannot keep your voice down to a respectable level when talking to friends, family, acquaintances, or anyone else -- and remember, most of the time we are not living our lives in the midst of a packed 40,000 seat football stadium -- then you might be a dudebro.

5) If you are a male college or university student and plan to major in Business because you have heard it is the easiest major, and thus won't infringe too much on your athletic or social endeavors, then you might be a dudebro.

6) If you are a male college or university student and, assuming you are required to complete two or three semesters of a foreign language, you opt for Spanish because, "Everyone knows Spanish is easy," then guess what?  You might be a dudebro.

7) If you cannot talk to, or about, the opposite sex without using the word "hot" (typically pronounced as "hawt" with a glottal stop), then you might be a dudebro.

8) If you are over the age of 18 and still refer to women as "girls" (and also perhaps continue to think of yourself as a "boy"), then you might be a dudebro.

9) If your close interaction with women is only when you are in groups of like-minded guys and limited only to those times when the defenses of those same women have been weakened by too much alcohol or recreational drug use, then you might be a dudebro.

10) If cargo shorts and flipflops, shower clogs, Teva mandals, or similar comprise the majority of your daily attire for most of the year and for most situations in which you typically find yourself, then you might be a dudebro.


The 1990s progenitor of 21st century dudebros?  Elaine's mimbo boyfriend "Tony" from Seinfeld.  
"Step off, George!"  Just step off!"


11) If you only remove your ever-present backwards baseball cap to shower, sleep, or take advantage of a woman too inebriated to stop you, then you might be  dudebro.

12) If you habitually shout, holler, or scream at the television or computer when watching any sporting event as though the players and referees can actually hear you, and as if you are actually present at the event, then you might be a dudebro.

13) If you are oblivious to the fact that different environments, settings, occasions, situations, occupations, and social company might, just might, call for you to modify your appearance, behavior, and the level of your voice, so that you don't stick out like a sore thumb, then you just might be a dudebro.

14) If you simply cannot be in a public space without loudly and obtrusively drawing attention to yourself through your speech and behavior, guess what?  You might be a dudebro.

15) If the faintest glimmer of self-recognition eludes you, and your first reaction is "@#&*$ you, man! " to anyone who thinks or acts differently than you and your posse of friends, or someone who might not appreciate your irritating hijinks and has been foolish enough to ask you to tone it down a few notches, then you might be a dudebro.

The grandfather of all dudebros -- and not in a good way -- Tommy Lee of Motley Crue.  Stoo-pid is about all I can think of to say.  If you too have ever had the misfortune of seeing this guy interviewed, or worse, in conversation with someone like Hugh Laurie and a TV talkshow host, then nothing more need be said.


16) And finally, call me silly, but you might be a dudebro if it does not occur to you that that really cool and unique barbed wire (or similar) tattoo you want to get -- or have already -- around your left bicep, up the outside of your right calf, or around a wrist or ankle could very possibly become an embarrassment 15 years or so down the road.  If all of your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you?


Kidding aside, I see this kind of thing all the time on campus and around town, among the student and townie populations.  And no.   It is not limited solely to the high school and college set either.  There are variants of this kind of thing all the way up into middle age, well over 40 or instance.   But is this really the way to live, think, and behave?  I mean, who actually wants to be like Tommy Lee or "Tony" on Seinfeld?  

Average guys who see the need and want to kick their everyday style several rungs up the socioeconomic ladder should give the points noted above some serious thought and reflection since this type of male persona has become so pervasive across much of society here in North America.  It gets extremely depressing when you think about it too much.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is difficult, for me at least, to understand this broad based manic obsession with slovenly dress and it is not limited to anyone generation, gender or social class. Is everyone seeking some low level of individuality but becoming born again conformists and can't see it? Walk through any busy airport, shopping mall, city streets most look like they are seeking the holy grail of "mud wrestling". Factually, I think there must be some disturbing reason deep within our society/culture that has started and sustained a low cultural self esteem. It is like we are ashamed of our civilization and want to emulate the third world. Does anyone agree?

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

I think you've about nailed it, except that I've spent some time visiting very poor areas in Latin America. . . And (drug gangs excepted) no one looks or acts this badly except for street drunks. Even the very poor, it seems, have a sense of pride and enough self esteem to present themselves to the best of their ability and means. I remember reading somewhere many, many years ago about an African-American personality who came from a very humble background, yet, he pointed out in the print interview that his parents always stressed that just because you might be poor, there is no excuse not to present a neat and pulled together appearance, or behave politely at home and in public. What in the heck has happened to us in so short a time??!!

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Anonymous said...

I have been sick for the last two weeks, convalescing in front of the television for some of that time. I admit I have been binge watching "Murder, She Wrote", and admiring some of the very well dressed male characters on the show. Great suits, sport coats and blazers, and casual wear that wasn't too casual.

Rodale Crowell said...

"Upon the minority depends our power of profiting by the finest human experience of the past; they keep alive the subtlest and most perishable parts of tradition. Upon them depend the implicit standards that order the finer living of an age, the sense that this is worth more than that, this rather than that is the direction in which to go, that the center is here rather than there."
F.R. Leavis

Camford said...

From Paul Fussell's "Class":

"Proles take to visor caps instinctively, which accounts for the vast popularity among them of what we must call simply the prole cap. This is the "baseball" cap made largely of plastic meshwork in primary colors (red, blue, yellow) with, in the rear, an open space crossed by a strap for self-adjustment: "One Size Fits All [Proles]." ... The little strap at the rear is the significant prole feature in that it demeans the buyer and user, making him do the work formerly thought the obligation of the seller, who used to have to stock numerous sizes... To achieve even greater ugliness, the prole will sometimes wear his cap back to front. This places the strap in full view transecting the wearer's forehead, as if pride in the one-size-fits-all gadget were motivating him to display the cap's "technology" and his own command of it."

Anonymous said...

I have a very good friend who is a retired NYC Detective. His daughter brought his grandson to visit not long ago. His grandson was dressed in the style of ghetto generation. His cap was on backwards, shoes laces untied and loose, no belt with the crack of his rear in view, tee shirt five sizes too big. My friend made him change explaining that no off spring of his was going to dress like that and then he explained why. In prisons while convicts are on the yard they are being watched by guards with binoculars. The guards require the convicts to turn their caps around backward so they can ID them. They remove their belts so they can't strangle others in a fight, same for shoe laces. Thus, the prison yard style. How and why that fashion has caught on with mainstream youth is unexplainable to me. What is it?

Mark Hollingsworth said...

I always admire your writing, but today you have excelled! A wonderful read and, speaking as someone who has just spent 5 days visiting the USA (Boston), an accurate picture of your country (not that the UK is much better in parts). Add to the sweat-pants-and-ball-cap-as-daily-wear brigade the obesity and eating (everything and anything) whilst walking in public, I was glad to settle back into my British Airways seat and return to London! Good for you for keeping up the standards of decency, and I agree with Rodale above that it falls to the minority to rise above the masses! Best wishes
Mark

Glenda Moore said...

I remember thinking when I saw "Animal House" that the clothes the characters wore, like John Belushi in the picture above, were terribly bad & sloppy. Now looking at that picture, by comparison of what I see on college campuses today, he looks pretty good!

Anonymous said...

The reality is not everyone wants to dress in the "classic" style like you. That is no reason to put them down.

This blog has a tone of smugness that is anything but gentlemanly. Forget about nonsense like how to set the table properly and focus on being more tolerant of others.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

You are entitled to your opinions as I am to mine. As mentioned explicitly in many posts here, perhaps more important than clothing, shoes, and accessories is how a man conducts himself. We are reminded daily by people's behavior in public spaces -- restaurants, on the street, in retail establishments, airports, and the like that people have sunk to new lows in so many ways. Tolerance is fine, but pleasant conduct and consideration (aka good manners) in all aspects of life are entirely necessary too. The overwhelming tendency for 'the people' in 2015 to let it all hang out (use your imagination) is offensive at best.

Best Regards,

Hein-Ulrich von B.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply.

But I get the feeling that this blog is not just about endorsing "good manners". Nobody would argue with that proposal.

I get the feeling in this (and some other style blogs) there is a mood of superiority and a looking down on those who are different to you. Perhaps they don't dress they same way as you and your readers, or perhaps they use different language to you, or perhaps their cultural behavior is different. Maybe their table manners are not as refined as yours.

A quick scan of a few of your past posts and, bingo, I quickly came across this example:

"I have experienced firsthand again and again, as but one example of this, how ticketing, gate, and plane personnel respond more favorably to a man who is dressed like an adult with places to go, things to do, and people to see rather than one more overgrown slob -- with McDonald's breath and a cut-rate airline ticket purchased at the last minute through Travelocity -- who arrives out of breath at the airport in sweats, pajamas, or the dreaded cargo shorts/flipflops/baseball cap combination with the waistband of his boxers sticking out for all the world to see. "

This is nothing but pompous snobbery. It is 2015, not 1935. People wear shorts, flips flops and cap to go on holiday. It is not a sin.

You wear a navy blazer and colared shirt and carry a brief case with breath mints in it. That makes you better than those in "bowels of tourist class". Really?

Your blog exudes hatred for those who don’t "dress up" or behave like you do. OK, so perhaps they don’t have your style and they don’t adhere to the looks shown in Esquire illustrations from decades ago. People in 2015 don’t dress like people in 1950, just as people in 1950 didn’t dress like people in 1900, and so on. And perhaps they talk louder than you do or they chew gum in public, or burp or whatever. Humanity is vast and it varies greatly.

I discovered your blog because I love old fashioned, stylish dressing. You and I probably have similar wardrobes and fashion tastes. But the tone of anger and hatred you have for those disgusting “proles” in flip flops and baseball caps really puts me off. It reeks of a kind of class fascism: intolerant, authoritarian and extreme, not to mention nasty. And, ironically, ungentlemanly.

Simon

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Simon,

Thank you in kind for your reply. You are correct. It seems I have gotten carried away with myself. I would counter that, rather than "anger" and "hatred," as you put it, I am extremely frustrated by how poorly many behave and present themselves in public in 2015, which has made me rather insufferable. Clearly, however, this is my problem not others', and, as you point out, my own behavior (and the attitudes behind it) has been less that admirable. Difference is fine I will agree with you. Somehow, though, many in the West (and especially here in the United States) have, in recent decades, misunderstood or twisted this to mean that even basic standards of pleasant conduct and a relatively pulled together appearance when one leaves the confines of home are somehow no longer necessary. Anything goes in other words. I understand that is not your way of thinking, of course, but that kind of attitude among many others is something I simply cannot wrap my mind around, and I refuse to accept it even in the face of overwhelming odds. As mentioned in the subheading of this blog, it is high time to reverse the man-child aesthetic of the last roughly two decades. Enough is enough. Let's just agree to disagree and leave it there, please.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Philologue said...

It's those disgusting “proles” in flip flops and baseball caps that put me off, certainly not the tone of your criticisms. More power to you, sir!

Simon said...

Yes, perhaps we might just have to agree to disagree. I’m not interested in starting one of those pointless internet arguments that trolls love.

I am 100% with you on rudeness and bad conduct. Bad conduct is bad, whether you are wearing a hoodie and jeans or a 3 piece suit.

Here’s a thought for you though…what if I said to you:
“I have seen your photos on your blog and you are a slob, a disgrace in the way you present yourself. Have some self respect man! Unlike me you don’t carry a gentleman’s cane. You don’t wear spats. You don’t wear a Homburg or even a Fedora. You don’t wear wing collars. You don’t wear a morning suit in the morning. And going out in public in shorts, even in summer, is a disgrace.”

Simon

Simon said...

Here is an article you and your readers might find interesting - the decline in the dress sense of coaches:

http://articles.philly.com/2014-01-06/sports/45885520_1_fashion-sense-football-coaches-nfl