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.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Classic Style: Carry Yourself Well. . .

Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).

An oft overlooked point of personal style is how a man carries himself.  Standing up straight(er) at the very least will enable you to project more elegance, greater self-confidence, and help your clothes look better on you.  Your body language also has no small effect on how you feel about yourself.  Surprise!  I stumbled onto these related points recently in my usual evening meanderings around the 'net.  Here is what a few others have to say on the matter:

You should always be conscious, as much as possible, of your posture.  Even if you don’t yet own a perfectly fitted suit, start paying attention to how your body interacts with your clothes. A great dose of elegance can be obtained through the right mindset and attitude. Posture is one of the least commented upon elements in the field of men’s style. Yet, the way you stand in your clothes is extremely important. We’ll have the opportunity to expand on this subject another time.  -- Hugo Jacomet, Parisian Gentleman 

Body posture can affect not only what others think about us, but also how we think about ourselves, said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.  -- Research News, Ohio State University 

A man’s success can be affected by his posture. How you stand, sit and where you place your arms, hands and legs can project power, confidence and charisma. Not being aware of this tell-tale body language, on the other hand, can project the image of a man who is insecure, weak and fearful.  --

We all know the importance of a firm handshake, but not enough can be said about solid posture. Having great posture is personally my biggest challenge, but I keep trying because this one is so in our control – it is like a freebee. Even the shiest people can project confidence with great posture. So pretend that a puppeteer is controlling your string from above and stand tall.  --  

Your body language shapes who you are. . .  tiny tweaks can lead to BIG changes.  
-- Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist

There is a veritable slew of further information out there on the web about the importance of carrying yourself well plus the benefits of doing so.  Have a closer look at the links supplied here, and do a bit of your own exploring online.  As always, we take a holistic approach to style here at Classic Style for the Average Guy.  Kicking up your everyday style several notches and presenting yourself as a man with some grooming and sophistication involves much more than simply the kinds of attire you wear.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Classic Style: Serve Fresh Coffee after Supper. . .

 Nothing beats a fresh, hot steaming cup of java.  All of the time according to my way of thinking.  Anytime.  Day, or night.

My maternal grandmother used to say that the best cup of coffee of the day was the one enjoyed just after the evening meal.  Wherever she is in the afterlife, I hope Granny realizes how right she was.  Yours truly is, in fact, enjoying a large mug of joe, made with a French press, as I write this post after supper.  At present, I am home alone for roughly two weeks while wife and child visit grandparents in the Pacific Northwest prior to our looming move to Michigan and subsequent summer travel plans to Germany.  We ought to have out heads examined where the latter is concerned given the timing of everything, but I digress.

The only thing nicer than a cup of coffee following supper in the evening is a cup or two of after-dinner coffee enjoyed with family, or guests when you have them.  Sadly, this custom seems to be something not enough people remain aware of in 2015, at least in my recent experience.  

This was not always the case of course.  From about the time I was 14, I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the morning early before school and again after supper around the dining table with my mother and grandmother.  During the summer months, we often took our coffee to the front porch, or to the glass-topped table in the terraced side-yard.  Here, we chatted and laughed about the events of the day surrounded by big old, blousy Boxwood shrubs on three sides of the yard plus a mature Crab Apple tree, a very tall Tulip Poplar, and a rather large Styrax tree with the meadow up the hill beyond.  All three trees bloomed at one time or another during the second half of May and early June, and the side-yard in late Spring was a feast for the eyes as you might imagine. 

But back to coffee.  I have continued to enjoy the dark mistress at key points during the day and evening throughout my adult life.  However, Italian and Scandinavian friends notwithstanding, coffee after dinner in the evening seems to be something of a lost art for many with whom I am currently acquainted. . .  along with dinner napkins as part of the table setting now that I think about it.  How sad that something nice has fallen by the wayside as society has become evermore caught up in itself, and figuratively at least, runs from one activity to the next at such a rate that small, pleasant things like a cup of fresh coffee after a meal have (apparently) disappeared from the daily radar screens of so many.

My humble suggestion is for average guys, who are interested in kicking up their everyday style more than just a few notches, to reintroduce the elegant custom of after-dinner coffee into their own lives, assuming it is not already a part of the evening ritual.  Whether you take milk, cream, and/or sugar in yours -- or you drink it black as I do -- finish the evening meal with a fresh cup or two of coffee and reflect on, or converse quietly about the day just ended.  And the evening yet to come.  When you have guests, make sure to have a bag or can of decaffeinated coffee on hand, plus an extra coffee pot of some kind, so that you can make and offer coffee to those who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the old-fashioned leaded variety of the java bug.  Rest assured, there will be at least one among your companions who appreciates it.

Coffee after supper strikes me as a highly civilized and sophisticated way to finish a meal, a point on which I hope you might agree with me.  Make it part of your evening routine whether you live alone, with others, or you have a house full of dinner guests.  It is a delightfully convivial way to wrap up the meal and start off the rest of your evening.  Try it and see.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Sunday morning.  11:10am.  Fresh black coffee, toast with Red Currant jelly [thank you for pointing out the correct spelling, Old School], a reprise of John Coltrane's 1958 album Blue Train, and the Sunday New York Times.  It doesn't get much better.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring semester grades are in!

Yours truly hanging 'round the office at home today after tallying and submitting final grades with some classic jazz numbers playing on the ol' computer.  Ain't YouTube a great thing?

Final grades for the spring semester are in, and I'm enjoying that delightful lazy feeling that arrives shortly afterwards at the close of yet another university term.  Being able to do all of this online (instead of with the old-fashioned paper final grade forms) certainly helps.  

The attire in today's photograph is pretty typical around here between the end of April and the end of August.  The weather needs to be warmer before I break out the Madras shirts though.  The Land's End cotton knit shirt dates from the spring of 1998 when I was still attending grad school in Madison, Wisconsin.  It has actually made a few different visits to Norway with me through the intervening years now that I think about it.  The shorts and dock-siders are more recent vintage though.  

These are the kinds of items that the men in my extended family have worn during the evenings, weekends, and vacations each late spring and summer for many decades, and, to some extent, they still do. . .  unless mowing the grass or working in the vegetable garden.  Even my Welsh professor stepfather has climbed aboard and lives in these sorts of clothes at my parents' home in the Yucatan (Mexico) whenever they are there.  It's simply too warm and humid much of the year for anything else unless you happen to be in the swimming pool, in an air-conditioned bedroom, or an El Norte blows in cooler, dryer air.

While clothes like these, strangely, have their detractors, they are nevertheless relaxed, comfortable gear that looks equally presentable at home, for a quick trip to the nearby corner convenience store for that forgotten container of milk, or for strolling along the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during a breezy summer's evening.  If you are looking to take your casual warm weather style to another level, I urge you to give this kind of attire a try.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Classic Style: John Coltrane -- 'Blue Train'. . .

Classic Style: Dave Brubeck - 'Take Five'. . .

Classic Style: Charles Mingus - 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat'. . .

Classic Style: 'So What?' by Miles Davis. . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Classic Style: The Origins of the Modern Suit. . .

Yet another great old illustration by the likes of Laurence Fellows (or perhaps Leslie Saalberg).  Say what you might about brown suits, but I'd wear this number in a second although the spectator shoes strike me as a bit much in this particular context.

Here's an interesting short article from The Atlantic on the origins of the modern business suit.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, May 11, 2015

Classic Style Monday: I've Got the Glen Plaid Blues. . .

 Here is a close-up, sans my ugly mug, of the upper half of today's attire.  That's a Half-Windsor knot by the way, my preferred knot for spread and pointed collars.  The pocket handkerchief is white linen.

Today was the final day at my current place of employment.  Farewell to the small liberal arts university setting and hello Big 10. . .  Or Big 12.  Or whatever they are calling themselves now.  

Anyway, my office was cleaned out some days ago, and I said my good-byes last week, so I only went in this morning to collect finalized student papers and turn in my ID, parking tag, and keys to Human Resources.  I felt like going out with a bang, however, and so pulled out an old favorite from the wardrobe early this morning.  

The suit pictured is a vintage lightweight 60/40 wool-silk number by Corbin that is half-lined.  Although the pants feature brace buttons on the inside of the waistband, I chose a nondescript dark brown belt this morning.  The shirt is from Land's End (before they and many others began making absolutely everything "non-iron"), and the necktie is by Kenneth Roberts (made in Italy).  As usual, the shoes are from Allen Edmonds, recrafted at the AE factory in Wisconsin two years ago, and the socks are some I've had in the sock drawer for 11 or 12 years now.  Amazingly, they just keep going and going.  

With the exception of the socks, purchased new from Marshall Field's (ex Dayton's, now Macy's) along Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis when I was in my first teaching position right out of graduate school, everything else here was either thrifted, purchased on Ebay, or on clearance.  As I have mentioned so often before, it is a mistake to think that you need scads of money to begin dressing in the classic style.  Knowledge, awareness, and patience until the right items come along are more important when it comes to kicking up your everyday style several notches from the terminally rumpled backwards hatted, cargo shorted, flip-flopped, baggy pantsed brigade.

I felt good about life and things as I left the house this morning and had an extra spring to my step on campus.  Smug?  Glad you asked.  No, actually.  But it is amazing how dressing well can have a positive effect on your general mood and how you carry yourself, not to mention the favorable way in which others react to you when you are dressed like you mean business.  Even when thing are pretty relaxed during final exam week.  And hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling good about and confident in yourself and your abilities.  It is always surprising, though, the number of people out there who seem to have a problem with that, a way of thinking that is completely incomprehensible to me.  Thanks very much, but I'll sit somewhere else if you wouldn't mind.

Time to read through the last stack of papers now, tally final course grades for everyone, and get those submitted online by week's end.  Then, we've got a house to pack up for a June 16th-17th move.  Michigan, here we come!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And here is how the lower half looked as I sipped coffee in the dining commons and awaited the delivery of final student papers.  The cuffs are one and 3/4 inches for the true clothing nerds out there.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Classic Style: Packing a Suitcase. . .

If memory serves me correctly, and it might not in this instance, the large suitcase to James Bond's left is his.  The scene in any case is from early in Dr. No.

Came across an interesting guide to packing a suitcase for a three-day trip at the Parisian Gentleman early this morning and thought it might be good to share it.  Packing a suitcase so that you don't look like a rumpled mess for the duration of your stay somewhere -- whether for business, pleasure, or a combination of the two -- is a lifelong art (or is it a science?) that, like the martial arts, golf, or fly-fishing, you always tinker with and attempt to refine.  At least that's the case for me.  Oh, the stories I could tell about the machinations my father once went through with a large Orvis fishing bag before a trip to Jamaica 40 years ago!  Anyway, see what you think, but I'll try a couple of the suggested tips when I pack a bag this afternoon for another brief sojourn to Michigan with wife and child during the latter half of this week.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, May 1, 2015

Classic Style: Wearing a Suit Makes You Think Differently. . .

There was a piece on The Atlantic website yesterday on how wearing a suit to the workplace can influence and even change one's thinking in critical ways.  It's probably lost on guys who are already dead set against and see no reason to bother sprucing themselves up, practicing polite table manners, and the like, but the piece is nevertheless an interesting read for anyone with an interest in men's style beyond sweatpants, cargo shorts, flip-flops, ripped preternaturally faded jeans, and/or untucked shirts.  Can we even use the world "style" in the same sentence with those garments?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Classic Style: Casual Friday

Friday, warm, and with bright blue skies.  Springtime just like it out to be, so why not break out some more Madras?

Here's one possible way to do Casual Fridays a bit better than is the sad norm in many places these days.  Perhaps the most interesting item pictured here is the vintage Rooster cotton Madras necktie, which was actually handwoven in India and sold at one of the now defunct Carroll Reed Ski Shops in New England.  I stumbled on it in a vintage clothing store in Champaign, Illinois two or three summers ago and picked it up for less than US$5.  And then there are the Allen Edmonds spectator shoes, something you never see in my corner of the world.  

The khakis and shirt are slightly rumpled, which strike me as perfect for a relaxed end-of-the-week morning in early May.  The blazer is one of four in my wardrobe -- two heavy flannel ones for winter and two lighter for spring and summer -- and is the lightest in weight.  During the summers, when there is little occasion for me to dress for anything beyond shorts and short sleeves, it is my go to jacket for those occasional visits to the dentist, or errands where I need to look more pulled together and like I might possibly know which end is up. 

As I always say to my students, "If you aren't interested in what I have to say at the front of the room, then I might at least be somewhat interesting to look at for 50-75 minutes, depending on the day of the week."  Attire today notwithstanding, I had 'em rolling in the aisles with my Good Fellas imitation at the end of the 10am class.  The context was what might happen if any students in that class fail to deliver finalized term papers by the appointed due date in about ten days' time.  Don't mess with the Godfather!

-- Heinz-Ulrich