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, October 28, 2015

Disgusting. . . Repulsive. . . Decadent. . . Fantastic!

An early birthday gift to myself: a new pair of velvet Smythe & Digby Prince Albert slippers in navy blue, acquired via Ebay for a song. 

Not really a bedroom slipper kind of guy, but I could hardly pass these up when I saw them on Ebay.  I actually won the auction for a change too.

My first encounter with similar slippers/loafers was now well over 40 years ago, when I was occasionally invited over to her house to play after school by a preschool and kindergarten schoolmate, who was part of our Monday through Friday neighborhood carpool.  The Maiers were a German-Yugoslav family, and I'm not sure what Herr Maier did for a living, but Mrs. Maier had their large house covered in Turkish and Persian carpets.  The genuine item.  Naturally, family and guests were required to change into house slippers in the entry hall, and Mrs. Maier kept a box of spares in various sizes in the hall closet for the guests to use.  

Another thing that I recall vividly. . .  Mrs. Maier and my mother didn't really resemble all of the other mothers I saw dropping off, picking up, or coming in occasionally as room mothers (remember those?).  Both women channeled Audrey Hepburn-Jackie Kennedy with adjustments made considering it was the early 1970s by that point.  Dark glasses propped on the head when inside (worn on the face outside and in the car), hair pulled back, minimal but tasteful makeup and jewelry, and fairly plain but elegant attire whether a dress, skirt and blouse combo, or pants with a blouse.  Both women also carried themselves with considerable poise and dignity, a couple of concepts that seem to have disappeared for both women and men in the decades since.  Sigh.

I wonder where Mrs. Maier and her daughter my former classmate 'Jasne' are now?
-- Heinz-Ulrich

My wife, the Grand Duchess, will hate these.  

She replied on seeing these for the first time, "They are really you.  You're not going to wear them outside of the house, are you?"

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Every Once in a While. . .

Three photographs of my recently purchased (at a steal) Allen Edmonds 'Schautal' oxfords in tan suede.

Besides thrift/charity shops, it pays to frequent sites like Etsy or Ebay when a man builds a classic wardrobe.  A week ago, I happened onto these Allen Edmonds 'Schautal' brogues (that's 'wingtips' to those of us on the North American side of the pond) in my size on Ebay and at a mere fraction of the suggested retail price.  Apparently, these were a display model in a shoe or department store somewhere, and as far as I could tell from the photographs were never even tried on by a potential buyer. 

Here is what I learned about the shoe via Ask Andy About Clothes:

Just got the scoop from Brenda at AE and she was very helpful.

She said she has been with AE for over 20 years and she has never heard of the Schautal. She had to do some digging on her computer to find it and you won't find it on the AE web site.

The Schautal is made only for the Nordstrom Rack and it was introduced in October 2012. It is not a factory second nor is it made in an inferior manner.

It is definitely made in USA from first quality materials. Essentially it is a suede leather MacNeil, double oak sole, etc. on a 97 last (same as #7).

On these she said the final number in the style "5603" does not mean the specific last anymore. She said there are too many lasts now so AE went to double digit numbers to specify the last.

A very nice shoe!

Just the kind of insight I needed.  So, a few clicks later, and these babies were on their way to my front door.  Well, they arrived yesterday, and had I not woken up with a nasty cold and fever this morning, I would have worn them to campus today along with some charcoal gray flannel pants, a Harris Tweed jacket, a blue-white striped ocbd shirt, and a dark red Italian hand-printed wool challis necktie with tiny gray and orange paisleys.  Isn't that always the way?  

Two things occur to me about these shoes though.  Strictly speaking, this shoe type was originally meant for heavy use in rural environs, and the broguing (Sp?) was intended to aid water drainage and drying out.  Obviously, suede shoes are a move away from that.  Clearly not what you wear to tramp around boggy moors shooting quail and pheasant, outrun American werewolves, or to pursue the evil and cunning Professor Moriarty.  

Second, I'll change the lacing to a less formal style before wearing these since brogues/wingtips are somewhat more casual shoes than, say, plain black captoe oxfords on which this particular method of lacing is more appropriate.  But I suppose that is splitting hairs to lots of people.  Only other men's dress shoe nerds will notice.

In any case, I cannot wait to wear these and break them in.  Of course, rain is predicted for the rest of this week in our neck of the woods, so that will have to wait until next Monday, at the earliest. Sigh.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Preferred Oxford Cloth Button-Down Shirts. . .

One of several light blue cotton oxford cloth button-down collar shirts in my rotation, worn here with a wool flannel navy blazer and a vintage Italian silk necktie once sold under the Rooster label.  An orange-brown with silvery paisleys, ideal for the autumn.

The other day, a regular visitor to Classic Style for the Average Guy left a comment in which he asked for information and my recommendations on the classic oxford cloth button-down shirt, commonly abbreviated to 'ocbd.'  "Me?  Are you tawkin' to me?"  Oblique Robert DeNiro references aside, let's talk oxford cloth button-down shirts.  This particular type of shirt is one of the bedrock items every man should have a few of hanging in his closet, especially when he wishes to present himself to the world in a way better -- yes, I said better -- than what has become the sad accepted average among so much of the male populace.  

First things first though.  Lots of people automatically associate this type of shirt with brands like Brooks Brothers, and while there is no argument that the company once sold THE ocbd shirt (and my father was a devotee), times, tastes, corporate focus, and marketing plans change, meaning that this picture might not be the same now as, say, back in 1960.  There is some discussion in online menswear fora about the current focus of BB, and how the company is trying too hard to be too may different things to too many different people in 2015.  

But back to shirts.  While I have three or four shirts with the Brooks Brothers label in my closet, I do not possess any of their coveted ocbd numbers, so I am unable to comment on those specifically.  Based on my experience with other brands though, here are my favorite oxford cloth button down shirts in no particular order.

Land's End 'Original' Oxford -- From BEFORE they began selling them as non-iron, wrinkle free items.  Possibly available once in a while in thrift/charity stores or via Ebay.  Sadly, the 'Original' Land's End ocbd shirt has not been available directly from the company for several years, which is a shame since this was a venerable item that they sold for quite some time.  That Land's End seems to have lost its way as a company is open to discussion, but we'll stick to the point today and talk about the shirts.  These 'Original' oxfords were very reasonably priced (US$19.99 in 2003 if memory serves), no-frills, sartorial workhorses, and luckily I had the foresight to order several back in '03-'04 when in my first teaching position after graduate school.  All of these shirts are still in regular Monday-through Friday use now in late 2015, although I wish I had ordered two, or three more in light blue since these get the most wear by far.  Live and learn as the saying goes.

Land's End Hyde Park Oxford -- More expensive, but still good value for your money at around US$49.99.  These are heavy, comfortable in all but the hottest weather, and they hold a crease well.  But you've got to iron them before wearing unless it's the weekend, or you simply plan on wearing a sweater or pullover on top of it.  I have a few in light blue, white, and blue-white University Stripe plus a Tattersall pattern shirt all of which I look forward to wearing when the weather cools each September.  This particular make and model of shirt is my #1 recommendation when its comes to quality off-the-rack ocbd shirts although available colors and patterns are very limited.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing when combining a shirt with a jacket and odd pants ensemble or a suit ensemble along with a necktie and pocket square.

L.L. Bean Oxford -- This company too has fallen prey to redesigning, recasting, and/or rebranding most (or even all?) of its dress shirts as non-iron.  Grrrr. . .  They are still decent shirts though, and some readers might love them.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but I own and routinely wear two or three in University Stripe patterns.  Whatever chemicals the no-wrinkle cotton cloth is treated with keeps them from breathing as well as they would otherwise, so these don't work for warm late spring, high summer, or early fall wear.  Moreover, all so called non-iron shirts need brief pressing with a warm iron before wear to look their best.  You can get away in a pinch, though, with simply pulling them from the dryer, putting them on a hanger with the top three buttons fastened, and simply hang them in your wardrobe or closet until Monday morning.  I've done so myself -- Yes.  I know, I know. -- but prefer a pressed shirt (with a jacket and necktie) if/when I appear in the office or before a classroom of undergrads.

Mercer & Sons -- These are dear at US$125 per shirt, and I do not yet have one myself only because I already have too many other still serviceable shirts clogging the closet.  But, Mercer & Sons shirts are on the radar screen, and when it comes time to replace a couple of my less favorite blue ocbd shirts, I will bite the bullet and spend the money on a couple of them, maybe one in blue, and one in a University Stripe.  A white-faint light blue stripe pattern is always a nice addition to the wardrobe.

Polo Ralph Lauren Yarmouth Oxfords -- These are also nice, heavier, generously cut ocbd shirts that iron up well and hold their creases all day.  I've picked up a few light blue ones in the last few years either via Ebay or at the ol' thrift/charity shop.  I am not sure that Polo Ralph Lauren still offers this particular model, but these shirts do turn up on Ebay a lot (very cheap sometimes) and occasionally new on (for around US$98-$125, sometimes more).  Quality and weight-wise, these feel similar to the Land's End Hyde Park Oxford mentioned above.  I like the few I have in the shirt rotation although the collars can sometimes be a bit short and thus don't always have that coveted, gentle bell-shaped 'roll' to them.  If you are after that old school, North Eastern trad/ivy/preppy look, this might give you pause, but I have found it's best not to get too dogmatic about tiny individual details and instead consider the entire picture you present when all garments, shoes, and accessories are combined.  To put it another way, and as the characters might have intoned on the old tv program The Sopranos, put your clothes on and "Fugeddaboutit!"

I have also picked up a few other old light blue Polo Ralph Lauren ocbd shirts that I like in thrift/charity shops during the last few years as well as a couple of lighter weight Club Room shirts, the latter of which I am less fond.  30+ years ago, when I were but a mere a lad in my late teens, I had around one dozen or so of the former in various colors and striped patterns thanks to my parents and grandparents, who always supplied me with a few new shirts among other birthday and Christmas gifts each year.  I still like these shirts, although the button-down collars don't always have as much of that bell-shaped 'roll' as this type of shirt should especially when worn with a necktie.

There is also a very heavy Bass light blue ocbd in my wardrobe currently (worn in the photograph above) that I picked up in a thrift/charity shop a year or so ago back in our old Central Illinois haunts.  It fits very well under a sports jacket or blazer, with about 1/2" of linen showing at the ends of the jacket/blazer sleeves, despite being a 'Medium' rather than my usual precise 15"x33" dimensions.  Just dumb luck here.  I would suggest, however, that a man in the market for versatile dress shirts -- and yes, I am aware that the oxford cloth button down is not, strictly speaking, a 'dress shirt' given its casual sporting origins -- should stick to exact neck and sleeve dimensions to ensure the best fit and appearance with a suit, blazer, sports jacket, or simply tucked into a pair of jeans.  

On a related sizing point, it's best to stick to traditional or moderate shirt cuts unless you are extremely thin, under 25, or both.  Then, by all means, go for the 'trim cut' version of shirts that some companies offer their customers.  But, if you are over 30, or carry some extra weight around the middle, just don't.  Nothing looks odder than a man unmistakably well into adulthood, who nevertheless tries to force his body into clothes cut for guys built like the young Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, or George Harrison. . . half a century ago.  All were thin, lanky guys way back when, who could get away with very trim cut clothing at the time.  But this style looks slightly odd, at best, on those of us whose high school and college years have receded by a few decades in the rearview mirror of life.  Know what I mean?

As far as colors, I'd stick to the classic mid- or light blue with maybe one in pink or white, and another couple of the so called University Stripe in white-light blue, white-pink, or perhaps white- green, or white-yellow patterns.  These colors and combinations of color are surprisingly versatile and look great when worn with a tie and sports jacket/blazer and odd pants, or the classic American sack suit like the kind sold by J Press, Brooks Brothers, and Southwick.  Oxford cloth button-down shirts also look great with jeans, corduroy pants, beneath a crew neck sweater, or even untucked with a pair of shorts during the warmer months.  It's very hard to go wrong with these shirts, short of embroidering the name of your favorite hockey team across the back.

The more adventurous among you might also enjoy adding a Tattersall pattern ocbd shirt or two to your shirt rotation.  These look fabulous with tweed jackets of various kinds kinds and are great for those more casual weekend affairs where you nevertheless want to appear pulled together.  But be careful which neckties you might attempt to combine with a Tattersall shirt given the relatively busy nature of this particular pattern.  I'd suggest solid color wool ties in darker colors here, so you don't stray into the dreaded used car salesman territory.  Think dark blue, dark green, Bergundy, or perhaps a mid- to dark brown just to be on the safe side.  When in doubt, err on the less busy, more conservative side of color and pattern combinations.

So, there we are.  Those are my thoughts and suggestions for oxford cloth button-down shirts.  It is an interesting topic as far as men's attire is concerned, and we could probably discuss and debate the subject all day, but this is the shortened version (yes, really).  Hope it might help pave the way as you embark or continue upon your own sartorial roadtrip.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Update five days later. . .

Mea culpa!  Ironing today's shirt post-supper yesterday evening, I found that I do, in fact, own two Brooks Brothers 'Makers' ocbd shirts in blue-white and red-white University Stripe patterns.  Sadly, these too are the more recent non-iron variety, which is a shame, because otherwise, the shirts are very nice.  They feature a generous, non-constricting cut, substantial oxford cloth material, and a nice collar roll.  But as mentioned above in last week's post, the chemicals that are used to make the shirts 'non-iron' somehow, someway also inhibit the cotton material from breathing as well as it otherwise would.  Why, oh why are so many shirt companies doing this to themselves and their (potential) customers?  

Monday, October 19, 2015

One Monday in Mid-October. . .

The slightly disheveled upper half this morning.  Yes, those are little green whales on the necktie.  Although it is out of sight here, the bottom button of my vest/waistcoat was indeed left unbuttoned.

Today's irretrievably Bertie Wooster, Bingo Little, and Tuppy Glossop-ish combo.  It's finally cool enough for wool vests/waistcoats, so I laid one out with everything else last night after supper before pressing my shirt.  A male student actually complemented me midday today as I left the building where I had just taught a class, describing everything as "Awesome!"  Nice to know that even some of the young whipper-snappers out there recognize classic combinations when confronted with them.  I've had several similar such comments during the last seven weeks or so from random students while going about my business on campus.  Not necessary of course, but the odd compliment is a nice thing to hear once in a while.  Now enough with the always unintentional alliteration already!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the lower half, complete with Allen Edmonds suede wingtips/brogues.  Looks like rain the rest of this week, so today was the day to put 'em on and wear 'em.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's Thirsty Thursday. . .

The top half this morning as I killed a little time outside on campus between office hours and then teaching for almost the next four hours.  And now, I need a drink.  Making due with some coffee however.  The overcoat above is an old Botany 500 number that I picked up for less than US$10 a year ago, the blazer is a Polo University Club, and the hand-made green club tie was also thrifted at some point in the not too distant past.

Thirsty Thursday, otherwise known as drinking night and the unofficial start of the weekend around many (most?) college and university campuses in the United States.  A chilly one here in any case this morning, so I opted for wool flannel items and a vintage wool overcoat.   The blazer, pants, and overcoat were all purchased in my old thrift/charity shop down in Central Illinois during the last few years.  

There are, apparently, a number of thrift/charity and clothing consignment shops in our new neck of the woods here in southern Michigan, but our lives have been, you could say, rather harried since the return from Germany in mid-August.  I have not yet had time to explore them and see what might be on offer as a result.  No matter.  There is more than enough classic stuff hanging in the wardrobe and spare closet to wear through the rest of Fall, Winter, and on into Springtime, so I'm not too concerned.  After all, once you reach that critical wardrobe mass, how many additional tweed jackets, blazers, and neckties do you really need?  As the great Michael Caine might say, "Know what I mean?"

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

And the bottom half.  The pants are by L.L Bean and were thrifted about 18 months ago.  The shoes?  Sigh.  I had a pair of Allend Edmonds chocolate brown suede wingtips/brogues laid out last night and all ready to go this morning.  Too bad the weather forecast changed overnight, and we ended up having some rain and wet here midday.  Hence the plasticy Johnston and Murphy loafers, which I keep for just such damp days although the rain had not yet arrived when these photographs were taken.

Monday, October 12, 2015

One Monday in October. . .

 The top half today.

And the bottom half including Merino wool socks from Dapper Classics and a surprisingly comfortable pair of calfskin monk strap loafers from Land's End that are about eight years old.

In full Autumn mode here at the moment.  Even cooler weather is on the way, so it just might be possible to don a sweater or a vest/waistcoat beneath a tweed jacket later this week.  As much as I enjoy snow and cross country skiing, Fall is my favorite season of the year. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Grading and Lesson Planning Style. . .

 The top half today, including a vintage 'Made in the USA' Land's End genuine Harris Tweed.  Oddly, the shoulders are not as boxy and large as seems to be the case with many of the sports jackets and suit coats sold by LE now.  I purchased this for a few bucks at my favorite thrift/charity shop haunt in our old stomping grounds of Central Illinois late last winter when it was handed to me by another patron much taller that I.  His words were something like, "Here.  This should fit you.  It's a Harris Tweed."  How could I possibly argue with that?

And on the bottom, a pair of suede Allen Edmonds 'Catskill' loafers among other items  My wife, the Grand Duchess, occasionally needles me about these decidedly orange Land's End corduroy jeans, but they're great for the fall and winter.

A long, brilliantly sunny October afternoon avoiding the in-laws, who are in town for the weekend to see the Young Master and the Grand Duchess.  Luckily, I had a ready excuse what with all kinds of paper grading and commenting/suggestions to catch up on as well as planning or the week's classes. It was thus easy to escape to the cafe.  A little coffee and a lot of classic rock along with a smattering of 80s tunes helped keep me on task and able to breeze through everything in about 4.5 hours.  

Funny what caffeine along with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Janis Joplin, et al will enable you to get accomplished.  Even funnier how all of these late teens and 20-somethings in the cafe around me seemed  for the most part to know the songs and enjoy the music of these artists even though much of it is at least 35 years old.  Somehow, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and other calculated prefab artistes of our own era ain't quite the same thing.  Know what I mean?  Pharell Williams isn't too bad though.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

One Lazy Saturday in October Style. . .

Some old Land's End khaki shorts, my usual rugby top, and Sperry topsiders.  Almost too cool in the shade now for this stuff, but it was fine in the sun.

YMP just before spilling the bubble solution.  No more until springtime!

 A very casual and yet stylish YMP in some madras shorts, OCBD, and his own Sperry topsiders.

Just a quiet (and brilliantly sunny) October Saturday with the boys today (the Grand Duchess is away at a conference).  The Young Master, who will turn six in a couple of weeks, and yours truly spent a couple of hours this afternoon fooling around outside with bubbles, magic sand, and foam rubber rockets with launcher plus some attempts at tree-climbing and running at top speed around the grassy courtyard area.  Pepperoni pizza for supper this evening.  YMP's favorite.  Why can't we have more lazy days like this?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A selection from the overly large necktie rotation, right now around 95, or 100 in number.  I know, I know. Some of these ties have been featured here in recent weeks.  Spent a couple of hours midday today swapping the warmer weather gear with the tweeds, corduroys, and flannels, sorting out a few things for mending and/or minor alterations before next spring, and zipping everything into breathable garment bags.  I also pulled out several jackets and a pair of pants that I just don't wear, or have decided don't work for/on me.  These will go to the local Goodwill next week.

Friday, October 9, 2015

October Campus Style. . .

An absolutely stunning autumn day here today.  Cool, breezy, and mostly cloudy with the leaves starting to change colors.  Mostly reds, yellows, and oranges but still lots of green.  Campus was beautiful in the most quiet of ways with very few actual students in evidence  as I walked across it just after Noon for my lunchtime meeting.  

The relative absence of undergrads comes as no surprise really since it is Friday remember.   Class attendance drops off noticeably on Mondays and Fridays as students are either recovering from the weekend, or already began gearing up for it Thursday night and are in no shape to attend classes come Friday morning.  A professor of mine -- from Norway oddly enough -- observed as much 20 years ago when I wrapped up my own undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Of course, she made, and I make, a very broad generalization.  There ARE very conscientious and serious students out there, but there is also more than a grain of truth to ol' Ingeborg's observation first made way back in 1995.  

But back to the walk across campus, when I took the opportunity to snap a few impromptu photographs with my phone as I went along from one side to the other.  Everyone moans about how big campus is here at MSU, but I find it eminently walkable.  Especially with a solid pair of vintage Florsheim brogues on my feet.  These pictures are four of the better ones, taken around the old central part of the university as I crossed campus today.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Harris Tweed Friday Style. . .

 The top half.  I later switched to a dark green, purple, and silvery gray pocket squares since this one struck me as too matchy-matchy with the shirt.

At home today except for lunch on campus midday with  a colleague who is (almost) an old hippy and extremely casual in his self-presentation, so I decided to forego a necktie for the date.  Good thing since I undoubtedly would have dribbled something on it.  It always happens like that, so I usually skip midday meals and limit myself to coffee, or a banana at most.  Hey, it's a good way to stay trim.  But today, a ham and cheese sandwich it was since I was taken to lunch.  I know.  I know.  Living out there on the bloody edge.  In any case, were I to add a necktie to this particular ensemble, it would be either a knit silk, or a knit wool model.  I've got them in dark green, maroon, and mustard yellow.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

The bottom half, which includes my recently resoled Florsheim wingtips/brogues and a pair of tan Land's End dress cords that I've had for over ten years.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Undergrad Paper Grading Cafe Style. . .

Just because it's the weekend doesn't mean we can't still look pulled together, right men?  Especially when venturing outside the confines of the home.  Leather Sperry docksiders without socks completed the picture on this chilly, damp Sunday.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, October 2, 2015

Early Friday Morning Meeting Style. . .

A J . Press tweed jacket, perhaps my very best find ever.  I don't think it had been worn more than once.  If ever.  Can you imagine finding this in a small Central Illinois city thrift store/charity shop?  Me neither, but I did.  Still can't quite believe it.

And the bottom half this morning, which included a pair of Allen Edmonds wingtip brogues.  Just like the few other pairs of AE shoes that I now have in the rotation, these are extremely comfortable to wear and walk around in.

Friday meetings, early morning or late afternoon, are the absolute worst.  At least today's gave me an excuse to put on some nice things for another seasonably chilly and breezy fall day in our small corner of the world.  It's the kind of day that makes you feel good to be alive.  Whatever small annoyances and irritations -- and here have been a few lately -- life might throw our way, our little family is extremely fortunate.  Heck, I even found myself looking forward to the day early yesterday while shaving at the bathroom sink.  Same thing today.  So, I cannot complain too loudly or long about an occasional Friday meeting.  Enjoy the weekend!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 1, 2015

British Ska Revival 1979 -- One Step Beyond !!!

It's Finally Autumn at Last!

Land's End cords, Dapper Classics Merino wool socks, and recently resoled vintage Florsheim gunboats.  Up top, a cream, olive, tan, and brown houndstooth tweed hacking jacket, brown wool vest, blue OCBD shirt, and an ancient madder necktie in primarily dark red.  Plus a cream and red silk pocket square.  Kind of like a dandified Bertie Wooster today.

A cool, breezy one here today.  Finally able to dress decently without being covered by a patina of perspiration 10 minutes after leaving home.  How utterly refreshing.  In other news, I had yet another close encounter of the Danish kind between classes today as I sipped a quick cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe across the street from campus.  Three Danish graduate students were deep in conversation at the next table.  This is the third or fourth time in as many weeks that I have overheard Danish here at MSU.  Who knew?

-- Heinz-Ulrich