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, April 30, 2015

Classic Style: Walkin' Your Dog. . .

It does not matter how sweet you think your dog is, or whether the dog is a large, or small breed.  If you are going to take your dog out into public on a leash, then make damn sure you leash train the dog (and yourself).

I like dogs.  Well trained and pleasantly behaved dogs, that is, of many different breeds.  Terriers, Retrievers, and Poodles (toys and standards) are my personal  favorites.  Some of you might recall recent mention, here at Classic Style for the Average Guy, of my father, who trained Labrador Retrievers for hunting use in the field and the show ring although he himself was neither a hunter, nor a a dog show enthusiast.  

While I have not used the skills myself for many year now, I too learned basic dog training as a child.  So, the sheer number of people with untrained dogs walking around loose out there gives me cause for concern especially since, almost invariably, the offending owners and dogs are large and potentially dangerous.

There is a certain kind of person, usually but not always a youngish guy, who is a fan of these sorts of dogs.  Naturally, these also seem to be the kinds of people who take their dogs out into public without taking any steps whatsoever to train the dog first.  While I could easily launch into a lengthy monologue about the reasons behind this phenomenon, I'll spare everyone and say just this.  Whatever kind of dog you own, you need to leash train your dog and CONTROL said dog whenever the two of you are out in public.

At the very least:

1) Use a short leather, or nylon leash and keep the dog on your left side.  Don't let the dog roam around way out ahead of you, or lead YOU, on one those stupid telescopic dog leashes.  Take control of your animal.  

2) Hold the end of the leash firmly in your right hand and hold the leash just below its middle firmly in your left.  Once more, control your animal.

3) The dog must be taught to "Heel!" when the two of you walk together.  That means, basically, not to pull against the leash, leaving a tiny bit of slack in the leash as the two of you move ahead.

4) When you come to a stop at an intersection, traffic light, crosswalk, or when you meet someone, the dog should be taught to "Sit!" and "Stay!"  "Get down!" and "No!" are also highly useful commands.  Pointing your index finger directly at the ground is helpful.

5) When you are ready to proceed, the command that the dog needs to be taught is "Come!"  As stated previously, keep your dog very close in to your left side and remind it frequently to "Heel!" in a firm voice as the two of you continue on your way.


Training your dog well is more complicated and time consuming than just these five points, but they nevertheless provide a solid start.  Just like with small children, though, keep it simple and be consistent, working up from initially very short training sessions (with plenty of small food rewards) to longer ones.  There are many books out there on the subject of dog training as well as websites, so all you need to do is look around if you are, or are about to become, a dog owner, and you realize the very real need to train and socialize your animal. 

The point is, you need to keep your dog away from and off people visiting in your home, in your back yard, on the sidewalk, and at the local park.  Even the dogpark.  The commonly heard excuses from inattentive dog owners like "Sorry!" (usually followed with nervous laughter) and/or "He won't hurt you.  He's really friendly," are just that.  Extremely weak excuses.  Not everyone is a dog person, and not everyone wants a strange dog to jump up on them and breathe hot, stinky dog breath in their faces.  Got it, boys?

As I mention above in the caption below today's illustration, it does not matter what YOU think your dog is like, or how cute YOU might think he, or she is.  Not everyone shares your enthusiasm for Pitbull-Boxer-Great Dane mixes.  Control your dog -- even if it is a small breed --  and at least give other people the option of interacting with the animal. . .  or not.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


P.S.
Oh, and make ding-dang sure that you pick up after Fido when the two of you are on your walk if you take my meaning.  And don't, whatever you do, let him doody in someone's front yard.  That is neither nice, nor stylish, gents!

Springtime Style. . .

Yet another great old Laurence Fellows illustration, this time from an old issue of Esquire magazine.

A sunny, albeit cool spring morning here at Stollen Central.  I've broken out a pair of red, navy, and cream Madras shorts plus a navy knit short-sleeved polo shirt to wear at home today along with my usual leather dock-siders.  Jumping the gun a bit maybe -- It's not July or August yet after all. -- but for noodling around inside down here in my office, it feels perfect.  

Tomorrow is May 1st.  Be sure to wear something red like the guy in the illustration above and sing The Internationale as you march.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Style is Attitude. . .


"The worst faux pas in fashion is to look in a mirror and see somebody else—which so many people do.  They think [clothing] is going to transform them.  They don’t realize it’s themselves and their attitude.  Because that’s what style is: attitude, attitude, attitude." 

-- Iris Apfel

Make It a DB Suit Humpday. . .

A great old Madmen era illustration, and while we certainly do not harbor any desires to return  to many of the problematic societal attitudes and conventions of the 1950s and early 60s, it would be nice if more men in 2015 dressed as well Monday through Friday as many men in the big financial and business centers of the world used to.

Naturally, the battery in my digital camera needs recharging, so I have no photograph of today's get-up to share.  A description will have to suffice instead.  Here's the breakdown of what yours truly wore to campus for one of my final few teaching days this semester:

* A solid navy 6x2 double-breasted suit with a nailhead finish (and black buttons on the coat which has moderately strong shoulders)
* A shirt with a straight collar and featuring faint light blue, white, pink, and green pinstripes
* A dark crimson necktie with small shield crests all over it (mostly covered by the suit coat)
* Black Allen Edmonds 'shortwings'
* Navy braces in lieu of a belt
* Charcoal Merino wool to-the-knee dress socks
* A white linen pocket handkerchief stuff casually into the coat pocket
* A new black leather Samsonite soft-sided briefcase (a gift to self in celebration of the new position)


I'm quite sure I looked like a space alien straight from Planet X to most of the youngsters on campus today.  If you think about it, though, that is almost the case.  Most of these students don't encounter a man actually dressed in anything other than jeans or maybe chinos with sneakers or casual shoes and some kind of shirt that often, to say nothing of a wack-job like me in a double-breasted suit and necktie.  You just don't see that in our neck of the woods (Central Illinois) too often except when it comes to our university provost, who, like me, appears in a DB blazer, or a DB suit now and again.

In other news, a few of the courses I'll teach for the 2015-2016 academic year at MSU include new renditions of my own Horror Cinema, Film Noir, and Scandinavian and Nordic Cinema courses that I've taught versions of for several years.  Then, there is a new survey I've wanted to teach on Scandinavian and Nordic Detective Fiction the last couple of years but have not yet had opportunity to do. I've even found a couple of recent books on the 'Nordic Noir' genre of fiction to include as part of the course reading. 

So, while the current semester isn't quite over yet, and we have a busy summer ahead of us with moving to Michigan and a trip to Berlin in there somewhere before the beginning of the fall term on September 2nd, I can't wait to get started again!   I know.  I know.  Nerdy, nerdy, nerdy.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, April 27, 2015

Late April Monday Style. . .

Just a few moments to snap a photo of the season's first warmer weather combination of items.  Everything here was either thrifted, purchased new on sale, or (in the case of the Allen Edmonds shoes) purchased via Ebay.  The Brooks Bros. jacket is a linen-wool-silk blend.  Not exactly what you might call warm in our neck of the woods today, but we have bright blue skies, so I figured I might be able to get away with a distinctly warm weather look.  The jacket could do with a bit of waist suppression at some point, but overall, I am pleased with today's look.  

Sadly, the spring term ends next week, so there will be few reasons for me to dress nicely until the tail end of August once we are ensconced somewhere in the East Lansing, Michigan area.  The season of (mostly) chino shorts, madras or knit shortsleeve polo shirts (rugby shirts on cooler days), and either leather dock-siders, or penny loafers is almost here. 

And what of our trip to Michigan?  Sigh.  Despite out three-day visit last week, we have yet to find an acceptable dwelling, either rental or to purchase, so we need to make yet another trip next week, once my classes end, to nail that down.  We were shown a bunch of dumps that you would want not live it plus a few extremely expensive (and unattractive) McMansions as well as two houses that were acceptable.  However. . .  The current owners of the latter two had some very strange and convoluted rental expectations/agreements on the one hand and just weird sale arrangements on the other that raised several red flags, so we decided to steer clear of both in the end.  It was a frustrating few days, and we came home empty handed.  Grrrrr. . .

I'll finish by making one of those controversial value judgements that annoy so many people and make plenty of others uncomfortable.  You know.  Because we're all supposed to pretend like we don't see what's staring us in the face.  Well, I don't go through life with my eyes closed, and rest assured if something is amiss, you can bet I'll mention it.  

The point is, we were shown two reasonably nice houses on the outside -- one was extremely nice -- last week by our real estate agent.  However, inside was another matter.  To cut to the chase, the amount of mess, clutter, and animal waste some people are apparently content to exist in the midst of within the four walls of their homes is absolutely effing amazing.  How the agent with whom we were working could even entertain the thought that we might be interested in seeing places in this state is beyond me.

Keep in mind, the people living currently in both places are fully aware that their homes are on the market -- they are the ones selling or vacating them after all -- and they were notified well in advance that strangers would visit and take a closer look.  You know, when you can't even be bothered to pick up your damn clothing and/or other belongings off the floor where they were dropped, clear away, wash, and stow used cups and plates, or make sure things are reasonably straight, and/or non-smelly, it really does not leave a nice impression in your wake.  

What's more, these were single family homes we were looking at, not multi-student digs in crumbling old buildings across the street from the Michigan State University campus.  We did all of our looking in an extremely nice suburban area just east and northeast of East Lansing, mind you, where the houses and rentals ain't exactly cheap, and the schools are some of the very best in the country.  You'd think people would take a little more pride in their investments and keep things in better day-to-day condition for themselves at the very least.  Clearly, it gets back to that issue of self-respect.  Like so much else, you either have it, or you don't, and no amount of blather and badgering from grandmas like yours truly can change things.

Oh, yes.  I know.  Don't judge a book by its cover.  Blah, blah.  Blah, blah.  Blah, blah.  Everyone is too busy in 2015 to keep the house picked up anyway, right?  Um, sorry.  You're going to have to make a stronger argument than that though.  I'm not buying it.  If you put things away where they belong when you have finished with them and do not leave a trail behind you, if you run the vacuum cleaner around the rugs/carpeting once a week, and keep the sink in the kitchen free of unwashed cups, glasses, dishes, and flatware, then cleaning the house is not that big a deal and need not take hours.  I worked that out quickly when I rented my very first apartment at 21.  

And you're darn right.  I absolutely feel superior to those who live their lives in a chaotic, stinking mess.  My family raised me better than that.  End of story.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Classic Style Thursday: An Interesting Article. . .

An Englishman in New York, perhaps?  I can almost hear the old, jazzy Sting tune from the late 80s about writer Quentin Crisp.

Here's a link to an interesting article in The Atlantic magazine about miscommunication.  While the article itself is not about attire, it is very easy to see how what we wear might possibly send signals we would rather it didn't.  Why risk that?  Far better to get your rear end in gear and spruce yourself up (quite) a bit say I.  

Admittedly, a walking stick, a furled umbrella, and/or bowler might be a bit much for most of us in 2015, but how about some creased dress pants worn with a damn belt, polished leather dress shoes (without squared toes), and a sports jacket of some kind over a pressed and tucked in shirt, hmmm?  Get 'em new, on sale, or go used/vintage, but be sure to have the necessary basic alterations as I have mentioned many times before.  You want to avoid pants and sleeves that are too long for you, which will make you look like a small boy trying on Dad's clothes.  Or, to use use a Pennsylvania German expression that I haven't heard in years, you'll look like a "doofter". . .  something akin to a doofus, a schlub, or a schlemiel.

The point is, that it's high time to rise above the middle, the average, the commonplace, the crass, the uncultivated, and the mean (think about it) in our everyday appearance and behavior, men.  As my parents and grandparents used to say to us many years ago now whenever my sister and I brought home average to low grades/marks from school, "Average is nothing to be proud of.  You can do better than that." 

We are off to Michigan this afternoon to begin the odyssey of trying to find an acceptable dwelling of some kind for the next several days (I'd frankly rather chew broken glass), so I will be away from the writing desk until Sunday evening.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Classic Style Tuesday: An Addendum to the Difference Debate. . .

Another great old illustration by Laurence Fellows [Thank you, Old School].

You know?  I've thought about this a lot the last few days, time permitting.  In the end, and after all of that unpleasantness, I still maintain that appearance and conduct are far more important than many (maybe most in 2015) either understand, or admit to themselves.  Both are often indicative of other personal traits, habits, and predilections.  Not always, maybe, but often enough.  That is not to say that a scintillating personality and a good heart can't make up for otherwise serious shortcomings, but (like attire by itself) personality and a good heart only take one so far and are just parts of the overall package and presentation. 

Ideally, it's best not to ignore one facet at the expense of another.  To my mind, a person ought to strive for a polished appearance and demeanor, a firm grasp on his social skills (and that might mean learning and/or brushing up on all of this for some guys), and genuine ability that rises above the commonplace in whatever one's particular vocation might be.  Not enough people realize, or manage to achieve, this delicate balance due to various factors.  While some of these things might be beyond their control,  many definitely ARE possible for a person to take control of and change for the better. . .  especially where appearance and conduct are concerned.  For average guys who want to kick up their everyday style several notches from where it is currently, personal awareness and agency are vital components.  Without them, you just fester in your own literal or figurative swill.

Now, I am genuinely interested in what people think generally and in differing points of view as long as we keep them clean and civil.  Don't anyone interpret that as anything else, please.  I don't want to be forced into turning off the comment function here.  That said, as a Chicago-area model soldier friend, who also blogs, mentioned several years ago in a similar situation on his blog (if memory serves), "My blog, my rules."  

The views expressed here at Classic Style or the Average Guy are not and will not be to everyone's tastes, and that's fine.  I am completely comfortable with that.  Just like I am aware of and at ease with the realization that I personally am not everyone's cup of tea.   I have been aware of that fact of life since my own long-haired rocker days, during which many, many people, those who did not know me personally, interpreted my appearance as trouble of one kind or another.  So, I have insight into both sides of the debate.

That said, I refuse to be browbeaten into feeling embarrassed about anything, or drawn into admitting culpability for sharing my views and reasonably well informed opinions simply because someone might disagree with them. . .  or simply refuses to acknowledge the problem that too many average guys exhibit with their appearance and behavior.  Most of my ideas expressed here are thoughtful, perhaps even pretty well reasoned in a few instances, and they are certainly based on lengthy experience and observation of humanity on a broad front and in closer personal interaction, and, by god, I'm going to make some value judgements based on the unconscious signals sent by people who usually aren't clued into what they're doing.

Are many of my posts direct and to the point without any waffling?  Sure.  Strident?  Heck yeah.  Harsh at times?  Damn right.  Brutally honest at others?  Right again.  Possibly very uncomfortable reading?  You betcha as they say in Minnesota.  The tagline at the top of Classic Style for the Average Guy says it all, and, frankly, there are an awful lot of guys around who need to hear the plain truth about how they come across based on the message their clothing and behavior send.  I'd stake money on the fact that, among the legions of people out there who are unhappy (if we can believe what we read occasionally in news and current affairs magazines), on antidepressants, yet can't quite figure out how to get their ducks all in a row, that much of their discontent comes from issues that could be helped somewhat through improved grooming, dress, and more polished social skills.  There is a reason why you should always put your best foot forward.  Maybe lots of men don't need a suit, neckties, and two pairs of high quality leather dress shoes in 2015, but for Christ's sake, get the plugs out of your earlobes and the ring out of your nose, ya freak!

Honestly, though, my feeling is that the people who need the advice presented in this blog the most are probably not reading it anyway and, instead, are looking at online pornography, playing online games, getting high, perpetrating some kind of crime somewhere, or impregnating someone of the female persuasion by accident or design.  But hey, that's as worthy of emulation and just as valid as, say, shouldering lots of student debt by attending a university, taking on a 30-year mortgage, trying to keep a two-career marriage on track, and holding down some kind of 40+ hour a week job, right?  It's ALL good.

I'll close the door on this particular discussion and its various threads like this.  The idea of not judging a book by its cover is nice and rosy in theory, but reality is often very different.  We all judge in one way or another, and while sometimes we are incorrect with our assumptions, frequently, that initial judgement turns out to be bang spot on the money.  Is it nice?  No.  Realistic and accurate?  Not always.  But to be perfectly frank, there are also plenty of occasions when appearance tells you all you need to know about someone else, and there is no point in initiating or pursuing further contact.  That's just how it is sometimes.  Thanks, but I'll sit somewhere else if you don't mind.

My own mother, who was exceedingly tolerant of my teenage and 20-something blue collar rocker phase, once observed to me about 25 years ago, before I decided to get with the program, "You know?  If you grow up a little and neaten up your appearance, you'll find that your life will turn around in ways you don't expect."    She was correct.  That alone ought to make the point right there for anyone who still doesn't get it.  

I'm not coming back to this point again (promise) and will not address or publish comments that try to keep it going by fanning the flame.  Let's move on, everyone.

--  Heinz-Ulrich

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Classic Table Style. . .


Guys, by the time you are a 12- or 13-year-old, there is really no excuse not to know how  to set a table.  As I remarked here in a recent post, sitting down to a meal, any meal, should be a pleasant event that features at least a veneer of refinement.  Even if you are dining alone.  As such, meals should involve more than a plastic cup with some team emblem on it, a spork, and a castoff microwavable plate left over from some frozen entree consumed long ago.  

The photo above shows what a basic place setting should look like.  Notice that everything is lined up nicely and centered on the plate rather than cast willy-nilly and vaguely in the direction of the place-setting. Or, worse, everything is rolled in the napkin and tossed on the bare table. . .  like you find in many (most) eating establishments these days where often enough the waitstaff have no idea how to lay even a basic place-setting.

For the record, it is equally acceptable to fold and place the napkin beneath the forks, or (less formally) have the napkin rolled in a napkin ring and placed just to the left of the forks.  I typically set our places (now assisted many evenings by the Young Master) much like this although I place the napkin beneath the forks rather than on the plate.  Lately, we've also been using some very nice and understated pewter napkin rings that the Grand Duchess gave me one Christmas about ten years ago.  It is always a nice idea to have a clean cream, offwhite, or white tablecloth and cloth napkins on the table. . .  perhaps with placemats for those less formal times.

And when you want to go all out for those special holiday, birthday, or celebratory dinners at home, the photograph below shows you what a more formal place-setting should look like.  Take note:




Remember, style is about much, much more than just your clothes, shoes, and hair.  As I have said so often here before at Classic Style for the Average Guy, we can make the case that it is intangible things like considerate behavior, polite conduct, and polished manners -- all very similar and mutually reinforcing things really -- as well as a general level of sophistication and awareness that determine how stylish a man actually is. . . rather than whether, or not his sports jackets and suit coats are the current trendy ultrashort length with skimpy lapels and a (too) tight fit.

In any case, try to be neat and tidy when dining, keep your elbows off the table, don't hold your silverware like a garden trowel, and chew with your mouth closed.  While occasional drips and small spills might happen, don't leave the table (or the area just below your chair) looking like a garbage dump by the end of a meal.  If you've been to any U.S. casual dining chains like Applebee's, The International House of Pancakes, Denny's, Perkins, or The Olive Garden lately and looked around you at the other patrons and how they leave their tables, you'll know what I mean.  Conduct yourself like a gentleman with some grooming and sophistication, please, whether chowing down around the dining table at home, or more publicly in a restaurant.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



P.S.

May 02, 2015

It might seem funny and, indeed, superfluous to include a piece about setting the table on a style blog, right?  Well, we take a broad approach to men's style here at Classic Style for the Average Guy.  It ain't just about the clothes and shoes, guys.  Style, with a capital 'S' is about much more than external appearance and includes how we conduct ourselves in a wide variety of ways.  That includes knowing something about how to set a table and how to behave at the table during meals.  Too many people in 2015, for many reasons, have no clue about this, and, sorry to say, that is a problem.  

Lack of knowledge about even basic standards of acceptable appearance and etiquette are limiting factors since polished social skills like these tend to open doors to opportunity that might otherwise never appear.  Conversely, a habitual lack of basic social skills can and will close a lot of doors whether, or not people choose to recognize and admit that to themselves.  Value judgement alert!  Ready?  There are apparently lots of people with their heads in the sand about this point in 2015.  Don't like that?  You can give the order to fire after you've lined me up against the wall when the revolution comes.  Small 'r' intentional.

At the very least, a modicum of sophistication and grooming make us more pleasant company for others to be around, and that is a large part of what social skills -- knowing how to present yourself appropriately in all senses -- are really about.  It is about showing consideration for others.  At home, in the workplace, and in the public sphere.  It's not about us as individuals.  Once again, that is a point people either understand, see the need for, and think rationally about the issue. . .  Or they don't, experience a knee-jerk reaction of righteous indignation, and continue to pretend that people can simply look and act any old way they want, and there will be no consequences for it.  Um, yeah.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Classic Style Saturday. . .


 The newly altered Harvard Coop tan gabardine suit (purchased late last summer from Giuseppe at An Affordable Wardrobe).  Ok, ok.  Let's get the President Obama tan suit jokes out of the way now, please.  Sadly, I won't really have occasion to wear this number until August in my new teaching position at Michigan State University since our spring has been rather chilly here in Central Illinois, and the current college semester is effectively over by the start of May.

A fun late-Saturday morning here at Classic Style or the Average Guy since I was able to drop off a bunch of unwanted stuff at my local thrift/charity shop and. . .  pick up a few things at the tailor's and cobbler's just up the road.  The truly fun part of this morning's jaunty trip around town.

One cardinal rule of dressing stylishly is to maintain your items of clothing and accessories.  Nothing earth shattering in that, but in our throw-away society of 2015, that particular concept comes as a surprise to many people.  After all, if you develop a rip or tear in that over-priced H&M jacket that was mass produced in Central America or Hong Kong, just throw it away and buy another right? 

Wrong.  Take a pointer from Great Britain's Prince Charles and many other stylish men of the last 70-odd years.  Skip H&M all together and invest, instead, in the best quality classic items you can find regardless of whether you purchase them at full retail, on sale, or vintage.  Then, wear and enjoy your stuff, but take care of it too.  Hang it up on a proper hanger and replace it in the closet or wardrobe rather than tossing it on the back of a handy chair or hanging it from an open door (I've seen it done).  By the same token, fold and place other items in the dresser, or put cedar shoe trees in your footwear and replace it in the closet at the end of the day.  

Above all, make sure that you see to minor repairs for and upkeep of your clothing and accessories as and when necessary.  Get to know your area tailor and cobbler in other words, make use of them, and don't balk at what are fairly minor expenditures when it comes to keeping your gear (and thus yourself) looking its best.  It's not rocket science as the expression goes.

Ok.  Enough prattle for now.  Time to grab a paintbrush or roller and apply two new coats to  the recently patched plaster in our downstairs bathroom.  Our house officially goes on the market Monday.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


 My Ralph Lauren double-breasted wool flannel sports jacket with newly reattached button at upper right.


The trusty ol' vintage Florsheim brogues/wingtips with new soles and heels.  Pricey, but worth it to get some more years out of this pair of shoes.


A better photograph of the same.  The cobbler also gave the shoes a nice shine, but I'll need to work up the previous mirror-like finish that I had on the toe and heelcaps once more as well as along the edges of the the soles/heels.  Ah, well.   There are worse fates than a pleasant 30-60 mintues shining a pair of comfy old shoes like these.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Classic Style Speaks Volumes. . .

'Niels' in Berlin, Germany doing a better James Bond than Daniel Craig as far as understated, elegant masculine attire is concerned.  Mr. Craig's is invariably too trendy and too tight.  The photograph comes from the Put This On website by the way.

As I have often mentioned in one way or another here at Classic Style for the Average Guy, what you wear and how you conduct yourself speak volumes. . .  In much the same way as any spoken and/or written language does.  Think of your attire and behavior as texts for the world to read.  However you might imagine it, though, there is no denying that we send a clear and distinct message with our clothes and actions. . .  whether we intend to, or not.  See what they have to say on the subject at Put This On.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Classic Style Tip #999. . .

A seasonally fitting Laurence Fellows illustration from Spring 1934.

Here's today's classic style tip for average guys working hard to kick up their everyday style.  Ready?  Here we go.  Buck the societal trend of at least the last half century and don't make your problem(s) someone else's problem(s).  You handle it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Classic Style Attitude. . .

Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich as the dissipated, racist cop 'Hank Quinlan' and his one-time love interest 'Tanya' in the film noir swansong A Touch of Evil (1958), which Welles also directed.  If you have not yet seen this particular movie, do so forthwith.

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” 

― Orson Welles

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Classic Easter Style. . .

The Easter Bunny, looking rather more dapper than I've ever seen before.

Happy Easter (if you observe) from Classic Style for the Average Guy.  To everyone, observers and non-observers alike, we wish a calm, peaceful, and happy weekend.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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