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, May 25, 2016

Appointment Style. . .

Not bad, but it's just about time to visit the barber for a trim.  The ol' hair is getting a bit puffy on the sides and top.

Well, the summer break is in full swing for yours truly here at Totleigh-on-the-Wold even though the Memorial Day Weekend is not yet upon us.  Besides working on an article and a few other professional commitments, all of which can be done from home, it has settled down pretty nicely here since turning in final grades a couple of weeks ago.

However, there was reason to don presentable attire this morning once the Young Master was loaded aboard his school bus.  The Grand Duchess and I had an appointment with our attorney in Downtown Lansing to finalize and sign our will, so what better reason?  I decided that a suit might be a bit much for me, although I was happy later to see that our lawyer was thus attired, so I opted instead for a sports jacket (Hickey Freeman) and odd pants combo.  Not visible is a braided brown leather belt and a pair of light green calf length dress socks with small navy polka dots.  

The necktie shown here is a knitted silk number in a wine color, purchased from Land's End a couple of years ago, that seems to have become my "go to" the last few weeks when I have had journey into campus, or elsewhere wearing somewhat more professional dress than my usual summer wardrobe.  Longtime visitors to Classic Style might recall that the latter consists typically of chino shorts worn with a casual surcingle belt and either a short-sleeve knit polo top, or one of my many cotton Madras shirts with a pair of leather Sperry top-siders.  Casual, comfortable, and yet pulled together.  What a concept.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Letter Day Parade Style. . .

 Here's one of the Young Master mid-parade.  He concentrated hard to remain focused and with his class as they visited just about every other classroom around the school, ignoring Mom and Dad in the process.

Today was Letter Day at our son's school, and the kindergarten classes that will conclude in about four weeks held a parade in which each child had the chance to share his, or her special letter project with the rest of the school.  The Young Master and I worked together to create his sandwich board on Sunday afternoon and early that same evening.  Not too shabby if you ask me.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 Here is the front of his sandwich board that YMP and I made, painted, and labelled on Sunday earlier this week.

Here is the rear.  According to his teacher, YMP was able to tell her all of the words on his board, which was a nice surprise since I wasn't always sure that he was listening when we went over all of this a few times late yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.  YMP was more interested in his Legos and plastic dinosaurs by that point in the day.

And Cropped Dad (Off with his head!) after returning home post-Letter Day Parade before changing into khaki shorts, a rugby top, and my trusty ol' Sperry topsiders.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Morning Musings. . .

A WWII-era illustration that I believe was by Laurence Fellows although I could be mistaken.  Still, I dig the juxtaposition of the 6x2 double-breasted suit with the officer's dress at right.  You'll recall, of course, that the former had its basis in the military uniform.

Unseasonably cold here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold this morning, 36 degrees Fahrenheit and spitting snow (in mid-May) just before 9am according to my wife the Grand Duchess.  Hmmm.  Don't know if that is what I needed to hear since the lawn needs mowing desperately.


I have managed to pick up a couple of new suits for a song on Ebay during the last couple of weeks.  The first is a 6x2 double-breasted charcoal pinstripe in worsted wool by Samuelsohn of Canada that even features true surgeon cuffs.  Luckily, the sleeves are already the right length and allow about 1/4" of linen to show with my arms at my sides.  After dry-cleaning, I tried on the 40R suit (with a dress shirt), and it does not appear to need much in the way of other alterations either.  That happens sometimes if you are lucky.  The coat fits amazingly well, and the pants have somewhere between my preferred medium to full break when tried on with dress shoes.

The second suit arrived yesterday afternoon, and it too is a charcoal 6x2 double-breasted number, this time by Belvest, but with a very subtle maroon windowpane pattern woven into the worsted wool cloth.  Once again, the coat fits well in the shoulders and body, although the sleeves need to be shortened by about an inch.  I have not tried on the pants yet, but I suspect these might need to be shortened just a bit too although you never know until you try on garments.

Both suits feature brace buttons sewn into the inside of the waistbands, so they can be work with suspenders/braces instead of belts, and I might just have the tailor remove the belt loops since I routinely opt for braces when I wear this type of suit.  The material in these two suits is light enough to be comfortable in all but the hottest weather, and will be fun to trot out once September and cooler days are here pointing to the arrival of Fall once again.  I suppose, on reflection, that I have become a clothes nerd.

Fine, but what's with the (currently trendy) double-breasted suits anyway?  Well, these are items I have always liked thanks to a steady diet of old films on TV from the time I was a small boy.  There are already two wool flannel double-breasted suits in my regular winter rotation, one in a subtle Glen Plaid (6x2) and another in a muted green-brown (4x1), but I can never make up my mind which the latter is.  But I like the lines of well-fitted suits like these very much, and they are not something you see much of in my walk of life 

I am also fortunate enough to be in a profession where I can wear these once or twice a week without getting a memo from a disgruntled superior with the message that I am somehow not being a team player.  You know, because I have chosen to eschew the rumpled khakis and knitted polo shirt with the company patch and name tag, or I've decided not to wear jeans on official dress down days.  I still don't understand how this kind of thing is seen as a perk by people not actually involved in heavy manufacturing and production (the jobs that have, largely, disappeared here in the U.S.) themselves. 

If we must put a label on it, I suppose that I am something of an eccentric when it comes to clothes and personal appearance.  That's probably a nice way of saying it, but it is nevertheless sad in the extreme when dressing and conducting oneself presentably is seen as unusual and even a liability in the eyes of many.  What?  What??!!  Ah, well.  In any case, when you know your own measurements and realize that there may be a few necessary alterations before you can wear them, Ebay can be an extremely economical way to pick up a high quality suit or two for those of us who are not necessarily swimming in the mean, mean green.


Finally, after much thought and reflection, I will be shortening the title of this blog to simply Classic Style as soon as I can relearn how to do this in my blog settings.  The reasons are many, but mainly are due to the fact that I have never been sure that the intended audience -- average joes who perhaps need some guidance where clothing and behavior are concerned -- was actually reading this blog.  Probably very few if any if we are honest.  I suspect that most readers of this blog are already part of "the choir," so to speak,  and do not need convincing when it comes to the importance of a pulled together personal appearance and polite conduct.  

Instead, the Classic Style blog has become part of my clothing hobby, a way for yours truly to share my enthusiasm for reasonably nice professional attire. . .  along with the desperate need in 2016 for a return to civility both in public and private life.  I can live with that, and hope at least some of you might continue to drop by from time to time, if for no other reason to be reassured that there are still a few others in 2016 who think in a similar way when it comes to how we present ourselves to the the rest of the world. . .  even when it is in our own living room, or around the dining room table.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, May 13, 2016

Random Post-Conference Thoughts. . .

Not my conference, but a generic photograph found online of some conference session somewhere, to set the mood and tone for today's post.

The spring term has concluded, final grades have been submitted, and with only one student complaint, so life is reasonably good.  It has been a busy several weeks here, but now it's time to catch my breath and concentrate on my own professional activities for a few months without too much distraction.

Apropos that, I spent the day yesterday attending several sessions that are part of a two-day conference here on second language acquisition, and the various ways technology can be used to enhance it.  The sessions I heard were thought-provoking, I met a few interesting people, and I left with a number of interesting ideas although I am not currently teaching any L2 courses.  Good.  The time was well-spent then.

But, you can't attend one of these things with your eyes open and come away without the distinct impression that there are an awful lot of academics -- highly educated people, mind you, even overly educated as  my wife sometimes points out with a chuckle -- who somehow failed to get the memo on presenting themselves to the world with a modicum of polite behavior, grooming, and sophistication.

Oh, sure.  I realize that the prevailing attitude among many in academia is something along the lines of, "I'm too busy with my all-important cerebral musings and activities to worry about and take the time with things as frivolous as manners and fashion!"  You know what I mean, I'm sure.  Well, we're simply talking about coming across as a reasonably well-groomed, practiced, serious, and pleasant professional.  Nothing more.  And much like in the business world, so much of a person's professional image and reputation is about instilling confidence in his or her abilities and activities through careful self-presentationWith that in mind, here are a dozen reminders to conference goers everywhere.  Ready, Freddy?  In no particular order. . .

1) Yeeeeeesss. . .  The world wears bluejeans.  I get it.  For the record, I like Levis 501s and Dan Post cowboy boots myself for those less than formal occasions.  I know, I know. . .  And I'm so ashamed.  But unless you are under 25 and/or still very thin, it might be best to leave the jeans at home when you attend a conferenceI'm talking to men as well as women here. 

Instead, pack and wear either dress chinos, or wool pants that both fit AND hold a crease. Saggy, baggy blown out, torn jeans, or that tacky preternatural faded denim straining to cover a larger than average, middle-aged posterior (or worse, are difficult to keep up and in place) look good on no one.  And by the way, tight jeans that have what look like rhinestone applique on the rear end or along outer seams simply make you look cheap.  Or like you're out for an evening of country line dancing at that new honky tonk out on County Road 47.  That's not really the impression we want to make among colleagues and associates in our field(s).

2) Likewise, leave the animal print tops at home, ladies.  Items like these are more appropriate for clubbing or bar-hopping in the evening and don't really scream competent professional, now, do they?

 3) And here is a tip for the boys.  If you are no longer a terminally rumpled graduate student existing on coffee and bile, it's time to stop looking like it.  Now, no one is suggesting that you become an empty-headed popinjay like yours truly, but all you need to do to kick up your style game a couple of three notches is to look at a website of, or paper catalog from, a company like Land's End.  They make it easy, and their prices are very reasonable.  

Without getting into a discussion of that particular company, it's new direction, or the declining quality of its products here, what you need to do is purchase three-four understated pairs of pants along with five or six long-sleeve sport shirts (in your exact neck and sleeve sizes) that can be mixed and matched in various ways.  Toss in a couple or three pairs of leather dress shoes with appropriate belts, and you've got quite a few suitable combinations for teaching, offices hours, and conference wear.  Same thing for the ladies, although maybe a skirt or dress can be added to the mix without difficulty.  It's takes next to no time to order the stuff online, and there are always plenty of pictures showing how various things can be combined, so the tired, old "no time" argument carries no weight.

4) Um, guys?  There is no denying that a sports jacket, or blazer adds a bit more polish to your overall look even if, or when you are not all suited up.  Same thing for the ladies, depending on the items you select for the day or evening.

5) Tuck in your shirts, please, gentlemen.  We aren't sitting in front of the TV at home, mowing the lawn on a hot summer's day, digging roadside ditches, or lounging beneath a palapa on a steamy Caribbean beach somewhere.  We're in a climate controlled, comfortable environment, here.  Pull yourselves together!

6) Here's a tip for everyone. . .  Firm handshakes and look new acquaintances in the eye when you meet people, people!  Anything less makes you seem tentative and uncomfortable. . .  if not just downright awkward.  

7) Leave the sneakers at home too.  A pair of leather loafers (flats or low-heeled pumps for the dressier ladies) is fine for the daytime with maybe a slightly dressier (but understated) pair of leather oxfords of some kind for the evening events that are invariably for of the opening and closing nights of many, many conferences.  Women have a bit more leeway here, depending on season and conference location, but please do better than flipflops.  You are not at the poolside or beach.  In any case, those cheap, square-toed, clunky shoes did not look good on either sex in the 1990s, and they don't look good now.  You're grown-up professionals with at least some expendable income.  Time to step up your footwear game and spend a little more to ensure both acceptable professional appearance AND comfort.

8) There is always lots of coffee lurking around the peripheries of conferences and conventions, and I indulge in plenty myself when it's fresh, but, please. . .  Breathmints!  'Nuff said?

9) Likewise, shower and use deodorant when you get up in the mornings while attending conferences.  Over the years, I've run into quite few people (men AND women) moving around in that unmistakable funky cloud of B.O.  I always think of the Peanuts character 'Pigpen' when this happens. . .  and then run in another direction.  Now, I understand that there are people who become very nervous when it comes time to present their paper as part of a conference panel, and deodorants sometimes fail in these situations.  If that happens to you more than once, however, maybe it's time change brands?  Unless you really don't mind smelling like it's 1970 on the other side of the Iron Curtain that is.

9b)  Um, on a similar note. . .  Don't pass gas in a roomful of other people, ladies and gentlemen.  It is foul and highly offensive.  Either squeeze the muscles in your rear end together and keep yourself from doing it, or retire to the restroom and take care of the problem in private.  Otherwise, see your doctor if chronic flatulence are really that problematic for you.  Contrary to what boys at summer camp think, it is not something to share with the rest of the world.  And yet the apparent number of people who think the ol' one cheek sneak is somehow permissible, and even acceptable, is astounding.  Ugh!

10) Guys, either learn how to press and fold your own shirts, or drop off several at the dry-cleaner's a week before your conference.  Ask for them to be laundered, pressed, folded, and placed in individual plastic sleeves with cardboard inserts beneath the collars.  When packing your bag, simply secure the three or four shirts on top of everything else, and zip up.  You'll look a whole lot fresher and more pulled together when you meet new faces in your field and bump into old friends during the conference.  Or you cross paths with reviled enemies.  Unless, of course, you don't mind looking (and feeling) like you've lived in the nearest airport terminal for several days running.  Then by all means, like, hey, continue.  Um, that's a Cheech and Chong reference, son.

11) Neckties are not strictly necessary (for men) during daytime conference sessions, at least not from what I have seen in The Humanities, but it might be a good idea to pack something understated for evening events -- in navy, black, or maroon/wine -- in your bag beforehand.  Certainly when it comes to opening convocations or closing banquets.  In any case, leave the cartoon character novelty ties at home, guys.  I've mentioned this many times before here at Classic Style for the Average Guy, but it bears repeating.  And why on earth broadcast the fact that you own no other acceptable neckwear?  Once again, Land's End always has decent silk ties for very reasonable prices.  Or visit a thrift/charity shop where you can pick up half a dozen in conservative repp stripe and foulard designs (all you'll ever really need in 2016) for about US$10-12.  It's not hard. 

12)  Finally, here's one specifically for you guys.  Wear dark socks with dress shoes when attending conferences, gents!  Leave the white, or light colored tube socks for the gym, tennis court, or any other time you might don your oversized (and overpriced) bubblegum-colored athletic shoes.  Neither of these items says well-educated, informed, and organized thinker when you sit down at the front of a seminar room next to the other presenters on the panel.  Instead, charcoal and navy over-the-calf dress socks are a safe bet that almost never look out of place even in a so called business/smart casual settings.  And I say this as a wild sock enthusiast myself, but there is no denying that it's all too easy to overdo things here and stray into dangerous style territory with this particular accessory.  Keep things simple.  Keep things plain.  Don't distract from your message.  If in doubt, strive for understatement.  Now, say it with me.  Charcoal and navy over-the-calf dress socks!

There we go!  These are just a few bits of advice I would offer to conference attendees everywhere in the professional sphere, but academics, in particular, seem to need guidance when it comes to presenting themselves to the rest of the world.  Especially many (but by no means all) of the men.  Remember, it's about coming across as confident, capable, and professional.  Like it or not, our attire is a part of that picture even if we are otherwise reasonably accomplished in our respective subject areas.  People either grasp that, or they don't, I suppose, but it never hurts a person to leave behind the impression of being well-groomed and even polished.  In all senses.   Now, what about you?  The next time you attend a conference, will you be a Goofus, or a Gallant?

-- Heinz-Ulrich