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, August 31, 2016

Shopping Cart Style. . .

The fall semester begins today for the 2016-2017 academic year at MSU. The first two of three courses this semester today, Scandinavian and Nordic Cinema plus Henrik Ibsen and Society. Morning Office hours on Thursday (tomorrow) followed by the first meeting of Film Noir. All three courses seem to be filled according to my online rosters. Let's see who and/or how many students actually turn up. This year's meetings of one sort or another , fortunately, don't begin until September 9th.

Coincidentally, it is 30 years (Yikes!) this October since I went to work, starting at the now long gone Radcliffe's IGA in Macungie, Pennsylvania (outside Allentown). . . Good ol' #9037, where I learned all about stocking shelves, gathering shopping carts, bagging groceries, and how to mop up after customers dropped things like large glass jars of beets. It was quite an education and sometimes a lot of fun too since I worked with a largely great crew of guys. 

That six-year period was also instrumental in my eventual decision to return to school in the early 1990s, and I have not looked back since then. But I have considerable nostalgic affection for those days, and how funny that I still rise so early in the mornings during the school year. It seems the habits formed during those long ago Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday truck days (7am deliveries. . .  50' trailers unloaded with old-fashioned, hand-operated pallet jacks, thank you very much) have stayed with me.  Strange.  Who would trade that for a life of the mind?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Day of School Style. . .

The Young Master modeling his 1st Grade look early this morning just minutes before boarding the school bus.

You know, and I am sure the must be a few other parents out there who think in a similar manner, it is entirely possible to dress small children presentably, yet comfortably, without making them stand out because they wear something nicer than the ever present t-shirt and sweats, training pants, or to-the-knee basketball shorts with over-sized (and over-priced) basketball shoes.  

Here, the Young Master wears a pressed cotton madras shirt, jeans, new Sperry top-siders and his new L.L. Bean backpack in orange, which is his current favorite color.  Classic.  Not a bad look for older guys either.  Now, if we could only get YMP to smile when the camera is pointing in his direction instead of grimacing or making some other sort of funny face, we'd be in business.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Close your mouth, or flies with get in!

From let to right, in case you're not up on your American pop-culture, "Hoss" (Dan Blocker), "Captain James T. Kirk" (Denny Crane himself. . .  the GREAT William Shatner) and "Gomer Pyle" (Jim Neighbors).

I was reminded of this point while in the waiting room at the ophthalmologist a few days ago watching people come in and sit down after they checked in at the reception desk.  For the love of God, keep your mouth closed when you aren't talking.  Sitting there staring into space (or, more likely, your I-phone) with your mouth hanging open ain't a good look on anyone.  It does not exactly make you look intelligent.  You need to be a bit more aware of what your body is doing and how you look to everyone around you.  Close your mouth.

-- Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Are you a crass doofus?

Whatever you do, you don't want to be this guy.

Yes?  No?  Hopefully not.  But even if we pretend to ourselves that we are not, I'll wager that there are many more instances of terminal, or even occasionally unintentional doofusism, than many men would care to admit to themselves.  Especially when it comes to visiting the men's room.  It's ok though because in most instances a guy can avoid coming across to others like a crass doofus with just a tiny bit of care, forethought, and, yes, consideration for others.  Here are thirteen tips that might help when nature calls.  Ready?  Here we go. . .

1) When answering the call of nature, simply excuse yourself for a moment without loudly announcing "I'll be right back.  I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!"  Is there anything worse than hearing some loudmouth broadcast to the world that his bladder is full and/or bowels need to move?  I cannot tell you the number of times I have overheard similar pronouncements while out and about during the roughly last 30 years of my adult life.  Jeeze Louise!  You'd think I would know better by now and not continue to be surprised, but I am always and without fail taken aback by the base level of many men's general behavior.  And this is just such a case.

2) Once you finish in the men's room, and whether you're wearing jeans, chinos and sports jacket, or a full suit, it should go without saying that you check twice to make sure your pants are zipped up before washing your hands and returning to the rest of the world, boys.  I mean, come on!  You don't want to be that boob -- We've all met 'em -- who walks around for hours totally unaware that  the barn door is open, and the cow is about to bolt through it at the first available opportunity.

3) On a similar note, make sure there is no toilet paper, an errant gum wrapper, or other trash stuck to your shoes before you leave the restroom.  Or, Heaven help us, trailing from the waistband of your pants.

4) It might also be a good idea to take a gander in the mirror to be sure your shirt collar and jacket lapels are not rumpled or sticking up in the back.

5) And if you're wearing one, it might be a good idea too for you to glance in the bathroom mirror and straighten your necktie as and when necessary.

6) Likewise, double-check your face and address any issues.  Just think how embarrassed you would feel (or ought to) if someone quietly took you aside and informed you that you had something hanging from your left nostril, food in your beard or 'stache, or a crazy corkscrew hair sticking out of one ear.

7) It used to be -- before the world, it seems, began going through waking life with perpetually rumpled bed head. . .  or those ridiculous Bob's Big Boy-Ed Grimley fauxhawk hairdos -- that guys checked their hair in the mirror and made the necessary adjustments.  Come on, boyos!  All it takes is a small pocket comb and 30 seconds to restore your part and smooth out any cowlicks or rumples.  Check your hair and comb it if necessary before leaving the men's room in other words.

8) And don't forget. . .  Straighten your suit coat or sports jacket, Maynard.  Especially if you have had to remove it to, ahem, take care of business while using the facilities.

9)  Once in a while, even if making a routine quick stop in the men's room, if might be a good idea to re-tuck, or smooth your shirt and hitch up your pants before fastening your belt and washing your hands.  When you spot a guy with a tucked in shirt and actual belt these days -- an increasing rarity it seems -- as likely as not, part o the shirt has come untucked, exposing either his t-shirt, or flabby belly below.  This has to be one of the most common doofussy looks around.  But it can be an easily remedied problem if a guy simply cultivates the habit of checking his appearance while in the men's room and fixing things if necessary.  And no.  Paying attention to the details of your personal appearance makes you neither vain, nor effeminate for the love of God.  Get with the program!

10) This is a less major point, perhaps, but it is always a plus when your necktie, belt buckle, and shirt placket line up neatly.  That way, you don't look like you've camped out at the airport for 36 hours because you missed the flight out to Kuala Lumpur or Jogjakarta, yet you were too cheap to book a hotel room during the interim beore the next one. . .  you suave international man of mystery and intrigue, you.

11) Here is an important point that many guys seem to forget.  Respect others' mental and physical space while in the men's room and avoid bothering others.  Yep.  In other words, give people some privacy for a few minutes.  Ok?  Not everyone wants to carry on a conversation about the weather or whatever while standing at an adjacent urinal, or in the next stall despite the apparent habits of late president Lyndon B. Johnson.  Ugh!  Take care, instead, of whatever you need to, wash your hands, and leave the premises without launching into a soliloquy on whatever arcane thought drifts through your mind at that particular moment in time.  Continue, for instance, your monologue on George Brett's batting average during the 1981 baseball season later, once everyone has reconvened elsewhere, for Pete's sake!

12) Following a visit to the men's room, under no circumstances should you discuss your activities therein once you return to your company.  Were you raised under a rock?  While that habit might be the norm in some families, believe me, most of us don't really want to know why you went to the bathroom, or what transpired therein.  Keep your spastic colon to yourself, thank you very much. 

13) Finally, here's a bonus tip for those of you still reading.  Don't, whatever you do, clip your fingernails, toenails, or perform other grooming rituals in public!  It's really far more pleasant for everyone if these kinds of things remain behind closed doors.  Know what I mean?   I would even argue that these are activities best attended to at home, in the privacy of your own bathroom, rather than in a public restroom.  Or, as I have sadly witnessed on more than one occasion, in places like boarding areas in airport terminals and. . .  in seminar rooms during allegedly professional meetings (Shudder).  It's judgmental, yes, but clearly there are people on the loose among us who just don't know any better and behave as though they were raised in a barn.  That's not really how we want to come across now, is it?

There you go.  As always, there might be some additional relevant points I have failed to bring up here, but those I mention above will go a long way toward helping you to avoid being a crass doofus.  Remember, style, grooming, and sophistication have more to do with how we conduct ourselves than they do with the precise length of our sports jacket, structured versus sack silhouettes, single-breasted versus double-breasted versus three-piece, or whether we wear tasseled loafers with a suit.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recrafted Dress Shoes. . .

A package was waiting by the door this afternoon!  My maternal grandfather relied on split-toes and wingtips/brogues for his dress shoes all his adult life until his death ten years ago at 89.  My grandmother followed a year later.  It's funny, but there has not been a day since that I don't think about them.

A couple of years ago when Wisconsin-based shoemaker Allen Edmonds was purchased, there was some concern in the menswear community that it was the start of a long, slow, inevitable decline that would eventually end in cheap, plastic-like shoes being produced in sweatshops outside the U.S. with no customer service to speak of.  

Thus far, that has not happened, and both the company's products and customer service remain second to none.  Very helpful, polite, and professional people on the telephone when you call with a question by the way.  The company pays the return postage too.  Anyway. . .

Today, a pair of split-toe oxfords I purchased cheaply on Ebay a year ago returned home from AE where I sent them just five weeks ago for recrafting.  Like new!  I splurged and opted for the premium package which included new soles, heels, cork footbed, complete refinishing of the leather in its original color, along with AE shoe trees and flannel shoe bags.  They look great, and I'll wear them on the first day o classes in three weeks when the autumn semester begins here at MSU.  Hopefully, the pair of dark chocolate suede wingtips I also sent to AE for similar treatment will turn up in a day or two.

The point of all my shoe blather is this: Purchase quality items when you build your adult wardrobe gents, and not only will they last you a long time, but they can be refurbished, repaired, and will stay looking good for decades as part of your clothing, shoe, and accessory rotation.  Just say "No!" to fast fashion.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

FYI. . .
There are plenty of more expensive men's dress shoes made around the world, but Allen Edmonds are about the friendliest to your wallet, and the company's customer service is, once more, stellar in my experience. 

 And two days later. . . these beauties awaited me at the front door following their complete recrafting by the good folks at the Allen Edmonds factory just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  There is nothing quite like the aroma of (almost) new, quality leather shoes. I wish I had taken a "before" photograph.  It's hard to believe these are the same shoes sent off across Lake Michigan just five weeks ago.  Dare I say it?  I cannot wait for Fall.  These will look super with a tweed sports jacket and a pair of corduroy pants.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Who in the world ever. . . ?

Just one of the pairs of so called casual pants on offer from L.L. Bean.  How much better these would look without those awful cargo pockets on the thighs.

Cargo pants have been around for quite a few years now among the general populace.  And while they certainly have a place in actual police and military settings, I simply don't get it when it comes to the rest of us.  I'm certain my question will bring out the internet trolls, who will accuse me of this, that, and the other, but. . .  Who in the world EVER thought this might be a good look for casual wear??!!

Oh yes.  I enjoyed a pair of honest to goodness woodland camougflage BDF pants, purchased from a genuine military supplier, way back in the early 90s in homage to Sting and David Lee Roth (yes, I know, I know. . .), both of whom were photographed wearing British paratrooper pants a decade before that.  Fortunately, that stage ended abruptly, when I arrived in Madison in August 1994 and moderated my appearance a bit to fit in more with the academic direction my life took at that point, re: haircut and serious wardrobe reappraisal.

The first time I noticed people (young men) wearing the kind of garment shown above as casual pants was several years later while studying in Norway in 1999-2000.  There, everything was always black.  Or faded black.  Occasionally gray.  Never tan, khaki, or stone however.  Sticking out from the crowd is not something Norwegians like to do.  But at least the cargo pants I noticed among the male student throngs didn't puddle around their wearers' ankles, were pressed, and held a crease.   I can't say that the addition of the cargo packets added anything to the overall look though.

Fast-forward 17 years, and I cannot ever remember seeing a guy in the U.S. wearing these things pressed.  It does not matter how they look online or in the pages of that J. Crew, L. L. Bean, or Land's End catalog, or on the racks in Old Navy, The Gap, or J.C. Penney for example.  Invariably, so called cargo pants when worn by guys in real life are rumpled, wrinkled, and look -- forgive me, trolls -- like hell regardless of the age or build of the guy in them.  If one is a soldier on patrol in Afghanistan, well, I suppose you've got more pressing things to worry about than rumpled pants.  But for us civilians?

The same is true when it comes to the related cargo short.  It's just not a good look on anyone.  You might as well go for that 70s porno vibe and dress in snug, elastic waist gym shorts, knee-length white tube socks with two or three stripes around the top, and mirrored aviator sunglasses. . .  along with cultivating a John Holmes mustache.  Or wear the overly long, current variety of knee-length, thin nylon baggy basketball shorts that leave as little to the imagination as their briefer 1970s cousins.

No.  Casual pants are fine in theory, but it's time to leave the damnable cargo pockets behind, gents.  When it comes to casual pants, it's far better to stick with normal khakis/chinos, jeans that actually fit, or perhaps something in linen (rumples and wrinkles permitted) or wool depending on the season.  And hey, if you protest that you need some place to keep your pack of smokes and Bic lighter, well, roll 'em up in your t-shirt sleeve.  Isn't that what it's for?

As I said, who in the world ever thought cargo pants/shorts were a good idea??!!

-- Heinz-Ulrich