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.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Friday Style. . .

(In a Pathe Newsreel announcer's voice) Here's Heinz-Ulrich after the first sip of wine.  What a lightweight!  It doesn't take much to put him in the party mood.  More seriously, the salt shaker and pepper mill were my maternal grandmother's and were on her dining table all of my life until she presented them to me in 1994 when I left Pennsylvania to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  They have been on my own dining table ever since.  Oh, and out of sight on the lower half, a pair of balck tasseled loafers and some very subtle dark green and maroon plaid wool pants from Bill's Khakis of Reading, Pennsylvania. . .  My old stomping grounds in Berks County.

The Grand Duchess enjoys her meal.  We had only just started with the wine, honest!  She also wore a dark red wool skirt and a pair of dress boots with high heels.

 Up and around and into mischief once more, the Young Master models one of his ocbd shirts, a new pair of corduroy pants, and his trusty Sperry docksiders which get a lot of use.  As I explained while helping him dress before dinner, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and a few other occasions during the year are special, so we dress a bit more nicely for these than usual, an example set by my own (transplanted southern) family when I was a child, teenager, and young adult at home.
We celebrated the U.S. Thanksgiving here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold a day later than everyone else since the Young Master had his tonsils removed earlier this week.  So, Black Friday it was.  Still on soft foods for now, but he's not exactly complaining either about all of the pumpkin pie, buttery mashed potatoes, and as much chocolate ice-cream as he can hold.

Apropos the surgery and short hospital stay, we decided to cut back on the food preparation this year and limited Thanksgiving Dinner to pork tenderloin, roasted brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and apples filled with a walnut stuffing/dressing plus dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and spiced apple rings.  Pumpkin pie with coffee followed for dessert with a sip of single malt scotch (Laphroig) in front of the fireplace after the Young Master's bedtime.  

It was a delightfully calm meal and evening without the pressure of guests -- with one or two notable exceptions, I, for one, am not troubled by the fact that we are now not within easy driving distance of various extended family members and assorted hangers on -- or preparing a huge laundry list of dishes that go off before we can finish everything.  

While few, perhaps, will choose to see my point, I heartily recommend cutting back on the craziness that has become the near two-month "holiday season," here in the United States at least, and that people free themselves from the mental and emotional burden of feeling like they absolutely must accept every invitation, include everyone, and/or do everything.  It's much less stressful, which, in the end, makes for a much more satisfying holiday.  There is enough stress in our everyday lives already.  Why make it part of various holidays too? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all U.S. visitors to Classic Style, I wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving Day wherever in the world you might find yourselves this year.  Regardless of whatever life drops in our laps, we nevertheless have a great deal to be thankful for in the everyday small things that we (probably) take for granted.  If we have the company of loved ones, a solid roof over our heads, enough on the table, gainful employment (maybe even a job we like), with a little extra for a rainy day, a few pleasurable diversions that bring us happiness, plus a life lived in relative safety, then we can count ourselves very fortunate indeed.  Many in the world lack one or more of these things and suffer for it.  We ought to keep that in mind.

--Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bingo Little Tweed Suit Tuesday. . .

The upper half today, featuring a wool challis necktie by Rooster.  Italian material hand-stitched in the U.S.A.  It's amazing what people will unwittingly unload on thrift/charity shops.

And the lower half, featuring those recently recrafted Allen Edmonds suede  brogues once more and a pair of flying geese Merino wool dress socks by Dapper Classics.

Decidedly nippy here in Mid-Michigan today, so a perfect excuse to trot out this heavy tweed suit by Chipp for its inaugural wearing.  A lined, winter weight garment here kids., so it's got to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to wear this one comfortably.  The only alteration necessary was to have the waist of the pants taken in a bit, but otherwise, it fits very well.  A pleasing silhouette with slight waist suppression and side vents, shoulders with almost no padding, not too tight, but not billowing around me either with a medium break in the pants, which I wore with actual braces today.  And it is finally cool enough that I can keep my coat buttoned at the center (o a three-button coat) without roasting away.

Found this particular suit on Ebay late last spring and, if memory serves, splurged a tiny bit, but still picked it up for far less than it would have retailed new.  I feel almost like I'm about fire up the old roadster and motor down to Aunt Agatha's for a long weekend of hunting, dinners, sing-alongs at the piano, late breakfasts, and the avoidance of romantic entanglements with scheming third cousins of the female persuasion.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, just one more  day to go until the long Thanksgiving weekend begins.  Not exactly the type of weekend I mention above, but I'll take it just the same.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donegal Tweed, Corduroy, and Ancient Madder Monday. . .

The upper half today, featuring a thrifted Donegal Tweed jacket (with Gaelic language labels inside) and a thrifted Ancient Madder necktie among other things.

And the lower half, featuring freshly polished and buffed shoes along with a new pair of Merino wool Argyll socks from Dapper Classics.

The weather has at least turned cold here at Totliegh-in-the-Wold, but I'm not complaining.  It is, after all, late November in Michigan!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Prawn Necktie Thursday. . .

Every man should have a tie with shrimp on it in his wardrobe.

And the bottom half.  

It seems winter weather has finally arrive here in my neck of the woods, so it might be a while before these calfskin monkstrap loafers see the light of day again.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Gussie Fink-Nottle Harris Tweed Wednesday. . .

As above. . .

So below.

Don't fret, ladies and gentlemen!  I tamed that pocket square with a mind of its own and stuffed it back down in my pocket just after snapping these photos early this last Wednesday morning.

Woody Allen remarked in a 1977 New York Times article, "Showing up is 80 percent of life."  

Someone, anyone, please inform those numerous undergraduate neer'do'wells I have each semester, who, despite having all of this information on the syllabus from Day One -- and keep in mind we talk incessantly about these assignments in my courses in the run up to paper due dates (Shame on me!  It's the way my courses are designed) -- somehow cannot manage to develop, polish, and turn in on time (if at all) four 3-4 page, double-spaced papers.  

Keep in mind, there isn't even a research component to these four assignments, due at four-week intervals.  Students must simply formulate carefully focused, reasoned, thesis-based discussions using evidence from a single text or film (they may choose between two), depending on the course.  Sure.  15-20% of students in each course take the assignments seriously, rise to the challenge, develop well-crafted work, and manage to avoid falling back on a litany of bizarre excuses about why they somehow don't have their work finished.  Alien abduction anyone?  Yes, I have a policy on the course syllabi regarding late work.  How mean of me.

And as for the quality of the work from most of the rest of the undergrads I see each semester?  Clearly, formulating a short discussion that features focus, clarity, and evidence of something more than the most superficial grocery list of thoughts, or just pure plot summary, eludes them.  Yes, yes.  I can almost hear the chorus of indignant protests now.  "Why don't you teach them then and stop moaning about it?"  Ok.  Here ya go.

One, these aren't remedial courses we're talking about.  Two, by the time I get them (freshmen through seniors mind you), students have already completed the first year writing requirements at some point.  Three, all of my courses nevertheless feature a writing component, so in fact we do spend quite a bit of time discussing the actual writing process over and above the specific course content.  Four, thanks to graduate school training (student-centered teaching), teaching experience since the mid-1999s, and more recent reading and research, I am well aware of and utilize current pedagogical thought in my teaching, and constantly adjust my practices in the classroom as a result in the eternal search of that elusive magical key that will unlock the door and somehow help ALL of my students to perform at the high end of the grading scale.  In other words, what transpires in my classrooms ain't the old school, sink or swim, lecture. . .  lecture. . .  lecture.  Perhaps most important, to learn, students must actually be open to the possibility of learning.  It's a two-way street, something that many people, from students and their parents to educational commentators of all stripes, conveniently forget.   

Alas, there is the rate of diminishing returns to consider with regard to how many figurative handstands, forward rolls, tightrope walks, complex springboard leaps, and high-flying trapeze tricks I can do as an instructor (lesson planning and the variety classroom activities)When you think about it too much, it's enough to drive one to drink.  Or you become even more of a filthy elitist than I am already.  You start to think that maybe, just maybe we ought to make public, post-secondary education much more competitive than it has become, and we drastically reduce the number of incoming freshman across the country each year to ONLY the best and brightest.  Young people who demonstrate genuine intellectual talent, or who exhibit particular skills that can be channeled into preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow in their respective fields instead of a bunch of (barely) credentialed worker bees, who can't seem to string together a coherent thought about much of anything, much less to think critically about what they see and hear.  

Now before anyone screams foul, I've run into students from all walks of life who demonstrate real ability where the ol' gray matter is concerned.  At the same time, perhaps we should consider making the college admissions process here in the U.S. more rigorous and selective.  What??!  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Light your torches!  Organize a lynch mob!  There.  I said it.  Relax though.  It seems highly unlikely that will ever happen in a country where we are doing our utmost to throw open the doors to everyone with even the vaguest notion of why they think they need a college or university degree.  You can just march me out into the quad and stone me to death now for having the brass cajones to voice my dark thoughts, but we have done it to ourselves.  This is what we have come to, and we should be extremely worried (the tongue in cheek nature of much of this post notwithstanding).  

The lack of seriousness and intellectual preparedness for a four- or five-year undergraduate course of study is not just the fault though of our K-12 system, so often the preferred whipping boy every time the shortcomings of our education system in the United States come under scrutiny.  We have become, it seems, incapable of looking at ourselves more closely as a society.  Teachers can only work with what they are given.  I'll be so bold as to say that the problem of (higher) education begins, as so much else does, at home.  Let's look instead at the family of origin.  If children do not come from homes where basic curiosity, the importance of learning and education, or, for that matter, self-improvement through normal legal channels are stressed -- or at the very least Mom, Dad, or whoever do not tell the kids to settle down, shape up at school, and do their damn homework -- then of course they will not be open to learning new things and will underperform as young adults once they take up space on a college or university campus somewhere. 

Changes need to happen at home before more children and young adults can begin to take education as a whole more seriously and value it to a much greater degree than too many people seem to within the United States of the the 21st century.  We are incredibly spoiled as a society and take far too much for granted.  Education here is no longer seen as a wonderful opportunity and huge privilege that many elsewhere in the world still do not enjoy.  Instead, it has been reduced to being a credential pure and simple.  A series of hoops you must jump through before you get that piece coveted of paper.  Nothing more.  If even the pretense of education interferes with our collective fascination with our own terminally and perpetually wired belly-buttons -- that is when we aren't keeping up with Honey Boo-Boo, the Duck Dynasty people, the Khardashians, or the idea of getting something for nothing -- then a substantial portion of  the population isn't interested.  How terribly sad.

My own uninformed opinion on the matter -- Because, of course, how in the world would I know what I am talking about in our post-truth era? -- is that too many incoming freshmen arrive on campus each fall with their minds already made up about the world and thus closed to new information about it and the (intellectual) experience of it.  Too many of them, and their parents, view college and university as little more than vocational training and a way to extend adolescence without any sort of commitment to anything.  Sure, there are some young minds -- and again, I see them from MANY of the  socioeconomic backgrounds that make up our variegated patchwork of a society -- who are ready for all that college or university lecture halls, classrooms, and labs have to offer.  They work hard to expand and add to their knowledge base and perfect their related skills.  Sadly, however, these students are in the minority.

So, I've gotten tricky.  I have begun issuing eight-page (EIGHT PAGES for three-four page assignments!!!) assignment packets that are posted online two weeks before an assignment is due.  In short, students get a specific paper prompt, extremely detailed and explicit  instructions on the writing process, suggestions for clarifying their work and adding additional details to it, pointers on how to polish their work, which includes seeing a trained graduate student tutor in our Writing Center (before scheduled peer review days in class, and a checklist of things to address before delivering that final (hopefully polished copy of said paper as well as a copy of the grading rubric that will be used by me to assess the papers.  All in one packet.  

Finally, at the rear of that same packet are two additional pieces of information.  One, there is a list of a dozen questions to help student write a single-page reflective and self-evaluative letter to themselves on how they have gone about the writing process, what grade they might objectively assign their work, and an explanation of why.  Last, there is also an anonymous sample of solid student work written for the very same assignments one year ago in the same courses, so current and future students can see what a well-developed written discussion looks like for the paper in question.  Not necessarily perfect examples, but thoughtful, reasoned, informed discussions that are presented well.  These types of papers are what set a few students each semester apart from the rest of their fellows.  In other words, those who don't get it, don't care, or whine incessantly yet remain unwilling to apply the mental elbow grease required to earn better grades.  Returning to Mr. Allen's observation above, high grades in a college or university course result from more than simply showing up.

And before you ask, yes.  I've had various curricular development experts on campus and fellow professors assist me with the development of this assignment packet project, so it is not written or presented in a way that will confuse the intended undergrad audience.  Let's see if it helps more of the little darlings to succeed?   Oh, yes.  I know.  What a mean, rigid, and unreasonable professor I am!  Totally uncommitted to helping the vast bulk of my students at a state university succeed.  You're absolutely right.  I should be horsewhipped to within an inch of my life.  Of course, students have got to be willing to come to the metaphorical table in the first place, and I am pretty firmly convinced, after two decades at the front of the classroom, that only a small percentage of undergraduates are willing to do so given our long established anti-intellectual climate here in the United States.  

To the 15-20% of my students who get it, bless you.  You make my job easy, at times even fun, and you remind me daily of what I most enjoy about the life I have chosen for myself and have worked hard to attain.  Working with young minds.  Not to shape them in my image necessarily, but to help them think for themselves, about the world, and about their place or future role in it.  And occasionally I learn from those same young minds too.  Learning, you see, never stops.

For everyone else, here are some hard words of advice you might not want to hear.  Hit the damn books!  Get serious.  Show up prepared.  Do the reading.  Take notes while you read and during class.  Think about things from more than one side and beyond a superficial level.  Look alive.  Get off your asses.  Ask questions.  Don't be afraid to disagree or challenge, but have a well-formulated, thoughtful alternate approach worked out rather than a superficial knee-jerk reactionBe able to walk us clearly through your thought process Put up, or shut up in other words.  If you're enrolled in the course, make it your business to try harder, work more efficiently, stop your incessant multitasking, focus, concentrate, and  -- Surprise! -- you will do better where your assignments and the related grades are concerned.  See my remarks from a few years ago about how to do well in college or university courses

In sum, demonstrate that you are engaged in what is going on in the classroom around you and do not simply take up space as you check your text messages under the table of deskDon't whine about a mediocre grade later because it challenges how you have been led to see yourself and your abilities by overly involved and indulgent helicopter parents, who have stuffed you with empty praise up to this point.  Life involves much more than simply putting on clean underpants each morning, playing with your Iphone while ignoring the world around you, or simply showing up.  You need to do more than that to make an appreciable mark on the world.  Now where's that bottle of Thunderbird?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Flannel Three-Piece Tuesday. . .

The upper half today, another delightfully soft and warm Ralph Lauren wool flannel suit complete with my 'Drones Club' necktie.  The stripes are in the wrong direction on this Brooks Brothers number, but otherwise, said item looks strikingly like the tie worn by club members in the Wodehouse stories.

And the lower half.

Finally, here is a close-up to showcase the Barney's cufflinks I was given by my younger sister for my recent birthday.

Overkill (for a public university campus in the United States at least) was the name of the game this morning, but I felt good, and that's the main thing.  

It strikes me that, among the menswear blogeratti at least, there is way too much anxiety about wearing a suit in 2016.  You know the kind of thing I mean.  To wit: When do I wear one?  How do I wear one?  Why should I wear one?  Where do I wear one?  Is it appropriate to wear one?  Am I trying too hard if I wear one?  Will I send the wrong signals if I wear one?  Will people make assumptions about my sexuality?  Will I look like a dick if I wear one?  What will others think if I wear one?  Will people talk about me behind my back if I wear one?  Will I drive women away if I wear one?  Will I attract more women if I wear one?  Will my pitbull bite me on the ass if I wear one?  Will that big mean kid on the corner trip me and steal my lunch money if I wear one?  Blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.  And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.  

That's hardly in the spirit of 'put on your clothes and forget about them,' is it?  What are we, George Costanza?  I suppose we have done this to ourselves in a social climate where pajamas, flip-flops, basketball shorts and sweatpants (sweatpants!!??) have become normal wear in public for, it seems like, about 98% of the male population sometime during the last 25 years, on all but the coldest day of the year.  To such a degree that a guy in a suit is now unusual and immediately suspect.  Bull----!  

Here's the deal.  If you have more than a single suit in your closet and enjoy wearing one from time to time, even if and when you don't necessarily HAVE to, put it on if you want and fugeddaboutit!  End of story.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ralph Lauren DB Suit Monday. . .

The inaugural wearing for this particular suit, which I picked up for a pittance on Ebay late last spring.  I had a few minor alterations done over the summer, and it has been in my closet ever since waiting for cool enough weather to wear it.

You can't tell from the photographs, of course, but when I am standing, the silhouette s something to behold.  I look like all of those wonderful old Laurence Fellows illustrations from the 1930s sans a fedora.  Purists will no doubt scoff at the button-down oxford cloth shirt worn with this suit, but it's what leapt into my hand early this morning, and I rolled with it.  The pocket square is a linen number from the folks at Put This On, and the pants were held up by navy and crimson silk braces fastened to buttons on the inside of the waistband.  

I am sure that I looked like a complete anachronism walking around campus today (a Bertie Wooster meets Sam Spade hybrid), but I am now on the wrong side of a particular age, and I truly don't care.  I like the suit, and that's all there is to it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tweed and Tartan Thursday. . .

 The upper half early today (7:45am-ish) while enjoying a coffee, a piece of Lemon Pound Cake, and reading over a stack of informal student written responses in the cafe before office hours.  The season's first tartan tie along with a Harris Tweed jacket that I picked up for less the US$10 a couple of years ago in one of my old thrifting hunts back in Central Illinois.

And the lower half, including some Merino Wool Fair Isle knee-length socks from Dapper Classics.  

Cooler here in Mid-Michigan today, obviously, or I would have not been able to stand the warmer tweed and corduroy for long.  Even cooler this weekend apparently.  Can the shaggy dog and Fair Isle sweaters be far behind?

-- Heinz-Ulrich.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post-Election Blues. . .

The upper half this morning, featuring a new handmade Italian necktie from Barney's in New York, courtesy of my younger sister in honor of my recent birthday.  Yes, "that" birthday.

And the lower half.

A 50th birthday gift from my wife, the Grand Duchess, who presented me with this delightful briefcase from Allen Edmonds last weekend.  It replaces a similar 13-year old Samsonite briefcase, which has looked a little long in the tooth for the last four or five years.  This one is soft, supple, and the pleasant aroma of leather fills my car and office.  Oh, and the car is an almost new Subaru outback with 4-wheel drive.  Ok, so it's not the 1963 12-cylinder E-Type Jaguar convertible in British Racing Green with tan top and interior that I really wanted, but I suspect that car would not do well in the winter weather we have here in Mid-Michigan.  Call it intuition.

You know, when all else fails, I enjoy thinking of my various interests and hobbies, which bring me joy even when too busy to actually indulge in them.  So, let's forget recent events here at home for just a moment and think about things like clothing, toy soldiers, books, cross-country skiing, and jazz for instance in a desperate bid to restore needed mental and emotional equilibrium.  Above are photographs of today's attire along with a new briefcase.  My aftershave (cologne really) today was a tiny splash of Gray Flannel by Geoffrey Beene.  On a normal day, I would have had a spring to my step.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Classic Style Has Gone to the Dogs!

 Tuesday's combination of shoes, attire, and accessories.

With the approach of a "certain birthday" (The 29th, of course!), I've been treating myself to a number of small things that I don't exactly need, but I simply like.  For example, I ordered a couple of dog breed neckties last week from the good folks at Chipp Neckwear, a navy tie featuring West Highland White Terriers, and the red number below with black standard poodles all over it.  

At different times in the past, my family has enjoyed both types of dogs, who were members of the family.  So too was the pair of Labrador Retrievers that my father had many years ago, which was when I learned about how bird dogs are actually trained, not just for hunting, but also so they'll behave in the house AND heel on the leash.  

Hmmm.  If I ever actually decide to retire, or I'm made to go, maybe I'll rekindle my interest in this one day an get back into dog training.  It's an interesting, rewarding activity, and having a dog that is actually socialized to behave itself is a rare treat considering what I observe of most people in 2016, and how they can't/don't/won't control their childr. . . um, uh, er. . . their dogs..

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Today's similar look early this morning, but with a double-breasted version of the blazer and dove gray khakis.  I think I've got about four navy blazers at this point.  Don't say it!  I know, I know. . .  But it truly is one of those indispensable items that you come back to again and again.