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, July 12, 2017

It's Not Rocket Science. . .

A stretch of the former Berlin Wall, somewhere in Berlin during the 1960s from the look of the children.

Pardon the cliche, but after suffering through one more article online in the New York Times about the difficulties of, and barriers to, class mobility -- specifically access to the upper middle class -- it's hard to keep silent any longer.

First of all, let's be clear about one thing.  Lots of people manage to move up the socioeconomic ladder.  While not always easy, it remains entirely possible and within reach although many, it seems, prefer to think otherwise.  The following will, no doubt draw the righteous indignation of many readers, who will choose to interpret it as dismissive, elitist, and arrogant.  That is not the intent.  Instead, what I suggest below is meant as hard advice without any rosy sugarcoating or kid glove treatment whatsoever.  Ready?  Here we go.

Changes to one's social standing might actually have to start with (Surprise!) the individual.  It might require a change in the way one perceives and approaches the world.  It might require a shift in values and habits.  It might require that one quit whinging about how awful the 1%, the 20%, or the whatever are.  It might require minding one's own business and getting one's own house in order.  It might mean that one stop looking for handouts, free rides, quick fixes, and the easy way out.  It might necessitate learning to handle one's own problems, difficulties, and challenges through normal, socially accepted, and legal channels. 

 Moving up the socioeconomic ladder might also require a hard, difficult look at oneself.   Some deep soul-searching and reflection might be in order.  Who knows?  It might be time to lose the attitude.  It might mean changing yourself in some ways and adapting to that part of society into which you wish to move rather than expecting that same segment of society, or indeed the rest of the world, to change and adapt to you.  It might mean adopting an upwardly mobile, aspirational mindset, dirty words to many these days, who choose to see this trait as being, somehow, inauthentic or failing to keep it "real."  It might also mean, if you'll permit, leaving the metaphoric village behind, together with its own set of entrenched allegiances and prejudices.  

It might be time to bust your ass, even more than you have up to this point, take control of your life and situations, and do without certain luxuries, whatever those might be, for a while.  It might mean that you delay that insatiable need for instant gratification that consumes so many of us in the 21st century.

Instead, make tough choices and change your mode of thought if necessary.  Quit operating on the fringes of society and come to the party.  Value and embrace learning and take the necessary steps to get an education.  Make it a priority.  Develop healthy self-respect and realize that respect from others is earned.  Keep your nose clean.  Get control of your life and stop self-destructive habits.  Distance yourself from those who have them.  Is it easy?  No, but sometimes it is necessary to advance and achieve the sort of life you want for yourself.  

Lack of consistency is the enemy here.  Be  dependable and predictable instead.  Develop a routine.  Hold down steady employment.  We all have to keep jobs that are less than thrilling sometimes to pay the bills and put food on the table.   Manual, unskilled labor?  Punching a timeclock?  Calloused hands?  Sore back and feet for days on end?  Low wages and long days?  Yeah.  Been there, one that.  We all have to take occasional crap from above in these sorts of situations and keep our thoughts to ourselves.  That's life as my grandmother used to say.  Is it fair?  Not necessarily.  Is it real life?  Damn straight.

The important thing to remember is to keep one's eyes and ears open and learn from those around you.  Assuming they have personal and work habits worth emulating.   Never leave a job without something better (and legal) lined up.  Likewise, stabilize your relationship habits, in whatever form that might take, and limit your reproduction.  This doesn't originate with me.  There have been actual studies conducted, and I've read some of the resulting journal articles, which suggest that habits like those I mention in the preceding paragraphs enable people to turn their lives around.  Sometimes dramatically.  If not right away, then in a generation or two.  Stability, in its various forms, seems to have a direct correlation to earning potential and class mobility.

I would also add that it is vital to network constantly within your work and social circles.  Get involved in directing your own life.  Inform yourself.  Become part of a community and serve others in some way.  Meet people, make connections.  Contribute ideas.  Ask questions.  Listen to what others say in response.  Look for opportunity.  Be a team player, but also look for possibilities to emerge as a leader in some way.  Offer to take on more responsibility once in a while and make sure you do a good job executing the tasks at hand.  Work long hours occasionally.  Realize that you are a walking advertisement for yourself by how you come across to others through your skills and abilities, your performance, your appearance, your speech, and your behavior.  Develop your hard and soft skills if necessary.  In a nutshell, increased awareness and self-improvement are vital in turning things around and moving onward and upward in life.

There are plenty of opportunities out there for climbing the socioeconomic ladder.  Contrary to what seems to be a prevailing and entitled attitude these days, life ain't easy, and it ain't always a rose garden boys and girls.  There are no guarantees.  Nevertheless, it remains possible to pull oneself out from under whatever life has dropped in your lap.  And before anyone throws out the "privileged" label, I too have experienced my own setbacks and stumbling blocks, many due to my own uninformed, poor decisions at the time plus just damn bad luck at different points during my adult life so far.

The point is, quit talking endlessly about how bad you have it.  No more harping on all of the obstacles placed in your way by "the man" solely for the express purpose of keeping you down, out, and disenfranchised.  If you are not happy with the hand you have been dealt, do something (legal) about it.  Get up off your duff, dust off your hands, pull up your pants, tighten your belt, broaden your horizons, elevate yourself, and get on with things.  Develop some personal agency.  Take some responsibility.  Don't give up after one or two attempts.  Seize the day, take charge of your own destiny, and embrace the challenges and opportunities life throws your way.  Or, to use yet another cliche, if life gives you a bunch of lemons, figure out how to make lemonade.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

If You Make an Appointment, Keep It. . .


Here's another classic style tip that will cost nothing, and does not necessarily require that you are "dressed up" although you might be if it has anything remotely to do with your job (or getting a job).  When you make an appointment, keep it!

One more time, I have made sure that I am up early, showered, and dressed, so that I would be ready for an appointment with a service person who was to come by the house this morning to discuss a possible big ticket purchase and installation.  There are a number of things that need replacing here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold to keep things looking nice and relatively up to date in and around our vintage (tongue firmly in cheek, you understand) house built in 1985.  And once more, we have been stood up.  No call.  No voice mail.  No email.  Nothing.  Just like the old Ricky Nelson tune.

If this were a isolated incident, I would not be so annoyed, but this has happened repeatedly with various service people over the last nine years since we purchased our first house in Illinois and here in Mid-Michigan.  What is it with so called service providers who make an appointment and never turn up?  As my late maternal grandfather might have said, "Well son, I guess they just didn't want the business badly enough to bother calling or showing up."  Looks like we must contact another company now.

And the moral of today's story?  Whether it involves your job, interviewing for a job, performing well in your job, keeping your job, a money-making opportunity for you or the company you represent. . .  or you are simply lining up a social occasion in your private life, you move mountains to keep appointments.  Or just call and leave a message if you are detained.  Apologize for the delay and ask to reschedule.  It's the polite and considerate thing to do, guys.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Eyebrows Etc. . . .

Not me, or my barber's hand, but the photograph illustrates the point behind today's post.

Facial grooming -- and I don't mean shaving, mustache, or beard timming -- is something that a lot of guys seem to forget in the quest to kick up their style several notches.  And while I do not advocate the current trend for  "manscaping" and the bizarre, almost pathological need that many people these days seem to have to remove any and all body hair (like tattoos and piercings, I simply don't get it), it is important, however, not to forget smaller things like the ears, nose, and eyebrows.  

Have you ever tried to talk to someone with visible tufts of hair sticking out of his nostrils or ears?  Then you'll know what I mean.  It's like some bizarre hobbit version of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells!

Anyway, where the ears and nose are concerned, it's easy  and fairly inexpensive to take care of yourself in the privacy of your own bathroom.  Pick up a trimmer at your local drugstore, pharmacy, or big box retailer like Target or Wal-Mart.  While it is possible to take care of one's own eyebrows every few weeks, that is a bit more tricky.  It's best to avoid ending up with Spock brows by mistake, or looking like Bob Geldof's character in the cinematic version of The Wall, who, if memory serves, shaved off his eyebrows with an old-fashioned safety razor at one point in the midst of a breakdown by asking your barber for assistance here.

If you're like me, your eyebrows might have started doing weird curly tricks not too long after the ol' 30th birthday.  It was somewhere around then that my barber at the time suggested a quick eyebrow trim during a haircut.  "Yes, please!" said I, and in a matter of 60 seconds both brows were neatened up, and I haven't looked back.

Asking your barber to trim your eyebrows is an easy, quick, and cheap way to improve your daily style without even the need to tuck in your shirt, put on a necktie or belt, or wear quality leather dress shoes.  Perish the thought!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy Belated Independence Day and Casual Summer Style. . .


An assortment of short-sleeved summer shirts collected over the years.  These, and others in my dresser similar to them, have been part of my go-to warm weather attire since at least the late 1990s.


We're in High Summer mode here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold on July 5th, and it seems like a good idea to get back to attire for a few minutes.  Without going into a long dissertation this afternoon about the whys and wherefores of dressing better than what is now the sad, pathetic average in so much of the developed world, let's keep things short and sweet today.  

I often hear, when talking to various male friends and acquaintances that they either 1) don't have the time, or, as they admit in more candid moments, 2) lack the sartorial knowledge to dress nicely.  Please allow me to channel Colonel Sherman T. Potter from the old 1970s TV series MA.S.H.  In a word (well, two really), "Bull Puckey!"  

All you need are a few different (collared) shirts, and a few different pairs of shorts from a company like Land's End or L.L. Bean, plus a casual belt or two, which will enable you to mix and match to your heart's content while at the same time avoiding the mismatched, disheveled, sunburned average American/German/Scandinavian/Brit on vacation look.  Heck, you could even tuck in your shirt if you want.  Imagine that.  

In dressing for warm weather, I would, however, advise against wife beater shirts with visible cheap bling, visible underwear, cargo shorts, those godawful, almost sheer basketball shorts that so many overgrown boys schlepp around in, or, while we're at it, anything that remotely resembles a belly or fanny pack.  God almighty! 

-- Heinz-Ulrich 


 Mixed and matched with shorts like these (carefully in the case of the plaid pair), one can create an array of different causal, cool, comfortable and yet pulled together warm weather combinations of clothing in which you won't embarrass yourself or anyone else by virtue of being an eyesore.  After all, we do not want to resemble Napoleon Dynamite's older brother following his transformation late in the movie's narrative.  I wear my shorts with surcingle belts from Leather Man, one in olive green and one in navy with a broad red stripe.


One view down our street here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold just before eight o'clock on the evening of July 4th.


 And the view up the other end of our street yesterday evening about 8pm.


The bright points of light in my life. . .  The Grand Duchess and The Young Master -- just post sparklers and pinwheels on the evening of July 4th, 2017 -- celebrating the shaking off the yoke of English oppression by the 13 original colonies back in 1776 and wishing you a belated Happy Independence Day! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

US woman shoots boyfriend dead in YouTube stunt to 'boost online profile'. . .



Besides the generally seamy situation summed up by the above headline, copied from Yahoo News, does nobody else see a problem with the fact that the 19-year-old pregnant (once again) shooter already had two other children?  

I pose that question as an overly educated,  reasonably liberal, yet observant Episcopalian.  Oh, right.  I am white and 'privileged' (the apparent buzzword of the moment) and so must somehow be the source of the problem.  I forgot.  How silly of me.  There truly are no words.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rural Living, Circa 1983, or '84. . .

My late grandparents' house, Summer 1983, or '84, between Landis Store and Huffs Church, in District Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

It's funny what you come across when you aren't looking or it.  This afternoon, I was paging quickly through my physical photo album (Remember those?) looking or something else, when I cam across this picture of my grandparents' house in southeastern Pennsylvania.  I decided to scan it, sharpen it, and fix the colors a little bit.  Here, I spent the vast bulk of my formative years here, between 1973-1991, and it was to this house that my parents brought me a day or two after my birth at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia, now over half a century ago. Doesn't that make me seem old??!!

Since I have talked about it so much this place and my grandparents in various posts here at Classic Style, it seemed like a fun idea to share this photograph, the only one I have of their place.  The creek is just behind the photographer's vantage point with the large barn closer to the road beyond the creek.  Either my mother, or sister took the picture.  You can just make out the kitchen, added in 1973, at the right of the photo.  The dining room is in the middle of the house, the downstairs hallway cam next, and the living room was on the left with a door out to what we called the sideyard, which as surrounded by flower beds, rather large Boxwood shrubs, ornamental trees of one kind or another, and a small hill off the left edge of the picture, that led to a large meadow lined by trees and privet hedges.  

The second and third floors of the house contained the bedrooms and two full baths.  A third full bathroom was at the rear of the kitchen annex.  Behind the house were the summer kitchen, a large stone springhouse, where many leopard frogs lived each summer in the icy water that ran through it, and the smaller pumphouse that kept the well full of equally icy springwater.  A long run ran from the springhouse down to the creek, and across it was where my grandparents maintained a large vegetable garden, also with several current bushes, in raised beds.  The house had two working fireplaces, one of which was a rather large walk-in affair in the dining room, still with its old wrought iron crane in one corner from which cooking pots and kettles had hung in just post-colonial times.  

The basement, which you can just make out below the font porch, had orignially been converted to the kitchen area by the couple who owned the house before by grandparents, -- Mr. and Mrs. Terrell, Philadelphia Quakers, who purchased a home in the country back in the 1940s.  In 1973, my grandparents added the kitchen annex you see in the photograph at right above.  I can remember playing with Matchbox cars, during a visit from the Midwest one summer, in the window that was later knocked out to make the doorway into the kitchen.  That would have been about 1970, or '71.  But I digress!  The basement became my grnafather's workshop following the kitchen addition in '73 as well as housing the furnace room and, of course, the washer and dryer.  As far as my grandmother could learn from looking at old records, the house had been built in the 1780s or very early 1790s.

As you can see, it was not huge by any stretch, but the five of us managed to live comfortably in the house without killing each other, and we all managed to carve out our personal spaces with some ease.  Without idealizing it too much, it was pretty damned nice living and growing up here in retrospect.  Certainly park-like and even idyllic.  Our last several days here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold in Mid-Michigan have reminded me so much of the summer days all those years ago at my Grandparent's place.  The same sounds, smells (Freshly cut grass and rain blowing in, anyone?), and sense of calm.  Even the way the early morning sunshine peeks through our bedroom window.  It was, and still is, as my grandfather Dave used to remark once in a while, "Good to be alive!"

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, June 5, 2017

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Audrey (1954)

Tuck in Your #$%&! Shirt!!!

Something tells me ol' Ward Cleaver ( Wally and Beaver's TV dad, played by the late Hugh Beaumont) wouldn't have shown up for a high school graduation, or any other special occasion for that matter, dressed in jeans and a wrinkled, untucked shirt.

It's graduation season once again here in the United States with many families celebrating the end of high school, or college for some pampered and very probably entitled young person about to be catapulted, kicking and screaming, into adulthood.  Many are sharing photographs of these happy events via social media.  Fine and dandy.  But there is a problem.  

What, you ask?  Well, for special occasions, you would think that Dad, or the male care-giver in the picture, could be bothered to dress a little better than ratty jeans and some untucked, wrinkled shirt with a cheap windbreaker on top.  Especially when the graduate, Mom, and possibly others in the photographs are clearly dressed.  What?  It's too much trouble to show a little respect and consideration to others and for the special day or event around which a family gathers?  Aren't people even embarrassed by stuff like this anymore?  Oh, right.  We no longer want people to feel shame about anything.

Listen.  What a 40- or 50-something manchild in the 21st century really says to everyone when he turns up looking like this is that the event and the person, or people on whom it focuses are no more worthy of his time and effort than, for example, adding a quart of oil to the car, raking up the leaves, cutting the grass, or cleaning out the garage on a Saturday morning.  Ratty jeans and a wrinkled, untucked shirt are fine for those kinds of manual activities.  They are NOT acceptable attire for attending someone's graduation, or the peripheral family gatherings that often follow.  Got it? 

Even if you don't want to don a suit and necktie, or (shudder) you don't own a suit for special occasions like this, tuck in your shirt, put on a casual belt (canvas and cotton surcingle models, like those sold by Orvis, O'Connell's,  or Leather Man Ltd., are ideal), and toss on a blazer or sports jacket.  Every guy should have at least one on a hanger in his closet. . .  even in our slovenly age.  After all, it's not going to kill you to look appropriate for a few hours, is it?  Add a pair of more casual leather shoes like some classic penny loafers, or what we used to call desert boots way back in the early 1970s (now referred to Chukka boots), and you'll look a damn sight better than all of the other schlubby fathers out there whose photographs clog social media at this time each spring.  

Come on.  Let's at least try to look like we have an ounce of sense and sophistication when special occasions like these roll around a few times a year (graduations, holidays, dinners out with your spouse, partner, or that special someone, etc.).  It's not that hard, guys.   Really.  

I'll conclude today's post, as I did in a previous post a year or two ago, by channeling the old children's magazine Highlights and pose the following question to my readers.  Do you want to be Goofus, or Gallant?  If you make the RIGHT choice and opt for the latter, start by tucking in your #$%& shirt!  

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by Classic Style.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, May 26, 2017

Anaconda and Pirahna Style. . .

The Young Master, his helper Ms. G., and Ol' Dad at school yesterday afternoon.

The Young Master presented two animal 'brochures' on piranhas and anacondas yesterday as part of his class's long-term project on the Brazilian rainforest.  In a word, he was well and truly amazing.  Calm, cool, and collected in his black sweatshirt, bluejeans, and dark tan chukka boots.  More important, YMP exuded confidence, was knowledgeable about his subjects, and he even fielded some questions from listeners, other parents and grand parents in attendance, with minimal prompting.  Easily the most impressive (and fun) school event we have attended.  I am still gushing with fatherly pride this morning.  Wow!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Six Tips for Wearing Accessories. . .

The late Cary Grant -- the master of understated elegance -- looking as calm, cool, and collected as ever in, of all things, a suit.  Imagine that!

2017, you might recall, is The Year of Accessories here at Classic Style although you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise since I have not discussed them in some little while.  So, it seems like high time to rectify that rather glaring omission on my part.  Accessories can be tricky and even uncomfortable for a lot of guys just getting into kicking up their everyday style several notches.  With that in mind, here are a few tips on navigating the sometimes murky world of  menswear accessorizing.


1) Don't go overboard.  Understated elegance is what you are after.
 Too often, when I notice men wearing things like pocket squares, tie bars, etc., they overdo it.  I actually spotted several 30-40 somethings in downtown Minneapolis, during my recent visit to the city, wearing suits with nice looking leather dress shoes (YES!).  Unfortunately, their overall look was a bit busy because they had gone overboard with, you guessed it, too many small accessories.  As Coco Channel once advised women, and I am paraphrasing badly here, take a quick look in the mirror before leaving the house and remove one item [maybe two].  Leave the wardrobe hyperbole for the Pitti Uomo dandies.

2) Less is more.
You can't go wrong with an understated wristwatch and either a wedding band or some other kind of (understated) man's signet ring. . .  with possibly french cuffs and some subtle cufflinks for a special occasion.  No more than that.  Leave any other visible bling at home and for another time, ok Biggie G?  Remember Coco Channel's advice to the ladies above.

3) What about pocket handkerchiefs?
Great!  These are a fairly simple way of adding some panache to your wardrobe.  But never, ever buy a matching necktie-pocket handkerchief set.  Instead, pick out a pocket square that compliments your tie in some way.  Maybe it has flecks of your main necktie color in it.  Or some silvery gray that works with the white, gray, or silver repp stripes.  Of course, if you're worried about getting it right and/or standing out too much, a white linen or cotton handkerchief folded carefully into your suit coat or sports jacket pocket always looks tastefully understated.

4) What about other men's jewelry?
Um, if you'll be wearing a suit or a sports jacket-odd pants combo with a necktie, I'd steer clear of any jewelry besides the wristwatch and one ring mentioned above in point two.  Unless you want to grow a porno mustache, get a pair of aviator frame sunglasses, and pretend to yourself that you're the late John Holmes circa 1978.  Remember.  Less is more.

5)  Should I wear colored shoe laces?
In theory, yes, but I'd be careful here.  The more color, pattern, and textures you add to an ensemble, the less formal it becomes which is why traditional navy, charcoal, and gray suits, business formal attire in 2017 remember, are fairly plain garments.  If you are wearing a pair of corduroy pants or jeans and a tweed jacket for a chilly Saturday afternoon in November, sure some red or green shoelaces might be kind of interesting to have in your tan wingtip brogues.  That said, I would exercise caution here because it is all too easy to stray unwittingly into dandy clown territory.  That is hardly the effect we want to convey, is it?

6) Look at photographs of "the greats" for accessory inspiration.
If your confidence still feels kind of shaky, do a Google image search for male style icons of the past like Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Young Sean Connery (as James Bond), David Niven, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, et al.  Study the multitudinous pictures you are bound to find and note what works (and possibly what doesn't) where the inclusion of accessory items is concerned.  Grant, Newman, and Connery, in particular, provide the best examples of extremely well pulled together male figures where attire and attitude is concerned for my money.  Do you even notice any "accessories" when looking at old photos of them?  Probably not because they kept things very simple and did not go overboard with everything under the sun.  Remember, guys, less is more.  Resist the tendency to pull out all the stops with those recent accessory acquisitions.

 
Without doubt, there is much more to say on the subject of accessories for men, so this short tipsheet is in no way meant as the final word on the subject.  Just remember, above all, to have fun with what you wear.  Purchase, and enjoy a few well-chosen, tasteful (understated) accessories, and wear them with aplomb.  Just not all at the same time, ok?  

Think a little about what you are doing as you get dressed.  That, of course, lies in the face of the coveted nonchalance that we read so much about, but a little bit of care will help prevent your feeling awkward later because you suddenly realize that you might be overdoing things just a bit with the oversized sports watch, half dozen rings, cubic zirconium cufflinks, colored shoelaces, and the tie tack you got in a Christmas cracker at that 2011 office holiday party back when you were that clueless intern, who had too much to drink and hit on your supervisor's wife before passing out in the mailroom.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Special "Thank You" to Old School!

The man himself, men's style maven G. Bruce Boyer.

Here is a link to a fascinating recent article on style and so much else, sent my way by a frequent visitor to the Classic Style blog.  You've got to read Dress Up: What We Lost in the Casual Revolution by the inimitable G. Bruce Boyer.  Oh, and thank you 'Old School!'  Much appreciated.

-- Heinz-Ulrich von B.

The Pretenders with 'Message of Love' (1981)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Avoid the Commonplace. . .

A favorite Laurence Fellows illustration that has appeared before at some point here at Classic Style.  It sums up today's sentiment nicely.

I have written as much here before, but it bears repeating.  Personal outlook, behavior, speech, and cultivating a clean, neat appearance are more important than the make of a man's suit, shoes, or the color of his necktie. 

----------

After a hefty dose of reality television via hotel cable while in Minneapolis last week, time spent navigating large airports, and observing humanity in a large and rather pricey hotel, to say nothing of the various unsavory news items of the last seven days -- stories like the Ohio man arrested following his drunken tirade at Disney World in Florida, the high school-aged Arkansas couple arrested after their baby (one of four children the two have together) was discovered with more than 100 rat bites on her face and body, plus a whole host other "news" of a similar nature -- I have just one piece of advice for men of any age looking to kick up their style by several notches.  

Ready, ladies and gentlemen?  Here you go.  Pull yourself up out of the filth and steer well clear of anything that smacks of the stupid, the ignorant, the crass, or the just plain trashy.

Those four words -- stupid, ignorant, crass, trashy -- seem to define much of society as far as personal outlook, behavior, speech, and appearance are concerned in 2017.  Those four words also seem applicable to much of what that same society holds dear judging by what is all around us 24/7 just about anywhere you turn these days, and in what now passes for popular entertainment. 

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One visitor to Classic Style observed a few years ago that it seems like most of society in the United States suffers from low self-esteem and a lack of self-respect, so it (society at large) does not aspire to anything better.  That might be true, to some extent, but I also think that same society, perceives, on some level, the rapid and tangible decline in standards of conduct and appearance all around it as self-affirming.  There is no reason to aspire to anything better.  

Most material things are now fairly accessible to most people anyway.  So, why bother asking more of oneself or holding those around you to higher expectations?  There's no &!#%@*!&%$ reason, right?  The democratization of society at work.  In so many ways, we have sunk to the lowest common denominator as a society, and most members of that society seem unwilling to step outside the box and pull themselves up out of the primeval slime for fear of drawing unwanted attention from their fellows.  A strange version of Foucault's panopticism perhaps?

As I lamented a few weeks ago in a previous post, when might the now glaringly apparent coarsening of society moderate a bit, and the pendulum start to swing in the opposite direction?  Or are the end times here already?  That's a rhetorical question, of course, but shambling aimlessly through life like overgrown, foul-mouthed guttersnipes, who might as well be running a meth lab in the basement on the side, ain't the way forward, folks.  

Now, you might exclaim in barely contained rage, "You privileged snob!  How dare you call others out for their collective rudeness.  You'll be among the first lined up against the wall when the Revolution comes.  Why don't you simply ignore the coarser aspects of society if they are so offensive to your delicate constitution?" 

Ah, if only it were so easy to sidestep the kinds of things I'm talking about.  But as I say above, crass, stupid, ignorant, and trashy are everywhere you might look and within easy earshot in 2017.  The senses are assaulted simply by virtue of turning on the television, walking down an airport concourse on the way to your gate, or, heaven forbid, attempting to have a quiet cup of coffee and some toast in the hotel dining room during the Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast buffets.  People just don't know how to act, and that's a problem.  What might ol' Mr. Sarte have to say about our current societal state of non-being?

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Returning to the notion of classic style then.  If a man wants to set himself apart and improve his personal style, he should focus first on improving personal outlook, behavior, speech, and in cultivating a consistently clean and neat appearance.  Combed hair, a clean, tucked in shirt with a collar, and clean jeans with a belt will do at first.  The tweed jackets, the suits, the tailoring, the wool neckties, and the leather dress shoes made from wooden lasts uniquely shaped to  his own feet can come later.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, May 7, 2017

More Classic Menswear Illustrations. . .


Procrastination!  What a wonderful word on a sunny and almost warm spring day.  Delaying the final batch of undergraduate papers and associated final course grades this early Sunday afternoon with some online jazz, another mug of coffee, and a few Leslie Saalburg illustrations although one or two might be by our old friend Laurence Fellows.

Picked up the Belvest and Samuelsohn double-breasted suits from the tailor's yesterday, and they look great after their slight alterations.  A quick trip to the cleaner's tomorrow, and the former will travel with me to Minneapolis for its inaugural outing at the Saturday evening closing banquet (re: overly dry chicken breast) of a conference I am attending during the latter half of this coming week.  The Samuelsohn coat still needs a bit of tinkering to get the vents to hang closed, I think, after trying the suits on again at home with an actual dress shirt, but it looks leagues better than it did two weeks ago.

Now, if only my black shoes that I sent a month ago to Allen Edmonds in Wisconsin for recrafting will return before I leave, sartorial life will be good.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich











Monday, May 1, 2017

It's May 1st. . .

A visually pleasing old Laurence Fellows (???) illustration from 1937.

Yes, it's May 1st everyone.  So, why not celebrate quiet refinement and sophistication with an old-fashioned cocktail party this evening?  No inebriated loud games of beanbag toss, ratty cargo shorts, plumber's crack, ridiculously large stainless steel propane grills, rumbling 4x4s, women's sweatpants with the word 'PINK' splashed across the backside, tramp stamps, or ill-mannered children in sight.  Hey, a guy can dream of gentler times, right? 

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Another quiet Fellows illustration that is more in keeping with the sort of calm socializing we prefer here at Classic Style. . .  Although such occasions are few and far between in our corner of the world in 2017.  Many in the academic sphere seem to make a conscious and concerted effort to turn up their noses at polite convention.  Oh, the stories I could tell.  Others, even when highly intelligent and accomplished in their respective fields, sometimes come from backgrounds where polite social conventions were, largely, not a part of their upbringing if we are honest about it.  It always surprises me that more people don't pick up on these finer points, learning to walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak, as they move into and through professional life.  Sadly, I suppose that is no longer a requirement.  The ongoing democratization of society is fine, in theory, but we have lost something along the way.


Of course, these stylized and idealized illustrations were meant to showcase new menswear items and styles when they first appeared in publications like Esquire and Apparel Arts decades ago, but they also hint at a more polished, refined, and largely bygone era.  I am well aware that the 1930s were not a pleasant time for many around the globe due to The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, the gathering of war clouds on the horizon, and so forth.  Still, we could, without doubt, do with a bit of the gentility, as portrayed by these old pictures, in our own times.


While cigars are not an essential part of the equation for me (although I would not turn up my nose at a genuine Cuban were one offered), there is nothing wrong with a nip of brandy and a quiet chat by the fire after the evening meal.  It strikes me as quite civilized.


These various pictures by Laurence Fellows were produced during the 1930s, when touch dancing was the norm, and people like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were part of the public consciousness thanks to their films.  Knowing how to dance, how to play an instrument like the piano, how to ride a horse (possibly), and how to conduct oneself in general, were considered part of good grooming.


 Why this bout of style nostalgia and trip down an idealized memory lane. . .  from an era thirty years before yours truly was born in the mid-1960s?


Day to day pleasant manners were simply a normal part of the scenery, at least in the more cultivated parts of society.  Heck, they still were as recently as the 1980s in many places.


People could carry on a two-way conversation once upon a time rather than deliver endless, frantic monologues on autopilot.  It seems that there are more of the latter now anytime two or more people convene.  My suspicion has always been that this is a way for nervous, anxious, and socially uncomfortable individuals to control (they think) the direction a conversation takes.  Let's call it what it is. . . awkward.


Gum cracking,  loud conversations audible at a distance, and other kinds of crass behavior (use your imagination) were not yet commonplace.  It's hard to imagine this pair loudly honking their noses into crumpled up paper napkins during a meal at the table.  People (more of them at least) practiced kindness, consideration for others, and knew how to respond to such niceties in kind.


Whether he owned evening wear, or not a man -- some of them -- knew the importance of putting his best foot forward at all times.  In any case, you never wanted to come across as coarse and uncultured.  Yet again, this is something that was the case into my own lifetime during my formative years.  How far we have fallen and in such a relatively short time.  I am indeed out of step with the vast majority of society.  It almost seems as though boorishness is now worn as a badge of honor by many (most?) in the second decade of the 21st century.  When might the pendulum swing the other way I wonder?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Summer Suit Blues. . .



This delightful cotton suit by Belvest arrived here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold yesterday afternoon.  I've wanted to add one to the ol' wardrobe for some time now to augment the linen and seersucker (Yes, I said seersucker!) suits that already come in handy during the warm first few weeks of the autumn semester, which kicks in at the end of August each summer.  Found this one ('Leaf Green' is the color.) on Ebay, new with tags but costing only about 10% of its suggested retail price amazingly enough.  The sad part is, after the usual minor alterations, I'll probably have to wait until the end of the summer for an excuse to wear it.  Watch for a photograph or two at that time.

And the point of sharing this news?  Well, first off, not all suits need to be the usual worsted wool in navy, gray, tan, or charcoal.  More casual cotton numbers like this one offer a refreshing alternative during the warmer months, resisting wrikles a bit better than linen (if that is an issue).  They are also a bit more staid than seersucker, which most guys outside the American south probably balk at wearing for fear of sticking out.  Finally, you can find incredible bargains on topnotch stuff if you "shop" routinely, know precisely what you are after, and keep you eyes open.

-- Heinz-Ulrich



Thursday, April 27, 2017

On Wisconsin Wednesday. . .

 The upper half yesterday, featuring a necktie by Brooks Brothers in University of Wisconsin colors.

Had a bit of fun yesterday with what I call my UW Tie.  Sadly, the only neckties I have ever been able to find have had goofy badgers or W's all over them.  Two years ago, though, I came across the Brooks Brothers number pictured above and purchased it.  Given our sunny morning yesterday, it seemed like a nice idea to wind down the semester with some bright red with white repp stripes and a three-button blazer that features heavy brass buttons with the University of Wisconsin seal in the center. If anyone actually got close enough to scrutinize said buttons, and the light went on about the colors on the necktie, it would be clear where my heart truly lies although we are one state to the right of Wisconsin on the map.

------------


In other news, today (Thursday) is my final day of classes for this semester.   Classes end officially tomorrow (Friday). Why, oh, why do certain students insist on coming to the last office hours of the term to complain about grades and past assignments NOW?  Oh, and the two who assured me that they would come to "talk" (in other words whine) to me?  One is pulling an 86% at this point and the other an 89%.  And that's before the final paper has even been collected, graded, and added to the mix.  Sigh.

  -- Heinz-Ulrich


And the lower  half. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Late April Monday Glen Plaid and Tan

A vintage Corbin Glen Plaid silk-wool suit worn with a Ben Silver necktie above.

A wonderfully bright, sunny, almost warm day here this morning, so it was the perfect time to break out a lighter suit and a pair of tan shoes, which I moisturized and shined yesterday evening.  It's had to see in the photo below, but a glassy shine is beginning to  form on the toe caps and heel box of this pair.  I use neutral shoe polish by Lincoln along with a horsehair brush and a piece of old nylon stocking to bring up the shine.  This is a trick I learned from a woman in the military via Youtube a few years ago.  I am eager to try Saphir products, though, to see how those work.  Very easy to become obsessive about shoe shining products and techniques, you know!

-- Heinz-Ulrich


And a recently polished pair of tan Allen Edmonds captoe oxfords below.  The pleated pants have a full break, which I have felt for a few years now veers a little close to sloppy.  So, over time, I will have various pants, both part of suits and odd pairs that suffer from the malady, shortened ever so slightly.  As mentioned in yesterday's post, I like my pants to break somewhere a bit longer than a medium break and a bit shorter than full break.  In any case, these were held up with a very attractive pair of navy braces that feature red and silver paisleys all over.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Knack: That's What the Little Girls Do (Live In Los Angeles, 1978)

Take Your Suits to the Tailor!

Kind of an interesting visual to include with today's post.

A lovely, sunny Saturday in late April here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, and I finally had the chance to take a Belvest 6/2 double-breasted suit and another, by Samuelsohn, into my tailor today for a few minor alterations after a lengthy delay.  Both are items I picked up for a song on Ebay during May of last year.  Perhaps not the best way to acquire wardrobe additions, especially with items like suits where fit is so important, but the prices were such that I couldn't pass 'em up when I came across them.  Since I remain able to fit things in the 40R or 41R range at the half century mark, purchasing attire like these without the benefit of trying it on first is not too much of a concern


Not me, but a photo I found online, illustrating how my tailor plans to address the fit of one of my suitcoats althoug he limited to pinning to just the rear side seams.


For those things that need some work once they arrive, like these two scores, it's off to the tailor!  Both suits fit reasonably well already, after the obligatory sleeve and inseam shortening last September, and I have worn the Belvest a few times since, but each suit still had some problems that needed to be addressed.  Hence today's visit.  Parenthetically, it is always amazing to me the number of men, of all ages, that I occasionally notice walking around in suits with pants and sleeves that are far too long.  They could look so much better if only they would have a few minor alterations made to the raw off-the-rack items, but there you are I suppose.

Anyway, the Belvest suit coat, while it looked fine from the front, clearly had too much material across the small of my back and between my shoulder blades in the upper back region.  What a pleasant surprise it was when the tailor simply pinned a bit in along the two rear side seams, and the coat instantly looked better all the way around.  The pants still lacked the amount of break I prefer, something between medium and not quite full, so that was very easy for the two of us to work out.  I also opted to abandon the cuffs (turn-ups) and go for a more formal non-cuffed look with a angled hem (called a Guardsman's Slant), which features some break in the front and hangs straight to the top of the shoe heals in the back to create an unbroken line.

Another visual aid that shows how a suit coat should fit when correctly adjusted for one's unique measurements.


The Samuelsohn suit was potentially more complicated, at least where the pants were concerned.  While I no longer enjoy the 31" waist of my twenties, thirties, and early forties, I was a bit distressed when the suit arrived late last spring, and I wasn't even able to button the blasted pants!  The suit had been advertised as a 40R with pants featuring a 34" waist after all.  Grrrrr.  Finding the time for routine exercise has been difficult at best since our son was born in 2009 (my wife and I used to be avid road bicyclists, sometimes managing 200 miles a week in the summers), and then there have also been the increased job commitments since our move to Michigan State University in 2015, but surely my girth has not increased that much over the last seven years!  I was at 33" late last fall when I hit 50, or as I call it, my latest 29th birthday.

Fortunately, my tailor came to the rescue when I asked him if anything could be done.  He informed me, after taking a look inside the waistband, that it and the seat of the pants had been taken in previously by about four inches.  Let both out, he suggested, so yours truly could close and wear the pants of the suit comfortably while preserving his middle-aged vanity?  No problem!  Same thing with the double-breasted coat, which was just a bit tight when my arms were raised.  Likewise, it too had been taken in quite a bit.  The tailor informed me that he could let out the rear side seams slightly to make everything more comfortable and allow the two side vents of the coat to hang straight over my seat and remain closed while preserving the overall shape of the coat including the sightly suppressed waistAll I have to do now is wait about two weeks before everything is ready, and I can try it on before paying the bill and bringing the suits home.  

Here's a tip for average guys who are new to this kind of thing, try everything on BEFORE you pay your bill and leave the shop.  Then, if something is still not quite right, you can have it addressed, although that might involve waiting another week or two before your alterations are completed.  I find that tailor's shops are busy placesTo begin with, there are fewer tailors than once was the case, so they always seem to be swamped with work.  That means, on a related noted, that people tend to find them, the good ones at least, and your new suit might not be the first in line.  Who knows?  You might just have to hurry up and wait as they used to say in the U.S. Army according to my late paratrooper grandfather, who always looked amazing in his suits, Monday through Friday, on Sunday mornings, and for most other special occasion throughout the year.  The last time I saw him in a suit, he was in his 80s and, while a bit stooped in his posture at that point, Granddaddy still cut an impressive figure.  It's all about how you carry yourself, I guess, and he still had it.

But what about the cost of alterations to a suit?  Well, I find that tailors seem to be all over the board with pricing based on my own experience and rates I have seen online from tailoring shops that maintain an internet presence in various major cities around the United States.  I suppose some guys out there might balk at spending a bit more over and above the price of a suit, though, and this explains the overly long sleeves and inseams that I lament in paragraph two above.  However, if you want to look your best when you don that new suit, that means you'll need to spend a bit more -- Yes, yes.  A First World problem. -- to have a few necessary alterations made before you actually wear the item in question.  Let's not be cheap here, fellasThere's no excuse for being a tightwad about things like this when you have already purchased a suit at a substantial savings either on sale, via an online forum like Ebay, or otherwise discountedGot it, Ebeneezer?  Come on.

So, after all of my blather here, what's the moral of the story?  Well, there are three actually.  One, off-the-rack suits look miles better when you have minor alterations -- sleeve length, inseam, and waist suppression at the bare minimum -- made BEFORE you wear them in public.  You'll still end up with some pretty damn good fitting (and looking) attire.  Two, when there are problems with fit, a tailor can make minor adjustments one way, or the other by about an inch or two, depending on the specific issue in question, to address the problem and make your suit look stunning.  Three, watch what you eat and, if at all possible, exercise regularly in some way -- cycling, swimming, martial arts, cross-country skiing, running, etc. -- to burn enough calories and maintain a trim physique.  There is just no getting around the fact that clothing in general fits better, even before alterations, than it might on more generously proportioned figures.

Of course, the best fitting suits are custom made for your precise physical dimensions alone.  Think Saville Row here, although it is possible to have equally good stuff  made elsewhere.  Even online operations, I have read, offer a viable third option in 2017 when it comes to suits made exclusively for your personal measurementsWhile one day I hope to add a bespoke suit to the ol' wardrobe, to be perfectly frank, cost is a consideration right now.  As I say though, a First World problem. 

Now, God bless those internet style personalities (and you know who you are) with household budgets apparently large enough to swing this on a regular basis.  But for others, things like student loan, car loan, and house loan repayments tend to take priority over bespoke clothing.  Sadly.  You know how it is.  Still, quality off-the-rack items that fit pretty well to begin with can be made to fit very well, and thus appear, even better after the careful attentions of an experienced alterations tailor.  I cannot stress that point enough for average guys looking to kick up their everyday style by several notches.  Take your suits to the tailor!

-- Heinz-Ulrich