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, 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

A Gentleman Wears Color

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Easter Reminder from Classic Style. . .

While a tophat and tails might be a bit much for most of us in 2017, I hope some men, at least, might deign to dress for the occasion on Easter Sunday.  My father and grandfather certainly did when holidays and special events rolled around each year. . .  as did the other men in the extended family up and down the eastern seaboard.  

So, put on a suit and necktie -- or at least a sports jacket and odd pants -- with a pressed dress shirt, shined leather dress shoes, and a matching leather belt should you opt to attend either an Easter church service in the morning,  or an Easter dinner later in the day.  Even if your immediate family remains at home, let's remember to mark a special occasion by dressing appropriately before you sit down to the table.   Let's demonstrate that we possess more than an ounce of grooming and sophistication while also setting a good example for the younger male members of the species.  

Happy Easter from Classic Style!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Early Wednesday Morning Office Hours Style. . .

As above. . .  Another Brooks Brothers odd jacket worn with an L.L. Bean ocbd shirt, Land's End necktie, and a silk pocket square from Put This On that I picked up for peanuts back in January.

Just enough time early this morning to enjoy a cup of fresh coffee at the cafe on the ground floor of our library here at MSU and snap a couple of phone photographs before heading to the office to plow through another stack of student papers before class.  Perhaps today's attire is a bit matchy-matchy, but not offensively so.  I'd certainly repeat this particular combination of items without giving it a second thought.  Just one more example of how an adult male can dress comfortably, yet look pulled together, and all without getting anywhere near a suit. . .  Heaven forbid!  You too can achieve a similar look this without too much trouble.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

So below.  Land's End dress chinos, recrafted Allen Edmonds shoes, and Merino wool socks from Dapper Classics.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Warm Oy Vay Monday in April. . .

Thinking Spring above.  The jacket is Brooks Brothers, the pocket square is a silk number from Put This On, and the necktie and shirt are Land's End Items that have been in the spring/late summer rotation for at least a dozen years.

Managed to put my cold weather gear in storage on Sunday and rehang the warmer weather items in my wardrobe and a spare closet in the second-floor TV room across the hall.  Most of the tweed, corduroy, and flannel items migrated to a cedar-lined closet that I appropriated in our basement where the female half of the previous occupants of our house kept the wedding dresses she sewed for her clients.  This being Michigan, I kept a couple of warmer, flannel suits within easy reach in case we get another cold spell before the spring semester ends in  a little over two weeks, but it's time for some brighter colors and lighter garments if you ask me since we are heading full speed toward mid-April.  

In other news, I'm home a little earlier than usual today since one of the student groups scheduled to lead discussion during class today was a no-show (and no, they failed to contact me ahead of time to indicate that there might be a problem), so they've cooked their own goose.  Or is it geese?  In any case, I've got an unexpected hour or so to play with this early afternoon, which isn't a bad thing since I am in the midst of reading and grading the latest batch of student papers, quite a few of which have been very good.  That helps make the job of reading through them slightly less hellish than it might otherwise be.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thinking Spring below.  Land's End dress chinos, calfskin monkstrap loafers, and cotton dress socks from Dapper Classics.  Again, the pants and shoes have been in my wardrobe since 2007-2008 and see regular use in warmer weather.  The shoes are some of the most comfortable I own.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Presidential Shoe Shine

Presidential Shoe Shine Pt. 2 - Mirror Gloss Shine

How to Mirror Shine Your Shoes

Dressing "Vanilla" Anyone?

 An fictitious ideal, for many of us, but you take my point I hope.  There is nothing vanilla about the man.

There's an interesting post over on the Put This On blog today on the challenges faced by clothing companies like J. Crew.  The piece concludes by singing the praises of their menswear, in particular, as reasonably priced (Fine.  I've got a few J. Crew pieces myself.), ubiquitous (Um, wait a second. . .), and vanilla (Stop right there!) enough to suit most personalities, places, and situations in which American guys might find themselves in 2017.  Just let me catch my breath for a moment before I continue.  I'll  be better directly. . .

There now.  While I certainly would never suggest that grown men stray near more dandy territory, like we might find in the pages of a Rose Callahan photographic book on the subject, if this is not their sartorial aim, do we really want to dress in a way that is, ubiquitous and/or vanilla?  Good God! 

First of all, suggesting that people to strive for middle of the road -- vanilla -- in anything is completely incomprehensible to me.  Second, there is the issue of ubiquity.  Who in the world wants to be ubiquitous?  Are most men really so fearful of somehow sticking out that they are satisfied by blending into the sloppy sweatpant gray mass that has become the visual backdrop of society during recent decades?  No need to answer.  It was meant rhetorically.

So, what's the point of today's mini-rant?  Men, for the love of Pete, don't be afraid to add some variety, flavor, and spice -- in other words a smidgen of personality -- to your daily attire.  Continuing with the analogy, what about dressing a bit more in the direction of Mint Chocolate Chip, Rocky Road, Neapolitan, or Butter Brickle for example?  

Whatever your preferred flavor of ice-cream, never, ever stray into vanilla territory when it comes to the details of your personal appearance, or how you live your life for that matter.  Let's all strive for a bit more panache where our clothes and daily behaviors are concerned.  There's nothing wrong with standing out, but let's do it in the right way.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

 And what would a post ranting about "vanilla" style be without a photograph of our wintry weather here in Mid-Michigan all day today. . .  April 6th mind you.  Some of the wettest, stickiest damn snow I've ever come across anywhere.  Definitely not the powdery, fun variety.