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.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Friday, May 26, 2017
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!
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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.
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.
Friday, May 19, 2017
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.
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?
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.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
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.
Monday, May 1, 2017
A visually pleasing old Laurence Fellows (???) illustration from 1937.
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?