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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Classic Style Annual Table Manners Public Service Announcment . . .

Remember, gents.  Table manners are an important part of our everyday style, even in 2017, despite any arguments to the contrary.  

The holiday season is once more upon us, and with it the annual lead-up to the rather frenetic Christmas and New Year's period.  While I naturally hope that regular and occasional visitors to Classic Style will have the good graces NOT to show up to any special holiday dinners or other events dressed in hoodies, sweatpants, sagging jeans, and flip-flops or sneakers -- or, frankly, any other common attire of the sort -- this post is not about that.

Nope.  Instead, it's a yearly reminder to average guys everywhere to remember and practice polite table manners.  Not just on special occasions either, but everyday.  With that idea in mind, here is a reprise of a post from November of 2012 (with a few small recent edits by yours truly), which presents all kinds of useful tabletop information, most of which used to be common knowledge.  At least in my particular dimension.  Sadly, however, the very knowledge about how to conduct oneself pleasantly at the table seems to have become more arcane and even enigmatic in recent decades.  Much to our collective detriment.  In any case, here we go.


In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across any number of blogs and websites that talk at great length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting/perceiving ourselves as gentlemen.  Good.  That's a decent enough goal by itself.  However, it's only one small part of the picture.  There is another hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs and websites on the subject that I peruse and read each week.  What is it, you ask?

Why, table manners of course.  Shock!  Horror!  Gasp!  Yep, I said it.  And I'm making no apologies.  Table manners should be as much a part of our daily personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so.  Average guys ought to keep that in mind.  Even when we are at home with the door closed.  Newsflash!  Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.

However, because table manners are associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are a potentially explosive issue, prompting knee-jerk accusations of snobbery, exclusion, and arguments about elitism.  Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds cross paths.

Sadly, too many people in the 21st century labor under the delusion that table manners -- or indeed polite behavior and social niceties in general -- are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, not genuine, and outmoded with no place in modern society.  And if that's your attitude, fine.  I can't change it.

But let me make a few relevant points.  We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here.  Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around.  We are not cavemen, dogs, or farm animals eating from troughs after all.  Moreover, actions speak louder than words.  And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where and who we come from, as well as the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.  

Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with.  But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time.  Likewise, and I would argue even more important, we want to remain attractive, likeable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners.  The people with whom we share our lives and selves on a daily basis 24/7.  Why risk spoiling that with crass or even just downright crude behavior?  

Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children.  We want, hopefully, to teach our youngsters to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication before they are unleashed upon the world.  Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not.  After all, do you really want to come across like a ravenous street cur that knows no better?

So, without belaboring the point any further, here are 15 tips to remember that will go a long way in helping average guys become more pleasant dining companions -- and become more gentlemanly in the process -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation.  Here we go:

1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally.  Don't forget it!

2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you.  Don't slouch in your chair, and keep your feet confined to the space beneath your seat.  Don't swing your feet or stretch out your legs beneath the table into someone else's space.  Keep yourself to yourself.  Finally, keep your feet off the darn chair!  In other words, don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level. . .  something that seems to have reached epidemic levels these days.  Buck the trend, and just keep your feet where they belong.  On the floor. 

3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal.  Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.  Your napkin that is.  Not your elbow. 

4) Ask for things to be passed to you.  Don't reach.   If serving yourself, don't pile heaps of food on your plate.  Take a small share (a slice or two of meat, and a serving spoon or two of other items), and leave enough for others.  You can always come back for a second helping later.

5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces.  Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth.  Ick!

6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't hunch over your plate with an arm around it, stabbing at or picking through your food with your fork as though someone will swoop down and steal it.  We aren't vultures, so let's not act like it. 

7) Slow down!  Don't gobble your food as fast as you can.  This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.

8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table.  Excuse yourself if and when this happens although it really  shouldn't at a table of older children and adults.  Chewing with your mouth closed might help.

9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full.  No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion in the middle of relating something to him or her.  Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.  Oh, and try not to leave food particles on the edge of your glass.  Better yet, make sure you don't.

10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils.  We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer.

11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread.  Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is.  By the same token, DON'T lick your plate or utensils clean.  Yes, I know.  I've actually heard of families where this is the norm.

12) Finally, please don't wipe your mouth with your hand or the back of your wrist when you are finished.  Use your napkin!  That's what it is for, but be discreet.  Your napkin is not a washcloth/face flannel for Heaven's sake, so don't scrub your entire face with it.  And it should go without saying that you never, ever blow your nose into it!  If you run into nasal issues during a meal, excuse yourself from the table without going into details and, once again, take care of the problem in private, well out of earshot of your dining companions at the table.

13) Avoid picking food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table.  I actually once witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my former small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students.  Ugh!  But then, she was sitting with one knee bent and a foot on the seat of her chair, airing her differences to the other three young "ladies" (sarcasm intended) at the table with her, so I should not have been surprised.  In any case, if or when you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the matter privately in the restroom. 

While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, related jokes, etc. ) that is best left for another time.  If you absolutely need to discuss it at all.  Talking about things like that during meals is just plain crude and will probably put at least one other person at the table off of their food.  Really.  Our mothers raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be.  Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.  Right?

15) And here's one last tip to keep in mind.  Silence your cellphones and leave them elsewhere.  Don't bring 'em to the table, guys.  Talk to each other (when your mouth is empty of course) and give your full attention to those with whom you dine this holiday season.  Be mentally present at the table in other words, and leave the digital bells and whistles for another time.  Do you really need to text your best dudebros from your three semesters on a college campus somewhere about the big game during the meal?  And for the love of Christ, remove those damn baseball caps or knitted skicaps before you sit down to the table! 


Remember, guys.  You might be wearing wild new statement socks, those nifty square-toed shoes, your best ripped jeans, and your lucky "going out" shirt (think about it) to Thanksgiving dinner this year at your latest on again-off again girlfriend's parents' house.  But behaving like an ungroomed slob at the table is not attractive (understatement of the year) and will rapidly undermine any decent impression you might otherwise make.  

Unless, of course, Dad or her brothers either answer the door, lounge on the sofa, or come to the table clad only in  their underwear.  Then knock yourself out, disregard all of the advice above, and let everyone see the "real" you.  By all means.  Ask your date's mother to pull your forefinger between the main course and dessert if you want.  Go on.  Without doubt, everyone around the table will think the result is terribly clever and guffaw raucously.

On the other hand, it might be somewhat more civilized if you ensure that you are a pleasant dining companion by taking the necessary steps above.  Even when you are alone.  Make considerate behavior during mealtimes a normal part of your routine, and you will be well on your way for many of the situations you'll encounter during the holiday season or, indeed, anytime of the year.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Southwick 3/2 Bold Tweedy Tuesday. . .

 Said Southwick tweed jacket with a 3/2 roll and slightly wide lapels, leading me to believe it hails from sometime in the 1970s.  The lapels are not offensively wide though, so I trot out this particular jacket several times each season and keep everything else pretty staid.

And the bottom half, featuring a pair of vintage Florsheim "gunboats" that I have had for several years now.  They were completely resoled two years ago and will probably outlast me although I see that the sole dressing could stand to be redone at this point.

Yet one more example of how an adult male might up his seasonal style game a bit while also setting himself apart from the shambling herd of walking dirty laundry hampers that dot the landscape in 2017.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Casual Friday at Home. . .

 Yesterday above.

Yesterday below.

Even on those chilly fall days days when one is at home, it is easy be "comfortable" (an apparent obsession here in the largely sedentary and overweight United States) and yet presentable.  

In this, the 601st post of Classic Style, I once again suggest that it is possible to be comfortable and cozy without resembling a shambling mound of wrinkled, dirty laundry that is riddled with stains from slops of beer, salsa, microwavable foods, and bodily fluids (Don't believe it?  Look at most people in virtually any public space these days).  The photos above illustrate just one possible example of how a guy might look reasonably presentable for those less dressed up days at home.  

Men, you don't need to look like down and out homeless people who have somehow wrangled enough credit to have three or four cars sitting in the driveway and a mortgage in the suburbs.  There is a better way.  Get some self-respect and pull yourselves together for the love of God.  The people in your lives will appreciate it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, November 10, 2017

Coming Soon: 'The Dearborn' by Optimo Hats. . .

The Dearborn by Optimo Hats of Chicago.

Sadly, there is a school of thought out there, personified by the blog/website Put This On, that guys who wear hats in the 21st century look like "dicks."  Their word, not mine.  

That attitude is really too bad.  A properly fitted, decent looking hat (and I don't mean backwards baseball caps or those cheap, hipsterish Hawaiian Punch porkpie and trilby hats from the  local shopping mall that sit on the top of your head) can add a certain amount of flair, panache, or even gravitas to your appearance.  Especially the right kind of hat when worn with a trench coat, or other long overcoat.  Yeah.  Just like in those old cynical, pessimistic, fatalistic, and psychologically bleak Films Noir from the 1940s and early 50s.  You dirty rat!  See?  Yeah.

So, it's a year late in coming, but I finally got around to ordering one more special 50th birthday gift for myself this morning.  I opted for a phone fitting and was assisted by a very knowledgeable and helpful young woman with an alto voice, that also displayed a very slight twinge of southern accent.  It was all rather fetching.  Were I 20 years younger and unmarried, I might have engaged in a bit of snappy Film Noir-ish repartee with this disembodied female voice.  

As things transpired, however, I refrained from playing out a weak attempt at a J.Peterman inspired dialogue, kept my cool, and let her do her job unhindered.  I came away with, what I think, should be a fantastic and very stylish bit of headwear.  The hat itself should arrive on or before December 23rd.  Can't wait.  And hell yeah I'll wear it!

That's Optimo Hats of Chicago guys.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chilly Fall Weather Has Finally Arrived. . .

 The top half on Tuesday morning this week as I took a short break from reading and grading the second batch of student papers.

And the bottom half.  Looks like this particular pair of shoes needs some leather balm and a good going over with a horsehair brush before their next outing.

So, it seemed like a fine time to swap the warmer weather gear for tweeds, corduroy, and several wool flannel suits.  This particular combination of garments struck me as especially pleasing.  

It's sleeting outside at the moment as I type this early Thursday afternoon.  Can the L.L Bean boots be far off?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Three-piece Thursday. . .

 The upper half today, featuring a light pink short, dark green and crimson paisley necktie, and linen pocket handkerchief.  Out of sight here are the navy and crimson silk braces worn in lieu of a belt.

And the lower half, featuring a pair of 'Strand' captoe oxfords in Oxblood (or is it Chili?) by Allen Edmonds, shortly to revisit the AE factory outside Milwaukee for recrafting.

This charcoal wool flannel three-piece suit is a Polo Ralph Lauren number that I picked up in a thrift shop three or four years ago for the princely sum of US$7.99.  If it had ever been worn before, it was just once, so no signs of wear anywhere.  It is heavy, soft, and warm, so ideal for chilly fall, winter, and early spring days.  Best of all, and this rarely happens, the 40R garment fit like it was made for me once I tried it on.  It has never needed alterations of any sort.  Even the sleeve length was perfect, allowing half an inch of linen to show with arms at my sides.  A serendipitous day.  So, I paid, took the suit to the dry-cleaners, and have worn it several times each fall and winter since.

It is hard to tell from these somewhat awkward selfies, but what I like most about the Polo Ralph Lauren suits in my wardrobe rotation is their cut, or silhouette.  These garments are very 1930s in outline, so you resemble those great old Laurence Fellows illustrations when you don one of the suits.  That might bother some, who desire more current, trendy, or whatever, and there is the tired old argument floating around out there about being "in costume," but none of that bothers me.  At this point in life, I am able to put stuff on in the morning and forget about it until I change clothes once home again in the late afternoons. 

Finally, the suit above is one of the most comfortable that I own, almost like wearing comfortable pajamas.  Yeah, that's right.  Pajamas.  But better.  And with  creased pants, vest, and a coat! 

Clearly a big part of forgetting about your clothes once they're on in the morning has to do with your physical comfort in them.  Assuming everything fits one's particular dimensions, it has always puzzled me why so many guys say they are uncomfortable in a suit.  It comes down to two things as far as I can tell.  Either something really is too tight, or two large.  Or the discomfort claimed is less physical and more psychological.

-- Heinz-Ulrich