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.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Knowledge of a Second Language Is Stylish!

Not only does former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak French fluently, he can make his way in several other languages besides English.

So often, when we discuss men's personal style, or the lack thereof, we have tangible things in mind like sports jackets, suits, neckties, and quality leather shoes versus ratty t-shirts, wife-beaters, cargo shorts, and the ubiquitous backwards baseball cap.  Further afield, but no less important, we might talk about things like table etiquette, decent manners in general, or making and maintaining a solid first impression at work and in one's personal life through appearance and habit.  But there is yet another way we can work to kick up our personal style several notches.

What, pray tell, is that?  Acquire working knowledge of a second language besides English!

Indeed, in the 21st century, monolingualism, and the attitudes that sometimes go with it, just won't cut it any longer.  A recent bipartisan Congressional report here in the United States has called for the country, “to value language education as a persistent national need similar to education in math or English, and to ensure that a useful level of proficiency is within every student’s reach.”

You can read more by clicking here.  Yes, it is a blog advertorial, of sorts, but the idea behind it is what's important to keep in mind.  While the economic, political, and cultural benefits of knowing a second language reasonably well are the most obvious, I would also argue that the level of personal satisfaction and enrichment that comes from being able to converse with "the locals," whoever that might be, is beyond measure.  Imagine being able to chat about current events, the weather, popular culture, or even more serious subject matter in another language.  

Of course, you might make a few mistakes depending on the language and how difficult the grammar and vocabulary are, but the smiles and eager help you'll get those to whom you are speaking are the things of which memories are made. Those exchanges and interactions will stay with you long after the more typical vacation knickknacks have been relegated to a box in the attic.

Now, you might say, "Well, I'm too old to learn another language.  it's too hard"  Au contraire mon ami!  

Thanks to things like the internet, access is easy to foreign newspapers, TV, radio, advertisements, and all kinds of other realia as well as online grammars and dictionaries.  Consistency is the biggest stumbling block.  Consistent study, practice, and review are vital.  Try setting aside 30-60 minutes a day at first.  Who knows?  You might even be able to find an online penfriend, a tutor, or even an online course to assist in your linguistic endeavors.  And yes, you'll make mistakes.  We all do.  But you've got to skin you knees and wobble a few times before you keep the linguistic bike upright and then zoom down the road and back again. 

The point is, it is easier now than ever before to begin learning another language.  With time and practice, you'll develop some real ability in it beyond asking where the bathroom is and ordering a beer, as vital as those two things are from time to time.  Now, what are you waiting for?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, July 20, 2018

Summer Weather Suppertime. . .

Supper a couple of evenings ago.

When you need a break from the seemingly ubiquitous grilled steaks, hamburgers, brats, hotdogs, or chicken breasts (ugh!), go cool with some fruit salad, French bread, brie, and maybe a few slices of something like prosciutto or capocollo on the side.  An evening meal like this is easy to prepare, cool, and delicious.  It is also surprising how filling a large bowl of fruit can be.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Household Chores, Casual Summer Attire, and a Child with a Strange Sense of Humor. . .

The Tinker Toy Robot in question, dubbed The Evil Paulbot, who commands ol' Dad to do numerous household chores in the Young Master's absence this week.

The Young Master and Grand Duchess are away for 10 days visiting grandparents.  Yours truly is on his own with the cats and fish.  Besides reading late into the night, taking long walks around the neighborhood, and painting some toy soldiers, I've been taking a few photographs for The Young Master, which I've emailed to him since they took off last Friday.

The joke here is that eight-year old Young Master feels put upon by the addition of one quick daily summertime chore, in the name or helping his parents and learning a bit more responsibility, which he is expected to take care of five days a week right after breakfast, feeding the cats and fish, and brushing his teeth.  These chores, which are printed on a list taped to the refrigerator door in the kitchen, include the following:

Monday -- Bring his laundry basket of dirty clothes to the washing machine for Dad to wash.  Help put away folded clothes and hang other items in bedroom closet later in the day.

Tuesday --  Empty the three bathroom trashcans and put new plastic liners in place.

Wednesday -- Swiffer the floors in the entry hall, kitchen, and breakfast nook.

Thursday -- Straighten the bookshelves in his bedroom and neatly replace any books left on floor.

Friday -- Straighten, pick up, and dust the TV room.

Saturday and Sunday -- Free.  No chores.

This routine has gone pretty well during the last month that The Young Master has been on his summer vacation from school.  However, I have been informed by my son a number of times that I am a mean father.  It's always hard to keep a straight face during these moments when I have to reexplain that he is old enough now to help us keep the house in order and to help Mom and Dad by being responsible for these very small tasks.  

While largely cooperative, The Young Master has responded by creating many drawings of a mean father stick figure (in glasses like I wear mind you) with a bullwhip in one hand and pointing with the other to some arduous, smelly, sweaty task that he wants the small boy in all of these pictures to complete.  The boy invariably has his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, X'es where his eyes should be, and is hunched over with a 500-pound of cat litter, kitchen garbage, or similar on his back.

These drawings are surprisingly good in some case and have produced much laughter in the home since the Young Master finished school in mid-June.  The daily chores narrative has been extended to include additional drawings of, and the construction of two Tinker Toy robots: The Evil Dadbot and. . .  The Paulbot.  The latter, pictured above, has been left sitting in a chair in our library to keep me busy and in line this week while The Young Master and Grand Duchess are away.  So far, I've been commanded by The Evil Paulbot to perform 1001 chores around the house.  No doubt, there will be a million more before wife and child return next week.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

The Evil Paulbot has spoken!  Vacuuming the first floor of the house exhausted yours truly this morning.  Navy knit polo shirt, faded green chino shorts, and worn leather dock-siders complete today's attire. 

Yesterday's casual wear included the fairly typical Madras shirt, some old, worn khaki shorts, and the ever-present Sperry dock-siders.  These kinds of summer clothes, derided by some, are simply a variation on the kind of things that my father, maternal grandfather, various uncles, and first cousins of my mother wore during summer weekends and/or on the Chesapeake Bay or the Carolina Coast where we vacationed together during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, three and sometimes four generations sprawled around one house and occasionally between two if there were enough of us present.  Old family photographs, slides, Super 8mm films, and a few videos show that similar attire was also worn by various male members of the clan during the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  We won't talk about the dark knee-length dress socks that Great Uncle Zeb wore with Bermuda shorts and leather oxfords.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Just say "No!". . .

Metaphorically speaking, is this really how you want life to be?

It's high time to revisit the Classic Style slogan for 2018.  'Just say no to trashy.'  Turn your back on the trashy approach to life along with trashy attitudes, and the related trashy behavior that are all around us now.  Online, in popular culture, and maybe right up the street. 

In place of the belligerent rudeness and crass habits that seem to be the order of the day now, I suggest that greater effort is made toward acquiring some measure of polish, sophistication, grooming, and finesse.  Let's also toss in kindness to and consideration for others for good measure.  Self-restraint too might be another good ideal for us to add to the mix.  As my maternal grandfather -- from rural North Carolina mind you -- used to intone from time to time during my childhood, "Son!  Son!  Control yourself!"

Goodness knows that all levels of society in its present state could use more of these seven qualities than has become the sad, pathetic, accepted, and (amazingly) idealized norm in many circles.  It's time to stop being complacent about life and how we live it.  Let's reel ourselves in more than just a little, and get the darn ship back on course.  More bluntly, let's quit behaving as though we were raised in a barn, gentlemen. 

Besides formal education, the kind of self-improvement I encourage might start with a series of small steps at the personal level when it comes to how we present ourselves to the rest of the world through daily appearance and routine behaviors as well as in our interaction with others.  That aim also extends to how we are at home with the door closed.  

If you are onboard with any of this and can admit quietly to yourself that, just maybe, you did not have the greatest role models when it comes to cultivating those missing layers of polish, sophistication, grooming, finesse, kindness, consideration, and self-restraint, I suggest the following.  

Start with any of the books by Peter Post for a crash course on decent, everyday conduct.  Consider it your 'resocialization' if you will.  When it comes to improving your daily appearance, have a look at books on the subject by the likes of G. Bruce Boyer and Alan FlusserThen, get busy.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, July 2, 2018

If You Travel Abroad This Summer. . .

No baseball caps or fanny packs visible here, but you take the point I hope.

A comment was left on another attire and lifestyle blog that I look at a few times a week that hit the nail on the head: 

"When in Rome do as the Romans. Please don’t wear shorts, a fanny pack, sandals, and a baseball cap as they scream “ugly American.” 

I would add only that the visually jarring look described above also has its British, Scandinavian, and German variants.  To borrow a page from the late Nancy Reagan's book, "Just say no!"   

Unless of course you are by a swimming pool, or on a beach somewhere with the aim of looking like a cooked, slightly inebriated lobster by day's end when you stagger back to your hotel for dinner and later clubbing with all of the usual tactless, ostentatious displays of lowbrow drunks off the leash away from home for a few days.  Then, by all means, go right ahead.

For those interested in doing things in a more understated way, dressing with comfort in mind when you travel is fine.  Especially if you are visiting a warm place this summer.  However, do so in a way that is respectful of local culture or customs, and helps you blend into the scene without screaming "Clueless, loud 'merican idiots here just asking to have our pockets picked in some form!  Come on over!"  

It is entirely possible, on the other hand, to dress for comfort, yet you can also manage to project an image of polish, sophistication, grooming, and finesse.  It simply requires a tiny bit more forethought, care, and consideration as you pack your bag before departure.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

As a gentle reminder, please do avoid insisting to the locals that you are German simply because a great, great grandparent might have come originally from Stuttgart, you have just visited The Hofbrau Haus in Munich, and here is the t-shirt to prove it. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

TLC for Your Shoes. . .

Before and after photographs of my shoes, courtesy of the recrafting people at Allen Edmonds.

An email from the folks at Allen Edmonds was waiting in my inbox this morning.  Although I had been told to expect delays given the installation of a new system at the company's Port Washington, Wisconsin facilities, lo and behold, it seems the shoes I sent them just before mid-June are now finished and on their way back to me via FedEx.  How is that for service?

Besides the usual and routine moisturizing, polishing, and brushing down to keep your leather dress shoes looking their best, occasionally shoes need things like resoling, new heels, and a little general tender loving care.  While some consider Allen Edmonds footwear somewhat frumpy and "entry level" when it comes to leather dress shoes, I disagree.  In my experience, the styles, prices, quality, and service are first rate.  Including this latest pair, I have sent half a dozen pairs to the recrafting department for complete rehabilitation in the last five years.  To say that I have been extremely pleased is a terrific understatement.

If you have a pair of Allen Edmonds dress shoes that looks a bit long in the tooth, you could do worse than send them in for a similar overhaul.  Have a look at the Allen Edmonds recrafting page where you'll find several reasonably priced packages depending on your needs.  You can't go wrong.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

The shoes arrived via FedEx late this afternoon, only a little more than two weeks after I sent them to AE, and they are even more nicely done in person than the photograph indicates.  Toss in the cedar shoe trees, shoe bags, and a squeeze bottle of polish in 'Merlot' and it all makes for a good day.  No reason to wear them until teaching and department commitments begin again in late August, but they're ready and waiting in the extra closet in the second-floor TV room that I use for wardrobe overflow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Avoid Being THAT House Guest!

While there are many possibilities for advice and related discussion when it comes to the subject of house guests, let's keep things short and to the point this morning.  Likewise, short and sweet is best when you have been invited to someone's house for drinks, dinner, dessert with coffee, and conversation throughout.  It's far better to leave your hosts wanting to see more, rather than less, of you.

So, be aware of the time, show some empathy, and know when to head for home.  Especially during the latter part of the evening.  It's far better to leave people wanting more of your scintillating company and witty ripostes than it is to put your hosts in the excruciating position of wondering when in the hell you might say goodnight.  

My experience as an adult, more often than not, has been that people -- even those we actually like -- tend to overstay their welcome when they have been asked to join us for dinner, an open house, a party, or some other kind of gathering.  Apparently, there are many people who just don't get out much, so they forget themselves and get all goosey loosey when in a group.  

Let's remember though that fewer things are more boring and just plain awkward, for most others, than listening to one more cute pet or (grand)child story, workplace gossip, or shoptalk on the current accepted interpretation of a particular late medieval French ballad as the evening wears on post-meal.  Except maybe talking about personal health issues on and on and on ad nauseam.  Please excuse me while I find a nearby chandelier from which to hang myself.

Here's a helpful hint to keep in mind.  If you arrived at 6pm, most other people have already said goodbye and gone home, and it's now pushing 11:30pm, you should have left an hour ago at the very least.  More to the point, if your hosts are stifling yawns and surreptitiously looking at their watches, the clock on the mantel, or they simply whip out their iPhones to check the time and incoming texts, it's time for you to go.  Three to four hours is ample time for everyone to enjoy the evening when you have been invited for a sit-down dinner without hurting anyone's feelings with a departure.  It's not sudden, but timely.

Whatever you do, don't be the kind of guest who arrives too early, dominates the conversation or the buffet table, follows a host into the kitchen to "help", or hangs around an hour (or longer) after most other guests have left.  By the same token, don't take an hour to say goodbye and leave once jackets, coats, and purses have been retrieved.  You know what I mean.  The Midwestern Goodbye.  Or as my 70-something mother might term it in less guarded moments, the dreaded Welsh Goodbye.  For the love of God, put on your coat, say thank you one last time, and walk out the front door, Lloyd!

A large part of being a good guest, the kind your hosts actually enjoy entertaining and want to invite back again, involves this type of social awareness.  Learn to read the room in other words, and don't overstay your welcome.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Humble Necktie. . .

The borrowed photograph comes from the Oxford Cloth Button-down blog where you will occasionally see some of the most beautiful examples of traditional repp stripe neckties work with considerable aplomb.

"I welcome opportunities to wear a necktie rather than searching for excuses not to wear one." -- Old School

Well put.  To borrow a page from the film version of Forrest Gump, that's about all there is to say about that.  Happy Monday everyone.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Useful and Timely Book for New Graduates. . .

Written by noted style author David Coggins, who has penned articles for The New York Times among others..

Well, I feel somewhat vindicated this morning.  It seems that I am not a complete crank, and I am not the only one who has noticed the problem.  This book just hit the market Monday this week, and it strikes me that it might be just the thing for those young men everywhere, who have either just graduated from, or are about to leave behind, high school and college for something that kind of, sort of resembles adulthood.  

You know.  Since we cannot depend on many (most?) parents to teach their children much in the way of basic decency and civility anymore from what I observe on campus daily between late August and early May each year, to say nothing of airports, restaurants, and other public spaces.  We might hear a mumbled "please" and/or "thank you" if we're lucky, but God knows few parents seem even to think about passing on skills like table manners or impressing upon their spawn the idea that you do not hiccup out loud or pass gas in a room full of people. 

However, these social gaffs are not the sole preserve of the millennial generation.  PLenty of baby boomers in their 70s as well as Gen X'ers are just as guilty of being inconsiderate and downright gross at times.  Sadly, being socially awkward and proud of it seem not only to transcend generational lines, but also to be de rigueur.  But let's return to the focus of this particular post and the related publication.

If you are a concerned grandparent, aunt, uncle, other relative, or close family friend who is silently appalled and dismayed by the generally crass nature of society in 2018, this particular title might be an eye-opening (and very handy) graduation present for the young, highly entitled, but no less rough around the edges Master Conner, Finnegan, Tyler, or just plain, old Ralph.  It is precisely what he NEEDS to read as he finally begins the process of standing on his own two feet, at 18 or 22, to toddle away from Mommy and Daddy toward a marginally independent way of life. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, May 31, 2018

How To Choose A Bespoke Tailor | Interview with Author Gary Tok

A Vintage Summer Menswear Lookbook. . .

A surprise for you this morning.  No acid-drenched observations decrying how far society has fallen with regards to what is now deemed suitable by the masses for wear in public, or the attitudes and behavior that go hand in glove with it. 

 Instead, to celebrate the 700th post since June 2012 here at Classic Style, spend some time perusing this collection of vintage warm weather wear for men from the 1930s and 40s that I've culled from the web.  Many of these delightful pictures were done by Laurence Fellows and appeared in either Apparel Arts or Esquire.  Others were by contemporary illustrators and done in a similar style.  

And who knows?  You might find an idea or two for calm, cool, collected summer comfort that nevertheless permit you to remain presentable.  Click on (most of) these pictures to enlarge them for closer inspection.  Enjoy!

-- Heinz-Ulrich