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, October 20, 2018

A Brief Quiz on Fops, Macaronis, Dandies, Hipsters, and Metrosexuals. . .

An interesting visual array of said gentlemen.  How well do you know your fops, macaronis, dandies, hipsters, and metrosexuals?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Whatever happened to???

This seems to be how most people, regardless of their age, shuffle through life given our collective customer service-based mindset.  But is it really the way forward?

In the wake of finishing reading and grading the first round of student learning team projects for my three courses this semester -- a two-week project in itself -- I ask, whatever happened to the good old-fashioned work ethic and related consistency?  

I cannot tell you how many undergraduates I meet each year who have no readily apparent or discernible work ethic.  Yes, a select few do, and they tend to do well in their university work.  They will probably do well just around the corner in later adult life too.  But most young people I come across each year do not have this quality as far as I can tell.  I have now taught and worked with college and university undergrads for over 20 years, and the problem, while perhaps more pronounced than ever before, is not entirely new.

My own view is that if work ethic and consistency are not present by 18, they will not suddenly appear as if by magic for most people once they graduate at 22 or 23.   There is a certain window of time in and with which parents or caregivers must work to instill certain positive core values and habits.  Clearly many such figures have dropped the ball on this particular point with their offspring if we are brutally honest about the situation. 

Sure, an abundance of largely fleeting and disposable material goods along with the latest chirping-burping digital toys may be, or may have been, present.  The trappings of membership in the now vast middle class to which everyone aspires.  

But the more important intangibles that permit someone to succeed throughout life, rather than drift aimlessly, seem absent.  How very sad.  

Again, if we are clear-eyed with ourselves as a society, no attempt to impose such values from the top down will change things.  As with so much else in life, the related concepts of positive work ethic, consistency, and even dependability start in the home.  As a much loved and respected Sociology professor, an Afro-Caribbean, once told us during one of the three courses I took with him at community college way back in the early 1990s, "You cannot legislate attitudes."   Parenthetically, he moved onto a large university in Tennessee, not too long after our paths diverged, where he still teaches.  One of the more interesting, engaging, and outstanding professors from my early student days.

Returning to the point at hand, sharing this particular set of related observations on work ethic will, no doubt, cause righteous indignation to well up in the throats of many readers.  Some might infer and/or snarl certain things about yours truly, as that is their right, but there we are. 

Shooting the messenger, when we don't care for the message, rather than taking a deep, hard look at our personal and collective selves, seems to be the preferred way of doing things.  Or, to take a rather more Girardian* approach, we attempt to discredit and/or destroy a designated scapegoat in order to restore our missing sense of (social or personal) harmony.  Human nature if you will.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

For more on Renee Girard, click here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A complete loss for words. . .

The infamous sweatpants episode -- "The Pilot" -- in which Jerry rakes his pal George over the coals for continually venturing out in public while clad in sweatpants.  An extremely prescient observation by Mr. Seinfeld back in 1993 or '94.  It certainly seems like the vast majority have, indeed, given up by this point in history.

A chilly, gray October Friday here in Mid-Michigan today.  A perfect day for a quick trim at the barbershop plus a few other small errands before joining another couple this evening with my wife for dinner and drinks at a local restaurant.  

During my midday run, I dropped by my tailor with a couple of suits for some minor alterations to improve fit.  As I collected my ticket, a couple arrived, one of whom carried a black plastic garbage bag full of sweatpants that the male half of the pair wished to have altered.  The tailor directed him to one of the changing rooms as I said goodbye and left.  I really and truly think that I have now seen and heard everything.  

The questions begs, though, how well do sweatpants hold a crease?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

A Saturday Morning P.S.

A very chilly week ahead is forecast, which means just one thing.  High time to make the twice yearly shift in seasonal attire and move the tweeds, corduroys, and wool flannels into the bedroom closet!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.  It's that time again.  The warmer weather gear can then have a quick brush down and move to the basement cedar closet for the season.  Time for wool dress socks, tweed jackets, corduroy dress pants, flannel suits, and yes. . .  'The Dearborn' wool felt fedora from Optimo Hats of Chicago will make a triumphant return for season two.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Foggy Days and Mondays. . .

 The upper half today, featuring a 3/2 cotton sports jacket in olive green from Brooks Brothers, an old 'must iron' shirt from Land's End, and a navy Grenadine necktie from Chipp, which is getting quite a bit of wear lately.

And the lower half. . .  Shoes are calfskin monkstrap loafers from Land's End of all places.  About a dozen years ago, the company had some dressier footwear in a few of its catalogs that actually wasn't too bad.   The dress khakis are a more recent purchase from LE, about three or four years ago, while the socks were purchased from Dapper Classics back in 2013 or '14.

Foggy days and Mondays don't always get me down, especially when I have the excuse to dress up a bit for classes and other duties on campus.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Perfect Cool Weather Casual Shirt. . .

One of the current crop of rugby shirts on offer from Land's End for Fall 2018.  The photo has been "borrowed" from the LE website.

When the weather turns chilly, there is nothing like a rugby shirt to dress up those more casual moments once you come home and change out of the day's creased dress pants, blazer or sports jacket, oxford cloth button down or similar, and remove the ol' necktie and (hopefully) leather dress shoes or loafers.  Best if all, rugby jerseys seem tailor-made for lazy weekends. . .  Assuming anyone stills allows themselves to have lazy weekends in 2018.  Heck, rugby tops might even work in certain business casual environments, and certainly for those occasional Saturday mornings when when drop by the office for a few hours to catch up  on the week's work.

In any case, I've worn and enjoyed casual shirts similar to the Land's End number pictured above, from roughly September each year through to the following April, for close to 40 years now.   But why rugby shirts exactly?  

In short, they are comfortable, warmer than a long-sleeved t-shirt, but less bulky than many sweaters.  They also have an actual collar making them a bit dressier than, say, a gray sweatshirt, which makes all of us look more pulled together.  What's more, they are tough and last a long time.  And rugby tops just look good.  Certainly better than the now ubiquitous pilled fleece. 

It's also worth keeping in mind that rugby tops coordinate well with jeans, khaki chinos, tan corduroy pants, and even shorts for those cooler summer, late spring, or early fall days.  In those more private moments at home with the door closed, they even manage to elevate grey sweatpants a few notches if that happens to be your go-to (albeit inescapably frumpy) choice for the lower half.  

All of which is to say you needn't be embarrassed to answer the front door if someone knocks, and you actually choose to answer.  Likewise, you'll look more pulled together if you step outside to get the mail, walk your dog to and from the park, or make a quick run around the corner to pick up that half-gallon of milk that you might have forgotten on the way home.  It's hard to miss with rugby shirts, in other words, when it comes to cool (-er) weather casual gear.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, October 4, 2018

On Sale Now at Allen Edmonds. . .

The Delray in Dark Chili.  I've ordered myself a pair along with a matching belt.  The photograph comes from the AE website.

Long on the lookout for a pair of split-toe oxfords, I took advantage of the current sale at Allen Edmonds this morning between tasks to place an order for a pair of Delrays and a new dress belt to go with them.  My late maternal grandfather always wore split-toes similar to these -- in black, brown, and oxblood no less -- although I don't remember his being quite this sleek in design.  

The dress shoe collection will be just about complete when these arrive.  What can I say?  I dig nice leather shoes.  Seriously though, having a number of pairs in the rotation keeps all of 'em lasting and looking nicer for much longer than if you wear the same pair daily.  

So too do routine moisturizing, shines, and a good brush-down with the ol' horse hair brushes -- courtesy of the same maternal grandfather, who passed his brushes onto me about five years before he died in 2006 -- each morning and each evening before replacing the cedar shoe trees and shoe bags.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tuesday Blues and Grays. . .

 The upper half today, featuring a jacket by Hickey-Freeman, necktie by Chipp, and an old Land's End shirt with a spread collar, purchased way back in the early 2000s when the company still sold "must iron" shirts that were correctly sized.  Even the company's Hyde Park oxfords now suffer from skimpy fit and skimpy collars.

The lower half, featuring navy Merino wool socks, gabardine pants, and those same Allen Edmonds shoes that have shown up here before.

Keeping things simple on this rainy, gray Tuesday here in mid-Michigan.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, September 29, 2018

He/She is so. . . Civilized?

Unlike the man in this photograph, my expression was deadpan, but inside I cringed.  And then wept inconsolably.

My wife and I had an appointment on Wednesday evening this week with a behavioral specialist (A Ph. D. candidate here at Michigan State University), who will be running a 15-week social group, part of a larger study in which our son will participate, for children on the Autism spectrum.  

Everything went fairly well until she casually dropped some extremely rude terms into  the conversation.  Bear in mind, the three us us sat in an office suite, the couple to whom this specialist spoke were two educated, well-spoken, professionally dressed adults, who she had never met before, and my wife and I were not speaking like this.  Typically we don't anyway.  

Suddenly, I was back in the non-union stockroom three plus decades ago unloading trucks with a manual pallet jack.  I thought I had left that kind of thing behind years ago.  Guess not.  To paraphrase those old 1940s-1950s educational film shorts, produced by Cornonet Films and the like, "Excuse me, but your [lack of] upbringing is showing!"  

Laugh all you want, but there was something to these films, many of which were still shown to me and my contemporaries in preschool and elementary school during the first half of the 1970s.  They certainly underscored the kinds of behaviors and conventions that were taught to me in my own extended family either implicitly, or explicitly.

Returning to last Wednesday evening, and as always in these kinds of unexpected social situations, I was momentarily stunned, nonplussed, and then mentally signed off for the rest of the meeting once I had collected my wits.  I know.  I know.  I shouldn't be surprised by this point.  But huge, red flags like this makes it very hard to listen to what someone says, and continue to participate in an exchange, when he or she fails to recognize that it might be better to leave the bathroom terminology out of the discussion.  Save it for the taproom why don't ya?  Sigh.

There really ought to be a required two-semester sequence of charm courses for college students everywhere with a refresher for those in graduate programs.  How to behave, why, and things you just don't do or say in polite company.  Hey, a guy can dream, right? 

Others have occasionally lamented the sudden and drastic fall in standards of speech and conduct, so I realize that I am not completely alone, but good God.  My late maternal grandfather always insisted, as I have no doubt mentioned here before, "People are pigs."  As a teenage and younger adult, I used to laugh and dismiss his observation, but the longer my journey through adulthood, the more I see how right he was.  

Keep in mind, ol' Granddaddy hailed from rural North Carolina, from a farming family no less,  but Great Grandmother Stokes and her daughters -- Great Aunts Lillian, Marnie, and Martha-- tolerated no nonsense when it came to daily manners, behavior, and etiquette.  It wasn't just the six siblings from that family who behaved politely without fail either.  The same was true, as far as I could tell, throughout the extended family into my mother's and uncle's postwar generation -- the so called Baby Boomers -- as well as my own, those of us born during the 1960s and 70s.   I knew all of the players in the extended cast well and saw them often throughout childhood and into young adulthood when the older WWII generation began to reach the end of their lives.  Collectively, however, we knew how to behave.

So too, did the families of my various friends and classmates during my years as a school pupil in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.  Don't forget, these kids and their parents spanned the socioeconomic spectrum from farmers and the working class on the one hand to more comfortable educated white collar professionals on the other.  I well recall various mothers and fathers reminding my friends to eat nicely at the table, say please and thank you, speak kindly to others, etc. well into our late teenage years.  So, clearly many families besides mine at one time cared about and made a far more concerted effort to instill pleasant habits into their offspring.

All of which brings me to the usual sad conclusion and inquiry posed here at Classic Style before.  What the hell has happened in the last 40-odd years?  That's a rhetorical question you understand  The social progress of the last half-century or so is fine, but the baby has been thrown out with the bath water where even the most basic social graces are concerned.

Based on what is all around us now anytime we are brave enough to venture out the front door, to say nothing of the cesspit that comprises much of the virtual world, you might be forgiven for thinking that many people act like they don't know any better. . .  which means they very probably  do not know any better if we stop deluding ourselves for two seconds.  

Oh, right.  My privilege is showing.  Shame on me!  Please.  Let's all just stone me to death in the village square, thank you very much Shirley Jackson.  That would certainly be easier than what passes for society actually looking more closely at itself, wouldn't it?  I shudder to think about the kind of coarse world our son will have to wade through when he is my age.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, September 28, 2018

Suede Thursday. . .

 The upper half yesterday.  Slightly dandy with the purple and pink parrot pocket square, but hey. . . So, how do I entertain myself during twice weekly obligatory office hours to which few if any students ever come?  Why, take selfies of my attire of course.  That and comb article databases for the latest thinking on college-level pedagogy.  Actually turned up some interesting stuff this time!

And the more sedate lower half, featuring some olive-gray dress chinos that are about a dozen years old, Merino wool dress socks, and a pair of Allen Edmonds suede half wings that were recrafted two or even three years ago..

This particular combination of jacket, chinos, shirt, and shoes works really well during the fall months before the snow finally flies in late November or early December.  So much so that the jacket and pants hang together on the same hanger although once cold weather arrives, I sometimes swap in a pair of charcoal or mid-gray wool flannel dress pants.  But that's getting a bit ahead of things.  

Yesterday was crisp, partly to mostly sunny as the early morning cloud cover abated, and decidedly seasonal.  A perfect day to trot out a wool flannel sports jacket and the suede dress shoes in lieu of the lighter weight hopsack blazers, linen, or seersucker, and loafers that have figured prominently since the autumn semester began one month ago.  Can you believe it?  Only two weeks to go until Midterm!

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Blazers, Blues, Bingo Little, and Buck Knife Wednesday. . .

 The upper half this morning, featuring one of my workhorse navy blazers worn with a necktie from Bird Dog Bay, a nod to my distant equestrian past. If I recall the Wodehouse stories rightly, Bingo Little once sported a similar item, which almost put  the normally unflappable Jeeves to bed for a few days when he noticed it.

Still having fun with the wardrobe this week, an easy one thanks to peer editing of the first student learning team papers and collecting said projects today and tomorrow (Thursday).  Then, the real fun begins once I must sit down to read through everything two or three times and assign grades using the grading rubric for the project. 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the lower half, featuring a recently recrafted pair of Allen Edmonds captoe oxfords and a patterned pair of pants that I have not worn in over two years.  How do I know?  I (re-) discovered my late maternal  grandfather's Buck pocketknife in the right front pocket.  The pocketknife has been missing since the spring of 2016!  A happy and terrific relief.  Clearly this particular pair of pants needs to be worn more often.

Belvest DB Tuesday. . .

 The upper half for Tuesday this week, featuring a 6x2 dark charcoal suit with a subtle maroon stripe woven into the material.  The necktie (red with blue and silver microdots) came from Land's End about 14 or 15 years ago, when I needed to expand my professional wardrobe for that first teaching job after graduate school.  I don't trot it out often, but it never fails to get a compliment or two.

Dress more presentably, sure, but have a bit of fun with your attire too.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And the bottom half of the same suit during very early morning coffee at the cafe in the main library before my first class of the day.  Also shown are a pair of navy paisley dress socks by Dapper Classics and a pair of shoes by Allen Edmonds that were recrafted a year or two ago.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Are we in an epsiode of The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits?

There are days when I observe the people around me, and how they appear for public consumption at work, in a professional environment mind you, and feel as though I am, in actuality, simply in the midst of a great huge daycare center.

The jettisoning of the tailored wardrobe is merely a part of the larger and ongoing 'democratization' of dress that started to standardize the wardrobe with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and whereby we may all eventually be encased in the same synthetic coverall and molded plastic footwear.  Still others will tell you the degeneration of the trad wardrobe is all part of the “me” generation’s retreat from social consciousness and public style, part and parcel of a general lack of empathy, manners, and responsibility.  More ancient members of the community can often be overheard muttering that we will eventually descend into anarchy, barbarism, and loincloths. -- G. Bruce Boyer

Read the entire article by clicking here!

As one reader has suggested here at Classic Style in the last year and a half or so, it seems like a substantial portion of society will not be happy until they can appear publicly in sagging diapers and/or onesies with food smeared on one cheek, sleep in their eyes, and terminal bedhead.  I'll go a step further and submit that we're just about there.  Rod Serling (of The Twilight Zone fame) would appreciate it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Monday, September 10, 2018

8 Secrets To Being Well Dressed | Hanger Project

You know that you have arrived. . .

A 1934 illustration of a herringbone suit by the great Laurence Fellows.

Sartorially speaking, you know that you have arrived when a person, who you do not know, first compliments your suit, and then remarks that you look relaxed and comfortable in it.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Saturday, September 1, 2018

At Home during the Weekends. . .

Not my photograph, but it helps underscore the point of today's post nicely.

As my mother and grandmother used to say occasionally during my formative years, "The people you live with are every bit as deserving of the social graces as those you meet in public.  Now, go back upstairs, brush your hair, and wash your face!" 

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Friday, August 31, 2018

100 Pushups a Day for 123 Days Straight. . .

The humble pair of pushup bars.  Cheap, easy to use, they give good results when used consistently over time, and could even be disassembled and tossed into a suitcase to travel with you should Monday through Friday business, or a family vacation take you on the road.

It's a well-know fact that many guys go a little batty in middle-age.  Some choose the Just for Men route and dye their remaining hair, eyebrows, and beards/mustaches just a liiiiiiiittle too dark if you know what I mean.  Some, if they don't go whole hog and spring for hair transplants, start doing a comb-over that is glaringly obvious to everyone else (and their dogs) from two miles away. 

Other guys buy the red sports car and begin wearing pinky rings with fur coats during the colder months.  Some go so far as to jettison their wives and acquire the younger trophy girlfriend/wife in fairly short order.  

Then, there are some guys who inexplicably purchase a MASSIVE motor home/caravan that gets used twice a summer but otherwise sits beneath an equally huge cover the other 50 weeks of the year.  These men, too, tend to acquire a second wife in fairly short order, though the gals involved are usually not quite as 'trophy' as those women who seem to accompany the pinky rings, fur coats, and red sports cars.  

We live across the street from one such couple.  Wife #1 checked out about the same time that the motor home arrived two summers ago.  Poof!  She was gone.  I suspect the new motor home was simply the straw that broke the camel's back.  I can almost hear the exchange.  

"Now Bob, you just drive that thing right back to the dealerhip now, or I'm taking the kids and going to mother's!"  

"Aw, Myrtle!  The Badlands of South Dakota!  You're gonna love it!  Honey?"  

The Girlfriend has appeared this summer.  While not exactly a prize, she at least seems to approve of the motor home as far as we can tell, though it still spends most of the summer camping season beneath a cover parked in the driveway.  I wonder how long it might be before either one, or the other is no longer on the scene?

Returning to the point at hand, some men of a certain age start a midlife crisis rock band and splurge on the guitars/drums/amplifiers that they wanted desperately but could not afford as teenagers, treating the neighbors to the opening bars of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water ad nauseam.  Or, if you're lucky, the same 10 or 12 songs, rehearsed two or three evenings every week in lieu of a bowling league.  

Still other guys find a beaten up old muscle car -- think a '71 Nova SS or an old Chevelle -- through publications like The Pennysaver "to restore."  However, that little project somehow never quite makes it off the blocks in the garage, or the body putty filler is never quite finished, sanded, and repainted. . . much less the engine rebuilt so that it actually runs. 

Then, there are those of us who do pushups. 

Today marks the end of my fourth straight month of 100 pushups everyday (without any missed days mind you) using these bars, for 4" of extended range.  That's 123 straight days, or 12,300 pushups since May 1st if my math is correct.  

I'll spare you any photos -- Who actually wants to see a 50+ guy with his shirt off no matter what kind of shape he is in? -- but bigger shoulders, upper arms, and vastly more toned forearms, chest, upper back, and midsection have resulted, plus improved posture, all of which were the goal rather than to pack on crazy muscle mass.  I've always been a fairly trim sort anyway, so no reason to change that now.  

But, if you're after an exercise that you can do anywhere with little to no equipment and that has a number of health benefits, the plain ol' pushup has a lot going for it.  A nice side benefit is that a toned body helps make whatever attire you might hang on it look even better.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, August 30, 2018

You Heard It Right from the Horse's Mouth. . .

The late, great Humphrey Bogart.

For those who believe, in general, that manners and etiquette are outmoded and no longer necessary, here is what The Emily Post Institute has to say on the subject of hats in 2018.  Click here to read the entire piece, but in a nutshell, hat etiquette looks like this:

Men – Hats can be left on…
  • Outdoors
  • At athletic events
  • On public transportation
  • At religious services, as required
  • In public buildings (post office, airport, hotel/office lobbies)
  • On elevators
Men – Take hats off, including baseball caps…
  • In a home
  • Indoors at work, especially in an office
  • At mealtimes
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Before You Get Serious. . .

It would be nice if married life, or similar long-term commitment with someone else were always like this, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Let's say you decide to get really serious about someone hypothetically speaking.  Sounds great, right?  You meet someone you like, you fall in lust (typo intentional), you get married, and live happily ever after.  Awwwww. . .  It's just like Harry and Sally.   Or Harry and. . .   Meghan.  Puh-leeze.

Let's be a bit more circumspect here and take a little time to think things through before you move in together.  It makes good sense to consider very carefully the six points below, which WILL have an influence on your daily life -- weather you realize and admit that to yourself, or not -- should the two of you decide to embark on a long-term relationship and eventual commitment that leads to the literal or figurative alter in some way, shape, or form.

1) What is he, or she like to sit across the table from during meals?
An adult who manages to enjoy mealtimes with some polish and finesse, or a toddler in the highchair?  You will have many, many, many meals together in the coming years.  Slurping, burping, eating with and licking fingers, plates, or utensils as well as chewing with his or her mouth open is going to get old really fast however mindbogglingly good the sex might be (or seem) right now.  

Sadly, these kinds of icky behaviors are rather more common -- 'Common' being the operative word. -- than you might think.  Have a meal at just about any type so called family chain of restaurants these days, or (shudder) someone's house, and look around if you dare.  The same is true of those even less savory personal habits and behaviors if you take my meaning.

Living with someone day in, day out who acts like he or she was raised in a barn ain't pleasant boys and girls.    Is the object of your desire's lack of polish at the table something that's going to make you uncomfortable, gross you or others out, and embarrass you when you have been invited out for dinner at a place where table linens and real place settings are the expectation?  Are poor table manners in a partner what you want for yourself?  Is this an environment in which you want to raise any children that might come along later?

2) What is his, or her mouth like?
The same is true when it comes to frequent and habitual use of so called blue language.  However exquisite he or she might be in the buff, do you really want to be with someone who is unable to utter a thought that isn't laced with foul language?  Don't you deserve better?

3) Is he, or she prone to calm?
Or more given to loud thumping through life, excitability, or even drama like the sort portrayed in so much reality TV?  Is this REALLY how you want your life to be once things settle down, you have a mortgage, two cars, a large screen TV mounted to the wall somewhere, and a couple of children thrown into the mix?   Do you really want to be embarrassed at work or another public place by some kind of unexpected, ugly scene?  Do you want to be faced with this sort of thing at home at the end of the day or during weekends?  Think about it.

4) What makes your current beloved laugh?
Does he or she prefer more witty, wry, and urbane observations about life?  Or is bathroom humor where it's at?  If you're into the latter yourself, great.  The two of you can knock yourselves out making hilarious hand-in-underarm Bronx cheers at the dinner table like a couple of seven year old boys in the dining hall at summer camp.  

On the other hand, if this isn't your style, imagine what many of your conversations-yet-to-come will be colored by.  Assuming you are both mentally at the same age (thinking adult), is this what you want for yourself now or down the road?  Think about it.  Do you really want to talk about intestinal issues and how hilariously funny all of that is (if you are in grade school)?  Or would you rather discuss the events of the day, current affairs, or the latest novel you are working through?

5) What are your respective backgrounds like?
It makes for a lovely Hollywood ideal to buy into the myth that two people from widely divergent socioeconomic backgrounds can somehow make it all work and live happily ever after.  You know?  The kind of idealized, warm, fuzzy bunnies and kittens, riding off into the sunset, Disney or RomCom type of stories by and through which we are socialized.  And magically, everything works out by 11:59pm on Christmas Eve when it begins to snow.  We see this cliche all of the time.  

If, on the other hand, we are brutally honest about it, and apply more mature perspective, there is much else at play when it comes to two people getting along and productively forging a life together long term.  Some readers will disagree vehemently, but it's hard enough to keep things on an even keel day to day and year to year with another person without vast differences in upbringing, education, aspiration, and outlook complicating things even further.

6) How about his, or her parents and family?

I've saved the best for last.  And there is a lot to think through here since you'll be seeing these people from time to time, like it or not, unless you are lucky enough to enjoy a considerable geographic buffer zone between you.  As much as everything might seem friendly, pleasant, and even chummy at the outset, (over-) familiarity breeds contempt, so it pays to be careful here too and look hard at the bigger picture.  

What are Mom and Dad like when it comes to their personalities?  What is their own background and level of education?  What is their conversation like?  What is their personal behavior like?  If they are retired, do they have active hobbies and interests to fill their days besides clinging to their grown children?  Do Mom and/or Dad thrive on drama?  Does one, or the other exhibit control issues?  Are they aware of and do they respect the concept of boundaries when it comes to those children and associated love interests/spouses/partners?  Is there anything here that could potentially be embarrassing to you later?  

This type of nonsense WILL have an effect on your life together unless your S.O. is really perceptive, honest with him-, or herself, and has your back if and when "the outlaws" make trouble.  Once again, think long and hard about this point.  There's a very good reason we have in-law jokes.

Laugh if you will, but all of this is nevertheless food for serious, deep thought before you ever say, "I do!" to someone. . .  and his or her family.  Some polish, sophistication, grooming, and finesse in a person on whom you have romantic designs will help make daily life much nicer together in the years to come.  Or you could take to approach of so many so called "celebrities" and simply divorce someone who turns out to be a grotesque lout once the real, as well as figurative, honeymoon is over.

Of course, there are many things to look at in the cold light of day with a rational, clear thinking mind, and  there is always compromise in long-term commitments, but to my mind, these half-dozen considerations are biggies that could, potentially, be deal-breakers.  

In an age when few, it seems, wait for things to progress more naturally, and physical intimacy is fast-tracked, an awful lot of people make uninformed, blind, even stupid choices when it comes to the people with whom they set up house.  That leads to later frustration, disappointment, heartache, and potential economic hardship should separation/divorce arise.  Inexplicably, many refuse to admit this to themselves.  

While I hardly advocate non-committal "hooking up," or old-world conventions like matchmakers, and/or arranged marriages, calmer heads should prevail more than they do in the 21st century when it comes to selecting a mate for the long haul, whether that includes actual marriage, or something else.  Guys, don't let The Little General think for you.  

On the contrary, it's in your best interest, to think things through very, very carefully, objectively, and with a clear head before you decide to make things more or less permanent.  It might even be wise to seek outside advice from someone, perhaps a parent or parent figure, who knows you well enough to be clear-eyed and straightforward with you about the romantic situation.  

And no.  None of this is asking for trouble, being mean, or rocking the boat.  It's just good ol' common sense.  Once the two of you get up out of bed and real life kicks in, long term commitment to another person in any form is difficult enough under the best of circumstances.  Why hobble yourself needlessly by ignoring potentially huge red flags flapping in the breeze around and behind your latest sweetheart?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

September P.S.

Another thing to look at in the clear light of day is this.  How loud is the object of your affection?   Is he, or she capable of moderating the voice in a public or private setting and talking quietly?  Or is every statement, every observation, every question delivered at the top or his or her lungs in a way similar to movie hound Bugle Ann?  While I certainly don't suggest  talking at the whisper all of the time, one needn't project as though at a loud bar with pounding background music, or in the midst of 50,000 screaming fans at a professional or college sporting event.  A little bit of refinement, polish, and, well, quiet in a person is a nice (and sadly underrated) thing.  If you want to live your domestic life together at the volume of TV personality (debatable) Rachel Ray, or the old Saturday Night Live sketch The Louds, be my guest.  But, wouldn't things be a little calmer and nicer day to day if it weren't carried out  at the volume of a high school football coach admonishing his team of recalcitrant state championship hopefuls through a series of drills in full equipment on a hot September afternoon?

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.