The Garmsman Dozen #18: Paul from Minneapolis

Welcome to the 18th instalment of the “Garmsman Dozen” question and answer session. The response so far has been tremendous. Did you miss earlier ones? There are links at the end of the page.

This week we welcome to the Garmsman Paul Buttenhof from the US!

1. Who are you, where do you live and what interests you?

My name is Paul Buttenhoff.  I’m a biology professor from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  For several decades, I’ve been teaching anatomy and physiology at a small Liberal Arts college in Minnesota. My interests are cooking, science fiction, enjoying well-crafted cocktails, fly fishing, old-school heavy metal and the occasional cigar.  I’m a tropical biologist by training.

2. How would you describe your style today, and what are your influences?

I would say that for some years, my style has been what I like to call academic heritage.  Usually “academic” on top and “heritage” on the bottom. Some days I’m very intentional about how I present myself to the world and other days I just rush out the door.  Most to the time, I end up looking the same, either way. I attribute that to fairly consistent habits for buying garments.

The academic vibe is usually in the form of a wool or denim sport coat (or chore coat styled as a blazer) in a traditional, slightly fitted style.  Underneath is typically a neutral shirt, white or blue, and then some form of neckwear. In the cooler months, I love to wear vests that are somewhat fitted and can work under a light coat or jacket for the “three-piece” effect.  I’m a fan of neckwear, in almost any form, and think a pocket square is probably the easiest way to turn a good outfit into a great outfit.

I’m really partial to selvedge denim. I currently rotate between my favorite makers: Roy, Shockoe Atelier, and Raleigh Denim.   I wear jeans easily over 300 days a year, even in summer. There are days that things get a bit toasty but those days are few and usually far between. It will be interesting to see what happens with denim now that Cone Mills is no longer turning out product.  The remaining stocks will be increasingly rare! We’ll all be in great denim from Japan in a few years!

On my feet, more often than not, are some well-made leather boots from some of the notable makers.  I have several favorite pairs of boots from Alden, Red Wing, Trickers and Thorogood that are in the rotation disproportionally.

3. How do you think others would describe your style and garments, do you get any reaction from friends and random strangers?

If folks take the time to comment on what I’m wearing, they will often use the word “dapper”.  I’ll sometimes hear that I look like a professor, which always makes me smile and think “mission accomplished”!  There is a bit of a juxtaposition between a coat/vest/tie on top and boots on the bottom. I wear boots almost every day of the year and I often get comments in the summer about how uncomfortable they must be in the heat…honestly, my feet are never uncomfortable in boots. Folks will look at my boots with strange looks during the summer.  I usually just smile and keep walking. I have pieces that seem to draw more attention than others.

One of my favorite pieces is a Fisher Stripe Chore from Pointer Brand. Almost every time I wear it, I get comments. I appreciate when folks comment because it gives me an opportunity to talk about a specific brand, the garment, value and the importance of buying better gear!  It also nice to be able to talk about the relatively few moves that need to be made to elevate one’s game. I wish more gents simply cared enough to up their games. Shabby shoes and ill-fitting clothes make me sad.

4. When looking for clothes, what factors play into your selections?

Ahhh, the wardrobe questions are always fun to answer.  For starters, I feel we should always be conscious of how lucky we are to be able to have discussions like this… it’s pure luxury, really.  Having said that, I do enjoy and take pride in being intentional about style. As with many things in life, there is a point when a switch is made from quantity to quality.  I’m attracted to garments and footwear that are constructed by makers who are respectful of history and the process. When we start to buy better clothes and shoes, we realize that it’s possible to get by with much less.  

With a few exceptions, I try to avoid garments that tend to fall into more of the “fashion” camp. Having said that, I do actually love camo and I’m very rarely hunting animals or other people. The utilitarian garments with origins in France or Japan have been appealing to me more and more.  I’ll always be a true fan of American heritage styling but maybe I’m starting to soften a bit as I get older. A well-designed French chore coat is about as perfect as it can get.

5. When pulling together an outfit, do you spend a lot of time considering it?

Great question.   Most of the time, I really don’t.   I do try to keep of running idea of which pieces I’ve worn recently (less with denim and more with boots and jackets) and try to keep things mixed up.  I tend to run in streaks with jeans, I’ll wear the same pair for a few weeks at a time. If I’m wearing a jacket or coat with neckwear and/or a pocket square, I’ll slow down a bit and be more intentional.  Sometimes, I get it wrong. There have been instances when I’ve gotten dressed and then vetoed the outfit after a quick look in the mirror. Almost every time I look for a tie or a pocket square, I think to myself that I really need more ties and pocket squares!


6. Most garmsmen will have a few “grail items” in their collections. Not to out you, but if your house is burning, which items do you grab?

This is the question I most enjoy hearing answered. I love the glimpse it gives into the minds and closets of others.  Ok, for starters, I have a Belstaff Panther that would come with me, most certainly. It’s in a slightly less common colourway and I get asked about it all the time.  It’s starting to soften, nicely, and I feel like a superhero when I wear it. I also have a short canvas jacket, almost trucker-style, from HW Carter and Sons. I was lucky to score it and actually had the chance to buy five more.  They were on sale and I didn’t even think about buying more…I just thought it looked awesome.

Since then, I’ve been asked about it almost every single time I’ve worn it. I wish I’d purchased the lot and had been able to spread the love a bit.  Finally, my favourite pair of denim is a unique pair from ROY from California. They are really light, 11 ounces, and have had numerous repairs and they fit perfectly. They are everything that a pair of jeans should be, plus they have a unique buckle back and he sewed them with a classic “Levi’s” back pocket.  I’ll be sad when they finally bite the dust. I’ll send them to @swissjeansfreak when they die!


7. Having a large collection of clothes can lead to changing outfit on a daily basis, but if you were to wear a single outfit for the next two weeks, what would it be?

The outfit that I would probably go with would be the understated denim jeans, long-sleeve work shirt and leather boots.  It’s really no surprise that this combo is classic….a black and white pic of a chap with boots, denim, and a work shirt could have come from a span of numerous decades.   This combo is comfortable, intentional, functional and handsome. As of this moment, I’d probably put on Red Wing Iron Rangers (no snow here, just yet), some denim from Shockoe Atelier and an Engineered Garments Workshirt…I typically fasten all the buttons on the shirt up to the top.

8. What would you never wear?

This will most likely be polarizing but I’m averse to blingy streetwear and obnoxious designer fashion.  A belt with a large flashy designer logo is just too easy. It doesn’t convey any sense of personal style…it only takes money to pull it off.  I think streetwear can be done well and smartly, I’m simply not a fan of pomp. Having said that, some of my favourite garments are from OBEY and Stone Island.  And while both companies put out a few garish pieces each season, the bulk of their lines are a bit on the understated side. You’ll never see me in Yeezy. Ever.


9. Anyone that buys clothes will have made mistakes, what is your most memorable bad buy?

Luckily, I haven’t had any major disasters on the buying end of things! There have been, however, some obviously bad decisions over the years.   Although there really hasn’t been a single completely horrible purchase, there is a common thread with the poor decisions… I’ve learned that if there are ANY doubts in the dressing room or in front of the mirror at the store, those doubts increase by an order of magnitude after the purchase.  You won’t lose those two pounds, the slightly too-short sleeves will never be ok, the boots will not stretch to fit, etc. I’ve become better at not making the rookie mistakes! I started @spruce_mercantile four years ago to help get rid of some of my poorer choices!

10. Who are your favourite Instagram profiles?

I greatly appreciate Instagram for helping all of us connect more thoroughly to things in which we are interested.  It really has changed the landscape. There are a few profiles I follow for inspiration in menswear but I also follow food-related pages and interior design pages.   It’s dangerous to start naming names because one runs the risk of forgetting or omitting some great pages. I’ve been friends, for years now, with many of the folks who have sartorial pages, especially pages with a heritage vibe.  I was lucky to have started early and intentionally, all things considered, with content creation, especially with boot content. I am flattered and proud when I see ideas or looks on newer posts that were shaped years ago when Instagram was younger, though  I miss some of the folks who were more active when I started. There are so many people making great content. I look forward to the daily posts on the following pages:

11. If your clothes need repairs or alterations, do you do it yourself?

I’m fortunate to have many good options for garment repair here in Minnesota.  I haven’t done any real repairs to garments or footwear. My expertise is limited to reattaching buttons!!  For boots, I’m only a 50-minute drive from the Red Wing factory…they have a great resoling program. There are also several other local shops that will put almost any sole on any boot!  My good friend, Satchel, has a garment repair business in St. Paul ( @scienceandkindess). He is a true denim guru and he handles all of my denim repair needs. I have some special pairs of jeans that are almost as much Science and Kindness repair as they are the original material!

12. Do you make any of your own clothes?

I haven’t yet but I do have dreams of learning how to design and sew.   I’ve had glimpses into the process and am amazed by the details and talent that often go into pieces that seem very straightforward and basic.  I’m interested in the evolution of garments and garment construction. It’s a whole world that is unknown even to some of us who obsess about clothing!  I really enjoyed your posts on waistcoat-building from several years ago, Nick!

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to contribute!  Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read through this!  Have a safe day and I’ll see you on Instagram. Please always feel free to drop me a message if the mood strikes!

Thank you, Paul!

You can find Paul on Instagram as @bothrops1

Did you miss the first Garmsman Dozens?

PS: If you have suggestions for the next garmsman, let me know. Or have your mother suggest you, if even if you’re a bit keen to suggest yourself. My email is WellDressedDad (@)

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