Germans love to dress in uniforms (I’m allowed to say this because I am one) and by uniforms I don’t mean military, but dressing alike. Trend cycles operate differently in German cities, thanks to our heightened sense of self-awareness — you might even want to call it style paranoia. And why is that? Because we sure know how to kill a trend. While in other big cities several trends live alongside each other, in Germany fads are more unanimous.
Visiting Berlin always gives me a curious vibe. I’ve lived in London for all of my adult life so being in the hip German capital–suddenly now on every traveller’s radar–is at once strangely familiar and familiarly strange. It’s both home and outland. Compared to the lucky hipsters who come to Berlin to sleep on Airbnb mattresses or work in something creative for a few years but can barely order ein Bier, bitte, I still recognise the good old German squareness that we just can’t seem to shake off.
Like everywhere else, people dress to show their sense of belonging, whether intentional or not. But Germans will vehemently defend their individual sense of style whilst at the same time trying so very hard not to attract attention. This might not be so true for Ur-Berliners (people born and raised in either of the former two halves of the city) who are nationally renowned for their heart-warming grumpiness and their indifference to what other people think. Perhaps many of the ex-pat German provincers who now proudly call themselves Berliners had hoped that some of this light-heartedness might rub off on them?
The fashion world might be in Birkenstock fever, yet during the ten days I recently spent in Berlin I didn’t spot any double straps at all. There were the odd Heidi Klum versions, the single straps, as well as the flip flop Birks that have already been approved by some, but the quintessential double strap was nowhere to be seen. Its connotation of being a health sandal worn by medical staff and social workers is just too deeply rooted in Germany’s collective mind for anyone to dare try to pull it off. Trends work a bit like smoking at a party in the capital. As soon as one cigarette is lit up quietly in a corner, everyone starts chain smoking. We need to be comfortable that trends are acceptable before we can exploit them.
Take the bearded bun combo that men in Berlin are doing their best to kill. After the topknot had firmly established itself as a popular do for women, men are now following suit (albeit in creased shirts). Add some bushy face fuzz and the bearded ballerina look du jour is complete. Opinions differ on this one. If you’re a guy visiting Berlin, you’ll either come back hirsute or finding it all a bit cringe. I’m left wondering though: how did all the men suddenly manage to grow their hair so quickly to be able to tie it up in a topknot? Did they all do a warrior style half bun to begin with? This hair style matches the low blood pressure attitude of Berlin where nothing really starts to happen before midday. It’s saying that you work in a job where you can show up looking, well, like a bit of a tramp.
Published online at The Style Con on 4th September 2014.
(image via fashiontag.com)