Sartorial Munich

by Chris Bertram on August 26, 2005

I’m back from a few days in Munich, which I’d recommend as excellent value to visit. (I suspect there’s an oversupply of hotel rooms in advance of next summer’s world cup.) It rained nearly the whole time I was there, but that didn’t stop me from visiting some excellent art galleries: the wonderful “Alte Pinakothek”: , the goodish “Neue Pinakotek”: and the sinister and intruiging “Villa Stuck”: . Of course I also managed to consume a large number of excellent sausages and quantities of “Dunkles Weißbier”: ! All of which brings me on to a less flattering observation on Germany and the Germans, namely, that the Germans may well be the worst dressed of the major industrial nations. Admittedly, the competition is stiff from us British and from the Americans, but I think the Germans may win on grounds of sheer uniformity. It is possible to sit and watch a string of people of all ages and sizes walk past all dressed as follows: dark denim jeans, dark denim jacket, trainers (sneakers). The monotony is hardly broken by the occasional deviant who leaves the denim jacket behind for a regulation black leather one. Since “Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef”: is now dubbed into German — so much for Chirac joking with Schroeder about British cuisine — I can’t help wondering whether the Germans aren’t in line for some British or American clothing-and-lifestlye fascism TV: “Trinny and Susannah”: or “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”: perhaps. But perhaps they already get those shows and are showing a laudable determination to resist.

[For Alex: here’s a link to a picture of Gabriel Cornelius von Max’s “Monkeys as Judges of Art”: from the Neue Pinakothek.]



Alex 08.26.05 at 3:16 am

Hurrah for the monkeys, may they forever have a questionable interest in most things.

As for German fashion, it’s hard to tell whether the monotony means that they’re the worst or best dressed of the major industrial nations. It’s possible that a national attitude to clothing which signifies a complete disinterest in fashion/style as we know it may be a lot better for everyone than dressing like a peacock and making a fuss about it. I also wonder whether the relaxed attitude to sex/pornography in many parts of mainland Europe makes for a less ostentatiously sexual dress sense, or it could be that people in England are generally pretty boring and the excessive dressing up is an effort to make up for that in some way, especially the popular practice of imitating other cultures without actually learning anything about them.


des von bladet 08.26.05 at 3:22 am

I just booked flights for Munich in Oktober, but I find it hard to believe they dress, on average, worse than the Dutch. C&A is still prospering in the Netherlands!


Chris Bertram 08.26.05 at 3:30 am

There’s definitely a branch of C&A in Munich.


abb1 08.26.05 at 4:30 am

Des, why did you book in October? Don’t be silly, Oktoberfest is in September.


Simstim 08.26.05 at 4:35 am

Er, I quite liked C&A…


des von bladet 08.26.05 at 5:04 am

Des, why did you book in October? Don’t be silly, Oktoberfest is in September.

That’s precisely why I booked for Oktober.


Dave D 08.26.05 at 5:08 am

You don’t like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Apart from the fact that the one who does the clothes is usually dressed pretty awfully himself (with his shirts tucked into his belted jeans—two fashion errors for the price of one), I’ve picked up one or two useful tips there.


Clark 08.26.05 at 6:54 am

I can’t help wondering whether the Germans aren’t in line for some British or American clothing-and-lifestlye fascism TV: Trinny and Susannah or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy perhaps.

They already had a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”: (Gay makes you cool – the fabulous Four). If you follow the link (and just as important, if you can read German) it appears that the show was not renewed.

Oh, where are you now, Clifford, Peter, Jan and Tobias???


jacob 08.26.05 at 7:38 am

The last time I was in Germany (in Berlin), was for a weekend after I had just spent four months in France. I must say that it was a relief to have all those poorly dressed Germans around after four months of well-dressed Parisians. As an American, I felt constantly underdressed in Paris, and going to Berlin felt like a good prelude to home.


otto 08.26.05 at 9:28 am

This post cries out for some allegation about links between visiting Munich and appeasing Islamofascism.


rea 08.26.05 at 10:08 am

“his shirts tucked into his belted jeans—two fashion errors for the price of one”

Okay. Into whose belted jeans should he be tucking his shirt, if not his?


c++guy 08.26.05 at 11:45 am

Hmm, that’s strange. I agree that Germans may be among the worst dressed but I can’t agree with the sneaker-denim-denim uniform. I just spend four weeks in Stuttgart and there the dress code is more like this: sensible brown leather shoes, jeans and shirts in mismatched, muddy colors and flamboyant eyeglasses.


nick 08.26.05 at 11:54 am

I’d have to suggest the Dutch as more sartorially-challenged. Unless there’s been a mass abandonment of the shellsuit recently.


ab 08.26.05 at 12:02 pm

Yes, Germans tend to dress rather boringly, mostly with an emphasis on solid-looking standard clothes.

There’s definitively greater variety in America and Britain (where I, as a German, have been living for the past couple of years).

Also, you’re right that Americans and Britons, especially in the 14-35 years bracket, tend to go for sexier outfits.

One more thing: Curiously, Berliners are among the worst-dressed people in Germany. In other countries, it’s normal that people in New York, London or Paris are better dressed than folks in [I don’t want to offend anybody; insert your rural region here].

The opposite is true in Germany. (Within Germany, Munich is much more fashion-conscious than Berlin, partly because Munich is Germany’s richest city, whereas Berlin is poor).

Oh, where’s a book like The Sociology of Fashion Sense: A Comparative Study of 34 Nations, 1960-2000 when you really need it…


abb1 08.26.05 at 12:20 pm

Yeah, I too feel that Munich is being singled out unfairly here. Just a few weeks ago I drove thru Western Germany from Basel to Hanover to Bremen. It was, indeed, kinda depressing; originally I attributed it to weather and flatness of the scenery, but I suppose the dress code must’ve contributed to it too. However, I’ve never felt depressed like this in Munich; Munich certainly is much livelier than, say, Hanover.


Jackmormon 08.26.05 at 1:36 pm

I spent a year near Frankfurt recently and ended up having to buy some clothes. The clothes I ended up buying are alright in terms of quality-price ratio, but the cuts are just awful, so I don’t wear them much. The shirts are too blocky, the jeans just wrong. They were the best I could find in my price-range, though–and I looked all year.


serial catowner 08.26.05 at 2:15 pm

You guys are not even in the same galaxy with ‘poorly dressed’. I went to the county fair yesterday and the best dressers were the animals.

Even the memory makes me shudder- scenes too chilling to serve as a backdrop in a horror movie. Clothing adding new dimensions to the phrase ‘off the rack’. Untastefully showcasing bodies that would frighten space aliens.

If the Germans choose to dress that way, and continue to hold Oktoberfests, more power to them.


bad Jim 08.27.05 at 12:57 am

This is useful news. I too am planning a trip to Central Europe this fall, and it’s gratifying to find that my most comfortable clothes will fit right in. (The original idea was an Austro-Hungarian tour, Vienna, Prague & Budapest, but Berlin seems more interesting than Budapest).

I too am mystified by the news that tucking one’s shirt into belted jeans comprises two faux pas. Without a belt, half my jeans tend to slide earthwards, and most of them require as well the tension and friction the tucked shirt-tail provides.

As to how this crowd would view the unflattering flowered shirts, shorts and flip-flops favored in Southern California beach resorts, I hardly dare think.


MQ 08.27.05 at 2:34 pm

Are you f’in kidding me? Germans worse dressers than Americans? Forget it. Remember now, New York City and LA are not America.


Alexander McQueen 08.28.05 at 9:35 am

Assume that Dr Bertram, like all timberites, will be leading by example. When can we expect to see the photos?


glenn 08.29.05 at 7:52 am

You didn’t mention the music? Far worse than the “fashion sense” of most Germans, I have found the worst pop music imaginable in EVERY German taxi cab I’ve had the displeasure of entering. I live in Italy, and the German bar I frequent plays the same awful music. Remember, David Hasselhoff was a pop icon in Germany….and only in Germany.


Another Damned Medievalist 08.29.05 at 5:36 pm

I’m not sure Munich is representative. I lived in Germany for several years, and noted huge differences in taste between the regions (Bayern and Schwaben tend to more colourful clothing than Hessen, for example). Another thing is that the really nice clothing is also very expensive. But it is really nice. But all clothing tends to be expensive, so people buy very generic, “classic” clothes for the most part, with a few prized pieces that they can use to dress them up. In comparison with most of the USAmericans and Brits I know, the size of the average German wardrobe is quite small.

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