Part 3: „You should carefully examine the company’s culture“
May 28, 2016
In the third and final part of the interview series we focus on business fashion, watches and general style issues.
The previous edition of „The Gentleman“ has been translated into 20 languages and is seen as international core literature when it comes to classic men’s fashion. Germany is not exactly a perfect example of a men’s fashion pioneer country. Do you feel your great success is ironic?
Yes, I often grinned quietly to myself that of all people a German explains the British look and the derived classic style to the world. But why not? There are also good German cook book authors and wine journalists.
It made an impression on us that you gave little space to watches in your book. Why?
I consider the space as sufficient. After all, I can live the gentleman style perfectly without a watch. But that does not mean that the watch, if you wear it, is not important. Strictly speaking, however, the original gentleman does not need to have a watch.
The German watch manufacturers Junghans and NOMOS Glashütte are growing significantly; do you see a rediscovery of the mechanical watch?
Yes. But in absolute terms it is a small revival, just as the whole style revival is small. The majority does not value mechanical watches any longer. But this is not the point. The relatively small share of the whole market is sufficient for some manufacturers.
Let’s get a little more practical: If a man wants to improve or adjust his appearance, let’s say at the start of his career, after a painful break-up or if he is promoted: What would you recommend him?
If he does not change his outfit until his promotion it will be too late. The clothing should demonstrate his intentions right from the beginning.
The new look after a separation is often not long lasting, but this is life. You have to go through such periods in life. Even though you might want to recommend the person affected perhaps not to change too radically. But this advice would be fruitless. In this case I can’t offer general recommendations on changing one’s look, wishes are too diverse.
You are writing more and more about made to measure garments, in „The Gentleman“, and in your book „Bespoke Menswear: Tailoring for Gentleman“. Do men appreciate this kind of individual clothing more strongly again?
Bespoke clothing is one of the few growing markets in the fashion industry. The crafted bespoke clothing by tailors, shirtmakers or bespoke shoemakers, however, only has a very small share in this segment. As a general rule, these days men ask for individualized garments. But very, very few go to a tailor. It is not so much the price of traditional bespoke clothing which scare them, but the inability to make the necessary decisions. Very few are capable of ordering a bespoke business shirt, let alone a suit or a pair of shoes.
Some men are frightened of investing in decent clothing, shoes and accessories. Rightfully so?
If I do not know what is going on, I will of course be afraid to spend the money. Then it is simply safer to buy a ready-to-wear suit. But a man can get more comfortable step by step. Maybe he opt for a modular suit, later made to measure and one day eventually for the full bespoke suit made by a tailor. Sometimes appetite cines with eating.
Men often do not understand what they could make of themselves with the help of clothing and accessories. Good salesmen demonstrate this to them. Then prices usually are not the issue any longer.
Is style a matter of money?
Whether you make time for style questions and are able to be wholeheartedly committed, is not a question of money. I do know people who look very elegant in clothes purchased on the flee market. Many great artists of the early 20th century dressed very elegantly, although they were poverty-stricken.
What are the merits and shortcomings of a ready-to-wear suit?
The ready-to-wear suit has the striking merit that you see what you get. And if it fits, you can take it with you right away, small adjustments nothwithstanding. The shortcoming is that it is made for an average figure. Recently, I went to a shop with an acquintance. We have the same size and therefore we tried a suit both of us liked. It was astonishing how different we looked in it.
What are the worst fashion sins you encounter regularly?
By intention, I will skip the well known mistakes, such as too short or white socks, short-sleeved shirts or the combination of shorts and sandals. They have been known for a long time now. Who dress like this, does so intentionally. I am of the opinion it is much more regrettable that many men spend a relatively big amount of money on suits, which do not fit at all. Mostly they are too wide and the sleeves are too long. Often it is the fault of the salesmen. They learn a lot during their training, but apparently not the basics of fit.
As a fashion author and critic do you have role models or idols?
Children learn by imitating. And everybody else, who wants to learn something does so as well. Keith Richard wanted to sound like Scotty Moore, when he started playing the guitar. I wanted to look like John Steed, the leading man of the TV series „The Avengers“. Later Prince Charles was an important inspiration. I still get my inspiration by well dressed men. But usually I often dress myself according to my personal formula.
Is it easier for ladies to dress well?
No, since they have to consider much more aspects when choosing their wardrobe. And they experience higher performance pressure, which not seldom results in suffering.
A personal question in the end: Are you alway full suit or are there occasions when even you dress yourself casually?
Of course. Very often, in fact. It is all about wearing the right clothing on the right occassion. It would be nonsense to attend a barbecue party in a dark blue suit. Sometimes I like dressing myself casually. But never carelessly.
Mr Roetzel, we crossed the finishing line of a fashion and style marathon. Thank you very much.
It was my pleasure!
Bernhard Roetzel was interviewed by Christian Frosch. The last six questions are part of an interview the publishing house Ullmann Verlag did. Men’s Individual Fashion thanks the publishing house for letting us use the material.