A stylish conversation with Bernhard Roetzel - author of ‘A Gentleman’s Look Book’
October 26, 2017
Sometimes it is good to have a tour guide when travelling, in a way that it is easier to have someone to share some knowledge in a foreign destination to you, helping to sort out some of the daily errands and communications, it’s also a great way to get to know a foreign culture much quicker when you have a ‘middle man’ to explain to you. I remember when I was visiting both Vienna (last year) and Munich (this year), I do have a ‘guide’ too, but instead of in a form of bone and flesh, it was actually a book, a book that guides me to some remarkable German mens’ tailors and classical menswear ateliers, which opens my eyes to see and experience the elegance and beauty of this traditional sartorial know-how do exist outside some prominent fashion capitals in Europe, but also in those two German-speaking cities I visited. Of course it takes some prep work to dig out these precious rare gems of menswear, but thanks to one gentleman, which because of his resourceful and profound knowledge about mens’ tailoring, that literally helps to take me to those remarkable tailoring houses, and he is the author of ‘Bespoke Menswear: Tailoring for Gentlemen’ – Mr. Bernhard Roetzel. A high-reputed author who based in Germany, having a tremendous passion in classic menswear and has become a classical mens’ style icon of his own, Bernhard has been successfully published a couple of beautiful and informative books about mens’ tailoring and shoes, sharing his knowledge and passion in a printed copy worldwide which being translated in multiple languages, the gentleman’s name has been synonymous associated with refined and classical menswear, with his taste and sensitivity over timeless style, his work literally motivates those who loves and strives to look good, to create one’s very own style without conforming of any fashion trend nor propaganda, at the same time, looks timelessly stylish and dapper. In additional, his knowledge has even a greater influence on motivating oneself to look into menswear in a different angle, instead of simply an outer beauty cover with well made clothing, but it’s also a knowledge builder about classic menswear, to enrich your personal style in a more substantial way with resourceful information and history, details layout from different silhouette and cuts of jackets and suits, to the remarkable legacy of the prestigious mens’ tailoring houses, his work has been one of the most impressive and fascinating that I came across in recent years.
While I was passing by a bookstore recently and realized that Bernhard has just got a new book comes out, my enthusiasm simply cannot hold me back but to get in touch with this gentleman, not only to dig deep to understand a bit more about this new book ‘A Gentleman’s Look Book’, but also, a way to open up the secret of his remarkable success, his profound knowledge and passion about classic menswear. Initially, this post should be dedicated solely for the intro of Bernhard’s new book, yet, with a little change of format and having a very honorable opportunity, I am happy to have this gentleman for a stylish conversation with me, instead of only his new book, now this post become far more interesting that also include something about his work, his life about menswear and more:
My Modern Darcy: Hi Bernhard, truly thankful to have you for this stylish conversation, I am very honor and thankful to have all your wonderful knowledge to guide me through my visit in both Vienna and Munich. So first thing first, can you share a bit about what makes you so passionate about menswear? Do you intend to be an author while you were young?
Bernhard Roetzel: I have been passionate about menswear long before I ever considered becoming a writer. I was interested in men’s clothes even before I thought about my future profession at all because it goes back to my early childhood. My interest grew when I was a student. While my friends spent their holidays in Spain or Denmark I traveled to London or Paris to look at tailor shops and shoe stores. And when I started working in advertising I dressed very much the same way that I dress now. I sometimes share images from those days on Instagram and it is quite amazing to see how little my style has changed.
Photo by Ernst Kainerstorfer
MMD: As I learnt that you have been wearing some beautiful tailoring clothing from a Savile Row tailor, also shirts and shoes too, can you share with us how did you find British tailoring has been so appealing to you? And compare with the conventional German tailoring, how did you find the major distinction and what are the excellence in British and German cutting?
BR: I ordered my first bespoke suit from Tobias Tailors in Savile Row in 1998. A couple of weeks before I had ordered a bespoke from a well known tailor in Düsseldorf named Radermacher. The suit and the blazer were finished almost at the same time but the difference was huge. Both were equally well made, maybe the German suit was even better with regard of the standard of the handwork. But I preferred the garment from Savile Row because it made me look very distinguished because its cut was more timeless which means that you couldn’t tell whether the suit had been made in 1968 or 1998. German tailors are very good at cutting, they need to alter very little at the fittings but they usually try to be more fashionable. But tailors cannot compete with fashion brands, because they are always behind. Tailors are no designers, they are craftsmen. In those days I preferred British tailoring because it made me feel like a Gentleman. Nowadays I use tailors from different countries because I now know what I want, I don’t need the Englishness anymore.
Photos by Gregor Semrad
MMD: You have been a classic menswear style icon yourself already, can you share with us your secret about how to look good, and dress well timelessly? Do you have a signature ‘Bernhard look’ in your daily life? If yes, what are the must-have clothing?
BR: There is no secret really. You need to stay away from extremes and fashionable exaggerations. And you need to have clothes that are cut according to your personal proportions and in according with your body measures. If the style and the cut of your clothes are guided by your proportions they will never go out of style. My formal suits are mainly navy because this is the best color for me. In addition I have some grey suits and very few brown suits. And then of course sports jackets and blazers. The double breasted navy blazer is one of my favorite pieces.
MMD: You have successfully published a couple of resourceful books about menswear (and shoes too), and with this new book ‘A Gentleman’s Look Book’, can you share with us more about what motivates you to write this book? And, what is the uniqueness about this book compare with the previous ones you have published?
BR: It is unique because it contains very little writing. It is really a picture book for menswear enthusiasts. Sometimes pictures say it all. I have written so many words that I felt that I wanted to give images more space for a change.
MMD: Can you share a bit more about the making of this new book, what are the challenges that you have encountered, and what are the joy, or the most memorable thing about this journey?
BR: My own images were shot by the German photographer Erill Fritz from Berlin. Due to our schedule we had to shoot the images of me in my summer outfits in October and November. It was strange to walk around Berlin in a Seersucker suit when it was really quite cold. I enjoyed seeing and selecting the images of the other gentlemen who participated because they were free to offer what they wanted.
MMD: Among the work that you have done and dedicate yourself into the world of timeless menswear, can you share with us what is the mission (or aspiration) in life you would like to achieve by doing all these work?
BR: I am totally aware of the fact that the majority of men wear very different clothes and I really don’t mind. I don’t want to tell other people how they should dress. But I know that many men are rather clueless when it comes to suits, dress shirts, ties and shoes because they don’t know much about menswear. My writing is meant to help those who need and want help and advice. I also try to show men that quality clothes are comfortable to wear and that it makes you feel good if you know that your clothes are correct and well chosen for the occasion.
MMD: Now stepping into Fall Winter, can you share with our readers about what are your suggestions for a stylish look in Fall? Any specific silhouette, fabric or color, even accessories that could help to elevate the overall look?
BR: I am not much into color consulting although it is a fact men should find out which colors suit them and which don’t. I think that Navy is a great color for me so I stay away from other colors. Most men will look good either in a Navy suit or in dark grey, so choosing a formal suit is easy. It is much more difficult to choose colorful tweeds for winter but if you study the range of cloths carefully you will find something that suits you. I don’t believe that there is one silhouette that is good for everyone so I cannot give advice of that sort. Some men look great in a soft shouldered suit and some look tired in it. Your personal proportions must be the guide.
MMD: Mens’ tailoring has been making its comeback for quite some years already, in your opinion, how do you see the potential of this artisanal know-how will be in the coming 2 to 3 years?
BR: There seems to be a comeback of good tailoring but of course only in a very small way in relation to the overall menswear market. The high price of handmade suits makes them unaffordable to the majority. Italian tailoring dominates the picture because London has been lagging for a long time. I don’t see any young tailors in Savile Row who could really compete with any of the good tailors from Italy. This is sad for everyone who likes English style but it is a fact. The Brits have rested on their laurels much too long. They have laughed about the Italians for too long and now the Italians laugh at the Brits. A lot of good tailoring can still be discovered in Paris and Vienna.
MMD: Apart from looking good from the outside, can you share with us what are the other qualities of a modern day gentlemen should have today, in your opinion?
BR: No matter if you want to call yourself a gentleman or not and no matter which style of dress you prefer you should always treat everyone with respect and in a polite way. It doesn’t really matter if you know how to eat oysters, it is more important to know and follow the golden rule. If you dress well in addition I wouldn’t object but a real gentleman is a gentleman also when he wears no clothes or strange clothes.
MMD: If someone comes to you one day and ask about your secret of success to become both a great author, and, a style icon, what are the advices that you will give him?
BR: I don‘t know if I am a great author but it seems that some people like my work. I don‘t know if I am a style icon neither, I only tried to put into practice what I write about in my books. I live what I write about, this is it.
Special thanks to Mr. Bernhard Roetzel, image courtesy of Bernhard Roetzel photographed by Jan Hemmerich, ‘A Gentleman’s Look Book’ published by H.F. Ullmann.
Cover photo shot by Jan Hemmerich, Bespoke shirt: Gino Venturini (Vienna), Bespoke blazer: Michael Possanner (Vienna), Sterling silver buttons made by London Badge & Button Company for Eduard Meier (Munich), Tie & handkerchief: Viola Milano.