The old East German TV tower in downtown Berlin.
Well, we arrived home a few days ago from our almost seven weeks in Berlin, and I have a number of style thoughts to share based on my own experience and just looking around at the people around me. Ready Freddy? Here we go!
1) The citizens of Berlin, many of them at least, dress very colorfully. The men as well as the women. I could have easily gotten away with my mossy green and Nantucket red shorts and pants. Sadly, I left these in my dresser at home, opting instead for khakis and olive drab.
2) Many young guys and even a few older ones seemed to be sporting a modified version of the northeastern beachside/bayside look., i.e. khaki shorts, a short-sleeved knit polo or madras shirt, and either leather deck shoes or rubber soled shoes with canvas uppers not unlike Keds. Hey, you cannot argue or go wrong with a classic look like this during the summer months.
3) The weather was so warm for much of our stay, that I wore my usual variation of this look most of the time except for two brief chilly and rainy spells, when I could get away with Levis 501s and Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops, and I did get to wear a blazer, khakis, and loafers to dinner once with a few of my wife's colleagues from The Free Univerrsity. I was more "dressed" than any other man present. However, it is better to arrive somewhere a bit overdressed than underdressed.
4) You do still see quite a few men in suits and the less formal mix of a sports jacket with odd pants in the German capital. But, for the love of Pete, if you are going to wear suit, wear a necktie with it, and make sure the knot is cinched up enough to cover the top button on your shirt. Needless to say, that button should be buttoned, and the knot on your tie small and elegant. It ain't 1975 anymore, gents!
5) Over-sized t-shirts that say things like "Low Rent Boy," hiphop-inspired backwards baseball caps displaying equally witty sayings/putdowns, and lots of cheap bling look good on no boy/man regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or nationality. You succeed only in looking like some kind of cheap mondo dismo who knows no better when you present yourself that way.
6) Same thing with earplugs, nose rings, lip rings, studs in the face, or any other kind of visible body modification. How is that kind of thing going to look when you are 50 years old or more? Find some other way to express yourself and just don't. Besides, it makes our eyes water when we are forced to look at you.
7) As I, and a few other bloggers here and there, have mentioned so often before, personal habits and manners (or the lack thereof) will instantly betray you regardless of how expensive your clothes, car, home, and various toys are. As I read somewhere online these last few months, money cannot buy manners, taste, or class. A person must make the effort to learn if he has not been brought up with certain habits instilled in him by parents or parental figures.
8) Guys, say it with me: daily showers, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant. Certainly this is not a problem for everyone, but from what I noticed using the S-bahn and U-bahn quite a bit, there are still some members of the male gender who were clearly out of the office when that particular memo was circulated.
9) The five-day growth thing that you see everywhere has been done to death by this point in history, so SHAVE guys! It might have (might have) looked cool on Don Johnson in 1984 when Miami Vice premiered on TV, but that was more than 30 years ago. Come on.
10) Don't be afraid to have your hair cut if the need arises when visiting another country. Often, the results will be to your liking even if language is an issue.
11) "Mandals" worn with socks just look goofy whatever your age. Some Germans even joke about this. If you absolutely MUST wear a pair of Tevas or Birckenstocks, do so only at the beach or poolside, and make sure the day is warm enough that socks aren't necessary. Otherwise, opt for some other shoes that cover your foot. The male foot ain't that attractive anyway, men, even when clean with clipped toenails. Frankly, more of us ought to keep our icky feet out of sight.
12) Less is more when it comes to style. Many of the people I observed while in Berlin seem to be trying too hard to show the world how with it, trendy, and/or "bad" they are judging by the sheer amount of paraphernalia on display at any one time: toe rings, bracelets, earrings, tattoos, t-shirts with ironic sayings on the front, sunglasses, expensive haircuts that you work very hard to wear in such a way that they look like you've just rolled out of bed, messenger bags, animal prints, etc., etc. ad infinitum.
Once more, and as I have said many times here already at Classic Style for the Average Guy, it is really preferable to limit the number of accessories on display with any one ensemble. There used to be an old adage for women that is applicable for men too. It goes something like this: Before you leave the house, look at yourself one more time in the mirror and remove one accessory before heading out the door.
There we are. Certainly, the points I mention above do not apply to everyone whose path I crossed, and there are quite a few very stylish Berliners of various ages. However, there are also lots of 20-something "boys" and men on the loose who could use a bit help. Or at least learn to exercise a bit of restraint when it comes to how they present themselves to the world.