This one is for all the Boules aficionados! Alexander Boese is a former boy scout and rare example of Berline-native… He told us about his “fine clochard” ideal, and about Berlin’s post WWII street-style landscape!
Œ Magazine: Do you have any recollection of your childhood wardrobe?
Alexander: Because of the catholic education I was subjected to as a teenager, I was very skeptical about uniforms. When I was ten, I was sent to communion class, became an altar boy, und later ⎯out of some of Robinson Crusoe fascination⎯a boy scout. We had brown shirts and this black-violet scarf and I remember other kids reacting to our look with hostility. Later, once I was old enough to connect the dots, I realized the uniform had a very disturbing fascist connotation.
Œ Magazine: Was the ensemble actually inspired by fascist attire? Or was the similarity just an unfortunate coincidence?
Alexander: It was the 70s and because of the political situation, the constant reminders in the newspapers, and efforts to make people aware of the war legacy, it couldn’t have been a coincidence. You need to know that the Holocaust and most WWII brutalities were kept from us kids, until we were about thirteen or fourteen years old. Then, all of a sudden, we were shown countless Auschwitz movies and severely confronted with our recent national history. As a result, I couldn’t relate with the kind of patriotism brought on by Boy Scout founder, Baden Powell. I left the church and started looking for my own voice and ideas.
Œ Magazine: After that, do you remember embracing specific sartorial choices to be part of a different group?
Alexander: I think, when it comes to clothes, puberty is all about being part of a group. So despite my desire to emerge from the wave and “regimental mass”, like most teenagers, I wanted to belong somewhere. In my case, the choices were mostly driven by music, which was also the main reason I got together with my friends; wearing black, for example, was something we did to show we shared a mentality and taste in music. But I never cared much about trends and owning specific items. In fact, I remember borrowing a lot of vests and cardigans from my grandfather’s closet. Then, when I was about 15, I had a job at Die Garage, the second hand kilo store, were I ended up spending most of the money I earned.
Œ Magazine: That makes you a pioneer of Berlin’s second hand wave! The store has been around for over 40 years and is quite an institution. How old were you when you started picking your own clothes?
Alexander: I was 10-11 years old and luckily had few restrictions. Sometimes my dad would forbid me to wear rivet belts and such, which I ended up hiding outside the door and changing into once I had left the house. But my grandma would buy me anything I liked and I had a lot of fun shopping with her. She would take me to the big department stores like KDW and I got to choose what I wanted.
Œ Magazine: Did people’s clothes change after the fall of the Berlin wall?
Alexander: Yes. It was physiological. Artists and students from other countries started coming to Berlin and importing their lifestyle and subcultures. I don’t remember anything specific though, only that by the time I moved to Mitte/Prezlauerberg (August 1990) everything was black and most male artist were embracing this existentialist look.
Œ Magazine: In this regard, were there any tangible differences between West and East Berlin?
Alexander: Hmm. West Berlin was influenced by different nationalities—the understated Parisian style, American sportswear, the dandy look from London. East Berliners took over all the “Techno – Hool” casuals from the suburbs, basic “carrot” jeans, Nike or Asics runners, maybe bomber jackets, but it’s dangerous to generalize.
Œ Magazine: Indeed. Still, these impressions are legit and very interesting. Would you recognize an autochthonous Berliner if you came across one on the streets?
Alexander: (laughs). Probably. I think many of us got stuck in a rut somewhere along the way. We still love a good camel boot and probably have a similar understanding of “cool”.
Œ Magazine: As a teenager, what was considered “cool” by you and your friends?
Alexander: For a long time the main source of cool clothing was the hard rock and Goth scene — lots of leather trousers and pointy boots with stuff hanging from the side. Then the preppy look took over, together with the Neue Deutsche Welle and we started wearing tube jeans and superstars. I think the sportswear transition was also inspired by people like David Byrne from Talking Heads and Robert Smith! I saw him live with The Cure 1986 at Eissporthalle –it was one of my first concerts–, and he came on stage wearing an oversize black suit paired with mid top Adidas shoes! Amazing! And very unusual for the time. That was probably the beginning of black suits paired with sneakers.
Œ Magazine: It sounds like your music-taste went through many different stages and influenced your style. Do you remember what you wore the first time you went dancing?
Alexander: I’m pretty sure I wore WitBoy jeans and sailor shoes. I was about 14 and needed to be home at midnight (laughs), so the dance floor was empty and the DJ could play what he wanted. This one loved Atomic Dog from G. Clinton. For me that was the point of no return. I was officially over Kiss and AC/DC, I discovered Parliament Funkadelic and became obsessed with black music.
Œ Magazine: Fantastic!!!
What is your style made up of today? When I first spotted you at the Paul Linke Ufer boule yard, you were wearing a flat cap and terrific dungarees.
Alexander: Yes, the dungarees are a favorite. I own a few actually and some are cheep handyman overalls I adjusted and dyed myself. I just love that freedom around my hips, seriously, fashion-wise I feel like dungarees are the best thing since sliced bread! I’m also into certain accessories. I like a handkerchief around my neck and a flat cap when I’m lazy with my hair or hang out at the boules yard. It’s great because it’s like wearing blinkers and only seeing the field in front of you.
Œ Magazine: If you had to invent a name for your style, what would it be?
Alexander: Western dandy? Although that sounds a little hipster…
Œ Magazine: What do you mean by hipster?
Alexander: Damn it! I head a feeling you would ask that (laughs).
Œ Magazine: (laughs) I’m starting to be a little predictable…
Alexander: Well, the word actually comes from the jazz and bebop scene. I think it described a very relaxed lifestyle and open-minded attitude.
Œ Magazine: That’s correct!
Alexander: Today, we think about people with beards and fancy vintage tracking suits in neon colors. Mint green leggings paired with plisse skirts. One leg rolled up, different socks, and half open shoes. I think in Berlin it started as the desire and boldness to embrace “ugliness” out of protest.
Œ Magazine: Protest against what exactly?
Alexander: Against homologation? It’s a manifestation of freedom, but it was never a collective, unionizing movement.
Œ Magazine: Is there something you ever envied on other men on the streets and wished you could pull off yourself?
Alexander: I always had a thing for three-piece suits and even tweed suits. I wish I had one!
Œ Magazine: What is it about the suit that you like?
Alexander: It reminds me of the fine clochard character. A man dressed beautifully, but without a penny in his pocket. A man who sneaks into a gallery opening, enjoys free drinks, the art and the atmosphere, and isn’t bothered by his “broke-ness”. I think a suit does that! It helps you maintain a certain stance.