It’s Thursday and on Thursdays we talk to the boys! This one is devoted to “gentleman” attire while having a passion for sportswear… Meet Fashion Editor and Stylist, Sebastian Schwarz!
Œ Magazine: How old where you when you started thinking about clothes?
Sebastian: Probably around 15 or 16. I remember having thoughts about what I didn’t want to wear. I guess it’s a natural development. Before then my parents would pick my clothes and what I wore to school. Then one day my mum showed me a rain jacket in a local boutique and I said, “No, Ma! I’m not gonna wear that.” That was the first time I disagreed with what she thought was right for me. Then I gradually started minding adverts in magazines and became fascinated with high fashion brands. I think the first fashion magazine I bought was GQ style.
Œ Magazine: Do you remember what bothered you about the raincoat?
Sebastian: It was the kind of weird green jacket that nerdy kids wore. It had a „Gecko“ print on it!
Œ Magazine: When did you move to Berlin? And did your style change in a significant way?
Sebastian: It was kind of freeing for me. I remember I had friends saying things like “You just moved to Berlin?! You look like you always lived here. Your style perfectly fits into Berlin Mitte.” It made me laugh because when I was a teenager I was very old fashioned.
Œ Magazine: What exactly do you mean by old fashioned?
Sebastian: I would wear a lot of polo shirts and leather shoes. I wasn’t exactly sporty or youthful, but rather into Ralph Lauren and Lacoste shirts.
Œ Magazine: This was after emancipating from the parents chosen wardrobe?
Sebastian: Yes. I didn’t want to dress like the other guys. I wanted to be a gentleman, to be “polite” and for people to see that in my style as well! When I moved to Berlin, like most people, I felt like everything was possible, like I could wear anything I wanted. One major change was that all of a sudden I wore a lot of black. I guess that too is very common in Berlin, but I was also experimenting quite a bit and was pleased to see the Munich / Hamburg status symbol attitude wasn’t a thing here.
Œ Magazine: Did you stop wearing polo shirts then? That’s not something you see as much in Berlin, right?
Sebastian: I guess there is this niche of guys who love Fred Perry polo shirts, but not in the preppy-bright-color kind of way. I’m thinking of the skinhead-brit-style guys. Anyway, yes, I stopped wearing polo shirts and shirts in general. That was also an antithesis to the clothes I wore during my bank education, before studying, because I was actually wearing a suit all day. With a shirt and tie…
Œ Magazine: Oh! And how was that? Did it you feel comfortable?
Sebastian: Indeed! I definitely have a thing for the peacock-pitti-uomo-style with dandylike handkerchiefs and colored socks.
Œ Magazine: You’re the first one to mention the suit! Which styling details did you pay the most attention to?
Sebastian: I would always make sure that the belt matched the shoes.
Œ Magazine: Do you think a suit is a good look for a man?
Sebastian: As long as they feel comfortable in it, yes. But many men don’t know how to wear a suit. They don’t have a proper tie and the shoes are bad or wrong. And these days, you really don’t need to wear a suit to look professional, you know?
Œ Magazine: Reminds me of woman in heels who don’t know how to walk in them! The suit is not what it used to be, but do you think it still carries attributes of authority or even empowerment of masculinity?
Sebastian: Absolutely. At least in some fields. I think a lot of powerplay still runs through clothing and the suit is just a basic example for that. But it’s the same for women, just think of Angela Merkel always wearing a jacket and keeping her hair short.
Œ Magazine: True. And to think that many designers first tried to return credibility to women, like say, Jill Sander, by dressing them with suits, like business men! It’s comforting to see work attire loosen up.
Sebastian: Yes, our generation is really shaping these notions anew.
Œ Magazine: How do you think your dad would have answered these last questions? Did you ever talk about fashion or clothes with him?
Sebastian: We never talked about fashion, but I remember him telling me he would never wear shirts or a suit because he didn’t want to look posh or be mistaken for upper class. Back in the day, it was the typical rebellious break-the-rules kind of thing, but it had nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with politics. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about comfort or how to feel good in his clothes, you know? Today men are thinking about how to feel sexy, what makes them attractive and what image they want to convey.
Œ Magazine: Yes, probably looking good or imaginative or cultivated wasn’t part of the thought process as much. Fashion’s duty was more about signalizing “Hey, I’m a man, not a woman” and anything beyond that, sort of redundant.
Sebastian: Yeah it really served the stereotype.
Œ Magazine: About stereotypes, what is a fashion stereotype in Berlin?
Sebastian: On one side you have the hip guys who wear a lot of second hand clothing, bold leather jackets paired with silk shirts and skinnies and on the other side you have the people working in media and pr, at the agencies, and they all look quite similar. There is definitely some cliche Mitte style: designer sweat pants with expensive sneakers, and an acne studio jacket. Casual and very easygoing but at the same time very thought through.
Œ Magazine: Why spend so much money on something you could easily get for a little amount and that was designed to be comfortable and understated, like sweatpants?
Sebastian: I think people try to look comfortable, relaxed and cool, but in the end it’s still about status symbols. They want to show that they know cool designer brands and expensive clothes.
Œ Magazine: So despite that first impression of Berlin being different than Hamburg and Munich in these regards, people are preoccupied with status symbols just as much? Although to be fair, it sounds like the parameter for status isn’t luxury but rather “coolness”. Is coolness buyable?
Sebastian: No, not at all. You can buy stuff that’s „in“ or „trendy“ and designer things that are supposed to be cool but then you still have to perform the clothes and bring them to life. So if you aren’t cool to begin with they won’t look authentic. Copying cool looks doesn’t really work because as soon as you start mixing and matching, if you are just imitating someone else it will end up looking wrong. But then of course, it’s really hard to say what is cool and what isn’t. It’s so subjective. I think the key is finding clothes that feel right and match your personality. The coolness will come naturally, and nothing is less cool than looking dressed up in a costume.
Œ Magazine: Where in Berlin are men dressed the best, in your opinion?
Sebastian: Hmm. Well, I can tell you what I’m NOT so into. That would be Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain.
Œ Magazine: Why?
Sebastian: It doesn’t feel authentic
Œ Magazine: Oh! I wasn’t expecting that.
Sebastian: People try to adapt the Neukölln or Kreuzberg style and end up looking all the same, stylish and hip, but so alike.
Œ Magazine: You know, the last guy we spoke to, Mo Ganji, argued that people in these neighborhoods look similar because their resources are. They buy clothes in the neighborhood thrift shops, and will combine their pieces a million ways before getting something new.
Sebastian: Hmm I’m not sure. That’s my impression, but I’m thinking about it as we speak. Whenever I talk to people that want to move to Berlin they tell me, “Man, I want to move to Neukölln, Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain because it’s so hip and trendy.” They won’t consider Wedding or Moabit or Charlottenburg even if there are more flats for rent and lower prices.
Œ Magazine: But who are these people? What is important to them? Is partying high in their priority list, for example? I think that’s pretty relevant.
Sebastian: They like to party, sure, but fundamentally I think they like the idea of living in a trendy neighborhood. I mean I really like to go clubbing in Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, but I don’t want to live there (laughs).
Œ Magazine: What do you like about Wedding or Charlottenburg then?
Sebastian: In Charlottenburg I love that there are a lot of old Charlottenburg people. People who have lived there for over 40 years. A lot of crazy, grumpy types with fur coats who go grocery shopping with nordic walking sticks. It’s just delightful.
Œ Magazine: Do you feel like your style stands out in the streets of Charlottenburg?
Sebastian: That’s not something I think about too much. I mean the way I dress in Charlottenburg is the same way I dress in Wedding. Maybe my style stands out more in Wedding or Prenzlauer Berg, because in Charlottenburg you can see a lot of crazy people wearing expensive tailored clothes, fur coats and crocodile loafers with simple Blue Jeans, puffer jackets or sneakers. But I guess people react differently to different looks in different parts of the city. For example if I wore some Adidas Pants, an Alpha industries Ma-1 jacket and Combat boots I wouldn’t be drawing attention in Wedding because thats pretty much how young boys dress anyway when they meet up to play football or video games. Then, ironically in Charlottenburg, which is fairly close to Schöneberg, the gay neighborhood of Berlin with numerous fetish bars and tough looking gay guys, I would look like one of them. It’s funny how sometimes it’s really easy to stand out, and then you walk a few meters, cross another neighborhood and realize you are perfectly matching the style of that kiez. It’s the same thing everywhere you go and what you always have to keep in mind!
Œ Magazine: (laughs) It’s interesting how the same look can stand for different reasons depending on where you are. I see you have your wardrobe perfectly organized: white sock basket, black sock basket. Do you spend a lot of time putting together an outfit in the morning?
Sebastian: Yeah. Too much I guess. Well, I have to pick in 10 to 15 minutes so it’s not outrageous, but I never just grab something, throw it on and leave the house. I don’t do that.
Œ Magazine: How does it work? Do you think in outfits when you go shopping? Or do you mix everything.
Sebastian: I do a lot of mixing but there are things I would never combine and it really depends on the shoes a lot. For example, if I want to wear the response trail shoes from Raf Simons, which are big and bold then I need to think about the pants. I can’t wear them with just any trouser or I’d end up looking like an action figure. Or if I’m wearing Nike’s I’m not going to wear Adidas pants.
Œ Magazine: Why?
Sebastian: I guess it comes from my job. We are not allowed to mix certain brands.
Œ Magazine: Really? Is it like a “no go” or is there an actual reason you aren’t allowed?
Sebastian: Just a no go. Sometimes I look in the mirror and realize I’m wearing adidas pants with some Everlast socks and Nike trainers and think, “Oh no! I’m not getting money to wear these brands so I shouldn’t (laughs).
Œ Magazine: Well you’re clearly into sportswear, but how would you describe your style?
Sebastian: It’s a mixture of classic pieces and “ugly-style” pieces.
Œ Magazine: Ugly-style?
Sebastian: Yeah, you know, a guy at my age, I’m 26, wouldn’t usually wear crocodile loafers with adidas pants. You know what I mean? If I asked my mother she would say “You can’t wear those things together! You are crazy, track pants and fancy shoes don’t belong together!”
Œ Magazine: What is it about this look that feels so compelling to you?
Sebastian: It’s nice to put some unexpected accents. Taking different cultural codes and mix them up to achieve a new look that says “Everything is possible.” And we shouldn’t be thinking about these codes so much anymore.
Œ Magazine: Right. Do you think it’s okay to break every cultural convention by virtue of fashion? Or is there a cultural code you would never appropriate? One you feel is taboo?
Sebastian: I think there are things we really need to be careful with in fashion. Everything that has to do with symbolism is dangerous business. I’m thinking of the punk scene adapting elements from the nazi uniform for example. I’m not a fan of that.
Œ Magazine: I see. Do you remember Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2017 collection? Models on the runway were styled with huge colored dreadlocks and critics argued he had decontextualized elements without referencing the subculture he was inspired by. Pairing Rastafarianism or it’s descendent “street style dreads” for that matter, with western high fashion is a bit tricky don’t you think?
Sebastian: Yes but it’s hard to decide what is “going too far”. And it’s easy to like something and it’s exoticism and forget to further question it. A lot of times I think I just have an emotional reaction to things.
Œ Magazine: Yes and that’s why so much gets lost in translation.
Sebastian: True. A lot of times, my boyfriend looks at me and says, “You can’t wear that in the streets of Wedding! If a group of guys sees you wearing those flower pants they will hit you right in the face. And then I think, “How is it possible for this to still be a topic?”
Œ Magazine: I agree, although this is different because floral pants aren’t sacred or linked to a controversial history. I mean, flowers were typical for woman’s fashion in the past century, but have been celebrated by men in the centuries before that as well., which makes your wearing them, a legit, evolved thing to do and a positive statement, in my opinion.
Sebastian: Yeah that’s it. Maybe the line I wouldn’t cross is religion.
Œ Magazine: Are you religious?
Sebastian: No. And hmm, now that I think about it I’m realizing I’ve worn a cross before, just because I like the aesthetics and style. Oh dear! And I have silver glitter holy Mary standing in my room next to a historical Chinese picture and a naked Justin Bieber. But that’s my love for trash, in the privacy of my room. I really like this eclecticism. Perhaps, as long as it’s clear you traveled the world and took inspiration here and there it’s okay? That’s something I try to express with my Instagram account as well. Once I tried to do the Berghain black and white techno aesthetic but wasn’t really feeling it. So it became a mixture of many things.
Œ Magazine: Can you tell me something about what you are wearing now? Is this a typical Sebastian outfit?
Sebastian: Yes I believe it is. I’m matching elements from the classic gentleman style with some sportswear: a plain T-shirt, a nice watch and some sneakers. This jacket is vintage from the 80s. It’s from PASH Jeans, a brand I recently read about and was quite common in the 90s among raver kids. I have this book about nightlife in Berlin and there’s picture with a guy standing outside at an after hour wearing a long sleeve saying “Porno Star” and PASH Jeans dungarees. I was born in 1990 so I was too young savor all the 90s highlights. I’m sort of catching up.
Œ Magazine: Millennials just didn’t have a chance to appreciate crop tops enough. I think that explains why we are suddenly so taken with the 90s.
Sebastian: Yes and sportswear was huge. I love Adidas and when I go dancing I have a habit of wearing my oldest Adidas pants.
Œ Magazine: Where do you go dancing?
Sebastian: Mainly Berghain.
Œ Magazine: Did hanging out in that environment feel natural from the beginning?
Sebastian: My first time was maybe 2 and half years ago, so quite recently in terms of Berghain history. I was very excited to be there just like everyone is the first time.
Œ Magazine: How far apart from your everyday style was it back in the day?
Sebastian: It was not that far and I didn’t have to buy new clothes to adopt the Berghain style, if that’s what you mean.
Œ Magazine: (laughs) It’s funny how the Guys on Clothes interviews always take this Berghain turn at some point. Why do you think this look is so attractive, sexually speaking, as opposed to the flower pants?
Sebastian: Because these black clothes, the leather belts and bomber jackets are fetish inspired. 20-30 years ago there were many sex and fetish parties where people would dance naked for half a week to celebrate their freedom and maybe rebel against political pressures. The people who are going to Berghain today, try to keep that feeling alive, that vibe.
Œ Magazine: I see. Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?
Sebastian: Not really. But there are accessories and details I care about. I love my classy Adidas “Adilette“ Slides. Wherever I wear them, I feel home. I’m wear a lot of baseball caps, probably because I don’t like my hair and like it best when it’s short. I’m also wearing white socks a lot and I wear them in a way that you can see them. Socks are not just a necessary layer but something more, something I like to show. It’s also a part of the ugly-chic we talked about before. When I go to a chic event and have to wear some wool pants I usually wear them with white tennis socks to loosen up the look. I could also wear them with fine cotton socks but it wouldn’t feel like me. This belt bag is from my mother. She gave it to me about six years ago, but it’s something I remember so clearly from our childhood. She wore it to all our holidays.
Œ Magazine: Is there a part of your body your highlight intentionally when you get dressed?
Sebastian: No but I like giving my body new shapes and proportions by playing with different silhouettes. I think that’s the most interesting thing about fashion, that it can put you in a different kind of body. That’s also what I like about the suit. If you do it right It gives your body this kind of strength and attitude.
Œ Magazine: Is there anything you envy in women’s fashion?
Sebastian: The sexiness. High heels. I mean it’s interesting to see heeled boots popping up in the Balenciaga and Acne Studio collections. And I really would love to see more men wearing them and to wear them myself. Especially the heeled cowboy boots, the western macho looking guys with high-heeled leather boots are amazing. It’s not something I’m about, but I love seeing other men experiment with it.
From where you’re standing, what is something missing in the conversation about men’s fashion right now?
Sebastian: I think there is still a big gap between classical men’s wear, that would be blue jeans with a t shirt and proper shoes and represent those who still think it’s cool to not care about clothes and those into gender bending and experimenting in general, the fashion peacocks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about our notion of individuality… this word. We are always talking about it. But in the end it’s just a big illusion. Everything in fashion is happening for a purpose and we are being manipulated. How can we express our inner-selves freely if we are choosing between a range of products made for us by someone else, conceived by a consumerism-based industry? Unless you are a designer and make your own clothes, it’s not a big deal, but the way we use the word sometimes is so naive.