This week we investigated the home and wardrobe of a true Berlin cowboy. Meet the face behind Roamers Cafe, Flore Schmidt: a man with solid opinions about leather boots, “dude” attire and good looking food…
Œ Magazine: How do you feel about fashion? Do clothes matter to you?
Flore: They do. I like my clothes to be of high quality and produced fairly, I’m very much into this “Japanese raw denim” scene.
Œ Magazine: When you say “scene”, what do you mean exactly?
Flore: Well, it’s a whole movement really… Where people wear indigo jeans for example – denim made of natural indigo. There are very few machines in the world used to work with this material and the Japanese bought all of them — except for one that is in the States. These jeans are made to shrink to your own size and fit, so when you wash them the first time after buying them and you put them on, they shrink to your size. Once they are completely dry, a few days later, they fit perfectly!
Œ Magazine: How would you describe your style?
Flore: I like the “cowboy style”: western shirts, boots, and vests. My things are mostly from this one brand, Indigofera… This here for example is from the newest collection and if you wash it right you get this beautiful fade! It really gets character.
Œ Magazine: It’s almost like adding a personal signature…
Flore: My own signature, yes! And I also like to know that no one did it for me. I wouldn’t want someone else to destroy my jeans for me on purpose! What’s up with all these destroyed jeans anyway?
Œ Magazine: Well, it could be about taking part in something, a trend, and making a statement, don’t you think? And sometimes it’s easier to appropriate someone else’s statement than making your own. But why do you think the “cowboy look” works so well for you?
Flore: As a child, I was the biggest fan of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. I guess they always inspired me a little and I must have been influenced by their look on some subconscious level. I love the whole American life style from the west. It was also a big influence for my cafe, Roamers.
Œ Magazine: But why do you think this specific look makes you feel comfortable in everyday life as opposed to, say… casual sportswear?
Flore: Because it’s where I come from! I grew up in the countryside of Germany, a place full of nature where my parents kept ponies and other animals. I watched horses die in my arms and stuff like that, so it’s some kind of manifestation of my childhood impressions.
Œ Magazine: What is the first thing you think about when you get dressed in the morning? Where do you start?
Flore: I start from the trousers. Lately I always wear the same pair of jeans. They are made of a really special woven textile and feel a little uncomfortable at first because the material needs some time to adapt and soften but after a few weeks they become the most comfortable thing in the world. So yeah, jeans and maybe a black t-shirt.
Œ Magazine: Would you say you have a uniform?
Flore: Yeah, I guess so. I’m really into double denim looks. Often combined with a vest or jacket. I also wear a lot of hats!
Œ Magazine: What do you like about hats?
Flore: That I don’t have to worry about my hair as much, although I have to say it’s more of an outside thing for me.
Œ Magazine: Hats are such interesting fashion items! At times when men’s fashion was rather unilateral, they used to be this status symbol. Do you think hats still function as statements or status symbols today?
Flore: Hmm, there is definitely still some kind of gentlemanly association there. In California (hats are still very common there) I once saw this beautiful white hat from the 1910s. It was funny how it was still entirely white except for this one part, the one where you grab the hat to say “mam…” and step aside.
Œ Magazine: You seem to like things that have a story…
Flore: I do! But I also try to make them my own. I’m obsessed with the little traces we leave on clothes. Small things that remind us of things that happened and people we met. I’m really into these small things…
Œ Magazine: Would you ever buy something vintage or used? Are the stories and memories of a stranger interesting to you as well?
Flore: Not really. I was never buying vintage clothes except for this one time were I got an old boy scout backpack at the flea market in San Francisco. It still had the owners name and address handwritten on it and I plan on visiting the place to see if the guy still lives there and return the backpack. Who knows if he’s still there and if he’ll want it back…
Œ Magazine: Please let us know what happens when you return his long-lost treasure!
Do you remember moving to Berlin and changing your style or wearing something that felt characteristically “Berlin”?
Flore: I have to say, none of the Berlin styles ever felt like my own.
Œ Magazine: What are typical Berlin styles in your eyes?
Flore: Well, there is the head to toe black-Berghain style, because of techno, which is huge in Berlin. And music, together with clubs are a great influence for people here. It’s almost like when people get dressed up for church on Sundays and go pray and celebrate, kids in Berlin dress up for clubs, only they don’t believe in God but rather in drugs… Then of course there is a lot of vintage-trash style that was born in Bar 25 but also a lot of hip hop…
Œ Magazine: What else is influential for the city?
Flore: Well shops certainly are! But I’m very critical towards many of these super hyped stores. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that people take pleasure and feel cool about buying two euro produced sneakers with some co-op designers name on them for 600 euros. How can they not see that they are paying for the name instead of the quality? But yeah, I think the clubs and the stores are the main influences …
Œ Magazine: If not the stores, can you relate to the clubs? What music do you listen to?
Flore: I never really listened to techno or hip hop. I like country music, but not the fancy Dolly Parton “bling bling“ country music. I love outlaw country music… Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and of course, Johnny Cash! These people really built a movement! And lyrics are very important to me. I listen to a lot of the same songs on vinyl and try to understand the story behind the words and figure out what they mean to me. I’m also a really big fan of Bruce Springsteen and just recently went to his concert at the Olympia stadium. I was front row and it was such an amazing show! He performed three and half hours without any lighting effects or sexy dancing girls… It was just him and his energy in the crazy packed venue. Simply amazing!
Œ Magazine: Did you grow up with this kind of music?
Flore: Yes! My father would listen to Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Joy Division… you know, the kind of people that were actually singing about something and had something to say!
Œ Magazine: Do you think, along with the stores and the clubs, the areas and different neighbourhoods, where people live influences them and their style? Or would you rather say that people come together in the different hoods, depending on their style?
Flore: I think it’s a little bit of both. Plus, let’s face it, it’s not like one can really choose where to live because the rents are so crazy expensive. So, sure if you really like Neukölln, there is a Neukölln style but if you can’t afford it you might end up in Friedrichshain and have to figure out how to stay true to your style while being in the most touristic part of the city. I never go there because it’s so mainstream hipster…
Œ Magazine: Mainstream how?
Flore: Oh you know, people with tote bags, black skinny jeans, and colored tattoos. That’s the “Friedrichshain style”. Whereas Neukölln is still fairly mixed in my eyes. My cafe, Roamers, is on Pannierstraße so I get to observe people a lot there… Then, of course, there is a Mitte style: all the agency ladies wearing pastel colors, stiff sweaters, and high waste, wide cut pants. The men I wouldn’t know how to describe. I’m not so aware of them…
Œ Magazine: Don’t you ever notice other men on the street?
Flore: Not really.
Œ Magazine: What about your cafe? You must see a lot of different people coming in!
Flore: Sometimes. But maybe it’s because most men in this city don’t really match my taste, when it comes to style. Perhaps it’s because I like manly stuff and most of the people are so over-the-top metrosexual…
Œ Magazine: And you are more about showing that you are a “dude”?
Flore: I guess. And I definitely don’t want to care so much about my clothing. I like knowing that I possess only things that I like and that are of good quality so that I can just pick anything out of the closet and throw it on, basically knowing it’s going to look nice and not having to waste more time…
Œ Magazine: How does the beard fit into all this. How long did you have one for?
Flore: Ever since I saw this picture of an old man with an amazing beard and knew that’s what I wanted to look like when I was his age.
Œ Magazine: That, you have covered! Do you think your style is going to change at all in the future?
Flore: Hopefully not. I like to think that at some point in life every man learns to appreciate good denim and good leather boots. Ralph Lauren said something like this when he first did his line RRL. He said that’s what a man should look like when he reaches a certain age. And maybe you don’t have to wear the newest sneakers after the age of 60…
Œ Magazine: Yes although even now, you don’t exactly strike me as a sneaker person…
Flore: No, ah ah. I don’t have any sneakers…
Œ Magazine: Just leather boots?
Flore: How did you guess! ;)
Œ Magazine: Are shoes important to you?
Flore: Absolutely. I love engineer boots in rough suede. I could wear them every day! Even when its forty degrees. If the leather is good they just keep getting better as they age…
Œ Magazine: You like leather, don’t you?
Flore: Yes, leather and dead animals! Ah ah ah ah! Just kidding, but yeah… Plants, denim, and leather. That’s a good summary.
Œ Magazine: It’s interesting that you have so many feelings about fair production and fast fashion but still love leather. How do you feel about vegan fashion?
Flore: I think once an animal is killed, every single part of it should be put to use. The brain, the tongue, and the skin… That’s the only way I can justify killing an animal. If you throw away the skin you are wasting a really important part you could make useful things out of. Of course, the food industry can be really disgusting, and I know that quite well because it’s the industry I work in! But it’s what the people make of it not the industry itself! It’s just giving the people what they want… and many ignorant people on this planet want cheap meat!
This sofa right here is about 90 years old and who knows when the cow was killed, but it’s aging really nicely and still serving its purpose. Plus, leather “production” is a lot less damaging for the environment than the production of plastic materials … I’m just a really big fan of natural fabrics, for everything really! I’m not a hippy, but still really influenced by nature!
Œ Magazine: That’s a fair standpoint…
Now, you own a very successful cafe with a strong look: do you think there is a relationship between fashion and food? Are you trying to attract or repeal a certain clientele with the style of Roamers?
Flore: No. I don’t really have a target group. I just want people to appreciate the things that I love. You need to know that I have no previous experience with restaurants. I’m doing this for the first time and pretty much just doing it the way I like it. So we are not set out for a specific clientele, but we seem to attract people that like their food to be pretty. A lot of girls obviously, since the food is also very healthy.
Œ Magazine: Oh yes, It is very esthetic!
Flore: And esthetics are really important to me in general. I care about the esthetics of food and the store the same way I care about my own.
Œ Magazine: Indeed, it really reflects your personal taste. And it’s funny how food actually tastes better, if it’s nicely served and composed on the plate!
Flore: That’s how we see it too! You know, our dishes look a little wild sometimes, but still very harmonious. Just like nature. You can really taste the “styling” and the time one puts into preparing a dish. Besides, why not make food look beautiful anyway? And there is a way of doing that without making it artificial. Just like in fashion.