It takes two to tango! Meet the “twins on clothes” and former owners of Berlin Mitte’s Waschsalon: in addition to knowing a thing or two about laundry, Ralf and Ulrich Guttmann are known for their iconic partner look, as for us, of course, we couldn’t resist meeting the siblings at the legendary Laundromat-Cafe to discuss what it feels like to coordinate outfits over three decades…
Œ Magazine: In addition to being identical twins, you are known for dressing in identical outfits. When did you first start?
Ralf & Ulli: That’s correct, we’ve been dressing the same everyday for the past 35 years.
Œ Magazine: What inspired you to do so?
Ullrich: It’s a lot of fun and we are “little exhibitionists” by nature. Also, when you have a twin, people around you will inevitably fall into making somewhat shallow comparisons – who is dressed better, etc. They will look for things in your appearance to keep you apart and distinguish you.
Ralf: That’s right. We always feared this might lead to some weird competition between us and that’s why we dress the partner look.
Œ Magazine: So it’s been a way to protect your relationship! That’s quite the diplomatic, not to mention creative solution! Can you remember your first common outfit?
Ullrich: It must have been the 80’s or mid 70’s. And it was probably an Afri-look with round glasses and all the things that were fashionable back then…
Œ Magazine: Do you have any recollection of people’s reaction?
Ullrich: It’s the same reaction people have now. They stare and smile. We end up talking with a lot of interesting strangers by wearing the same things.
Œ Magazine: I’d love to see some pictures of you as teenagers!
Ullrich: Me too! To bad Ralf over here decided to get rid of all of them!
Œ Magazine: But why?!
Ralf: Because I think it’s important to look forward and live everyday at full capacity without crying over the past.
Œ Magazine: Still,how does it work? Do you choose your outfits together?
Ullrich: Sort of, yes.
Ralf: Actually I’d say Ulli picks them more often.
Ullrich: I think I have a stronger sense of fashion maybe…
Œ Magazine: Is that true?
Ralf: Maybe it’s a little true.
Œ Magazine: When is the last time you didn’t wear the same thing?
Ralf: It happens very rarely. Actually, on a few occasions, Ulli went behind my back and bought things without consulting me. I’m always a little hurt when he does that. I’m happier when we stick to our accomplice style.
Œ Magazine: What is your shopping routine like?
Ullrich: We like shopping on Ku’damn, at Gucci, Versace and also in Mitte. We try on the things we both like and than check if the outfit also works as a double when we stand next to each other. But we don’t always agree on what we want.
Ralf: I feel like I have to like it from the beginning.
Œ Magazine: So, Ralf you are more of an impulsive shopper?
Ralf: Yes, in my case it needs to be love at first sight, although I’ve learned that trying things on before buying them is usually wiser. You know how sometimes an outfit or piece of clothing looks fabulous on a mannequin but then, once you wear it, it doesn’t quite work? Ulli helps balance out my impulsive shopping and 90% of the time we can find a compromise.
Œ Magazine: Still impressed! I for one could never imagine having to decide about my clothes with another person.
Ullrich: It’s actually quite fun! Trust us.
Œ Magazine: But there must be things you disagree about… Is that ever the case?
Ullrich: Ralf is a bit conservative. Sometimes I style things in a crazier way and he doesn’t play along.
Ralf: … not true!
Œ Magazine: You don’t agree? Do you see yourself as more conservative, fashion-wise?
Ralf: I don’t even know what he means by conservative…
Œ Magazine: Does it have something to do with taboos?
Ullrich: We are not addressing or trying to break any taboo. They say clothes are like a second skin. You need to feel well in them and, I would add, you need to have fun in them, which might have led to me encouraging slightly over-the-top outfits.
Ralf: You may say that, yes!
Œ Magazine: Is there anything you would never wear? What is a no-go in your opinion?
Ullrich: In my case it’s definitely blue trousers and green socks.
Œ Magazine: Given your unique relationship with fashion, your choice to open a laundromat/cafe is quite curious. What led you to start this business 24 years ago?
Ulrich: Because of our interest in fashion, we were always a little picky about washing clothes the right way. There was no laundromat in the neighborhood, and I had some experience in gastronomy. Ralf and I agreed that cheesecake and cappuccino would add that personal something to an otherwise anonymous launderette and keep customers entertained while they waited. Waschsalon became a bit of a meeting place and even now that we don’t own the place anymore, we love running into the more affectionate clients!
Œ Magazine: Cheesecake is always a clever solution (laughs)!
Do you have some kind of fashion agenda?
Ullrich: We just try to make everyday-life on the streets a little less boring and a little more colorful. Maybe inspire others to be a little colorful themselves. We like to show normal people like us that there are options, that, even at a certain age, dressing well is possible! And the fact that there are two of us running around like this makes sure our purpose doesn’t go unnoticed. But then I suppose a lot of people are appreciative of other men’s sophistication but not open to experiment themselves.
Œ Magazine: Do you think this is more of a male phenomenon? Would you agree that men are a little shyer when it comes to fashion?
Ralf: I don’t think it has anything to do with courage or shyness. I think it’s more about routines and how we are brought up. Look at all the bankers running around in their gray suits! If they only stopped for a moment and tried to wear something different they would realize how good it feels. But many don’t even know how to go shopping, you know?
Œ Magazine: What kind of men catch your eye on the streets. Are you impressed when you see a man wearing a dress for example? Is that something that you consider modern or brave?
Ullrich: That’s not our thing. We are tolerant and we think it’s funny, but it wouldn’t strike us as a style highlight. We’d be more impressed by a beautifully tailored, not gray, suit for example.
Ralf: Tell her about the 80-year old man with that incredible outfit! A man we were both very inspired by and really appreciated. Because it says nowhere that when you hit 80 you need to walk around in gray!
Ulrich: Fashion is a mindset and disposition and that never gets old.
Œ Magazine: Agreed!
Ullrich: You know, there is a woman who always comes into the Waschsalon wearing total black. And whenever I see her I get sad and depressive. What kind of message is she sending to the world and why?! I don’t understand.
Œ Magazine: “All my colorful clothes need to be washed?” (laughs)
R & U: (laugh)
Œ Magazine: Total black is very popular in Berlin. I don’t think it is necessarily linked to some darkness of the soul.
Ralf: Sure, I just get so scared when I see her (laugh). Black stands for sadness and melancholy more then it stands for “joie de vivre”. And you know, this kind of sad and unapproachable mood wears off on your surroundings just as much as happy emotions do.
Ralf: But don’t you think it’s almost a little unfair towards the people around you to send out such negative vibrations?
Œ Magazine: I feel you but freedom of dress is a two way road and everyone is triggered by different things. What bothers you might not bother someone else and the other way around. Who or what is your greatest fashion and style inspiration?
Ralf: At the end of the day Ullrich is one of the most inspiring people I know.
Ullrich: Likewise Ralf! And I guess that that’s what characterize our complicity and dynamic!