Interview With A Gentleman: Bernhard Roetzel On Classic Menswear

Ed Ruiz
13 November 2017

It is not an every day that a small, almost unknown menswear blogger like myself has the opportunity to interview a menstyle icon like Bernhard Roetzel.

Bernhard is the author of several classical style books for men, but he is probably best known for Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion.

I won’t deny it. Yes, I was a bit nervous to even ask him for this interview, but I’m glad I found the courage to do it.

I have to say Bernhard has been nothing but a true class act ever since he agreed to do this and for that I extend my absolute gratitude to him.

My great experience with Bernhard proves that clothes do make the man, but it’s manners that make the true gentleman.

Please enjoy the interview.

Bernhard Roetzel Interview by Ed Ruiz

Ed: Bernhard, first of all, it means a lot for me that you agreed to be interviewed for My Dapper Self. It is not a common circumstance that a style icon such as you is part of this site.

You’re well known mostly for your book Gentleman. A Timeless Guide to Fashion, which is a must in every modern gentleman’s book collection. You published this book back in 1999, that makes 18 years since the book was made available. Do you see an improvement in the way men approach style in these 18 years that have passed since you first published that book?

Bernhard: Despite the fact that the average man in the street doesn’t look elegant by the standards of classical dress I think that a lot of men dress in a more stylish way than they did back in 1999. Especially young men are very often extremely keen to learn about classical style.

Ed: If you could go back in time and change something from the first edition of Gentleman. A Timeless Guide to Fashion, what would it be? Have you changed on your mind on anything that you initially wrote for that book?

Bernhard: I was asked to revise the book for the first time in 2003 and I found hardly anything that I wanted to change because I had completely focused on timeless style when I wrote the book. I revised the book again in 2009 and in 2015 and I mainly updated addresses and other facts. For the present edition we added 20 new pages including some about Vienna and Milan. There is hardly anything that I didn’t like in the first edition, only two or three images.

“…a lot of men dress in a more stylish way than they did back in 1999.”

Photo by Jan Hemmerich

Ed: To those out there who haven’t read your book and are just becoming interested in learning about style and improving the way they dress, what would be the single best advice you could give them as beginners?

Bernhard: First of all you need a concept for your personality. A vision of what your style is supposed to express. Then you can execute this concept or vision with the help of clothes and accessories. Content comes first.

Ed: You have written extensively about sartorial rules, for lack of a better term. Yet, when speaking about developing a personal style, a few of these rules will have to be bent or broken. How can men find the perfect balance between respect for the timeless guidelines and personality?

Bernhard: We often here that you need to know the rules before you start breaking them. I agree with this saying to some extent. Knowledge is always an advantage but you should be careful about a lot of these rules because some of them are only of historical interest. The most important rules are those of proportion because they are the foundation of tailoring.

“Young men are very often extremely keen to learn about classical style.”

Photo by Jan Hemmerich

Ed: If you had the power to eradicate, right now, just like that, a certain formal menswear trend that is happening these days, which one would that be?

Bernhard: Going sockless.

Ed: You have inspired and motivated thousands of men to start caring about the way they present themselves. But who inspires you? Not necessarily your youth style icons you looked up to, but present day menswear personalities that have truly made an impact on you and push you to keep looking for new horizons.

Bernhard: I find inspiration in the style of men who are unknown to the public or by men who work in other fields. The other day I met a friend who is a German who works in Russia. He collected me at the airport in Moscow wearing a dark green worsted two-piece suit made by his tailor in Naples. I loved the idea of a green suit. Sometimes I am inspired by men that I see only for half a minute somewhere in Paris, Munich, Milan or Vienna.

Ed: How would you describe the current state of classic menswear? Particularly these days, when social media has opened so many roads for so-called influencers to modify a certain audience’s perception of style?

Bernhard: In the moment we have a strong interest in truly classical menswear and a trend towards the very fashionable, exaggerated version. The audience is free to choose from both options. Southern Italian style dominates the scene which I find a bit boring. Unfortunately England has become extremely weak in the classical field lately and I don’t know how this could change.

“Sometimes I am inspired by men that I see only for half a minute somewhere in Paris, Munich, Milan or Vienna.”

Photo by Martin Smolka

Ed: Are you excited about the subsequent changes in the classic menswear industry? Would you say you are fearing the worst or expecting the best?

Bernhard: I am neither excited nor worried. We are presently in a situation that allows men with a small budget to dress well because of low cost manufacturing in several places of the world. On the other hand I notice a big interested in handmade clothes that are produced locally. I have no idea what the situation will be like in ten years. I guess a lot of production will come back to Europe and China will become much more sophisticated and real challenge for Italy.

Ed: Here’s a fun one: what would you rather give up, your shoe collection or your tie collection?

Bernhard: Probably the ties. I own about 250 ties but I wear only 10 of them regularly. The shoes would be harder to replace because a lot of the models that I own from my favourite supplier Eduard Meier in Munich are presently not being made.

“Personality cannot be imitated.”

Photo by Jan Hemmerich

Ed: What are the future plans for you, Bernhard? Anything new or exciting you would like to share with the readers of this site?

Bernhard: I think that 99 percent of what we read in the internet is completely redundant because it has all been written before just like everything has been written about Italian cuisine. I think that personal appearances and speeches about menswear will be more important in the future because personality cannot be imitated. This is the direction that I will go to in the future. Nevertheless I hope to publish more books, presently I am working on a new book about handmade and Goodyear welted shoes.

Ed: Anything else you would like to add?

Bernhard: I think that a clean shaven face and polished shoes are very important.

Ed: Thank you very much, Bernhard. It’s been a pleasure.

Get your copy of Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion by clicking here or get a copy of Gentleman: The Ultimate Companion to the Elegant Man by clicking here.
You can follow Bernhard on his official Instagram account as well as on his Facebook page.

For more interviews with other classic menswear personalities like Bernhard Roetzel click here.


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