Interview With Bernhard Roetzel


February 23, 2013 by Ville Raivio

“I’m 45 [two years ago, when the interview took place]. I think you can call me a professional writer because I write in return for money. I am not a professional writer in the sense that I have had any education or training that prepared me for my profession. I started out as a copywriter in advertising. The agency that I worked for was based in Hamburg and their main client was a pharmaceutical company. That job was fun although I wasn’t interested in the products at all. Later I wrote scripts for TV shows. Since 1999 I mainly write about fashion and style. I have two little sons and a stepdaughter. They are too young to realize what I do for a living. The little boys like my hats and overcoats that hang in my wardrobe and they do notice what I wear but there is no deeper interest so far. My wife is interested in clothes and fashion too but we hardly discuss these subjects at home.

I had an interested in clothes at a very young age. At least this is what my mothers tells me. We have lived in South Africa when I was a little boy and I was impressed by the school uniforms that I saw in the English school next door to the „Deutsche Schule Pretoria“ that I attended. Our school uniform was grey. When I studied graphic design in Hannover I frequently studied the shopwindow of a small custom tailor shop called „Krautheim“. I liked to see the half finished garments. I thought that it would be great to have something tailored for oneself. I was so obsessed with tailoring that I even dreamt of tailor shops. That dream came true about ten years later when I ordered my first bespoke suit in Savile Row. That was an amazing feeling.

I have gathered my knowledge from books and conversations with craftsmen and professionals from various companies. In those days I didn’t know about the internet. Today I use the internet a lot but I still prefer to listen to people and to ask them questions and to look for myself. My style has been very English since my early schooldays but recently it has become more and more continental European. I don’t try to imitate the British anymore. The 1930s and 40s have become a strong inspiration. My style is less flamboyant and colourful than it used to be. I like simplicity.

I have mainly used John Coggin from London. In the moment I am very happy with Kathrin Emmer from Berlin. She is still young but very good. I still love John Coggin’s suits but I have become very tired of London and of going there by plane. I much prefer to meet my tailor in my hometown. It’s great if you can cycle to the workshop for a fitting. I never aimed at influencing people [with regards to his well-known book]. I am not a preacher. I know that the views on style and fashion are extremely diverse. I respect other tastes. I think I wanted to save some of the knowledge that I feared would disappear soon. Fortunately many young people still like the classical style. [Whether its popularity has had an effect on this life] Not much in my private life. But when I get invited to do a speech and when I see that dozens or even a hundred or two hundred people come to listen just because of this book I realize that my work is different from that of most people and my life too.

I read a lot about the history of the 20th century and I am also very interested in politics. A great passion of mine is playing the guitar. It may surprise you that I am not into classical music. I listen mostly to what today is termed American roots music. This is also what I play on the guitar. You can even find clips of me playing the guitar with a band from Cologne on YouTube. Don’t buy too many things. Make a plan of what you need now and what you will need later. Don’t be tempted by cheap offers. Stick to your plan and buy only the classics you need. You don’t need many garments. If you start with one suit, one tweed jacket, one blazer, one overcoat, two pairs of shoes and a couple of shirts, sweater, trousers and ties you will be well dressed in most situations. A dinner suit can wait and also summer suits. Buy second hand clothes not only because you can’t afford new clothes but to study the quality of the cloth of the past.”



~ Originally published in Finnish on the 20th of September 2011


  1. Jonathan Collins says:

    Ive owned his book for over 20 years. It’s fantastic!

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Only a beautiful life is worth living.

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell