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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beer Mugging

Hint's Swiss style correspondent Play boozes it up...

Leather shorts and thigh-slapping dances aren't just perverse darkroom practices. I'm at Munich Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer festival. And let me tell you, there's enough here to appeal even to non-devotees of wheat beer and dirndl chic. You see, if you hail from an over-styled yet narcoleptic city like Zurich (as I do), and are ever so tired of fast-fashion trends (as I am), the German tradition is full of kitsch curiosities, bar-wench charm, calorific treats and a dandy-esque disdain for what the arbiters of cool are wearing right now.


After the initial shock of encountering people of all ages strutting the city streets in embroidered deerhide shorts and dirndl dresses, you realize they actually look rather dashing. By the time you enter the Oktoberfest fairground, you feel seriously underdressed in your black hipster uniform. But it's okay, because once you've made it past the fierce security into one of the fourteen giant tents, anarchy rules. You fight your way past the masses of fellow revelers, somehow find your seat and in no time you have plates of Bavarian veal sausage with sweet mustard, pork knuckles and roast chickens arrive to your table—or, in my case, a very cheesy Swabian egg pasta. And pretzels, lots of pretzels. Of course, beer flows non-stop, from midday until 11 pm. Through it all, a live band performs sing-along anthems and before long, the cheery oom-pah-pah has everybody climbing on the wooden benches, swinging and swaying into blissful oblivion. That's what I call the sound of music.

As for Munich style, the locals love fusing Italian fashion with their own rustic DNA, which results in a preponderance of flashy sunglasses, perma-tans, contemporary Bavarian costume, brightly-colored sports apparel and BMWs. Which means the streets are refreshingly free of the Berlin Mitte brigade and skinny jeans-wearing wannabes. Instead, the luxury shopping area around Maximilanstrasse is bustling with groups of Middle Eastern women in Burqas carrying giant Dior bags, possibly to be unpacked at the legendary private pizza parties at Hotel Bayrischer Hof, Munich's premier address.

So while it's safe to say Munich won't be fashion's next erogenous zone, the city definitely cuts a dash when it comes to eccentricity. Blame Ludwig II, Bavaria's equally extravagant and bumptious king and uber-dandy icon. Think Michael Jackson-meets-Liberace-meets-Elton John-meets-Cinderella and you have some measure of the man who built Neuschwanstein castle as a fantasy retreat and an ode to his male muse, Richard Wagner.

The other dandy icon who's left his stamp on the scene is gay filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who introduced post-war femmes fatales and leather nazis to 70's German cinema. His hang-out, the gay district of Glockenbachviertel, is now home to the hip kids, among them up-and-coming fashion designer Patrick Mohr. Championing an eclectic personal style, the former model is living proof that a mustache and traditional Norwegian knit jacket can be very fashion-forward, especially if styled with Bowie pants and moccasins. Patrick's eye for what I call acid folk is most evident in Henrik Vibskov's fall 08 collection, which he worked on. Which reminds me I must now get back to making my acid dirndl for Oktoberfest '09. Watch this space.

Fassbinder graffiti, Patrick Mohr

Text & images by Play

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