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Gentleman. A Timeless Fashion

Bernhard Roetzel gives us an insight into how his passion for menswear became his well-loved book 'Gentleman'.

Gentleman. A Timeless Fashion

It was a grey November day in 1997 when I walked into a museum bookshop in Germany. I picked up a book about the various culinary traditions of Europe and said to my wife that the same type of book should be done about menswear. The best of every country, suits from Italy, shoes from England, Chinos from the US... the seed had been sewn. After I had returned home I quickly wrote down a concept for the book and sent it to the publisher that had inspired me. His office was in Cologne, the town I lived in.

At the time, I worked as a script-editor for a TV production company after I had spent a few years as a copywriter in advertising in Hamburg and Frankfurt. Classical menswear had been my private passion since my student days but I had never seriously considered making it a profession. Nowadays, everybody can start a blog no matter where he lives and what he does. In those days writing about menswear meant journalism and that was still a rather serious business in Germany. You’d have to attend one of the prestigious schools for journalists or get a degree in journalism at a university. I had studied graphic-design...

I believe that the way I was dressed and the shoes that I wore, helped convince my publisher to offer me a contract.

My future publisher Ludwig Könemann in Cologne didn’t care about my degree, he was only interested in the concept I had sent him, so he invited me to his office immediately after receiving my letter. Ludwig Könemann had made himself a big name in the publishing world with his coffee table books about architecture, travel and cuisine. He had a passion for good clothes and shoes himself. When I visited his office I made sure to don a fine English-made suit and a pair of suede Oxfords from Crockett & Jones. He looked at them and started talking about his shoes. They were bespoke made by a Hungarian. We chatted about shoes and clothes before the serious discussion began - my concept for 'Gentleman'. I believe that the way I dressed and the shoes that I wore, helped convince my publisher to offer me a contract. I had no credit as a menswear writer but he seemed to trust my enthusiasm. Maybe he thought I was a bit nutty but I left his office with the commission and the rest is history.

'Gentlemen' was first published in German in February 1999 with an English version being made available two or three months later. In London people didn’t know my face, but the following years after the launch of Gentlemen, sales staff would recognised the name on my credit card when buying shirts, ties and shoes on the world-famous Jermyn Street. What really puzzled most readers that I met in the first years after the release of my book was my age. I was 32 when it came out. I proudly remember Michael Drake telling me, when I was introduced to him at Pitti UOMO, that he thought that 'Gentleman' had been written by a man with considerable experience, possibly in his fifties. I took this as a compliment. And thought of Michael’s remark on my fiftieth birthday. I was glad to have finally reached the age that suits my treasured and well-read book - Gentleman.

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Words by

Bernhard Roetzel

Bernhard Roetzel

Menswear Journalist and Author

A man of experience, Bernhard was born in 1966 and after a short spell at junior school in South Africa, followed his dream to return to his home country - Germany. Studying hard in his early years, he always had an eye for design which later evolved into a love for classic menswear from all over the globe. This eventually led to Bernhard putting pen to paper, becoming an author of some of the finest books on menswear available today. For those who have a thirst for the classics of the clothing world they are not to be missed. From grooming to footwear with general care thrown in for good measure… because that is what a true Gentleman would do. Asking and answering all of the right questions that would concern the discerning man on becoming… A Gentleman.

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