Recommended Reading: “The Germans” by Nina Zywietz and Silke Wichert

© Collage / Oriane Baud | Portraits (v.l.) Nina Zywietz ©Pedro Beraldo & Silke Wichert ©Marcela Pimienta | Cover © The Germans – Stil Und Ikonen Einer Nation

Creative director Nina Zywietz and journalist Silke Wichert speak to us about The Germans, their informative new book on German style

Bauhaus, techno, Birkenstocks, and Claudia Schiffer: What is actually “German”? For anyone born and raised here, of course it’s something nuanced and completely different. And me, for my part, I’m surely one of the biggest proponents of “everything was better in the old days,” reveling in memories of Das Traumschiff on TV and times in the Cologne University library in which I sat hour upon concentrated hour, without a smartphone, filling my folders with notes. Now my amazing friend Nina Zywietz has compiled a book alongside journalist Silke Wichert to give experts their say on this collective nostalgia. It’s about tennis, the Otto catalogue, and the GDR nudist travel guide:

1. How did you guys come up with the idea for the book?

We both lived for an extended period abroad, and that gives you a different perspective on your home country. Also, we were frequently asked things like: Why doesn’t Merkel dress more fashionably? Why aren’t the pant suits at least by Boss? Why is watching sports on big screens in public such a huge thing for you guys? A lot of people also think of techno immediately when they think of Germany – even though the sound wasn’t created here. So we began working on this topic and thinking about what style Germany has, and why it is the way it is.

2. What do you personally consider “typically German”?

Foreign correspondents from The New York Times, The Guardian, and La Vanguardia asked us that. One answer was: “In Germany one should assume that things are prohibited – unless they are expressly allowed.” That hits it on the head pretty well.

3. What’s so special about the 80s and 90s?

We were socialized during this period and for us, of course, the image of Wetten, dass…? on TV and everyone from Brigitte Nielsen to Peter O’Toole and Sabine Christiansen sitting on that sofa is inextricably linked to the Saturday evenings of our youth. But at the same time, this show and Thomas Gottschalk shaped the view of German television entertainment abroad. We didn’t just want to show the “vintage” Germans, however. There are also a lot of current images and references in the book.

4. What are your favorite anecdotes or stories from the book?

Designer Ayzit Bostan writing on “becoming German.” She describes how she felt receiving a German passport after 44 years. The son of perfume tycoon Herbert Frommen recalls a memory from the German boom years of perfume when Jil Sander was sitting on the sofa at his house – while he was sitting next to her playing with the packaging of Davidoff Cool Water, Joop!, and Jil Sander. The man who drew up the one and only nudist travel guide to the GDR – the personal anecdotes are unbeatable.

5. Is there a German phenomenon that cuts across all areas?

Frequently we only recognize something when it becomes successful abroad, or are much more critical of certain things than others are. Here, the Scorpions are often reduced to the embarrassing minstrels present at the fall of the Berlin Wall, but Barack Obama is such a fan that he once asked when visiting Germany if they might be able to make an appearance. Birkenstocks are regularly “rediscovered” in New York and London, but not here. Marc Jacobs even wanted to create a version a few years ago, and the brand declined. The reason: “He wanted to do something to the soles.” It doesn’t get more rooted to the soil than that!

© THE GERMANS - STIL UND IKONEN EINER NATION von Silke Wichert & Nina Zywietz, published at teNeues, € 39,90


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You can buy the book on teNeues website here.
Follow Nina Zywietz on her Instagram account here and Silke Wichert here.

Translation: Melissa Frost

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.