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In 1980, a young parliamentarian was put in his place. “When we elect Chancellor tomorrow, I expect you to dress properly and wear a tie,” Deputy Speaker of Parliament Annemarie Renger told young Gerhard Schrder. Almost two decades later, Schrder himself would become chancellor and rose to fame for his expensive and elegant suits and coats.

During his election campaign, Olaf Scholz was often asked if he would start wearing a tie if he became chancellor. His response has always been evasive: “I will wear a tie most of the time, but not always,” he said.

The future head of government has sometimes displayed a penchant for casual outfits. Upon arriving in Washington this year, Finance Minister Scholz walked down the gangway of the government jet wearing a sand-colored T-shirt and pants.

Olaf Scholz in black t-shirt

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz chose casual attire for a meeting with reporters in Washington this year

But generally, Scholz’s choice of clothes is conservative: a dark blue suit, sometimes a subtle tie. Psychologist Jens Lnnecker describes Scholz as an “opportunist” when it comes to his clothes. “When he was young and a member of the left-wing youth organization SPD he had long hair, as a senior politician his clothes were conservative, now it’s fashionable to get rid of the tie, so it is ‘is what it does, “said Lnneker, CEO of marketing and media agency rheingold-salon.

Like a pop group

During the weeks of negotiations to reach a coalition agreement, Christian Lindner, leader of the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) party, appeared in white sneakers. A selfie posted by FDP and Greens negotiators to mark the promising start to their preliminary talks showed the men in white shirts, no ties and unbuttoned at the top, and the only woman, Annalena Baerbock, in a dark T-shirt.

“The leaders of the parties that won this year’s elections want to show that they are for change, for a new beginning, that they embody with their own style,” commented historian Claudia Gatzka in an interview with the German news agency DPA.

“They look like members of an independent group who fly from the plane to their concert with their fans,” Gatzka commented in a photo showing the negotiators heading to the coalition talks.

Gerhard Schrder (l) and Joschka Fischer posing with their coalition agreement on stage

Gerhard Schrder (l) and Joschka Fischer donned their expensive suits during the celebration of their coalition agreement in 1998

Too casual, or just mainstream?

In an interview with Spiegel magazine, fashion designer Wolfgang Joop has expressed scathing criticism against the new dress code. “Their clothes signal a degree of helplessness even before they take office,” he said of Olaf Scholz and his vice-chancellor-designate, Robert Habeck. The latter should at least occasionally wear a tie, suggested Joop: “If someone dresses sloppily, it reflects their way of thinking.”

Bernhard Roetzel, author of several style books, is also a proponent of conservative dress. But he told DW he saw some latitude.

“If you compare them to Richard von Weizscker [German president from 1984 to 1994, eds.] you will find that the clothes of Olaf Scholz, Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck are slightly inappropriate. But then times changed, ”Roetzel said. Today’s “business look” is decidedly less formal, he explained, and the appearance of the three new political leaders fits here as absolutely “normal”.

Bearded members of the Green Party in parliament, black and white photo

The first members of the Green Party in the Bundestag in 1983 were clearly anti-establishment

Baerbock and high heels

The signature white shirts of politicians can also be considered a classic business look that symbolizes management skill and experience, thinks psychologist Lnnecker. He even sees a message on ethics, as symbolizing a clean slate of politicians who have a spotless “weisse Weste” (white vest) and nothing to hide.

Fashion expert Roetzel agrees that such symbolism can be well intentioned. “But a white shirt doesn’t suit everyone. It’s so formal that it doesn’t seem to match the extremely casual demeanor of politicians,” he said, suggesting that light blue might be the best choice and also look better. on TV.

What about Greens Co-President and Minister Designate for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock? The most prominent negotiator’s choice of clothing is “trendy but also mainstream,” says Lnneker.

“Her outfits aren’t necessarily the latest fashion trend,” Roetzel says. His choice of color, shape and fit is a bit hit and miss, he says. “Strong colors or black and white patterns are fine with him, but pastel colors not so much.” The fashion expert is also critical of Annalena Baerbock’s iconic high heels. “They make her look late rather than elegant,” he finds.

Annalena Baerbock in white jeans and leather jacket and high heels on a stage during the election campaign

Annalena Baerbock wears high heels with every outfit

The metamorphosis of Joschka Fischer

The Green Party co-leader’s shoe choice is a far cry from her party style in the 1980s. When the Greens made their way into the Bundestag, knitted sweaters and Birkenstock sandals were their outfit of choice.

Joschka Fischer, one of the most famous of all Green Party politicians, wore sneakers during his swearing-in ceremony when he became Minister of the Environment in the Hessian state government in 1985. Au By the time he became German Foreign Minister in 1998, three-piece suits had become his favorite outfit.

“Of course, the style of dress changes throughout a person’s life, as does a person’s personality,” said Jens Lnneker. “He went from left-wing protester throwing stones to foreign minister. This was then reflected in a statesman’s attire.”

Heiko Maas in bespoke costume

Magazine voted outgoing Foreign Minister Heiko Maas best dressed man in Germany

Discretion as a brand

“Formal casualness” has become the style accepted by politicians of all political parties, says Lnneker. Roetzel reluctantly agrees: “This trend reflects the change in society,” he says. “But personally, I find that a more formal style would seem more authoritative. Especially on the world stage.”

Men’s magazine GQ praised outgoing Foreign Minister Heiko Maas for the perfect fit of his bespoke suits, calling him the best dressed man in Germany.

But Lnneker believes politicians are now trying to dress more understated in an effort to appeal to the general public. “Therefore, we will hardly see any style icon stand out in the new government.”

Vice-Chancellor-designate Robert Habeck’s style is the most laid back of all new members of government: he still sports a designer beard and has never been seen with a tie.

Lnneker says it’s perfectly acceptable these days: “Even today’s top executives have beards, and they wear sneakers instead of dress shoes and have taken out ties. that Robert Habeck will have to rethink his outfits. It would be another matter if he insisted on wearing a hoodie to work, but that is highly unlikely. “

This article has been translated from German.

While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW’s editors take stock of what’s going on in German politics and society. You can sign up for the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter here, to stay abreast of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.

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