is the German word for working clothes. I love to buy them. They're bold, durable, and odd -- paradoxically, practicality gives these boiler suits and gloves much more interesting shapes than any fashion designer would dare. They're garish yet severe, flamboyant yet macho, pragmatic yet decorative. They use unusual, innovative materials -- rubber! plastic-sealed paper! -- and have lots of pockets everywhere
. For tools, you understand.
part of any secondhand store is usually my favourite rail. "Now I can dig the street!" I exclaim, certain that the street will also dig me. These garments are, of course, particularly wonderful in Japan
. But here in Berlin they're pretty great too. A latter-day August Sander would be able to capture some fine full-length working men's photographs at the airport or a dug-up stretch of road, featuring bright yellows, oranges and reds.Claudia's Berufskleidung
, at 67 Karl
Marx Allee, sells Berufskleidung
which are "bear-strong". Claudia has been there on the windswept, Stalinist boulevard since 1992. I buy my clogs there, and flowery housecleaner aprons for my girlfriend. In the world of Berufskleidung
a man is still a man and a woman a woman. Oh yes!
To the right, you see a poster on Claudia's wall featuring two German friends wearing their Berufskleidung
. They are not homosexuals, nor Village People impersonators. They are healthy German men, perhaps amateurs like myself who simply value Post-Protestant utility value (for instance, they may well prefer Gebrauchsmusik
-- useful or utility music -- to other kinds of music, made simply for pleasure) or perhaps working class professionals. I think the black suit is some kind of drinking costume -- the bearded bear wearing it has won many medals for his industrial-strength drinking abilities at Oktoberfests
. Note his serpent-shaped fat black stick, with dead leaves speared on its pointed end. His white-suited friend is a dandy disco plasterer. There's nothing more satisfying -- as he well knows -- than getting a pristine cream flared disco suit quickly filthy. In the bucket and sack behind the pair are either cement and plaster or (more likely) the tubs of cash they've saved thanks to shopping at Claudia's.
I came away from my visit to the store yesterday with a chocolate-brown apron (€10) and a pair of bright red rubberized gloves (€2,90). (Click the picture above to see a bigger version.) I have no idea what profession my uniform might suit me to. A fishmonger, perhaps? A cacao plucker? But, delighted with my purchases, I couldn't resist slipping them on (with a little help from Cheung Lik, who purchased two pairs of gardening gloves, one grey, one white) right there on the platform of the U5 line at Strausberger Platz. Standing under Claudia's pragmatic emporium, wrapped in practicality, chocolate and blood, I did indeed feel "bear-strong".