The First Fashion Blogger and the Dandy Ethic of Capitalism

In the current age of hyper-minimalism—where austerity has become the de facto metric of good taste—findings from pre-modern Germany reveal a lost mode of ornate masculinity.

Unearthed after centuries in obscurity by historian August Fink in 1963, and published now for the first time in color, The First Book of Fashion documents the life of Matthäus Schwarz through his obsessive relationship to clothing. Schwarz was an accomplished eccentric. As a financial advisor employed by the notorious Fugger family, he is the only accountant to have his portrait hanging in two major museums (including the Louvre). He also claimed to be the first person to have celebrated his own birthday. Along with local artist Narziss Renner, Schwarz embarked on a 40 year project to document his sartorial choices in meticulous detail.

Schwarz’s book of illustrations is a unique fashion document, but also an artifact of a strange moment in history. The accountant was born in Augsburg in 1497, during a time when the gushing excess of newborn capitalism had not yet been reigned in by protestant notions of self-restraint. In many ways, Schwarz was the first of his kind, a proto-yuppy who pre-existed the humble and Lutheran norms of bourgeois living. The First Book of Fashion showcases Schwarz’s loudly-colored doublets, his heart-shaped coin purses, as well as his scarlet bonnets with gold buttons and threads. The display unveils a frozen strain of ultra-flowery masculinity that is still powerful nearly half a millennium later. While Schwarz has been called “the first fashion blogger,” it would be more accurate to compare his project to the #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) Instagram tag. By focusing on his changing wardrobe from adolescence to old age, he prefigured the mode of autobiography-as-art.

Das Schwarzsche Trachenbuch II.BuchdeckelLeder
Das Schwarzsche Trachenbuch II. Buchdeckel Leder
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 86 Miniatur auf Pergament
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 86 Miniatur auf Pergament
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 128 Miniatur auf Pergament
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 128 Miniatur auf Pergament
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 129 Miniatur auf Pergament
Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 129 Miniatur auf Pergament

The recent exhibition “In Mode” at the Germanische Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg focuses on clothing in a similar time and place as Schwarz. Centered around archeological findings from a tailor’s studio in Bremen, the show brings into light other episodes of renaissance and early baroque fashion. Installed in a floating, phantasmagorical style, the remnants on display appear as unraveled strands of our current sartorial DNA. One such example is the practice of “pinking,” a decorative technique of ripping small slits in a garment. Much like pre-distressed denim, pinked tops were an aristocratic sign of reckless bravado, one that gradually got more and more extreme. Matthäus Schwarz himself owned a doublet with 4,300 tiny pinks. But as the trend morphed into jackets with large, gaping slashes, the power of the state began to intervene. In 1529, a member of Swiss parliament ordered everyone who owned ripped clothing to either throw the garments away or sew the cuts back together.

While certain findings from this time are oddly familiar, other extravagant mutations have become extinct and seem alien to us—silky balloon-shaped silhouettes, pleated variations on the man skirt, and hats that dwarf Pharrell’s Vivienne Westwood chapeau.  But perhaps the most bizarre of these relics is the ruff, an iconic Elizabethan neck-ssessoire. The ruff collar is a prime example of fashion’s penchant for absurdity. The neck device, made of starched linen or silk, was often embroidered with pearled lace and folded in figure-eights. Its design created the illusion of a floating head, the Cartesian separation of mind and body realized as a style affect. Such a head feels precarious perched atop its silk saucer, as though the ruff presupposed the slice of the guillotine blade and the imminent demise of bloated baroque culture. Yet viewed from the perspective of the present, the ruff is a spectacular triumph of decadence and body modification. In the current epoch bound in denim and shoved into sleek workwear silhouettes, this maximalist notion of the dress exemplified by Matthäus Schwarz and his contemporaries reveals the curious power of pure and unabashed ornament.

The First Book of Fashion is available through Bloomsbury. The “In Mode” exhibition catalogue is available through the Germanische Nationalmuseum. 

#OOTD
August Fink
Cartesian
Elizabethan
Germanische Nationalmuseum
Matthäus Schwarz
maximalism
Narziss Renner
The First Book of Fashion

Published in

Issue #30 — Summer 2016NO FEAR

In celebration of its 30th issue, 032c and artist-director RALF SCHMERBERG teamed up to create “An Innocent Mind Has No Fear,” a proposal for the ultimate Berlin film with a libretto by writer HELENE HEGEMANN. It is a manifesto about life in the post-contemporary era, where cultural promiscuity has dissolved into a condition of spiritual bankruptcy. Heat and compression have melted the meaning from our past algorithms, while aimless citizens wander in search of a new morality. The bandwidth of pleasure-pain has become endless.

Welcome to 032c Issue XXX!

Artist STERLING RUBY shares his archive of workwear, a collection of clothing that appears as next century’s post-apocalyptic craft. Developed initially as a uniform for his Los Angeles studio, the garments are part of a larger, self-cannibalizing material practice that includes his sculptures and paintings.

Austerity bully, refugee haven, neither, or both? — In light of Germany’s newfound powerful and complex role on the world stage, journalist Joachim Bessing and sociologist Heinz Bude seek to untangle the psyche of a country through its mysterious figurehead leader, ANGELA MERKEL.

In the wake of Hood By Air’s sexually charged takeover of the shop windows at Barneys New York, creative directors SHAYNE OLIVER (HBA), DENNIS FREEDMAN (Barneys), and BABAK RADBOY (Telfar) discuss public transportation, dermatology, and the legacy of Helmut Lang over martini glasses filled with ceviche. Meanwhile, writer HANNAH BLACK unpacks the significance of Hood By Air’s silicone replicas of male models into a pyramid of fashion-commodity-death.

THE LOTTA-DELPHINE COMPLEX — At a time when industry wisdom is crowd-sourced and the consumer holds more power than ever before, 032c’s Jina Khayyer speaks to LVMH executive DELPHINE ARNAULT and mega-stylist LOTTA VOLKOVA, two equal yet opposite centers of gravity in the contemporary fashion landscape.

In tandem with his friends Jeff Koons, Jeffrey Deitch, and Maurizio Cattelan, the Cypriot industrialist and art collector DAKIS JOANNOU has turned an “unreasonable love for art” into a Zeitgeist-shaping pile of acquisitions. 032c’s Thom Bettridge travels to Greece at the apex of the financial crisis to uncover the mysteries behind the tinted windows of Joannou’s pop art battleship, Guilty.

“People, for me, are function. Is that awful?” — After being awarded Britain’s best mens- and womenswear designer in the same year, J.W. ANDERSON receives a visit from architect Jack Self, who administers a personality test at the designer’s home in London The verdict: Anderson is an accomplished devil’s advocate and a hyper-capitalist par excellence. Anderson explains why he prefers interviews to psychotherapy, and how the fashion industry is an autobahn: You can go as fast as you like, as long as you don’t take your hands off the wheel.

“It seems like the only way out is to speed up what is already at work”— Anthropologist JASON PINE shares his field research into homemade meth-cooking in rural Missouri and explains how a backwater drug epidemic is in fact the chemical embodiment of mainstream capitalism.

After bringing art criticism to the masses with Ways of Seeing, author and artist JOHN BERGER gave half of his 1972 Booker Prize money to the Black Panthers and used the other half to relocate to a village in the French Alps. Writer Niklas Maak brings us a portrait of Berger’s life as a rural futurist on the occasion of The Seasons in Quincy, a film initiated by his longtime friend Tilda Swinton.

COLLIER SCHORR and LOTTA VOLKOVA team up for an editorial feature, while enigmatic fashion designer CHRISTOPHE DECARNIN makes his debut as a fashion photographer in a celebration of the American West.

Juergen Teller makes peace with a soccer rival, a Renaissance accountant predicts the future of menswear, and the anti-aging industry performs a Swiss Air First Class takeover of the Bauhaus tradition — all this and more in SELECT, a 32-page bonanza of our favorite products of the season.

032c Issue 30 is available now, with a choice of two covers: COLLIER SCHORR shooting Gosha Rubchinskiy and Balanciaga on the left, and RALF SCHMERBERG shooting Gucci on the right.