Rooks & Rocks, Hamburg
Words & photography: Lee Osborne @sartorialee
Lee Osborne profiles German made-to-measure label Rooks & Rocks, based in the Hanseatic city of Hamburg
Rooks & Rocks was established 12 years ago, by Simon Schmidt and 2 friends, who set up the business while they were still at University, opening a small store in Winterhude, a suburb of Hamburg which is known more for its residential credentials than its shopping. “We all had other part-time jobs besides University and our store so we were able to lower the loan costs we needed by half. We started the business without any credit and everything we achieved is just down to hard work and dedication to classic menswear” says Schmidt. The trio’s early entrepreneurial promise saw them win the coveted Hamburg city ‘start-up’ competition, and led to them being featured on the front cover of Hamburger Abendblatt, the city’s leading and most-read newspaper which Schmidt admits gave them a rocket style take off. “How did the company name come about?” I ask, “Rooks & Rocks is a fantasy name” says Schmidt.
“We wanted something which sounded cool and was a little bit, what we Germans call ‘Zungenbrecher’: something which is tricky to spell, like Häagen-Dazs, but everyone remembers it”.
The fantasia theme extends inside the store where colourful animal print wallpapers and eye-catching surrealist window displays provide the backdrop for suited mannequins and a matt black cubist style shoe wall.
Schmidt is the only member of the team with previous experience in the textile industry, having trained as a master in the trade of textiles. “I have a great passion for classic menswear, so this was the only business which made sense for me to establish as an independent”. The company’s flagship store lies within the glass fronted Galleria arcade on Große Bleichen, an upmarket shopping district close to the Binnen Alster in downtown Hamburg. Schmidt confesses that while they have been based in many other locations across the city, “this was the location where we always wanted to be based. And of course we have 7 other locations: in the north we have 2 stores in Berlin then Braunschweig, Hannover and Bremen while in the south there’s Konstanz and Stuttgart”. Judging by the amount of suits awaiting collection on the upper floor, business seems to be ticking along nicely. “Sure, hard work pays off! We have the best team in the world, with the most dedicated employees and we are very thankful for that. Besides that all our founders work in the company and in the stores every day.”
I ask Schmidt how he would define the modern Hamburg man's sartorial look, and how often it includes wearing a tie? “The modern Hamburg sartorial look is most of the time without a tie, which is evident throughout the working world now. We would love to see a reverse of that in future of course. In terms of the fit, we’ve noticed the cut became fuller in the last couple of years and we don’t see skinny fit so often any more. Hamburg’s most beloved colour is blue for sure, but green is currently giving it a run for its money”. In terms of their go to fabrics, “HFW Fresco is very popular with our customer base because Germans love less wrinkling in their garments. Since Covid we have seen a rise in the demand for sports jackets and we are very happy to see suits back on the agenda once again in the past few months”. Rooks & Rooks only offer MTM with suits starting at €499 not including cloth. “It obviously depends on the choice of fabric and the construction” adds Schmidt. When I worked in Hamburg back in the heady days of 1996 I remember there were several British style menswear stores, their shop fronts festooned with Union Jack’s, which don't seem to be around anymore. I ask Schmidt if Hamburg still takes a steer from the British style? “Yes you are right, most of the stores have gone. And I have to say British style is not that present anymore. Social media and the Dutch company Suitsupply have had a marked effect on the way we now wear and style suits”.
Two Huddersfield Fine Worsteds bunches stand out in particular for Rooks and Rocks, number one for sure is Fresco, because Germans love less wrinkling in their garments and number two Blasone, because everyone seems to be able to find the right shade of colour in this rainbow-coloured bunch.
Große Bleichen 21, 20354 Hamburg;