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The dead trousers of Dusseldorf

By roving hack Ignatius Rake

Posted April 03, 2014
We're going on a trouser hunt: Inside C&A. © Ignatius Rake

That Rake bloke goes shopping in Germany but it could have been anywhere really.

While packing for a recent assignment to the German city of Düsseldorf, I couldn't help noticing that all my trousers were knackered in one way or another.

Of my entire collection of four pairs of BHS chinos, two had broken flies that wouldn't stay up, with one of them also boasting a rotted-out crotch you could push an angry mandrill through.

Meanwhile, the pair I was wearing had a mysterious hole in the fornt of one thigh while the other had big black stains up the back from where I had obviously been jumping in coal tar.

Consequently, realising I would have a few hours to kill between my early morning flight touching down and my hotel having a room ready, I decided it might be a good idea to spend that time looking for some new strides.

It would also give me a 'project', a goal to my otherwise random meanderings around the city that gave the world Die Toten Hosen, a punk band whose name translates as 'the Dead Trousers'.

After I'd dropped off my suitcase, the first stop fate had lined up for me was a Galeria Kaufhof, part of a chain of department stores owned by the locally headquartered Metro Group.

Having once stocked up on undercrackers and socks in one such establishment in Berlin, I was well aware that any trousers they might have for me would most likely be a tad expensive, but shopping in Germany, right?

Who could say no?

Speaking almost fluent Deutsch, I knew I'd need the bit selling stuff for herons, which I quickly found to be on the second floor.

However, as I wandered around the admittedly quite nice interior, it came back to me that rather than being some big Marks & Sparks, Galeria Kaufhof only sells branded clothing by the likes of Esprit, Hugo Boss and Bugatti, etc.

Being much more a Par Market man, I saw nothing that appealed either to my eye or my wallet.

Where were the Bill Stunt jeans?

Not bloody here, that's for sure, so I turned on my toes and headed back to the safety of the streets.

Within minutes, I had spied the entrance to a C&A, a Dutch firm with joint headquarters in Brussels and Düsseldorf and which is also the Essex girl's preferred supplier of dunghampers, apparently.

In I went in.

And I was not to be immediately disappointed, for on riding the escalator heavenwards, I soon located some pretty OK-ish chinos with sizes I could understand and colours that wouldn't make me look like a French clown clambering out of a paint pot.

Then I spied the price: €49 (£40.57; $67.44) a pop.

Screw that.

I could get at least two pairs in BHS for that money!

The polar opposite of a metrosexual, I loathe shopping for anything other than booze and crisps, so I was more than content to blow out my half-hearted hunt.

I'd get a pint instead.

After all, it was gone 10:30 and I was spitting feathers.

central dusseldorf
Downtown Düsseldorf: Recognise any names? © Ignatius Rake

As I wandered off to the Altstadt district for some of the fantastic local altbier I had enjoyed on many a trip to Düsseldorf, though, it dawned on me that the vast majority of clothes shops on offer were exactly the same as the ones you see all over Europe, whether it be H&M, Fossil, New Yorker, Tom Tailor, Zara, Orsay, Mango, Primark or Prada.

Now, I realise I'm not the first person to clock something that goes by the name of globalisation and I'm not saying that it's either necessarily good or necessarily bad.

What I couldn't help wondering as I became increasingly conscious of what people were wearing and the shopping bags they were clutching, however, was what this ghettoisation of choice on the high street is doing to us culturally and, in this particular context, our wardrobes?

Will everyone everywhere one day dress exactly the same, waking each morn to don the consumerist equivalent of a commie Mao suit, similarly made in China but sold at a vastly inflated price?

"F--k it," I thought.

"I want some trousers and I want some German trousers."

My mind was made up even if my bank manager wasn't.

Across from one of several H&Ms was a store belonging to the Düsseldorf-based Peek & Cloppenburg chain.

I had seen such shops dotted about Germany on many occasions, thinking each time what a great name it was albeit not a patch on Wormland.

That said, I had never actually taken a peek, let alone a cloppenburg, inside.

Now, though, with my quest for leg pipes renewed, I bounded in like Merv Hughes without the tache.

Teutonic tailoring, here I come!

Only I didn't.

As with Galeria Kaufhof, the store just sold big-name/big-price-tag mush you could pay through the nose for anywhere, from Timmy Onefinger to that most Japanese of brands SuperDry, which is actually punted out from an industrial estate in Cheltenham, England, a mere 9,600-odd klicks away from Harajuku.

Admittedly, I could have called into Kult, Jades, Uli Knecht, Bornemeyer or even the fantastically named Lunatic, for example, to see what they had on their pegs for my legs but I now felt so deflated and tired that I simply couldn't be arsed.

The trousers could wait till my bum cheeks were bare.

I needed an alt.

The first bar I entered was Bei Bill, a cosy old-skool place on Hafenstrasse populated at this time of the day by a handful of men in their 60s.

They all turned to stare at me when I ordered a Gatz, no doubt bowled over by my interesting take on their mother tongue.

Not that the landlady seemed to mind as she dutifully poured me my beer.

I drank it at the bar, pondering the implications of my fruitless shopping trip while a local radio station played a jarringly mismatched mix of hits.

The Byrds.

Whitney Houston.


The Beatles.


Cat Stevens.

Gloria Gaynor.

Cutting Crew.

Simon and Garfunkel.

The list went on and on with not a single word sung in German or by a German.

It was just the stuff you hear everywhere really.

They didn't even play Die Toten Hosen.

See also Tossing off in Düsseldorf, posted 31/3/14.

Ignatius Rake
is a freelance journalist, geographer and world traveller who has visited more than 70 countries on six continents. In 2013, he represented the UK at the Fourth Annual Smoke's Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship in Toronto, coming an abysmal last and getting his arse royally whipped by Rake & Herald reader and Major League Eating speedscarfing supremo Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut. He has been known to like a pint.

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