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The Gay Berliner: Attack of the clones

How to spot a gay from miles away... Walter Crasshole lets you in on the Berlin gay uniform.

Image for The Gay Berliner: Attack of the clones
Photo by Nick Royer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Walter Crasshole empties his fag bag andvents on the issues of the day. This month: the new gay uniform.

As Cobra Killer’s “Mund auf, Augen zu” hammers its beat through my headphones, I wipe a bead of blue-stained sweat off my forehead. Working out alone has always been my thing as it allows me to survey the meat market better, and today’s no different. I cast my eyes around the Kottbusser Damm McFit, and I see one. And another one. And yet another one. Homosexual men. And no, not swishing across the floor from cardio to machines, but doing the rather restrictive butterfly movements of the chest press (okay, that sounds gay, but there’s no room for a limp wrist when you’re holding up 55 kilos).

I don’t need to see the way they walk, or hear the way they talk, to know. Who the fuck in this town needs gaydar anymore? We’re witnessing the return of the Clone, Berlin-style.

What’s a Clone, you may ask? Back in post-Stonewall San Francisco, it was the result of gay visibility trying to push itself over the rainbow through an easily identifiable uniform. The “Castro Clone” was an idealised,exaggerated form of 1970s masculinity: tight jeans, plaid shirts, visible chest hair. Think Mike Brady (Robert Reed was G.A.Y., by the way) more interested in sucking cock than explaining to Cindy why tattling isn’t cool. The uniform had its political purposes, but faded out in the 1980s with the rise of gay punk and other subcultures: what kid, gay or not, wants to look like their father? And Sid Vicious was way sexier than Dad Brady. Now the clones are back, but their uniform has changed. How do you know if you’re a Berlin Clone? I’ve got a little test for you. BTW, if you’re straight and the below applies to you, well, dude, you might look gay. (And if you’re a girl, you might be Swedish.) Check yourself:

  • Short-cropped bowl haircut, fuzz on the sides, tea saucer of half a centimetre on top.
  • Neck tattoos, lots of neck tattoos. Preferably of birds diving towards the torso.
  • Facial piercings aren’t required, but subtle ones are helpful – perhaps a septum ring so small it can’t be seen from more than a half-metre away.
  • Carefully kept beard, trimmed and shaped. Not the hipster ironic one (nobody believes you’re a lumberjack in this city), but a pronounced one nonetheless.
  • An outfit of head-to-toe black, thighs and arms from your shorts and muscle tee not included, and Adidas on top of your Adidas.
  • One single accessory, most likely a chain around your neck bearing an ankh, pentagram or upside-down cross – anything that says, I was an atheist, but now I like to flirt with whatever trendy magic is en vogue this week, just for fun.
  • A look of unfazeable aloofness, if anyone can see beyond those little round sunglasses you’re wearing.

I’m not saying having a few of these elements makes you indistinguishable from the blob. My Bulgarian friend Kiril hit three of those targets, but would also come over and fix my bathtub in heels, a corset and pearls – that was a scene. It was a bit like Vlad the Impaler meets Dr. Frank’n’Furter.

But why is it that every time I’m at the gym, or walking down O-Straße, I suddenly feel like I’ve stepped into line for Berghain? We can’t all be that unimaginative. I mean, yeah, for sure, your look is edgy back in London or Rome or wherever, but here in Berlin I get the feeling that half the people flocking to this herd work for Google or something.

And I get it. There’s something to be said about secret codes and ways to signal others in a world where homophobia is still a massive problem, especially for men. And there’s a certain flair to the Berlin Clone look. But what happened to the idea that Berlin was a city for the edgy and weird, even for gay men? It’s being drowned out in a sea of loose-fitting black tops. Time for me to hone my gaydar once more.