Rogue Vogue: Pirate Party Keelhauled over Scruffy Outfits

As Germany's new political mavericks, Pirate Party members make a point of favoring wild hair and nonconformist clothing. But the sartorial slovenliness has not impressed established politicians, who have criticized the Pirates' garb as "undignified" and "inappropriate."

Photo Gallery: The Pirate Party's Freaks and Geeks Photos
DPA

Members of Germany's pro-Internet freedom Pirate Party may be plugged in when it comes to their political platform, but their sartorial bandwidth seems to be a bit narrow.

The party has styled itself as the new rebels on the German political scene, using their outfits to defy the status quo. But lately their crazy hairstyles, slovenly outfits and tendency to literally dress like pirates have become a distraction from their impressive political achievements. Rather than focusing on their successes, which include making it into four state parliaments in recent regional elections, both their opponents and the German media have taken to questioning the professionalism of their provocative fashion choices.

In a recent letter to the North Rhine-Westphalia state parliament seen by SPIEGEL, the assembly's president, Corinna Gödecke, criticized the relaxed approach to dress exhibited by certain members during the first two sessions.

Even when it comes to "individual freedom," the center-left Social Democrat wrote, she expects a "minimum of respectability." According to this standard, men should "at least wear a sport coat," while women's shoulders "should be covered." Furthermore, hats and scarves, which belong to the Pirate Party's favored jaunty accessories, are "inappropriate" for the state parliament, she wrote.

No Peekaboo Pants Allowed

The fashion buccaneers have also been raising eyebrows in Berlin's city-state parliament. "Since the Pirates have been around, the optical decorum has lapsed and it's undignified," SPD politician Tom Schreiber told Berlin daily BZ on Sunday. His comment came after a vulgar incident in which Pirate Party member Fabio Reinhardt wore shorts, which Schreiber described as "practically underwear," to a special meeting of the domestic affairs committee last Friday.

"We parliamentarians need to have a discussion about an appropriate dress code," Schreiber added. Jeans are acceptable, he explained, "but please wear long trousers, so that nothing peeks out."

Reinhardt, 31, who told the BZ that he simply hadn't had the time or inclination to change after a swashbuckling boat tour, has since put his Bermuda shorts up for auction on eBay in protest of the criticism. "Guaranteed unparliamentary!" Reinhardt wrote in the tongue-in-cheek description. "As shorts are obviously no longer wanted in parliament, they are being surrendered through the proper channels." The winning bidder's payment will go to aid Iranian refugees in the city of Würzburg, he says. As of Wednesday afternoon, the highest bid was nearly €450 ($570).

But the Pirate Party can take solace in the fact that the Green Party, which used to occupy the outsider niche that the Pirates have taken over, were also criticized for their dress sense back in the day. Joschka Fischer, a prominent Green who later went on to become German foreign minister, shocked Germany in 1985 by wearing sneakers to his swearing-in as environment minister for the state of Hesse. In a sign of how rebels can become part of the establishment, those shoes are now on display in a museum in Offenbach.

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