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DANISH HABITS

‘Black, black and more black’: Six tips on how to dress like a Dane

Danes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Denmark. The Local asked Danes and foreigners living in Denmark to help us figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Dane.

'Black, black and more black': Six tips on how to dress like a Dane
People walking in central Copenhagen in August 2021. What constitutes the typical Danish dress sense? Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Praised for its simple, understated and classic lines, but bemoaned for a lack of colour and individuality, there’s no doubt that Danish fashion style has made a mark on our readers in Denmark.

We asked you to let us know what you thought constituted the classic Danish look and give us your tips for the quintessential items. Thank you to all who took the time to get in touch. 

Black, black and more black

“Black. Black. Black” wrote one reader, Linda, when we asked for a typical feature of Danish fashion. The sentiment is a fair reflection of how most people see Danes’ dress sense – for better or for worse.

“Danes have a wonderfully casual style. As for worst aspects, there are more colours than black and brown!”, wrote Louis.

“Black, black and more black – with a hint of grey,” were the observations of Nicholas in Copenhagen.

A Danish model in black clothing. File photo: Søren Bidstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Really? Just black?

“Most women prefer black, grey or white. If they ‘want to wear colour’, they’ll wear a small colourful bracelet or scarf or something small,” said Samantha, a project manager who has lived in Copenhagen for over 10 years.  

“Most teenage girls will wear black leather jackets and blue jeans. In the summer is the only time when Danish women will wear some colour, usually in the form of flowery dresses which tend to be very nice,” Samantha said.

Danish fashion is sometimes criticised for lacking individual expression, but Samantha said it is there if you look closely.

“The personality is in the details. Danes like to dress alike on the surface, but like to have small details that give them personality,” she said.

“Jewellery is usually thin and lightweight. Very nice, but never large – thin necklaces, thin bracelets, small stones, very little colour here as well,” she said.

“I am a male – slim fit, tight pants or jeans, open collar button down shirts,” reader Marc Peltier, a defence manager from Copenhagen, said.

“When a tie is worn, it is a dark colour and thin. Colours are dark (black, blue, dark green), no patterns. Striped T-shirts,” he said.

Scarves and raincoats: Mix style with practical needs

Marc’s tip for an essential – or, at least, popular – Danish clothing item is a raincoat from the brand Rains, which describes itself on its website as having a “conceptual-meets-functional design approach”.

Regardless of the brand you choose, having a purpose outer layer for wet weather is certainly a choice that makes sense in Denmark.

“Beautiful long coats in beige, navy and black” were cited by reader Nico as a particularly popular choice for Danes.

Scarves were another item which many picked out as a Danish essential and a hugely popular item that can cross seasonal divides.

Photo by Karen Cantú Q on Unsplash

“A great scarf that goes with everything… everyone needs one,” Glen wrote.

Items like these don’t necessarily mean breaking the bank, although some did say the high price of Danish-made clothes put them off new purchases.

“Wear ‘quality’ items of clothing… even if recycled,” Glen wrote.

Contrasting trainers

I was once told by a Dane that you can get away with wearing almost anything, no matter how scruffy or worn, as long as you have a smart pair of shoes.

However, it may be that trainers – possibly white ones to contrast with the dark prominent in the rest of the outfit – are the key to successfully pulling off Danish style.

“Wearing trainers – no matter what the rest of the outfit is” is a typical choice, Edward Horton, an automation scientist who lives in Copenhagen, said.

“Comfortable shoes trump style choices,” Edward said.

Reader Linda (not the same Linda quoted earlier) said that footwear featured a “rejection of high heels even with evening gowns”.

A “long large dress with running shoes” is a common pick for women, Ana wrote.

Those wanting to take inspiration from this style should “find a long nice long dress, or nice jeans with a nice viscose shirt (but try find it in a non-Danish brand because it’s always too long or too broad)”, she said.

“Also try to go for the sneakers (instead of the running shoes),” she said.

Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

“I am really not a fan of the Danish fashion but I like the fact that people can dress freely without too much pressure,” she added.

If you don’t want to wear trainers, Birkenstock sandals might be a strong summer alternative, having been cited by several of our readers as a typical footwear choice for Danes.

Don’t show off

“Minimal style, monochromatic clothes, oversized t-shirts, straight lines. People don’t usually show off brands,” wrote Andrea from Italy who lives in Copenhagen.

“Go for simple outfits and keep it laid back” if you want to look like a Dane, Andrea said.

“Not too many patterns, no high heels for women. Wear a nice shirt or t-shirt, cozy pants and sneakers. Don’t mix too many colours but match one or two in a pleasant way.”

“The best aspect is that Danish fashion is oriented towards coziness and effectiveness, and the fact that nobody generally shows off how expensive their clothes are contributes to convey a general feeling of equality in society,” Andrea said.

“On the other hand, this means there is little room for creativity and ‘crazy’ outfits if you like them. You can of course still wear them but you would stand out (and not necessarily in a good way).”

Get the fit right

Avoid “overly tight clothes and poorly fitted garments,” reader Nico said.

One of the weaker aspects of Danish fashion in Nico’s view is “sometimes the silhouette of the body can be lost in overly shapeless garments”, he said.

Others, such as Ann, a scientist from Copenhagen, said that using “oversized items” along with neutral colours would be the best way to mimic the Danish style.

While many praised Danish clothing for its well-cut designs, many observed the popularity of baggy items.

“Oversized blazers, muted colour pallet, New Balance sneakers, or Nike AF1 in triple white” were the best tips Vijay, an ICT Officer in Copenhagen, would give to someone who wanted to dress like a Dane.

He questioned the choice of oversized blazers: “why though? Nineties is back?”

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CULTURE

Five Danish Netflix series that aren’t Borgen

It's usually the first programme people suggest when you start delving into Danish series. But there is more to Danish TV drama than Borgen. Here are our picks of some other Danish shows produced by Netflix.

Five Danish Netflix series that aren't Borgen

The ever-popular Borgen aired its fourth series on Netflix last year after a ten-year hiatus, with the global streaming giant having joined up with national broadcaster DR to give the political drama a much-anticipated comeback.

Borgen got a fourth series on an international streaming platform for a reason, as it is highly popular outside of Denmark. But if you want to explore the world of Danish series further, we have some suggestions.

Kastanjemanden (The Chestnut Man)

A Danish crime series based on the book of the same name by Søren Sveistrup, Kastanjemanden takes its title from a children’s rhyme, which is given a chilling makeover and forms a motif in the series.

Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and her reluctant new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) investigate the murders of several women involving a mysterious chestnut figure left at the crime scenes. 

The six-part series was released on Netflix in 2021, to very good reviews. Described as “gripping” and “gruesome,” it’s classic Nordic-Noir successfully released on streaming. If you like DR’s The Killing and The Bridge, you’ll probably like this. Be prepared to be sitting on the edge of the sofa.

READ ALSO: Danish TV: The best shows to watch to understand Danish society

Equinox

The six-part supernatural thriller from 2020 is full of suspense and mystery but may leave you with questions at the end.

It centres around a group of students celebrating their school graduation on a party bus (studenterkørsel) – a familiar summer sight in Denmark. But that’s where the familiarity ends, as mystery ensues when most of the students on the bus disappear. 

Nine-year old Astrid’s (also played by Curcic) older sister Ida is one of the students who goes missing and the series follows Astrid’s attempts, as an adult, to investigate what happened in 1999.

Mixing folklore, imagination and reality, with a modern setting, it’s been described as “a cross between Stranger ThingsMidsommar, minus the horror, and the French series The Returned.” 

The Rain

This is a dramatic post-apocalyptic series in which most of the population in Scandinavia is mysteriously wiped out by something carried in raindrops.

Led to safety by their scientist father, two young siblings (Alba August and Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) shield themselves in a bunker for six years but their father doesn’t return to them. They finally emerge and join a group of other survivors (led by Følsgaard, who like Curcic is a Danish Netflix regular) to search across Denmark and Sweden for their father and a cure for the lethal rain.

It has some spectacular visuals, notably of a post-apocalyptic central Copenhagen. Fans of dystopian fiction and Denmark might therefore find it appealing.

However, viewers should be prepared to endure some Amager-sized plot holes, contrived behaviour by characters and dangerous scenarios which could have been avoided if someone had just asked what seemed like a very obvious question five minutes earlier.

Despite this, the Guardian gave it a four-star review and said, “this tale of environmental disaster is about more than survival – it questions the very nature of humanity.”

Three series ran from 2018 to 2020 and are all available on Netflix.

READ MORE: Six weird and wonderful Danish film title translations

Rita

Rita is the name of the main character in this Danish comedy-drama. She is an unconventional chain-smoking teacher and single mum of three, who fiercely protects her students and pretty much does and says as she wants. Often wearing a leather jacket and giving an air of a teacher who doesn’t have rules, her pupils love her. But she often comes up against problems of her own, particularly when it comes to adults and her own three children. 

The show is not only popular in Denmark but internationally, as it reflects progressive Scandinavian values, with gritty plot lines covered in a funny way.

Filmed in Rødøvre, Copenhagen, the series first aired on TV2 but then moved to Netflix who co-produced the last three seasons. There are 40 episodes over five seasons. It ran from 2012 to 2020. Dutch and French versions have also been produced.

Chosen

A Sci-fi mystery coming-of-age series that mixes Danish crime with the sci-fi genre.

Set in the fictitious Danish town of Middelbo, the series centres on 17-year old Emma. She discovers that her town, which was known to have once been hit my a meteor, isn’t what she thought it was.

Although Middelbo isn’t real, it reflects a typical quiet rural Danish town, although most of the series was filmed in and around Copenhagen. 

The six-part series aired in January 2022 and was created by the same people behind The Rain – Christian Potalivo and Jannik Tai Mosholt.

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