Fashion View: Harald Uwe Kern

Staff Writer

Harald Uwe Kern has been at the Louisville Ballet for nine years where he is resident Ballet Master. His profession has taken him around the globe from places as close as Charleston, South Carolina to far off locales as New York and Tokyo. Born in Vienna, Kern grew up loving the musical and fashion stylings of early punk before finding his sartorial home in 1960s British “Mod culture” – synonymous with sharp suits, iconic labels (such as Fred Perry and Ben Sherman) and accessories such as mopeds of all things. Kern sat down with the Voice-Tribune to give an insight into what makes up his personal style.

GURYASHKIN: Most people are not familiar with the “Mod” look, so how would you define it?
HARALD UWE KERN: Clean and sharp. It originates from the 1960s but you go to any department store now and the clothing is becoming very much like it did then. There is no break in the trousers, clothes fit very close and slim, it has to be well cut.

GURYASHKIN: What drew you to that particular look? You grew up in Austria how did that have an effect in your style?
KERN: I got into the Mod style through punk. My teenage years were the late 70s, so I was in love with bands like The Clash and The Jam and even though I liked the music, I really loved what they were wearing. There were only a couple of us in Vienna who dressed the same so we all hung out, then when Quadrophenia (the iconic British film based on Mod-culture) came out and exploded all over Europe everyone looked like we did. Back then there were no thrift stores, so I would have to raid my dad’s closet. I still remember I wore two of the suits he wore for his wedding day – made in Italy in 1964 and they were just perfect.

GURYASHKIN: Why is your style so important to you?
KERN: It just became my look. Over the years I would go with other fashions but came back to this look. It’s like when you go to the department store and you see some suits and they’re all two button; then there is one that is three button with nice thin lapels and you know that’s the one. You don’t know why, but it’s you.

GURYASHKIN:And you ride a scooter also because being a Mod is not just a fashion but a lifestyle, correct?
KERN:Oh yeah. But I actually grew up on scooters in Vienna. Our family didn’t have a car until much later so it was the only mode of transportation that we had, so it was all I knew.

GURYASHKIN: Where are your favorite places to shop for clothes?
KERN: I have found some of the most amazing items in Urban Attic. I also find some great things on Zappos. I go to Japan once a year where there are some great lines there as well.

GURYASHKIN: Do you think that your look makes you stand out on the streets of Louisville, where it’s more unusual?
KERN: I have a lot of friends in Louisville, and they always say, ‘You’re always dressed really nice.” But I don’t even notice it or realize it, it’s just what I am.  You know there are very few guys who are really, really good looking. Now, I can’t change my face but I can change what I wear. I was walking past a bar at 2 o’clock in the morning and some kids said ‘Man, you look sharp, you look like Daniel Craig. We love what you’re wearing.’ I said thank you, but then thought if they loved what I was wearing why were they wearing baggy clothes and flip flops? It does not cost much money to dress well.

GURYASHKIN: Do you think then that your style is something innate to you?
KERN: It something that’s never left me. I was looking at pictures of myself when I was 13,14 and I was wearing the same outfit as I’m wearing now. I don’t even notice. I love what I wear, but it’s for other people to decide what they think about it. All I know is that I am comfortable. I just really like wearing a suit.