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‘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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Six weird and wonderful Danish film title translations

English films generally aren't dubbed in Denmark but that doesn't stop Danes taking liberties when translating the titles. We've collected some of the strangest examples of when film titles have really been lost in translation.

Six weird and wonderful Danish film title translations

If you’re watching an English film in Denmark from the 80s and 90s, you may notice a similarity in the titles. Certain words such as iskold (ice cold) and ondskaben (evil) were very popular choices to translate a whole range of films. 

‘Basic Instinct’, became ‘Iskoldt begær’ (Ice cold desire); ‘Murder by Numbers’, became ‘Iskoldt mord‘ (ice cold murder).

‘The Shining’, became ‘Ondskabens hotel’ (Hotel of Evil), ‘Pet Sematary’, was translated as ‘Ondskabens kirkegård‘ (Cemetery of Evil) and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ became ‘Ondskabens øjne‘ (The Eyes of Evil).

But there are other film title translations that range from random to ridiculous. Here are our top six:

The Shawshank Redemption: En verden udenfor

The 1994 prison film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins as inmates in Shawshank State Prison has a confusing title in English, which is blamed as one of the factors behind its initial box office flop.

The Danish title isn’t much better, though. It’s called ‘En verden udenfor’ (A world outside) which is about as descriptive as the English version.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance: Die Hard – Mega Hard

The action film from 1995 is the third in the series of ‘Die Hard’ films with Bruce Willis in the lead role as the policeman John McClane, who is constantly thrown into action-packed and life-threatening situations.

The title ‘Die Hard’ means that the main character is hard to kill. Instead of just calling the film ‘Die Hard 3’, as most fans call it, in Denmark it was decided ‘Die Hard – Mega Hard’ was better.

It’s thought the title was changed because the word ‘vengeance’ is difficult for Danes to pronounce but it resulted in a slightly embarrassing attempt to place contemporary slang in a film title.

It’s not the only film that Denmark has changed from English to another version of English: ‘Cruel Intentions’ became ‘Sex Games”; ‘Joyride’ became ‘Roadkill’; ‘The Help’ became ‘Niceville’ and ‘Everything Must Go’ became ‘Neighbour For Sale’.

Why not.

Friends with Benefits: Bollevenner

The romantic comedy ‘Friends with Benefits’ from 2011 stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two ambitious career people who are too busy and jaded to find a partner and therefore decide to have casual sex with each other.

The situation becomes complicated when the guy falls for the girl, who has meanwhile started dating someone else.

While the Danish title ‘Bollevenner‘ (‘Fuck buddies’) is not inaccurate, it is in true Danish style, very direct and portrays the film to be more explicit than it is.

Another romantic comedy was made in 2011 called ‘No Strings Attached’ starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, which has roughly the same plot. This film was given the more appropriate Danish title ‘Venskab med fryns‘ (‘Friendship with benefits’).

Music and Lyrics: Et sikkert hit

The Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore film is about an 80s washed-up singer who is given the chance to revive his career by writing a song for a teenage pop star. He enlists the help of the woman who waters his plants and together they write a song and fall in love.

The Danish translation doesn’t really add anything, nor is it necessary, given the borrowed word ‘hit.’ Altogether quite random.

Raw Deal: Sagen er bank

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action film from 1986 tells the story of an elderly and embittered FBI chief who wants to get revenge against a Mafia organisation and sends a former FBI agent and now small-town sheriff to destroy the organisation from the inside.

Directly translated, the Danish title means ‘A case of a beating’, or ‘A proper beating’ could be derived from it – slightly harsh and direct but gets to the point. A similar variation was used on another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, the 1977 documentary ‘Pumping Iron’, which was translated as ‘Sagen er bøf’ (‘Pumping a beating’).

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging: Hormoner, hængerøve og hårde bananer

The British youth comedy ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ is about 14-year-old Georgia, who dreams of dating handsome Robbie. But unfortunately, Robbie is already paired with the popular Lindsey. It’s basically about all the problems that very young teenagers struggle with, and the main character Georgia can be described as a 14-year-old version of Bridget Jones, who keeps getting things wrong.

The title, ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ refers to Angus who is Georgia’s cat, the type of underwear teenage girls start to wear and snogging. The Danish version, ‘Hormoner, hængerøve og hårde bananer‘ literally means ‘Hormones, hanging arses and hard bananas’, which doesn’t quite get the tone of the young romantic comedy but definitely has a ring to it.