Clothing from the Empire: Instagram star Valerio Bonanno lives in a different time

There are people who like to slip into a different role and dress up.

Clothing from the Empire: Instagram star Valerio Bonanno lives in a different time

There are people who like to slip into a different role and dress up. Valerio Bonanno doesn't seem like one of them. There is something about him that gives the impression that he really is a descendant of the German Empire.

Is it the striking paleness of his face, the slicked-back hair? The gold-rimmed glasses with the round lenses, the well-groomed mustache and the ramrod straight posture? Or just the clothes: the white stand-up collar, the bow tie, the tuxedo jacket with the embroidered vest underneath? “Please come in,” he says. Under these circumstances, the unusually long corridor that leads from his front door to the living room seems like a time corridor.

"Get ready to go out with me"

Valerio Bonanno is known to many Instagram users. He has 160,000 followers and, according to him, his videos are viewed up to twelve million times. Not much else actually happens there other than the 31-year-old getting dressed. “Get ready with me” is the motto - “get ready to go out with me”. At the beginning he stands there in long underwear, at the end he is thickly wrapped in several layers with a Sherlock Holmes-like cape as an outer shell. This clothing is not re-tailored, but is original from around 1900. What is amazing is that it neither looks worn nor dusty.

Bonanno serves an espresso on the living room table, which is covered with some kind of carpet. This is not necessarily contemporary, but is due to its Italian origins. He is Sicilian. He only came to Germany for the first time in 2018 to study, and yet today he speaks the language without mistakes or accents. His particularly articulate way of speaking reinforces the impression that he doesn't belong in the 21st century.

"In terms of aesthetics, I would definitely have preferred to live back then"

Bonanno's apartment is on the first floor of a listed building in Cologne's Agnesviertel, which is known for its many beautiful Wilhelminian style buildings - a rarity in the heavily bombed city. Bonanno still enjoys living in Cologne; he appreciates the openness and tolerance of the residents. Because, he emphasizes, in a political sense he feels absolutely no connection to the Empire. He is thoroughly democratic and progressive. "There's nothing political about what I do." However, he believes: "Our current lifestyle is also based on the exploitation of people in other countries, for example when it comes to our clothing and our food." Therefore there is no reason for complacency. “And in terms of aesthetics, I definitely would have preferred to have lived back then.”

Although his apartment has very high ceilings, it appears dark. This is partly due to the heavy velvet curtains that block out daylight and partly due to the dark brown wooden furniture. Some people might feel melancholy, but not him. "I like it when it's a little darker and cozier," says the doctor of philosophy. "Too much light can also be hard on the eyes."

Never felt comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt

The closets are full of clothes that are 100 or even 130 years old. "This style of clothing is really the only thing I like on my body," he insists. He's never felt comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt; he can only really be himself in outfits like those from "Downton Abbey." When he goes to work in a management consultancy, he wears normal office clothes, business casual, because he doesn't want to attract attention. But as soon as he gets home, he slips into the emperor's old clothes.

He finds modern trousers cut far too tight; the trousers of that time were wider and were adjusted to the respective figure with belts, ribbons, suspenders and buckles. Such fashion is much more sustainable, says Bonanno: "You can wear the same pants for ten years because the quality is appropriate and because they still fit even if you have gained a few kilos."

Gramophone from 1917: needle exchange after each record

The enthusiasm for the clothing of the time came first, then came the desire for the right furniture. "Putting together a complete facility is of course a life's work. It concerns me every day." He scours flea markets and internet platforms and something new is constantly arriving. A special attraction is his gramophone from 1917. It has a fantastic sound with almost no background noise. However, you have to replace the needle after each record.

When Bonanno listens to the voices of long-dead Italian pop singers, he feels a connection with the people who listened to the gramophone more than 100 years ago. The same thing happens to him with all objects. He wants to convey this feeling further through the Instagram videos - like a wanderer between times.