This 16th-Century Selfie Book Was Like One Man’s Old Timey Instagram

Nowadays, social media is to us as water is to fish, and people seize every chance to post their selfie on the web. You may believe that selfie is the child of smartphone and modern media, since the word “selfie” itself was created not long ago. However, the truth is, early in the 16th century, the Germen accountant Matthäus Schwarz has already grabbed the patent, commissioning artists to depict his outfit for over four decades and collecting the paintings in the Klaidungsbüchlein, or “book of clothes” that rivals today’s Instagrammers in detail and dedication.

Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 112 + 113 Miniatur auf Pergament

Born in 1497 in Augsburg, Schwarz spend most of his bookkeeping income on dressing. Each of the watercolor was presented with small captions written above describing the particular outfit and its creation. That really looks familiar because all of us write one or two sentences for our uploaded selfie, It just seems that Schwarz was more serious about these description. He wore red and yellow outfit which was echoing the colors or the Holy Roman Emperor’s flag to welcome the return of Charles V as well as to show his allegiance to Catholicism.


Most of his outfit were surprisingly elaborate, some were decoratd by doublets and breeches with thousands of small cuts into fabrics called “pinks” showing the gone fashion.

Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 136 Miniatur auf Pergament

Differed from today’s nice-looking documentation, Schwarz was absolutely frank about his appearance. From the paintings we can easily find the changes that ages and weight brought to a man. “I had become fat and large.” he worte, not showing any attempt for idealizing images as many people in his century and our century.

Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 27 Miniatur auf Pergament

Recently, Schwarz’s collection which is named the”first book on fashion”by historians was exhibited on “A Young Man’s Progress” at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It serves as a reminder that, like other forms of culture, fashion is a product of its time. Moreover, it even inspired artist-photographer Maisie Broadhead to carry out a new set of photographs of fictional male dandies.

Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 72 Miniatur auf Pergament

In total, he possessed amass 137 images after 40 years when he was 63. While sounds unworthy to be mentioned campared with the massive amount of posts in social media, it’s precisely because true permanence is impossible that clothing choices and self-documentation can offer such rich insight into the values of the past.


“It was incredibly unusual for the time,” says Professor Maria Hayward, who co-edited The First Book of Fashion, “You would usually associate this sort of portraiture with the absolute elite of societykings and princesso it is remarkable that this is someone in the middle section of society.”

Das Schwarzsche Trachtenbuch I Bild 68-70 Miniatur auf Pergament

Accidentally,his show-off not only manage to reserve his delicate outfit for us but also provide useful insight of his society for experts to study. From a man’s outfit under different occasions we are informed that how people think and what they do in that age. Momentous events like deaths and weddings in social life restore the amazing picture.


“The pictures tell us a lot about how men thought about themselves in those days,” suggests Hayward. “They give us lot of insights into young male culture in Augsburgdrinking with friends, archery competitions.”


One shared point of Schwarz and today’s bloggers is democracy of fashion.”Schwarz was bucking the convention of fashion being the preserve of the elite and the wealthy in a hierarchical society, but so too are today’s fashion-lovers on the periphery of the industry who make their presence known through their blogs and Instagram accounts.” Lau wrote for UK’s Independence.

It’s said that Schwarz’s son alos followed the family tradition after his dad and what we can make sure is that both Schwarz and his son would have loved being absorbed in the fashion style and attracting all those “likes”.