This gay “hipster grandpa” is a world-famous fashion icon with one simple message

Photo of "hipster grandpa" Günther Krappenhofft dressed to the nines and jumping on the beach holding a rainbow umbrella
Photo: Screenshot

At nearly 80 years old, Günther Krappenhofft makes an unlikely influencer. He never expected to be famous. Up until eight years ago, he didn’t even have a smartphone. But he now boasts 176 thousand followers on Instagram, posting long positive messages about authenticity alongside extraordinarily dapper fit checks. He tells his follows to “just be yourself” and his German Wikipedia page describes him simply: “style icon.” 

Günther plays an avuncular role as a queer elder on the streets of Berlin, where he stands out like a colorful bird of paradise among the city’s black-clad techno anti-fashion uniform. He wants to show younger people that you can still love life, live joyfully and be cool when you grow old.

He doesn’t believe in only dressing for special occasions. “With age, my perspective on life has changed. Elegant clothes that I used to only wear on special occasions, the fine, expensive china or the outrageously expensive perfume for a very special evening, all of these things are now used daily,” he tells his Instagram followers.  

His book, Just be Yourself (sei einfach Du) is about the value of individuality. “You need to have the courage to be true to yourself,” he tells LGBTQ Nation, “whether that’s about how you dress or who you love. I always say: be yourself, everyone else already exists. You are the original,” he laughs.  

For Günther, clothes have always been a part of that expression, but it was a chance encounter that made him the style icon he is today. 

It all began when he was waiting for a metro at Kottbusser Tor, one of the seedier parts of Berlin’s vibrant Kreuzberg district. A passing photographer took a photo, and it ended up on the news wires across the world, appearing in taxi cabs and on billboards from New York to Tokyo. He became known as “Berlin’s oldest hipster,” or the hipster grandad.

His natural style immediately caught the eye of Japanese fashion house United Arrows, who arranged his first appearance on the catwalk. “I wasn’t always interested in fashion, but my personality, my emotions, my mood were always wrapped up in my clothing.”

Günther’s life has been shaped by these happy accidents. A kid from the north German countryside, he never expected the life he lives now, and it took him a while to get there. He initially wanted to go to New York as a cook on the legendary Hamburg America Line, but they told him to wait in West Berlin until they were next hiring. This stopover in a city that was then still divided by the Berlin wall blew his mind. He never left. “The parties were all day and all night, twenty-four hours, especially in the queer scene.”

This was a scene Günther wasn’t much involved in back then. Despite the wild partying, he settled down, temporarily. The gay hipster grandpa got married at 29 – to a woman – and they had a child together. He was in denial about his sexuality and wanted a normal family life and to be a dad. “But then I met someone who threw my life off its path,” he says. Though he doesn’t regret it he says “it was a very painful process. It wasn’t always like it is today.” Being gay was illegal in Germany back then, with the Nazi-era law staying on the books until 1994. 

But Günther wasn’t alone – he stayed connected to his family and even ended up starting a support group called Schwule Väter (gay dads) for men in his seemingly unique situation. It turned out it wasn’t so unique at all. “We helped other people accept their sexuality and live as gay and to live with the family while still taking care of their families.” After the divorce, he even ended up as a single dad for a while, raising his daughter alone, though he adds he still has a great relationship with his ex-wife.

After being in a heterosexual marriage and then a gay single dad, his third life started when he was strolling through Berlin to meet friends and two young girls stopped and asked him, “Do you want to come with us to Berghain?” He made an on-the-spot decision to cancel on his friends and join them at the world famous nightclub, and this too changed his life. 

Günther describes that day as almost like a religious experience.  “I stayed there for 8 hours and danced as if there was no morning, and I was never as free and happy as in those 8 hours, connected in the darkness with this mass of people. It was like a revelation.”

Since then, he’s regularly spotted at many of Berlin’s most exclusive nightclubs, dancing energetically way past the bedtime of most of his contemporaries. “The club is my mass,” he says. 

From line cook and husband to gay dad, model, clubber and author. Does Günther have any other new hobbies or changes in his life planned? He refuses to answer. “I live a new life every day, and don’t think about the future – that’s smart at my age.”

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