In the depths of Catholic Bavaria, German men not only vote for the arch-conservative Christian Social Union, scare off black priests, and complain about the influx of refugees – they also sneak out and dress up as women.
“I think many of our 'girls' are grateful to have us,” Inka Horvat tells The Local. “We give them everything they need and a place where they can be themselves.”
Horvat is the owner and founder of Nuremberg store Inka Horvat – one of the biggest retailers in the country when it comes to silicone breasts, long-haired wigs and oversized high heels.
While the store caters to transgender individuals as well as men who cross-dress, the majority of customers are leading a hidden life.
“Eighty percent of my customers live out this life undercover,” Horvat said. “They are maintaining secret identities.”
Not only that, almost 90 percent of those men are married – and angry wives routinely call the store because their men spend too much money on fake breasts.
The shop even counts politicians and CEOs among its clientele. When these high-profile customers stop by, the shop is closed to hide their identities.
Inka Horvat displaying a high heel from her collection; Photo: DPA
'Soft and wobbly'
Helping men explore their femininity has become a booming business.
After struggling to establish herself in the beginning, Inka Horvat now counts 65,000 customers worldwide. Annual profits have hit an impressive €1.9 million – double what they were eight years ago.
And the store puts in effort to make their “girls” feel like real ladies: they offer breast prosthesis which are both stick-on and strap-on, high heels up to size 47 and panties that make men's little men look almost invisible.
Best-sellers by far are the fake boobs in size C and D, “because it's reflective of most women's biological breast size,” tells Horvat The Local.
“They should also be soft and wobbly… when you touch them you definitely don't want hard lumps,” she explains.
Some however prefer saggy bosoms, where each one weighs five kilograms. A pair of these goes for €600.
Drag queen; Photo: DPA
A more tolerant Bundesrepublik
Stores like Inka Horvat are profiting from a general trend that's been asserting itself in Germany, where more people feel comfortable expressing more different gender identities.
Around 23,000 Germans have applied for sex reassignment surgery within the past 35 years, according to a statement by Petra Weitzel from the German Association for Transidentity and Intersexuality.
At 1,400 cases annually, the numbers have been on the rise over the past few years.
But some companies are still aware that the lifestyle can be taboo, and offer their customers discretion.
Amolux in Bavaria and Amatus Secret in Thuringia also distribute products such as fake breasts, but they are delivered as if they come from a different address.
Horvat, however, is pushing forward with her business strategy – in 2016, she wants to open branches in Berlin and Rhineland and possibly a showroom in Austria.
“The market is not yet exhausted”, she says, “we're welcoming all those girls, who really aren't girls.”
With reporting by Max Bringmann