Lederhosen are leather breeches that are worn for various activities such as hiking, working outdoors, going to folk festivals like Oktoberfest or relaxing in beer gardens. They are a symbol of pride in the Alpes similar to the kilt in Scotland and the cowboy hat in the US.
Even though Lederhosen are worn in many Alpine regions in Austria, Northern Italy or Switzerland and only in the south of Germany, they are often misconceived as a general German national costume by foreigners.
Bavarian leather breeches mainly come in two types, either as shorts or as so-called “Kniebundhosen” – the longer version which goes just over the knee with a tighter band around the calves. Their most distinctive features are the traditional embroidery as well as the flap (drop front) known as the “Hosentürl”.
The female counterpart to Lederhosen is the Dirndl.
The Origins Of Lederhosen
Today, people mostly wear Lederhosen as leisurewear in beer gardens and festivals or for special occasions. However, back in the days, working-class men would traditionally use them for physical work only. As the leather is more durable and easier to clean, the Lederhosen had certain practical advantages over other garments made from fabric.
Lederhosen evolved from the Culotte, a tight pant that was common on the royal court. People in the Alpine regions transferred the pattern onto the already used leather by the late 18th century. The new creation quickly became popular among farmers and replaced the old bloomers which were the preferred trousers until then. After the French Revolution, the urban population increasingly started wearing long trousers, while the traditional leather shorts remained the common labor garment in the rural areas.
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Leather breeches may not have necessarily been a pure Bavarian phenomenon. They were actually a common garment in many countries across Europe back in those days. Nevertheless, the front flap that is characteristic for Lederhosen that are world-famous today has its roots in Bavaria.
However, the main reason for conceiving Lederhosen as a Bavarian garment for festivities instead of labor lies in the 19th century. In that time, society increasingly saw Lederhosen as uncultured peasants’ clothing. As a result, the practical pants continuously lost in popularity. To counteract this trend, special clubs and associations emerged in Munich and other cities. These tried to promote the traditional garment as a cultural good which then led to an increased use of the Lederhosen for special occasions.
Fabrication Of Traditional Leather Breeches
Traditionally, stag leather or other types of soft leather are the preferred fabrics for Lederhosen. Cow leather usually only serves for mass production. The original leather breeches are hand-crafted with a lot of love for details. The fabrication by hand and customization to individual sizes can often take up to several months. But this is worth the wait since the high quality makes them durable and wearable for an entire lifetime.
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Photos by akante1776