What would Bavaria be without their Oktoberfest Lederhosen? Oktoberfest, we can’t even imagine without them. You may dispute whether they look sexy, country or elegant. I’d argue that depends on who’s in them.
However, what we take for granted today as part of the Bavarian traditional clothing did not always have a sure-fire place in Bavarian tradition.
6 facts to the surprising history of the German Lederhosen phenomenon
- Historically, the traditional German Oktoberfest Lederhosen came from the culottes. These were tight-fitting, courtly knickerbockers. At the end of the 18th century, Alpine folks adopted this style because it was practical for farm work. The leather came mostly from locally farmed goats and sheep. Stag and chamois was the privilege of the upper class since they were allowed to hunt.
- However, the traditional Bavarian leather pants, as we know them, pretty much disappeared at the end of the 19th century. …And they may have never made it to nowadays. But thanks to the Bavarian teacher, Josef Vogl, this unique piece of clothing did survive. Vogl found that this “age-old” Tracht deserved preservation and recognition. Therefore he founded the first Bavarian society for traditional costumes (Trachtenverein) in 1883.
- Most folks were not excited about his endeavors. In fact they laughed at the guys in those knee-long leather pants. The Catholic Church even got involved and prohibited the guys in Lederhosen from taking part in processions. To make things worse, the archiepiscopal ordinate in Munich declared them immoral / unethical in 1913.
- Finally King Ludwig II intervened and changed things around. He shared Vogl’s enthusiasm for a Bavarian folk costume. …And with the king’s support the traditional German Lederhosen took off. In fact, for a while the Bavarian Lederhosen were extremely popular in the upper class across Europe.
- A century later, Hitler was another historical figure who was extremely fond of these pants. ‘Extremely’ means of course in his case that he went to extremes: He made this traditional piece of clothing to a national costume. To top it up, he instated a law that prohibited Jews from wearing the traditional Lederhosen in public.
- After WWII the Lederhosen became the pants for boys per se. Finally the European victory march of the jeans put a slight dent into the extreme popularity of the traditional German Lederhosen.
However, during the Oktoberfest season it is recommended to show off in a pair of traditional Lederhosen. You want to look like you belong!
3 crazy facts about Bavarian Lederhosen
- Where there are Lederhosen – there must be a world record! In fact, the largest ever produced pair of German leather pants was made in Zell at See-Kaprun in 2013. This is NOT in Bavaria but Austria! The humongous pair of pants have a waist size of 8.50 meters (=27 feet and 10.65 inches). Their side length is incredible 5.30 meters (=17 feet and 4.66 inches). This makes it even for the largest person look slightly oversized!*
- The oldest pair of Bavarian Lederhosen is at home in Bayrischzell, Bavaria. They’re also called the “Ur-Lederhose” (initial/original leather pants). This famous Lederhose was handmade in 1883. According to its current owner, Klaus Pritzl, it was actually worn by one of Josef Vogl’s friends, Kaspar Reiter. It’s made of home-grown stag leather and is a sanctuary relic of Bavarian tradition!**
- In contrast to common belief, much of the leather for the traditional German Lederhosen is imported from India, Pakistan or New Zealand. Manufacturing is mostly done in Hungary or even India. In fact, there are only a few local tanneries and manufacturers left in Bavaria. So, you can still get a genuine Bavarian Lederhose – just for the right price!
*Info source: www.krone.at/Steil/Vermutlich_groesste_Lederhose_der_Welt_in_NOe_geschneidert-Riesen-Krachlederne-Story-365661
**Info source: http://www.merkur.de/lokales/miesbach/landkreis/ur-lederhose-bayrischzell-882936.html