Lederhosen: Everything you need to know about Oktoberfest's favorite leather shorts
Made for mountains
Though lederhosen are often associated with Bavaria, the leather breeches are not exclusive to southern Germany. In fact, they are shared by other alpine areas including select parts of Switzerland, much of Austria and Italy's South Tyrol, which was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Differences and details
Lerderhosen styles vary depending on the region where they are worn. For instance, the drop-flap front secured by buttons (above) is said to be particularly Bavarian, while embroidery on the backside is typical to the Salzburg area. Some lederhosen, especially those for young boys, are held up by decorated suspenders. And many lederhosen have a right-side pocket where you can stash a knife.
Clothes for the working man
Lederhosen were originally worn for hard work. The material used — tanned sheep or goat skin for the lower classes and deer skin for the more well-off — made the breeches soft, light and durable. They protected their wearers from harsh weather, keeping them dry in rain, cool in heat and warm in cold. The just-above-the-knee length also allowed for a full range of motion over mountainous landscape.
A man, some beers, and a plan
Lederhosen's popularity decreased in the 19th century as preference turned to long pants. The breeches, seen as "uncultured," were on the verge of disappearing. But on August 25, 1883, Bavarian teacher Josef Vogl (above, left), who feared the loss of the traditional dress, hatched a plan with his drinking buddies in Bayrischzell to found a club dedicated to preserving the breeches.
Clothes fit for an emperor
Vogl's drive to preserve the traditional breeches quickly drew followers. By the end of the 19th century, lederhosen had gone from farmers' daily wear to leisure wear for the bourgeoisie and even royals. German King Ludwig II helped spread Vogl's initiative beyond Bavaria. And Austrian Emperor Franz Josef donned the shorts to hunt with his son Crown Prince Rudolf, who wore a longer style (above).
Lederhosen under the Nazis
The Nazis sought to loosen lederhosen's regional alpine roots and turn the shorts into a national style of dress and a symbol of Germany cultural identity that invoked an idealized past. in 1938, the Nazis forbid Jews from wearing lederhosen, as well as other peoples they considered inferior, such as many eastern Europeans.
No shorts in church!
The Catholic Church was never very happy with lederhosen's revival — it considered the knee-flaunting garments improper and disrespectful. It banned the wearing of lederhosen in processions, and in 1913, Munich's archiepiscopal ordinariate officially declared lederhosen immoral. Today, many grooms wear lederhosen to the altar. Above, a gay couple in Bavaria show off their Berlin marriage license.
A global industry
Lederhosen is booming global industry. Many lederhosen factories are located in India, Hungary, and Sri Lanka, and much of the leather stems from India, Pakistan and New Zealand. Domestic goat, pig and cow hides are increasingly used to meet consumer demand that peaks around Oktoberfest. And lederhosen are no longer just for men — women can find ample leather shorts' options. As can dogs.
A pricey pair of shorts
Individuals looking to buy a pair of lederhosen can choose from overwhelming assortment. The cheapest options, made of industrial cow leather, will cost under €100 ($119). The price tag on a high-end pair made from buffed deer skin (above right) can top €1,000! Whatever type you buy, make sure the fit is snug as heat and movement stretches them out. Nothing worse than a baggy lederhosen bottom!
Trends for 2017
Lederhosen may be a traditional item, but it can be hard to keep up with its constantly changing trends! Lederhosen fashion sites state that suspenders are out for 2017, as is heavily-decorated leather. However, charivari charms hanging in front (above) are hot. Also popular are "antique-look" lederhosen that have a faded and worn appearance — to give them that 1883 look.
Bottoms up to lederhosen!
All types of lederhosen will be out if full force at Oktoberfest 2017, which lasts from September 16 through October 3. Short, long, bright, brown: beer-drinkers from around the world will be flaunting the garment that has come a long way since its appearance among the rural working class. Despite the long legacy, lederhosen wearers continue to debate one question: with or without underwear?
Lederhosen were not always popular. They nearly disappeared in the 1880s! But thanks to one Bavarian teacher and his drinking buddies, the shorts will fill Oktoberfest tents. DW presents some surprising lederhosen facts.
For many Oktoberfest revelers, Lederhosen are their apparel of choice. The leather shorts can be seen at every beer tent during the Munich beer festival, which this year lasts from September 16 through October 3.
Above-the-knee, below-the-knee, mini-shorts for women and even lederhosen for dogs! Lederhosen's styles seem endless — and far from the leather breeches' origins with the rural working class.
These mountain men valued the shorts' impermeability, durability and range of movement — qualities which can be appreciated by the Oktoberfest visitor as he risks beer spillages while fighting his way through the crowds to lower himself into a narrow seat on a wooden bench.
Lederhosen owe their visibility today at Oktoberfest and beyond to one 19th-century Bavarian and his drinking buddies, who were determined to keep the garment from dying out. Little did those men know that lederhosen would become part of a huge global industry.