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August 04, 2019
Lederhosen are one of the most highly recognized symbols of German and Bavarian culture across the globe. Even caricature representations of Germans are often donned with Lederhosen. Alongside beer and pretzels, they have come to be shining emblems of Bavaria, its people, and their celebrations. Despite this, many people do not realize that the pants have a history spanning several centuries that did not always have to do with partying.
The origins of Lederhosen are a bit hazy, but it is clear that they were a staple of peasant clothing by the 18th century. Their durability was a huge advantage for the peasantry; such sturdy materials made Lederhosen an easy and utilitarian choice that would last for a long time during their gruelling working days. Although leather pants seem to have been commonplace in much of Europe at this point, the traditional Lederhosen seen today with a flap in the front was considered “Bavarian Style” by the French, showing that already three hundred years ago, they were a unique piece of clothing worn in Southern Germany. During this period, the nobility had taken a liking to peasant culture and donned their own, more luxurious and decorated versions of the Lederhosen.
During the first half of the 19th century, the popularity of Lederhosen began to wane. Many factors led to this, including a movement away from the clothing of lower-class people amongst nobility. The royals no longer found a connection to their subjects and their lifestyles as important, and distanced themselves from the people once again, focusing more on building their own separate high culture.
Around the same time blue jeans were invented. The new pants caught on quickly and began to replace Lederhosen as the go-to choice for working class peasants looking for a no-frills choice of clothing that they could put long hours of work in without worrying about ruining.
By the end of the century, however, nostalgia got the best of the Bavarian people and Lederhosen became the centerpiece of any outfit worn for festive occasions that called back on the region’s history. In the 1880s, several groups that focused on the preservation of traditional Bavarian culture, including its clothing, began popping up across Southern Germany, especially in Munich. This saw a resurgence in Lederhosen, but they began to take on a different role in Bavarian culture. No longer were they used for their durability as work clothes, but as a celebratory outfit that called upon the long and rich history of Bavaria. More lavish and artistically fashioned Lederhosen were crafted to be worn to fests, weddings, and other parties. This resurgence caught on like wildfire, and Lederhosen once again quickly became a staple in German culture. Most of the views on Lederhosen that are widespread in the modern-day come from this period, especially their usage and the way in which they are crafted, with an emphasis on special designs and style.
Today, the position of Lederhosen as a festival attire is stronger than ever. One trip to a major celebration such as the Oktoberfest in Munich or any other smaller beer fest in Germany reveals a vast number of partiers donning various iterations of the loved pants. Lederhosen are donned by tourists as well as locals when attending the Oktoberfest, some of whom shell out upwards of one thousand dollars for their pants. If you are planning on attending a traditional Bavarian celebration, whether it be in Germany or anywhere else - see our guide to all major Oktoberfests happening across the US here - you cannot go wrong choosing to go in Lederhosen. By choosing the authentic way of dressing yourself you will be connecting with other festival-goers just as much as you are connecting with the three hundred plus year history of this tradition. Also, it looks better on your Instagram.
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