Lederhosen: Country Trends


Figure 1.--Austrian school photographs in the 1950s show many boys wearing lederhosen. The rural school portrait was taken in 1950.

Lederhosen are most associated with German boys, in part because Germany was the largest most populous country in which they were commonly worn. They were also widely worn in Austria--albit by far fewer boys because Austria is such a small country. They were worn by boys in several other countries as well--especially countries with large ethnic German populations. Ethnicity was clearly a factor in the sprea of lederhose. In Switzerland, for example, German Swiss boys often wore lederhose, but they were not commonly worn by French Swiss boys. It was not, however just ethnic Germans who wore lederhosen. They were even popular for a time in Germany's main continent--France, but not nearly as popular as in Germany. Even a few English boys wore them. The only country with a large German population where lederhosen have not commonly been worn is America.

Austria

Lederhosen were widely worn by Austrian boys. In fact the origins of lederhosen trace primarily from Austria and Bavaria in southern Germany bordering Austria. (Much of this is described under Germany below.) Lederhosen in Austria were particularly popular in the inter-War years, Lederhosen were worn by Scouts and other youth groups, including the Hitler Youth, after the Anchluss in 1937. I believe they were mostly worn for outdoor activities, but also with a kind of folk jacket for dressier occasions. I'm not sure how common it was to wear them to school. They continued to be widely worn in the 1940s and 50s. School photographs show many boys wearing lederhosen. Lederhosen in Austria began decling in popularity in the 1960s as boys began wearing jeans. One Flenish boy visiting at the time reports that his Austrain cousins were all wearing lederhosen.

Belgium

I have little information about lederhosen in Belgium. Probably the pattern is similar to that in France, at least in French speaking Walonia. I'm less sure about Dutch speaking Flanders. I don't know if they were worn before World War II, but after the War they were worn by many Scouts. They appear to have been more common in the Flemish areas of Belgium. While Scouts in the 1990s give less attention to uniform and few wear shorts, some do still wear lederhosen. They were not, however, worn by the Flemist nationalist organization--the VNJ. Even so, Flanders is the only area that I know of were lederhosen have been worn by boys (Scouts and others alike) to a large extent although they are in no way part of its national tradition. Regional costumes play but a marginal role in Flanders. Were they are known they are, as indeed in Netherlands, of a totally different style from Southern Germany. The popularity of lederhosen in Belgium is in part a desire of the Flemish to differentiate themselves from the French speaking Waloons which have traditionally dominate Belgium. Lederhosen, quite common for Flemish boys in the 1960s, are rare today. They have never been worn by adults. One well-traveled Dutch boy has provided some details about Belgium.

Bosnia

We have no information on lederhosen in Bosnia.

Brazil

Brazil had a small German population. I know little about it at this time. Some of the Brazilian German boys wore Lederhosen. A good example is Alexander Schultz whose father worked with a Sâo Paulo museum. Alexander spent a summer living with the Amazonian Indians.

Croatia

We have no information on lederhosen in Croatia.

Canada

As in America and Britain we rarely see Canadian boys wearing Lederhosen. Short pants in general are not as common in Canada as in America and Britiain, but we also do not commonly see the knickers-length Lederhosen thjat are worn in Germany and Austria for skiing and cold weather wear. While Lederhosen were not common, some children did wear them. A French canadian reader tells us that he did buy a pair of Lederhoseb for his little girl.


Figure 2.--German and other European boys commonly wore lederhosen as casual and outdoor wear in the 1950s and early 60s.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is the western area of former Czecheslovakia. The prefiferal areas of the Czech Republic were almost completely German speaking before 1945. This area was calle the Seudatenland and the excuse Hitler used to dismantle pre-World War II Czecheslovakia in 1938. The Seudatenland was handed over to Hitler by England and France in exchange for "Peace in our time." HBC is unsure to what extent German boys there woren lederhosen. It is unlikely that Czech boys did. After World War II (1945) virtually no Germans stayed on. HBC has little information, but belives it is unlikely that Czech boys have since begun wearing lederhosen.

Denmark

It is probably a mistake to infer from geographical proximity that lederhosen were ever common there. I doubt whether they are ‘indigenous’ there since they are not in neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein (that used to belong to Denmark and has a Danish minority.) . If they have been worn to any extent I suspect they are a twentieth century development like in most of Northern Germany.

England

English boys have never commonly worn lederhosen. Perhaps they were preceive as too German. They may have also been seen as a bit bizzare. Also English Scout groups were often strict about uniform regulations and did not permit non-official garments. After World War II some military families were stationed in Germany. Some of these boys brought lederhosen home to England when they returned. Other boys whose parents lived are worked abroad--especially on the Continent might wear lederhosen. They never were widely worn. This mostly occurred after World War II. The cultural exchanges that might have brought lederhosen to England were not encouraged by the NAZIs.

France

Lederhosen were never as commonly worn in France as in Germany. Some Scouts wore lederhosen, I think mostly in the 1950s. Lederhosen were sold in the 1950s as 60s as casual boys wear. One American HBC contributor who spent a year in a French school during the mid 1960s tells me that some of his French classmates (boys 11-13) wore lederhosen to school. Since the popular adoption of jeans, especially after the late 1960s, lederhosen have mostly disappeared in France. Alsace is an area of FRance that is ethnically German. Alsace was seize by the Germans in the Franco Prussian War (1870-71), but regained by France after World War I (1914-18). A HBC reader reports, "I have never seen lederhosen there." They are being worn by two related groups of scouts (one at Riaumont near Lille and another one near Paris), but I am convinced that this is a relatively new development, aopted by the priests who founded the Riaumont group in the 1960s. It has not been adopted by any other group of French scouts, although individual Scouts may have worn them. A French reader whose mother grew up along the Swiss border tells us that he wore Lederhosen as a boy in the 1960s and provides some details about Lederhosen in France.


Figure 3.--German Scouts and other youth groups like the Hitler youth commonly wore lederhosen, usually without the suspender front.

Germany

It was the German state of Bavaria where lederhosen first appeared as rural wear for men--I think primarily farmers. I have few details on when boys began wearing them, but believe it was the 1920s. As short pants for boys had become common by the 1920s, the lederhosen for boys were mostly the short pants version. Some boys did wear the knickers version, but I think this might have been considered more of a formal version. I think that at first lederhosen were considered primarily an outdoor activity garment. I'm not sure if boys commonly wore them to school or used them for dress wear. They were widely worn by Scouts and other youth groups in the 1920s and by Hitler Youth boys after independent youth groups in the 1930s were "unified" under the Hitler Youth. After World war II, lederhosen were commonly worn by boys. They were worn by Scouts and others engaged in outdoor activities. Some boys would wear them with sports jackets for dressy outfits. One HBU contributor tells me that he was stationed in Europe (mostly in Germany--Bavaria) and Austria in the U.S. Army from early 1946 through 1948. During that time, most of the boys wore lederhosen shorts. He was friendly with several German families and one of the daughters from one of these families married a G.I. He was their best man at the wedding . This family had three brothers ages 8, 12 and 16 and all wore lederhosen to school and he hardly never saw them in any other fashion. Could have been hard times since Germany was still recovering from the war. The increasing popularity of jeans, however, eventually reduced the wearing of lederhosen. They are still occasionally worn by German boys and Scouts. They are also seen at folk festivals.

Hungary

Hungary borders on Austria. Some areas in the South (around Pecs/Fünfkirchen) were settled by Germans many centuries ago. Hungary was ruled from Austria for centuries and was finally part of a dual crown in the austro-Hungarian Empire. Thus there are aot of Austrian influences on Hungary. We believe that Hungarin boys have worn lderhosen, but we are unsure how commonly. One HBC observer reports seeing lederhosen when touring the region during the 1980s.

Italy

I do not believe that lederhosen were commonly worn in Italy. Some boys in northern Italy, however, may have worn them. Italy has the only region outside Austria and Germany were lederhosen are an old-established tradition. South-Tyrol/Südtirol (Alto Adige in Italian) was Austrian until the end of the World War I. (Italy in World War I fought with the Allies against the Cental Powers (Austri-Hungary and Germany). Lederhosen are still very much a part of everyday life, being worn by brass bands and Schützen (historic rifle associations) alike. Youngsters increasingly wear jeans as they do in Austrian Tyrol to the North, but many school boys reprtedly still wear lederhosen to stress their Germanic identity as opposed to the Italian immigrants.

Lichentenstein

Lichnstein has been strongly oriented toward Austria until after World War I when swiss influences became more important. We believe that mny boys wore lederhoen, but have limited information at this time.

Luxemburg

Luxenburg is ethnically German (but politically orientated towards France). We have littleinformation, but one reader reports that there is no lederhosen tradition nor did its Scouts wear lederhosen in the past or present.

Namibia

South West Africa/Namibia has a sizable German minority. They are, however, a fringe phenomenon, a curiosity even among the German-speaking population, as may be expected from the fact that their forebears came from Northern Germany mostly between 1890 and 1910, i.e. at a time when the use of lederhosen was probably still limited to Bavaria.

(The) Netherlands

The Dutch people are of same stock as the Flemish, same language, very similar costumes. There appears to have been no tradition of wearing lederhosen in the Netherlands. some Dutch boys ore lederhosen in the 1950s-70s, although on much smaller scale than in Flanders and definitely not related to Scouting. The Dutch called lederhosen Tyrolian pants. They were made not only in leather, but also in knit outfits for younger boys.

Norway

HBC has noted some images of Norwegian boys and Scouts wearing lederhosen. We do not know, however, how common they were. A HBC reader questions how common lederhosen were in Germany, even among Scouts. He reports, "I, for one have never seen them there. But there is one intriguing bit of information from Bavaria that may be a lead. Some Bavarian men wear their lederhosen (always knickerbockers, so-called Bundhosen) with a special style of braces. Instead of two parallel vertical belts joined with a horizontal strip, thus forming an H, they have two belts that converge and join at the waist, rather like a V. These braces are called "Norweger" or Norwegians."

Poland

There are many German and austrian influences on Poland. The western and southern provinces of modern Poland were German and Austrian before World War I. Many Poles lived in German and Austrian-Hungarian cities. Some Poles stayed in Germany after Poland was created in 1918-19, just as some German families stayed in Poland. As a result, we supect that some Polish boys wore lederhosen before World war II. I doubt whether their boys have worn lederhosen after 1945 as it was official Polish policy up to the fall of Communism to deny that there have ever lived Germans in that area at all. Wearing lederhosen must have been socially impossible at the time. However, much to one HBC reader's surprise, "I have seen a tourist leaflet on the Southern region with a picture of a young man in regional costume. He was wearing a pair of trousers of exactly the same cut as the Bavarian Bundhosen, complete with braces and a five-strip Hosenlatz fastened with two buttons. The colour was a pale yellowish grey thet could have be chamois or a similar kind of leather. Being a brochure of the State Tourist agency it suggests that leather leaderhosen trousers of a Bavarian cut are part of the Polish national costume in some areas.

Romania

In Transsylvania/Siebenburgen the German population has been drained by emigration and assimilation over the last century. I remember reading a book by a Belgian ethnologist stating that he had seen many boys in lederhosen in the town of Kronstadt. Being published in the 1960s it may well reflect the situation in the 1920s and 30s.

Serbia

After the terrible tragedy of World War I we see most Serbian boys not wearing traditinal clothing wearing short pants. We see some boys wearing German-style Lederhosen. Serbia until after World War II had a German ethnic minority. We are not sure if this was primarily a style worn by the German ethnic community or also a Serbian style. We do not yet have enough information on Serbia to assess this. The examples we have found are mostly from he inter-War era (1920s-30s). This is also when Lederhosen became a style in Germany and not just Alpine areas. Here we see an unidentified Serbian family, stair step portrait although one of the boys is out of place (figure 1). They look to be about 3-13 years old. The boys and girls wear identical outfits. The girls wear plain dresses and the boys Lederhosen. We do not know if the boys were ethnic Germans. We believe that the postcard-back portrait was taken in a Belgrade studio. It is not dated, but looks like it was taken in the 1930s. There was an area northwest of Belgrade called the Barbant where many Germans in Serbia lived. There is at least one small area in the East, next to the Romanian border, around a town called Vrsac/Werschatz were German and Hungarian is/was spoken alongside with Serbian. One HBC reader reports, "A patient of mine, a speaker of Hungarian, and now deceased, once told me that "the boys at the German Gymnasium started wearing lederhosen when she was a girl there in the 1930s, suggesting that it was a new phenomenon and possibly related to the political situation of that time. Much more common were H-bar shorts. We see many Serbian boys wearing them with nor real association with Germany although the style probably reflected a German fashion influence. This seems to have been a German influence or Serbian and general Yugoslav patterns.

Slovakia

We have no information on Slovakia at this time.

Slovenia

HBC believes that Slovenian boys did wear lederhosen. Slovenia borers Austria and was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austrian and German clothing styles have traditionally been more popular in Slovenia than elsewhere in the Balkans

Switzerland

One European readers tells HBC that lederhosen were not worn in Switzerland. He tells us that unlike other Alpine countries, lederhosen were not commonly worn in Switzerland. A Swiss reader confirms this. Another reader, however, tell us that some Swiss boys did wear lederhosen. This appears to have been especially true among Swiss boys of German ancestry. They were less popular among French Swiss boys. I thought that some Swiss Scouts wore Lederhosen, but a Swiss reader tells us that this was not the case. He says Swiss Scouts wore cord shorts and he has never seen Scouts wearing Lederhosen. A British reader who attended a German-language Swiss boarding school in the 1950s tells us that quite a few boys swore Lederhosen, including his German friend Mathias.

United States

American boys did not commonly wear lederhosen. They were, however, occasionally worn. Some boys had lived in Europe and brought them back with them. Some German-American families brought them for their children. They were most commonly worn at ethnic festivals like October-fests. Some boys participating in German bands also worn them.






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Created: March 15, 2001
Last updated: 10:39 AM 12/19/2016