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. Lederhosen were not very common in France, but a few boys wore them.
I am French and was was born in 1954. So what I am telling you took place st the end of the 1950s and during the 60s. My mother grew up in a region of France close to Switzerland.
Mother was very practical and chose German leather shorts for me--Lederhosen. They were much stronger for kids than fabric shorts. I think my mother saw first the practical side of lederhosen, as she was familiar with them , being herself, as previously said, from a family close to Switzerland. They were washed I guess may be
twice a year, she put some leather grease on them when nearly dry and they looked new. Incidentally they were becoming slightly smaller, but after a few hours wearing them they were back to their previous size and shape. I also think my mom found that lederhosen looked cute on little boys. I wore them all the time at primary school and at home and around for years when the weather was not too chilly. I am not entirely sure why, but I rather liked them even though not very many other boys wore them. As I got them very young, at the beginning I think accepted them naturally without questioning, as I would have accepted any other kind of garment. However, I soon discovered, they were comfortable and were very strong, much stronger than other clothes. As I was very active and reckless, this prevented me from spoiling or tearing my pants, because I was really not very careful with my clothing. This therefore avoided arguments or even spankings for that reason. Dark leather is not like fabric, which can be stained by food, grease or dirt. When I grew older, I asked for and got my third lederhosen for home and vacations only as mom knew I would wear it very often. It was so practical for me and for herself. And lederhosen are comfortable to
Mom hardly ever washed them, only from time to time. This was not difficult. She put grease on
the leather, and they looked nearly brand new.
I commonly wore my Lederhosen regularly into my teen years. I believe I wore them until I was about 15 years old. Kids in the 1950s and 60s wore short pants much more than is the case now.
I would switch into shorts very quickly in the Spring when the weather began to warm up. We
were not cold even though shorts were shorter than now.
I was not the only boy who wore leather shorts (Lederhosen), but they were not common in France.
I saw other boys in the streets wearing them, but it was not the most popular type of shorts. Most
French boys wore fabric shorts. When I was age 10 in primary schools, just before going to secondary schools. I can remember we were only two boys in the class wearing such shorts. And in the whole primary school, may be something like ten had Lederhosen. I don't remeber being asked by other children about why I wore Lederhosen at school.
Perhaps that was because a few other boys wore them. Some kids were looking at me with envy, and somewhere I must admit I have been proud wearing Lederhosen in contrast to my brother. Only once, one kid made fun of it openly. As he was not bigger than me, I hit him hard and that was it. I didn't wear them at school anymore when I began secondary school.
I had three of these leather shorts during my childhood. The first one was brown with two buttons in the front and suspenders, the two other ones were dark green ones with zippers, and a belt. It was a an agreement between me and my parents on the practical side of this garment. As I was really wearing them, they bought me next ones when they were too small without questioning too much, as I think they were more expensive than regular shorts. Mother would buy a larger size than I needed. Thus they were too large when new, and were becoming too small when I was growing. It was the time of long lasting things, not like now days where every kid has new clothes and possibly, of a famous brand, every year. There has been in France black shorts made of ska�- false leather- I was proud to tell that
mine were out of real leather.
I wore cotton shirts with long or short sleeves, depending on the temperature, and if required a wool sweater over the shirt. In summer, the shirt was worn over the shorts. For primary school we always had to have blue blouses made of cotton, and later of nylon. These blouses [we think he means smocks] were most of the time ofthe same length than the shorts , or even longer than them, when in shorts. In spring and autumn, it was heavy shoes with laces and grey socks up to the tights. In summer it was leather sandals with light socks or no socks at all most of the time during vacations.
Incidentally, my older brother had only one pair leather shorts as a small boy, but did not wear them as an older boy. My brother was different from me as he was much quieter. He didn't like the idea of wearing Lederhosen, I think because so few other boys wore them. I also wore his shorts as a spare, but it became soon too small. My brother always thought that Lederhosen were just for small boys. I think a factor was that he was a tall boy and a little shy about wearing short pants. He was was also more careful with his clothing than I was. Mom did not buy a pair of Lederhosen for him again after the first pair.
These Lederhosen in France and I think Germany as well were almost totally killed by jeans. Jeans killed European traditional trousers and shorts along with Lederhosen. Most boys wanted to wearv jeans.
I recently found in an old family photo book of my mom with one picture of me in the Jura mountains where we were vacationing during 1966 (figure 1). The Jura Mountains are a branch sub-alpine mountain range a little north of the Western Alps. It forms a lrge part of the French–Swiss border. I was then 12 years old. I was wearing a new pair of Lederhosen that I had just receiveda a few monthes earlier in the Spring. The previous ones i had were were too small. I had outgrown them. These new ones were wide and I wore them till I was 16 years old.
I also found a photo of one of my cousins in mother's photo album. He also wore Lederhosen as a boy at about the same age as I did. I did not jnow him very well as he as oldren than I was. it looks klike it as also taken wjile vacationing in the Jura Mounains. He is laying on the hood of his parents 'quatre chevaux' for some reason. This small car was very common in France in the 1950s. I guess this picture was taken at the end of the 1950s/early 1960s, a littlr earlier than the photo of me. I just don't exactly know as there is no date written at the back of this photo. His mother was one of my mom's sisters.
I have also found a French ad for Lederhosen from the 1950s. I found it on the web. It emphasizes the praticality of Lederhosen.
You never see French boys wearing Lederhosen today. The only exception is a few Scouts.
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