Lederhosen: An American Boy in Germany

Figure 1.--

Exchange Student

I spent the summer of 1955 in northern Germany, in North Rhine Westphalia, as an exchange student. I was a 16 year old prep school student at the time. I celebrated my 17th birthday there with my German family. I was a junior going into my senior year. [Note for foreign readers: An American prep school is a private school comparable to an English prep school. A junior is an 11th grader and a senior is a 12th grade. After ones senior years, a boy begins university. Almost all prep school boys go on to university.]

My German Family

I lived with a German family. The father worked and the mother was a housekeeper. The father took me to a tennis court nearby where he liked to play tennis. He had been in the army during World War II.

They had two teen age boys, one 16 and one 14 years old. They became my summer brothers so to speak. There was also an older brother who worked. The younger brother went to the local state school. He only had one month's vaction, in August. I accompanied him to school one day, to give a short speech to the English class. When I wrote on the blackboard with my left hand, the class was shocked!

We all went to a local dance and all the fellows were wearing suits. My first experience drinking wine, a white wine with a strawberry in the glass!


They wore very short lederhosen, short like the shorts French boys wore at the time. None of the boys or their friends wore jeans at the time.

I of course wanted to fit in, so I wanted a pair right away. I can remember going to the shop in the small town and picking out a grey leather pair and trying them on. They had a brown leather halter, with straps that could be adjusted on the top. And two buttons on the flap in front that you could let down. I can still feel the leather and smell them! Very pratical, and looked nice too.

Men wore lederhosen all the time, except business. Boys also wore them all the time, even to school. [August was the only vacation month.] Men and boys wore them shopping, walking around the town, to church, hiking in the country, bicycling, etc. We mostly wore shirts with our lederhosen. It was the summer time and it was very warm.

I had worn short pants as a younger boy, but I had worn short pants for several years before going to Germany. Bermuda shorts were beginning to become popular for casual wear by older boys, but I hadn't worn them yet.

We wore knee-length socks with our lederhosen, even though it was the summer and rather warm. I wore regular oxford shoes. Sneakers weren't common in Germany yet. One of my German "brothers" always wore sandals.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: March 12, 1999
Last updated: August 27, 1999