A Love Letter to Lederhosen
“Leather shorts,” says my father, “are really all about timing, and I never got that timing quite right.”
My dad’s foray into leather shorts began in the early 1970s, when my grandmother returned from a trip to Germany with a pair of dove gray lederhosen. You know what lederhosen are, even if you might not recognize the name. Think shorts plus bonus suspenders, add some pockets and embroidery, and you’ve got the idea.
I asked Dad what he thought of the surprise gift from his mother, an avid world traveler who often brought back unexpected gifts from her adventures.
“I’d never had a pair of shorts with a pre-made dagger pocket, so I thought that was pretty cool,” he said.
Traditionally made of leather, lederhosen come from the German speaking state of Bavaria and were the workwear of their day. The joy of leather shorts and fun suspenders spread quickly across Europe, where they were used for riding, hunting (hence the cool dagger pocket), and outdoor work. My dad’s were “tastefully embroidered” with floral imagery in a gray thread and had four pockets, the “best” of which was a dagger pocket at the hip. Wikipedia delightfully notes that today, lederhosen are worn at traditional events like Oktoberfest and as leisurewear, so I’m officially designating them as athleisure.
“There weren’t many opportunities to wear lederhosen as a 14 year old in Montana,” my dad said. “But I definitely went hiking in them at least once, with tall wool socks and a hat, though it was more likely a ball cap than the traditional German felt one.”
My father now stands at around 6’ 2″. Most of that height arrived during early high school, which means that he soon outgrew the gray lederhosen. But, like he said, leather shorts are all about timing, and the time might finally be right for him to try them out again.
Tomorrow, the 186th Oktoberfest will kick off in Munich, Germany. The 16-day long festival, which began in 1810 as a celebration of a Bavarian royal wedding, will see upwards of 7 million revelers descend upon the medieval city. Attendees will consume enough beer to fill nearly three Olympic sized swimming pools. They will swill over 136 thousand litres of wine, scarf over 280 thousand sausages, and slam over 330 thousand litres of coffee and tea.
Munich’s Oktoberfest is the largest volksfest, or folk festival, in the world. There are parades featuring brass bands, horse-drawn carriages, and floats draped in lush floral garlands. There are moments of cheerful dignity, like at the Tapping Ceremony where the mayor of Munich opens both a huge keg of beer and the festival as a whole. Children and adults alike swarm to the carnival rides and funfair games. Music pumps constantly from sound systems and traditional polka bands. People dance, drink, and make merry.
It’s a celebration of Bavarian culture and history, exemplified in and exalted by the food and drinks consumed, the music played, and the clothing worn both by native Bavarians and visitors from abroad. Most important of these clothes, to me at least, are the lederhosen.
I’m not sure what it is about lederhosen that is so pleasing to me. Is it the shorty-short/suspenders combo? Is it the jaunty green felt hat with which they are usually paired? I’m a sucker for embroidery–could that be it? Perhaps it’s the idyllic throwback to a simpler past, or maybe just to the memory of the one photograph, now lost to time, of my dad as a red-haired teenager proudly showing off his gray lederhosen in front of his childhood home.
I identify as female, which should, traditionally, steer me towards the lederhosen’s sister garment: the dirndl. A dirndl consists of a cute puff-sleeved blouse under a bodice and skirt or pinafore dress. All of this is topped off with a practical, pretty apron. But while I like a dirndl as much as the next person, I am so charmed by the lederhosen that nothing else stands a chance. Whatever it is that draws me to them, I love lederhosen. That doesn’t necessarily mean lederhosen always love me.
Most online retailers of lederhosen cater primarily, if not exclusively, to men. When women are shown sporting lederhosen, they’re usually photographed with bare midriffs and impractical high heels. Personally, I don’t fancy carrying a dozen steins of beer for my friends or climbing the Alps in a flouncy crop-top and stilettos. The shorts offered to women are much shorter than their male-aimed counterparts. To me, this all feels objectifying and gross. That’s not what I want out of a pair of fun leather shorts with cool suspenders and a dagger pocket. I want to feel free and powerful in my lederhosen. I want to be able to polka and hike and yodel at some goats, not feel like I’m on display for ogling eyes.
Which is just one of the many reasons I’m so in love with Chubbie’s lederhosen. From the satin lining to the hand embroidered suede, these babies are pretty much perfect. A 5.5” inseam gives that thigh freedom I crave without the booty short feel of other options. These lederhosen are sassy, with an embroidered pineapple flanked by two beer steins on the breastplate and leather ties at the cuffs. They are almost identical to the men’s version, though the dudes’ have buttons on the cuffs rather than the ties. Both lovely garments have the same embroidery, the same inseam, and the same sturdy construction. Because they’re made of real suede, they will stretch and form to your body over time, creating a custom fit just for you. While they don’t have a dagger pocket, there’s a hidden pocket behind the breastplate for your phone, your wallet, or your beer, which is almost as good.
The real icing on the cake, or perhaps, the real head on the beer, is Chubbies advertising. Chubbies is a cool company advertising cool gear, and they advertise it all in fun, thoughtful ways. Take a spin through their website and you’ll see bodies of all sizes, colors, and gender presentations, which rules. This is carried over into their lederhosen advertising. The two images featuring a female model show her smiling, laughing, and easily hefting a bunch of beers. She’s wearing a blue checkered shirt, her badass lederhosen, and a pair of boots that definitely look sturdy enough to hike in. She’s not being objectified. She looks strong. She looks like she’s having an unrestrainedly great time. That’s what I look for in my lederhosen. This is what Chubbies is all about: having fun and feeling great. This should be what lederhosen are about, too.
Sadly, neither me nor my father are going to be in Munich for Oktoberfest this year. Maybe we’ll plan a trip to go together next year. My parents are both great dancers, and learning to polka at Oktoberfest would be such a treat. Luckily for us, and for you, there are Oktoberfests held all over the world, all with their own traditions but all featuring the same key points: drinks, food, and lots of fun. When my dad and I do go to an Oktoberfest together, we’ll both undoubtedly wear matching father-daughter lederhosen and drink matching steins of golden beer with matching grins across our matching faces. I urge you to grab a pair of leather shorts and do the same.