What is Lederhosen?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Lederhosen are leather shorts native to the Bavarian region of Germany. Many people associate them with the Alps, since they are a part of the traditional Alpine costume, along with the dirndl, another well-known example of German traditional dress. In some communities, lederhosen are still seen in daily use, but they more commonly appear at cultural festivals and special occasions, rather than as an item of daily wear.

Germany experienced a revived interest in pastoral life in the 1800s.
Germany experienced a revived interest in pastoral life in the 1800s.

Like the dirndl, lederhosen originally emerged in the peasant community. These sturdy leather shorts were traditionally held up with suspenders, and ornamented in rich embroidery, the nature of which would vary by region. Traditional ones are also distinguished by the flap fastener in the front. In the 1800s, when Germany experienced a revived interest in pastoral life, this and other rural modes of dress were adopted more generally across the region.

The federal state of Bavaria, which was a kingdom during the Medieval period, is located in southeastern Germany.
The federal state of Bavaria, which was a kingdom during the Medieval period, is located in southeastern Germany.

Today, some people think of lederhosen as campy, since they often appear in parodies of Germany and the German people, much like the Scottish kilt is used as an item of fun. Natives of Bavaria take pride in the history of this clothing, however, and it is not uncommon for a man to own a pair for special occasions, and for the sentimental value. Boys may also be outfitted with lederhosen for outdoor adventure clubs and other athletic activities.

Some people believe that the best lederhosen are custom-fitted to the wearer. As with other leather garments, this is to some extent true. It is especially important to ensure that seams will not chafe, and that the garment fits comfortably, since leather is less forgiving than fabric. The fit is also important to ensure that the shorts look aesthetically appropriate, as each pair fits slightly differently, especially when produced by a tailor who works by hand in the traditional way.

Typically, lederhosen for boys have a simpler cut, and little to no embroidery. Men's are more heavily ornamented, and the straps of the suspenders used to secure the shorts may also have embroidery and other ornaments. Different regions have different traditional decorations, as travelers to Germany often learn, and some modern updates use things like zippers and hook and loop fasteners, rather than more traditional fastenings.

When well cared-for, lederhosen can last a lifetime. Leather benefits from regular moisturizing, to keep it soft and supple, even if it is not worn. In the event that the shorts become stained, they can be cleaned with soaps specially designed for leather, combined with a soft, damp sponge. Care should be taken around the embroidery, to ensure that it is not stained with leather soaps or moisturizers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Last year we spent two weeks holiday in Germany, Austria-and Sud Tyrol,and we saw a lot of men in lederhosen with the suspenders, as well as a lot of women in long dirndls with the silk aprons, but also we saw a lot of women too in very short lederhosen with the matching suspenders. They looked great!

We just couldn't resist and my husband and I bought one each. We saw them wearing this attire every day, and we were told they have made a very big comeback the past 10 years.

The prices are OK too: 59 euros for a complete one, and 69 euros for a complete dirndl. That's really cheap and you're always in fashion in these things!

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