of the Month: May 2005
~ Der Abschied ~
by Marc Lang
|This lovely 2-liter master or pouring stein is typical of
Girmscheid. Divided into three panels, it depicts typical alpine scenes made in
a very appealing and filigree relief technique. On the front is the image of a
hunter in traditional Bavarian clothing, with Lederhosen and a hat with a
Gamsbart (a tuft of hair from a
chamois), waving good-bye to the girls on the balcony. Below is written: Der
Abschied (the farewell).
On the left is once again the same man, dancing in the sun with a full stein
held high in his right hand. His mood is best described with the word below: Alleweil
fidel (always happy). At last, the panel on the right shows our
"hero" and his girl, now both dressed in their Sunday suits, dancing a
Schuhplattler, a very old Bavarian
and Austrian dance (see historical note below).
On the bottom, the stein is marked with the capacity of 2L. Below the handle is
the mold number, 5, and on the front the signature of the famous artist Karl
The history of Lederhosen began in the Rococo period. At that time peasant
weddings and pastorals were all the rage in court circles. Country costumes were
adopted, thus focusing - in an admittedly highly naive fashion - attention on
"the people". The search for "the simple life" was directed
towards the mountains. Many topographical-statistical surveys were made at the
time. These were intended as a basis for enlightened statesmanship and always
included reports on regional customs and local peculiarities. The enthusiasm for
Alpine dress was widespread. This fashion coincided with the Napoleonic Wars and
the setting up of a new Austrian (rather than German) Empire, which without a
doubt played a part since the emphasis on local costumes always had a
nationalistic aspect. Ethnic dress became a standard component of national
festivals, a manifestation of patriotic spirit - a national costume in fact.
High society followed the lead of the Austrian and Bavarian nobility and took up
the costumes of the mountain regions as a fashion ideal. This meant mainly the
costumes of the hunters for men, and the short Lederhosen with a
grey-green coat, often made of sturdy, water-repellent loden.
August Lewald recognized this trend in 1835 when writing about a journey through
the Tuxer Valley, he mentioned that its few inhabitants were exceedingly strong
and particularly good marksmen, with the result that marksmen and enthusiastic
hunters throughout Tyrol copied the Tuxer style. Their tighter and shorter
costume was more picturesque, he said, and left the chest, knee and calf bare.
Similar claims might be made for costumes of the Styrian and Upper Bavarian
foresters. They convey an air of mountain romanticism to both wearer and
beholder, an image of ruggedness, youthful strength and virile courage. The
elaborately decorated short trousers, which combine all these attributes, thus
acquire a new status over any other trousers, becoming almost a philosophy of
Actually the short Lederhosen were in danger of being supplanted by urban-style
long trousers and suits less than a hundred years ago. Whereas pantaloons became
the middleclass Empire and Biedermeier fashion in the aftermath of the French
Revolution, the influence of military dress on the grey loden trousers and the
green-faced loden coat were consciously propagated by the high nobility.
Archduke Johann himself said that he wanted to set an example of simplicity with
this style. The Styrian ironmasters, whose costume he adopted, duly became his
most faithful followers. In Bavaria, King Maximilian II considered the
cultivation of national dress a contributing factor in the establishment of a
national identity. He consequently adopted that garb when making a trip to the
mountains. The new fashion spread like a disease to the peasant population and
the men began to neglect their short leather trousers. One man tried to remedy
this situation. When the disappearance of the Lederhosen was being bemoaned in a
Bayrischzell tavern, the teacher Joseph Vogl challenged his five
companions to go and have proper leather trousers made. The date was August 25,
1883, a date that was to go down in Bavarian history. The five companions agreed
and on the very next Sunday proceeded to Miesbach together with the teacher to
be fitted for Upper Bavarian Lederhosen by the master leatherworker Dilger.
Their first public appearance, however, was anything but a success. When the
young people proudly paraded their new acquisitions in church, they were met
with opprobrium and derision. Until then, short Lederhosen had been the working
garb of the forester and were therefore considered a breach of good manners. The
farmers in particular felt provoked. No surprise that the church opposed the
'short trouser brigade' and forbade their participation in procession. As late
as 1913 the short trouser association were declared immoral by the Archepiscopal
See of Munich.
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