Sat, 16/09/23, 12:40
Nobody’s taking off our lederhosen
Oktoberfest is approaching, and that means it's time for traditional Bavarian clothing again at FC Bayern. Traditionally, the team poses for a lederhosen photoshoot, and during the festival they also play in a special jersey. But how and when did it all begin?
In the depths of time: Traces of lederhosen
It was a football festival when the first FC Bayern championship-winning team returned home from the final in Nuremberg on 13 June 1932. Thousands of people lined the streets as the team marched in horse-drawn carriages from the main railway station to Marienplatz in the first football parade in the city's history. Many of the spectators wore suits and hats, the Bayern players in the carriages were dressed in fine threads, only the young people accompanying the team were wearing tight leather shorts and white shirts. The famed Bavarian outfit? It was the exception rather than the rule at FC Bayern's first championship celebration. No wonder, because "as a Munich resident, you only wore traditional clothing back then when you went to the countryside," as Lea Rodenberg from the Zentrum für Trachtengewand in Benediktbeuern explains. In the following decades, this remained the case for the time being. Only the everyday lederhosen for schoolchildren became a permanent fixture in the city and the foothills of the Alps. In the post-war period, they are the most popular item of clothing for boys.
"As a child, I wore them around the clock, as did about 90 percent of my classmates in first and second grade," Paul Breitner recalled. Later, however, when he celebrated his first great successes as a Bayern player, the lederhosen, like traditional Bavarian clothing in general, were not really an outfit option for public appearances. "The subject of traditional clothing didn't exist in Munich at the beginning of the 1970s," Breitner added. "People didn't go to the Oktoberfest in traditional clothing either." When Bayern stars like Gerd Müller visited the Wiesn in those days, it was in a suit and tie. The dirndl experienced a minor boom around the year of the Olympic Games in 1972. Lederhosen, however, remained something that many - like Franz Beckenbauer at the Sportsman's Ball in 1973 - tended to wear at carnival rather than on festive occasions. "The only person at Bayern who was already wearing traditional clothing back then," Paul Breitner remembers, "was Willi O. Hoffmann, who was still treasurer at the time." Hoffmann, who was Bayern's president from 1979 to 1985, made Uli Hoeneß general manager and was known as being close to the team and as someone who liked to party, but would also play an important part in ensuring that the subject of traditional clothing would soon play a more important role in the Bayern world.
The Big Bang: How it all began in the 1979/80 season
The fact that the Bayern team appeared in front of the camera for a team photo in lederhosen for the first time in 1979 - and the connection between Bayern and lederhosen became virtually a law of nature – actually has to do with a man from outside of Bavaria. Udo Scholz’s job was as stadium announcer for Kaiserslautern. During a holiday stay in Murnau, Bavaria, Scholz picked up the phrase: "Zieht’s dem Buam die Lederhose aus" ("Take the lederhosen off the lad). He liked the phrase. And when Scholz heard the Beatles' song "Yellow Submarine" on the radio on his way home, he had the idea for a new fan chant: "Zieht's den Bayern die Lederhosen aus" ("Take the lederhosen off Bayern"). At the beginning of the 1979/80 season, Breitner remembers the song resounded from many fan blocks across the country. And together with manager Hoeneß and president Hoffmann, Breitner, who was captain at the time, decided to respond. A lederhosen maker friend in Freilassing was quickly found to fit out the Bayern team with a set of traditional clothes, which president Hoffmann was happy to donate.
At the end of November 1979, shortly before leaving for an away game in Düsseldorf, the Bayern team finally posed secretly in a secluded corner of Munich-Riem airport for the first team photo in lederhosen - and changed their clothes again before departure. "The next day," says Breitner, "we put on our lederhosen in the hotel and walked into the stadium like that. There was huge cheering, a real surprise." The action would be repeated at a few more away games. Breitner: "The people thought it was great that we responded so confidently and humorously to the lederhosen banter." President Hoffmann's call to celebrate the first championship in six years in Bavarian style on 31 May 1980 was also a success. The players entered the Olympic Stadium in lederhosen, and some fans also wore traditional clothing. And soon Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Co. were standing on the town hall balcony celebrating the title in lederhosen for the first time in the summer of 1980. It would not be the last.
Fashion experiments: The crazy 80s and 90s
Augenthaler, Breitner, Pflügler - at the beginning of the 1980s, there were only a few native Bavarians in Bayern’s team: "The rest are Prussians," wrote the Munich tabloids upon viewing the first lederhosen photos of the players. But what did that matter? FC Bayern is a club for everyone, regardless of origin. It doesn't matter whether you are Bavarian, Prussian, French or Brazilian. Anyone who can identify with the values of the club is welcome to join. This applies to players and fans alike. And now, in addition to the red and white jersey, lederhosen were increasingly becoming a sign of this perceived belonging. The Belgian Jean-Marie Pfaff, who moved to Munich in 1982, often liked to present himself in traditional clothing.
Welshman Mark Hughes, who joined in 1987, also fitted right in. Publishing pictures of Bayern's new arrivals in lederhosen become perhaps the most pointed form of transfer news. In a language that everyone immediately understands, the pictures tell the world that "he now plays for Bayern" and the fans that "he identifies with us". Of course, the designs are also eye-catching. And many players love the traditional Bavarian garb. "The best thing for me was always that the first thing the players we bought always asked was if and when they would get their lederhosen," said Breitner. "And it has remained that way. The way players like Giovane Élber, Franck Ribéry or Luca Toni were happy about their lederhosen and still wear them with pride today - the traditional clothing was like an accolade for them."
In aesthetic terms, however, FC Bayern's devotion to lederhosen also bore some questionable blossoms in the 80s and 90s – a consequence of the traditional clothing fashion of the time, in which one shied away from little. Gerhard Polt was amused by an Oktoberfest visitor in "antelope leather clothing" in 1985. There is no record of Bayern players wearing this outfit, but they were also willing to experiment. They wore the airy white shirts made of burlap that country house fashion produced in the mid-90s when they visited the Oktoberfest, or they would skip the outerwear altogether, as Brazilians Paulo Sergio and Elber did during a photoshoot. When it came to fashion and traditional Bavarian clothing, the 80s and 90s were, it seems, years of experimentation at FC Bayern. They played with the fashions of the time and celebrated on the town hall balcony sometimes in lederhosen, sometimes in a suit, sometimes in balloon silk.
„Wearing traditional clothing creates a sense of community between fans, players and the club. Just like a jersey.”
A real classic: the confident and stylish use of lederhosen
Towards the end of the 1990s, starting from the Oktoberfest, where young people suddenly rediscovered dirndls and lederhosen, a trend towards traditional clothing began "which basically continues to this day", as clothing historian Rodenberg says. At Bayern, the lederhosen shoot got its permanent place in the annual calendar in the noughties. Just like the team's Oktoberfest visit in the latest Bavarian clothing fashion. And from 2003 onwards, Bayern players always wore lederhosen on the town hall balcony when they held their silverware aloft. Or dirndls when the women also celebrate their titles. Something was changing in the stadium stands, too. Lederhosen and dirndls were becoming more and more common there - and not only at Oktoberfest time.
Just like in the whole city. Why has traditional clothing experienced such an upswing in recent decades? Folklorist Simone Egger assumes in her book Phänomen Wiesntracht that fashion "evokes the homeland in view of or because of a world that is becoming more and more global". One thing that’s certain is that with the upswing in traditional clothing, the way we handle the garments has also changed and become more and more "self-evident", as Michael Alten from Bayern's traditional clothing outfitter "Beckert" says. But also more confident and - at least from today's perspective - more stylish. Wearing lederhosen as a "normal" item of clothing, combined with trainers and a T-shirt, in everyday life is not uncommon in Munich today.
And the Bayern players - the team council, by the way, always has a say in the selection of the team's Oktoberfest outfits - also show how chic and elegant you can look in them. "I still think the tradition of our players wearing lederhosen is one of the greatest ideas FC Bayern has implemented off the pitch, even after almost 44 years," says Breitner. "I think it's so worthy, it just fits us and is a unique selling point all over the world." And it's more than a symbol with an external impact. "Wearing traditional clothing creates community," says expert Rodenberg, "between fans, club and players. Just like a jersey." Or as Breitner puts it in a nutshell: "I know footballers who have been away from Munich for decades, but still have wheat beer delivered to their homes regularly, wear their lederhosen at festivals and have internalised the Bavarian attitude to life. That's wonderful and unique."
This article is part of the September issue of the FC Bayern members' magazine "51".