LEATHER  TROUSERS

Leather had most likely fascinated me from a very young age. Whether it was in the form of straps, belts or bags. Once I had been seen, sitting in a corner, putting my grandmother's shopping bag over my head. As an explanation I could only stammer: "Because it smells so good!" In 1946, the year of shortages, granny stored hard-won purchases in this very bag on the way back from Hanover in a crowded train, wedged it between her feet and held the handles tightly. She probably dozed off. When she got off the train in Bückeburg, she only had the cut off handles in her hand.

From the age of 12 to 24, short leather trousers were probably my most worn item of clothing. From 24 to 32, there was an absolutely leatherless gap. Then my interest was reawakened at the sight of a pair of Bavarian knee-length traditional trousers. Probably in 1976, or at the latest the following year, I put together my first long leather trousers on an old Singer instead of a short one.

The machine had already served my wife's grandmother faithfully. It took part in several moves within Salzburg as a VIP piece of furniture. At the beginning of the seventies, we sent it to a competent craftsman for a health check. He readjusted the symmetry between the lower and upper threads and assured us that otherwise the machine was robust enough to survive another fifty years just "singing". However, the time for large-scale sewing was over. My wife and my mother-in-law preferred to buy ready-made blouses, skirts and dresses. They did smaller repairs by hand with sewing thread. Nolens volens, the Singer went into early retirement. But not for long. I engaged the machine for my projects.

 

The four parts of a pair of torn Levis jeans (US size 32 / length 36) were transferred onto paper. Over the course of a few years, the template was used to cut one pair of trousers each from buffalo, goat, horse (in wine red), and two from cow. The crowning glory of my production was a jumpsuit, actually an over-nothing, also made of beef. The leather thickness was between1.3 and 1.5 mm, typical for motorbike clothing. All the hides came from a dealer in Vienna's Bäckerstrasse. At that time, one could choose in peace, recognisable by the fact that the salesman served a Turkish coffee between the spreading of two skins.

In two falls with the motorbike, the trousers protected against extensive skin abrasions. In addition to this legitimisation of wearing leather clothing in public, a harmonising impulse came from the rock scene with its performers. I remember Rod Stewart wearing black leather at many of his band's performances, sometimes so skin-tight and with almost belly-dancing swoops of the body that it would probably be offensive today. Fortunately, hippie-era Eivissa was similarly permissive to progressive California – black leather was often seen. The apprentice in a motorbike workshop who serviced my 75 cc Derbi every three months wore adorable ragged leather trousers. The leather was too thin for his work with sharp edges. We had the same stature. Today I regret not having given him one of my trousers.

Dressing in leather is an important subject of my SECRET LIVES photo collection. After my retirement, I had enough leisure to digitise the pictures taken with fine-grained film material. From the original production of leather trousers, only the oldest made of buffalo and the second oldest made of cow have survived. A new addition was one made of red upholstery leather, 2.5 mm thick, a fantastically warm garment in winter.

 

One can still see the appreciation for lederhosen, both short and long, among members of local costume clubs, for example. They are worn mainly on Sundays and feast days when going to church or in matters of traditions. But they are also popular for weekend drinking parties, where lederhosen claim their place as a kind of uniform, especially in Bavarian and Austrian breweries and beer houses. Recently, there have been hopeful signs that at least the knee-length version is being worn more often in everyday life again. On the other hand, shiny black leather probably has little future at the moment, at least not in public life. Even cyclists and motorcycle fans hardly seem to be attracted to leather.