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 1950, the year of shortages, granny stowed the hard-earned 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. I mourned this first leather garment for a long time. It was still far from pants and for a hood several sizes too big. But it enveloped my head in pleasant darkness once the zipper was pulled tight.
From the age of 12 to 24, short leather trousers were probably my most worn garment. 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 instead of shorts on an old Singer.
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 pensioner for my projects.
The four parts of a pair of ripped 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 black trousers each from buffalo, goat, horse (the only one in wine-red), and two from cow hide. The crowning glory of my production was a jumpsuit, actually an over-nothing, also made of cow skin. 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 spreading out 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-dance-like body swings 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 that I didn't give him one of my trousers.
Appearing dressed in leather is
an important theme of my SECRET LIVES photo
collection. After my retirement, I had enough leisure to digitise the pictures taken with fine-grained film material. Of the original production of leather trousers, only the oldest made of
buffalo and the second oldest made of cow have survived. Newly added in 2008 is a pair of trousers made of red padded leather, 2.5 mm thick, a fantastically warm garment in
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, black shiny 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, preferring cheap plastic clothing.
Incidentally, useful things have been made from leather scraps: Cases, pouches, identity card and protective covers for electronic devices and, last but not least, a meditation hood that provides complete darkness for the eyes. It is a narrative extra in the novels Diana and Billy and also has a permanent place in the associated videos listed in Meditative Bondage.