Germany: Odenwald, Hesse

Front view
Front view

General description: A man in traditional dress from Geinhausen in the Oldenwald region of the State of Hesse

Dimensions 8 x 3.5 x 4 cm

Date when acquired 21st August, 2016

Original Date 1996

Source Flea market in Zeigenhain, Schwalmstadt in Hesse. Originally used as a form of brooch for the Hessian Day in 1996 (there is a loop of white material attached to the doll with a small golden safety pin stating this: Hessentag 1996).


Back view (with white tag for brooch)
Back view (with white tag for brooch)


Plastic doll with movable eyes, arms and legs. The reddish hair is painted on.



The little man has on the three-cornered black felt hat typical of this region. He is wearing a long dark blue velvet coat over beige knee-trousers (mimicking the deer leather used to make them), what appears to be a high-necked red waistcoat and white shirt, whose pointed collar is standing up under his chin. The trousers have red tassels attached to the side of each leg. His long white socks and black half-shoes are painted on.

Reading about the Oldenwald costume (see below), this doll appears to have a number of variants in its costume not described but I have found no other information as yet.


Side view
Side view




Top view of the three-cornered hat
Top view of the three-cornered hat

Background information

The traditional Odenwald costume consists of the clothing worn in the area bordered by the Rheine, Main and Neckar rivers between ca. 1780 and ca. 1900. Unlike in other areas within the State of Hesse, the costume did not differ between the Protestants and the Catholics. The individual variants of the costumes within this area can be best determined by the caps worn by the women. The costumes worn by the men did not immediately show that they came from this area as they were/are similar to those of other Hesse traditional costumes.

The zenith of the Odenwald costume lies between 1800 and 1850. After this time, the colourful clothing of the women became darker and closer to the clothes worn in the towns. The wearing of such traditional costumes first disappeared in the Vorderen Odenwald and Bergstraße areas, later in the Hintere Odenwald, due to their closeness to the trade routes and early industrialisation. The costumes were no longer worn on a day-to-day basis after 1900.


Men’s costume details

The white cotton/linen shirt had a sewn-on collar and long sleeves with 2—3 cm cuffs.

Normally, older men wore a dark-coloured neckerchief around their necks over the shirt, while younger men had light or brightly coloured neckerchiefs. The scarves were oblong, but folded to double thumb-thickness and knotted so that two points of the neckerchief hung downwards.  Later, these neckerchiefs became black and much narrower. They also were starched so that the ends did not hang downwards but to the right and left. This form is known as Stäischderewägg (Hesse has its own form of German and I have no idea what this means and I have not found a translation).

The men wore either knee or long trousers. One type of knee trousers were made out of deer leather and could be worn without braces. They were embroidered and had a rectangular buttoned codpiece. The trousers were worn with knee socks in either white or blue cotton in summer or wool in winter. For festive occasions mostly white socks were worn, though blue has also been reported. The other type of knee trousers were made out of black woollen material. These were worn with embroidered braces (sometimes decorated with beads). The socks worn with this type of trousers were held up by embroidered garters, made of embroidery canvas closed by a buckle or a lace. Often the embroidery on the braces and garters were the same. What is rather interesting is that the name of the wearer (at the bottom of the front) and the year of the production (at the bottom of the back) were embroidered on the braces.

Long black woollen trousers were worn from ca. 1840 onwards; at first, with a buttoned rectangular codpiece. Linen knee or long trousers were worn to work in.

On top of the shirt, the men wore a sleeveless material waistcoat with a double row of buttons made of silver or mother-of-pearl and two side pockets (so-called Uhrentaschen: watch pockets). The waistcoats were mainly light blue, though vermilion or black were more common towards the end of the time when such costumes were worn on a daily basis. The working waistcoat was made of linen like the work trousers.

Originally, the dark blue coat went just to the knee, though later it became calf-length. It originally did not have a collar, though later it had a standing collar. Two types of flaps were sewn on the sleeves (Brandenburg or Swedish). The coat was lined with striped fustian. Characteristically, the coat’s button holes were sewn with colourful threads (black, red or rust), but they were not all for actually buttoning up the coat but for decoration. The coat had a single row of buttons consisting of poor quality silver buttons, old coins or covered metal buttons. Buttons were also sewn on the back, waist and side pockets. The coat later on was black. The coat worn on working days was made out of linen and was lined with flannel.

There was a development of the coat into a jacket (Wams, Mutzen, Kamisol, Joppe) worn by young men. This was made of material and had shortened coattails, a turned-down collar and a double row of buttons. It was originally dark blue but later became black. For work days, the jacket was made of naturally coloured linen.

The footwear consisted of low shoes made of black leather with a rectangular brass or silver buckle.  Otherwise high boots preferably made of calf leather were worn with both the long and knee trousers. Nailed clogs were worn to work in.


Source(s) of information



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