Attend any of Waterloo Region’s fine festivities or beer gardens this week, and you’re sure to spot this hot accessory: the Oktoberfest hat! Worth the investment, particularly if you live locally, there are few heads without this topper. In our region, Oktoberfest hats come in a variety of colours, sport feathers, and don pins, representing their owner’s unique Oktoberfest experiences. I myself, have just started my “pin” collection, receiving one at the A Blooming Affair Fashion show. With such a large group in our community sporting these hats, I wondered, how did this all get started?
Here’s a brief history on Oktoberfest, dirndls, and of course, the Oktoberfest hat.
On October 12, 1810, the Crown Prince Ludwig (King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese. To celebrate this happy union, the citizens of Munich were invited to partake in a variety of festivities honouring the marriage. Horse races marked the close of the event, and were celebrated by citizens all across Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in subsequent years, gave rise to the yearly tradition of Oktoberfest.
While there were few Oktoberfest activities early on, visitors attending the festival quenched their thirst at small beer stands set up throughout the grounds. The number of stands grew rapidly, as the festival grew in popularity. In 1896, beer stands began to be replaced by larger beer tents and halls, to support the larger number of festival-goers. The rest of the grounds were transformed into a fun fair. In 2010, Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th anniversary, a wonderful milestone, and is an event now replicated in numerous countries throughout the world, including Kitchener-Waterloo. With our strong German heritage, our region’s event is considered “Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival,” attracting between 750,000-1,000,000 visitors every year! Does that not make you want to grab your dirndl and hit up an Oktoberfest activity?
As for the traditional fashion’s worn during the festival, they come from humble origins. The dirndl was typically worn by Austrian servants and/or the “working women” of the time. Their simple forms were often plain in colour, or had a simple check pattern. In the 1870’s, the dirndl became high fashion in the eyes of the Austrian upper classes, and were made of richer fabrics with elegant finishings. Today, the dirndl is worn to more formal occasions in Austria and Bavaria, as well as to traditional events. To attend today’s Oktoberest celebrations, many woman choose to wear a “cheaper,”dirndl-style dress called a Landhausmode.
The Oktoberfest hat, aka the Tyrolean hat, originated in the Alps. Frequently decorated with a corded hatband and a spray of flowers, feathers or “brush” (hair from the tail of the chamois goat), the hat was quite stylish throughout the region. The hat is now a symbol for “Tyrolean culture,” and, like the dirndl, is worn most commonly during traditional festivals, including Oktoberfest.
While this provides a brief look at our most popular festival, it helps provide context for the fashion’s we choose to wear. So be part of something huge this week readers and decorate yourself with the looks most representative of the festival’s origins in Munich. If you’re planning to fest again before the week ends, have fun, and enjoy a brew or two.