Cincinnati - A City Built on German Heritage

Photo Credit: Wiesnkoenig USA

Photo Credit: Wiesnkoenig USA

If you’ve ever been to Cincinnati, the city we call home, then you know it’s no secret that the city is steeped in German history. As one of the original hubs for German migrants during the early history of the United States, Cincinnati has come to be known for it’s large collection of Italianate architecture (mostly housed in the German-named neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine). To this very day, nearly 50% of the people who live in Cincinnati claim German to be their heritage, which is one of the highest rates in the country.

What you may not know about Cincinnati’s German history, however, is that Cincinnati proudly hosts the United States’ largest Oktoberfest every year. This event—second only in size to the original Oktoberfest, which is held each year in the German city of Munich—brings nearly 500,000 people down to Cincinnati’s 2nd and 3rd streets to celebrate German food, music, beer, and culture. This year’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati was held from Friday, September 15th to Sunday, September 17th, and blended German traditions with Cincinnati flair by holding fun and interesting events like stein hoisting competitions, weiner dog races, and the world’s largest chicken dance!

In addition to the wonderful traditions celebrated each year at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, Cincinnati also celebrates its German roots through the German Heritage Museum (located in West Fork Park), the Fairview-Clifton German Language School, and what was the first US Hofbrauhaus location. But, that’s not all, Cincinnati has one more hidden gem that even many residents of the Queen City are unaware of.

Cincinnati is the first and only US city to house a Wiesnkoenig location—the only officially licensed supplier of traditional lederhosen and dirndls for the Munich Oktoberfest. Wiesnkoenig, who opened their first store in Germany in 2007, now boasts five German locations and one US location. The US store, which first opened its doors in 2014, is a little hard to find, since it’s located in the Christian Moerlein Brewery on Cincinnati’s Moore street, but that just adds to the authentic German charm. Wiesnkoenig’s slogan is “Tracht meets Lifestyle”, so the brand is always trying to blend the traditional garments of Germany with current fashion trends.

Originally, lederhosen were worn more for hard work than for leisure. Traditionally made of leather, they were more durable than garments made of fabric. Their popularity as a garment for riders and outdoorsmen peaked in the late 1700s when they could be commonly found throughout Europe. In the 1800s, they began to have a reputation as “peasants’ clothes” and quickly dropped out of fashion. However, in the 1880s there was a resurgence, as clubs popped up throughout Germany promoting the traditional workwear as a type of formal garment. This is when we began to see lederhosen worn more during celebrations and festivals and less for workwear. Nowadays, you mostly see lederhosen in the US during the month of September when many German-centric areas host their Oktoberfests.

Dirndls are a type of traditional dress originating from Austria, South Tyrol, and Bavaria. The design is based on the types of dresses that were traditionally worn by peasants who lived in the Alps. Typically, dirndls are composed of a bodice, a low-cut blouse with short sleeves, a full skirt, and an apron. Although originating as a heartier type of dress worn by peasants in the alps, the style was eventually adopted as high fashion by the upper classes in the 1870s. While some older women still wear the dirndl as an everyday dress, most younger women only wear the dress for formal occasions and traditional events. One fun little fact about dirndls is that the placement of the knot on the apron is an indicator of the woman's marital status. A knot tied on the woman's left side indicates that she is single, a knot tied on the right means that she is married, engaged or otherwise "taken", a knot tied in the front centre means that she is a virgin and a knot tied at the back indicates that the woman is widowed.

With this year’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration having come to a close this past Sunday, we thought it would be fun to share with you some photos from the event, and we even threw in a couple fun ones from the good people over at Wiesnkoenig just for good measure! Auf Wiedersehen!