My parents immigrated to the United States, from Germany, in 1993. They both hailed from two neighboring towns in the Swabian Jura, sixty kilometers east of Stuttgart. My grandparents, however, stayed in Germany, and as such offered me a connection to my German background. For my fifth birthday, my paternal grandmother knit me a light wool jacket. This “Trachtenjacke”, was traditionally worn by shepherds and farmers in Swabia. Sadly the jacket is not water proof (it is made of wool), but the tight wool weave does keep the wearer quite warm. Although it is not an antique my grandmother tried to make this jacket as authentic as possible, and as such, the wool is slightly discolored at seemingly random parts of the jacket. Additionally, the buttons are made out of Stag horn.
During my childhood, this jacket was only worn on special occasions, which I was pleased by, as the jacket is rather itchy, and the sleeves run a bit long. Along with a pair of lederhosen, which are often associated with Bavaria (Munich is about 200 kilometers east of Swabia), this jacket was worn whenever I was to represent my German background. As I went to an international school, I often wore this jacket during United Nations day. Nowadays, however, the few remaining Swabian shepherds and farmers prefer to wear synthetic, waterproof fabrics. In this way, this jacket is not only a display of my German (Swabian) background, but is also an artifact of a lifestyle that has all but disappeared.
– Felix Rieg-Baumhauer