Loden is to the Bavarian what tweed is to the Scot—a fabric so long indigenous to its land, of such peasant origins that it has become almost a folk cloth. Like tweed, it was created originally to fill a practical need—to keep Alpine shepherds and woodcutters both warm and dry through the blustery mountain winters. It has been loomed since the 11th century from the rough wool of the Alpine sheep by peasants who were called Loderers (and thus gave the cloth its name). Also like the tweeds of the Scottish highlands and islands, it has woven into it the water-repelling lanolin and the water-shedding longer hairs of the fleece. Some modern versions have a small nylon content. The Bavarian peasants who served Napoleon as mercenaries wore loden on the road to Moscow. And after World War II a trickle of loden, in a deep green that the Bavarian prefers, began coming into America as such West German firms as Loden-frey—the largest manufacturer—reopened their doors. Because of this, loden has been wrongly thought of as a color rather than a cloth, and loden green has become high fashion along Seventh Avenue this fall in every kind of fabric from knits to silks. Simultaneously, clothing made of the real thing in a rich variety of patterns and colors is sweeping America. One importer has done six times the business this year that he did last, and it takes a three-times-weekly airlift to fill his American orders. Most popular are the loden duffel coats which are similar to those worn in Europe. But there is a fast-growing interest in this versatile fabric adapted for other uses: men's sport jackets of subtle plaids; such active outdoor clothes for women as capes and slacks. Here, photographed in its native Bavaria, are a variety of sports clothes made of this historic German fabric that seems to be well on its way to becoming as much an American classic as a Scotsman's tweed.
Sabina Susselmann wears a Wetterfleck, a poncho that might have been the original loden garment. It is now available in America for open cars, football, ski tows (Europecraft, $30).
Fritz Von Der Schulenburg is photographed with one of Munich's popular three-wheeled autos, a BMW. His beige loden and poplin-hooded duffel coat is reversible (Europecraft, $50).
Helmut Brasch, an actor in the Munich Political Theater, enters a Munich pastry shop in a Glen plaid loden trench coat with removable loden liner ( John Alexander of New Haven, $125).
Anton Klotz, 10, of Garmisch wears a boy's loden coat, as typically Bavarian as his feathered hat. The coat is now imported by Europecraft Imports ($35).
Siegfried Brondl, young Munich actor, wears a hacking sport jacket of muted plaid loden ($80) and carries a Lodenbury topcoat ($90, both by Baker).
Gaby Voigt bicycles in a short loden-cloth jacket which has a striped knitted hood of loden-green and black (by Jeanne Campbell for Sportwhirl, $39.95).
Gisela Penkert, in the Hofgarten in Munich, wears a red loden cape which is a copy of one long worn by Bavarian aristocrats (Helen Van Vleit, $70).
Sabina's Salzburg suit has the same piping detail of the Bavarian jacket shown opposite ( Greta Plattry, $50). Red jacquard hose are by Phoenix Mills.
Rainer Penkert wears a copy of the official blue coat designed by the King of Sweden for the Cortina Olympics (McGregor, $65 at Bloomingdale's).