Naiste patschker, meeste kapca. Lõuna-Ungari saksa vähemuse käsitsi kootud jalakatted / Women’s patschker and men’s kapca. The hand-knitted hosiery and footwear of the German minority in Southern Hungary


  • Bence Ament-Kovács



The present study deals with the traditional knitted hosiery and footwear of the German minority living along the river Danube (Danube Swabians) in Southern Hungary.

The national costume worn by the ethnic Germans who had settled in East-Central Europe in the 18th century had changed significantly by the 20th century in ways that differed from the changes that had taken place in clothing in Germany itself. The garments worn by populations coming from the various German provinces were unified in a way analogous to linguistic levelling, and by the 19th century they corresponded to the multiethnic (Hungarian, Southern Slavic, German) dimensions of their local culture. As a result of the bourgeois transformation and the emergence of industrialized production following the emancipation of the serfs (in the mid- to late 1800s), men’s clothing lost its ethnic and folk style more quickly, while women’s clothing retained its distinctive peasant character right up until the Second World War. The pattern of a woman’s knitted slippers (tutyi/patshcker) gave away the settlement she belonged to (the women varied their local patterns), her denomination (e.g., the Lutherans and Calvinists left the heels and sides plain, while in the case of the Catholics these parts were patterned), her age (young girls wore brightly colored knitted slippers, married women wore slightly darker colors, elderly women wore dark colors, while elderly widows wore black), and possibly her financial position.

Footwear changed more slowly than other items of folk costume, and German efforts towards self-sufficiency played a major role in this. The kapca, or foot wraps, which had formerly been worn externally, were gradually simplified into knitted woolen socks that were worn under civilian-style trousers, while women’s stockings had been shortened to ankle-high tutyis by the 19th century. Although these items, which were specific to ethnicity, denomination, and age, fell out of use after the Second World War, women actively maintained their knitting skills, regularly producing simple items from the available materials for use at home or on their household farms during the decades of Socialism.

The phenomenon of visits home by relatives who had resettled in Germany, known as “nostalgia tourism”, as well as changing local community and state representation initiatives, led to the revival of tutyi making. As a result, individuals and communities are strongly attached to their own local patterns and the related antique objects, while there is growing demand among locals – as well as urban intellectuals – for knitting courses and workshops. The production of tutyis primarily for use in folk dance performances and representative events during the past decade, is currently undergoing transformation and is occasionally even marred by conflicts. Although the “specialized” production of these slippers, which remains active today, is carried out by a limited number of people, questions regarding the use and representative function of the items are typically addressed to members of the wider minority community as well.

Keywords: hand knitting, footwear, wool, Southern Hungary, German minority


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