Talking as he clutched a can of beer at the 70th annual Kirchtag in Villach, Austria’s biggest festival of folk traditions held earlier this month, Markus is right.
This picture-postcard, conservative country, which holds elections next month, is seeing a boom in all things traditional and rural, whether it be “dirndl” dresses, mountain melodies or eccentric medieval customs. And the phenomenon is driven mostly by younger people, particularly urbanites, putting their own fun twist on what not so long ago was seen as hopelessly fuddy-duddy.
Hemlines on dirndls for example are rising, well above the knee in some cases, while even shorter are the lederhosen for women, as seen at the growing number of traditional festivals, such as Vienna’s three-year-old “Wiener Wiesn”.
“It’s easier to dance in a shorter dirndl,” explains Bernadette, one of a trio of dirndl-wearing 16-year-olds dispensing schnapps to festivalgoers in southern Villach at a euro a tipple.
“It’s very fashionable.”
Booze-fuelled parties and club nights where the dress code is “trachten” (traditional) are now “in”, something which “a few years ago would have been the most embarrassing thing in the world”, according to the monthly magazine Format.
Budget retailers have sprung up to meet the surge in demand, selling dirndls and lederhosen made in eastern Europe and Asia for less than 100 euros – a fraction of what a “real” one costs, much to the disgust of purists. They are even on sale in discount supermarket Hofer.
The low-cost market leader, Zillertaler Trachtenwelt, whose adverts feature buxom Baywatch star Pamela Anderson clad in a dirndl, was founded only eight years ago but now has 33 shops and revenues of 30 million euros.