No traditional Tirolean outfit would be complete without a "Ranzen", a wide leather belt worn over the Lederhosen and decorated with fine needlework which can take hundreds of hours to complete. The finest Ranzen are said to come from the Zillertal Valley, with the Stiegler family from the village of Stumm among the very best in the business at this tricky and time-consuming handicraft.
Those interested in learning more about this traditional craft should pay a visit to the Federkielstickerei Stiegler in Stumm. Here, each belt is hand-stitched using peacock feathers from the upper tail, which are then split several times in order to achieve the strong and sharp points needed to penetate the tough leather. Making Ranzen has a long tradition in the Zillertal Valley, where it dates back to the 17th century. The 19th century is often regarded as the golden age of this time-consuming handicraft, though expert stitchers are still in great demand today.
Sewing for real men
Fritz Stiegler passed on this skill to his son, Alexander, who spent around 400 hours working on his own personal Ranzen bearing his name. These leather belts are an essential part of all traditional outfits throughout Tirol and worn by everyone from brass band musicians to the traditional Schützen present at almost all ceremonial events in the region. Such craftsmanship, of course, has its price. The most elaborarte Ranzen can cost as much as a small family car. But don't let that put you off visiting the Stieglers, whose shop in Stumm also stocks plenty of accessories such as braces, handbags, cow-bell straps for those operating on a more modest budget.