A Daring Trapeze Artist and How The Leotard Got Its Name

Jun 14, 2017

The History Lesson

Jules Leotard was born to fly.

You wouldn’t have guessed it when he was a teen. Back then, he studied law and was on his way to becoming some kind of barrister. But his father taught gymnastics, which may explain why, in his spare time, Jules started practicing acrobatics, specifically, spectacular stunts on the trapeze. Instead of using a net, he swung around over his Dad’s swimming pool.

Apparently, Jules found this a lot more exciting than the courtroom, because eventually he gave up on law, and landed a gig as an aerialist in Paris’ Circque Franconi. On November 12th, 1859, he made his debut with a trapeze act unlike any audiences had ever seen before.

Instead of doing tricks on a single trapeze swinging back and forth or on a static one that stayed in place Jules grabbed the trapeze and leaped from a high platform, like a diving board, then he swung from bar to bar, executing somersaults in between. He called it the flying trapeze.

It wasn’t just his acrobatic somersaults that caught the audience’s attention, though. It was also his outfit. A knitted one-piece deal he’d designed to allow greater freedom of movement and also to show off his impressive bod. He called it a “maillot,” a generic word for a tight-fitting shirt. But years later, it came to be named after its inventor. The leotard.

The Booze
The Flying Jules
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

“The Flying Jules,” as created by Emeric Aguilar, bartender at the Playtime Cocktails Club in Paris’ Arthus Hotel… not far from the Circus where Jules first performed his feat.

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cl. vodka
  • 2 cl. St. Germain liquor
  • 1.5 cl. lime juice
  • 3 cl. apple juice
  • 1 cl sugar syrup

Instructions: 

Add the ingredients in a shaker. Shake, twirl three times, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with two Amarena cherries, for a pop of color befitting the garish duds for which Jules was responsible.