Der Deutsche Michel (literally "the German Michael") is a figure representing the national character of the German people, rather as John Bull represents the English and Uncle Sam represents Americans.
Such figures differ from those that serve as personifications of the nation itself, as Germania did the German nation and Marianne the French. He is usually depicted wearing a nightcap and nightgown, sometimes in the colours of the German flag, and represents the Germans' conception of themselves, especially in his easy-going nature and Everyman appearance. In any event, the nightgown and the night cap, which have been present in all pictorial representations of the German Michel - the first ones dating from the first half of the nineteenth century - are also interpreted in a way that the German Michel is, in fact, a rather naive and gullible person, not prone, for example, to question the authority of the government. On the contrary, he prefers a decent, plain and quiet lifestyle.
Over the centuries, the character traits attributed to the German Michel were subject to some change.
In German, Michel is also the short form of Michael, though quite rare today.
- Eric Hobsbawm, "Mass-Producing Traditions: Europe, 1870–1914," in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983), 276.