Jules Léotard

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Jules Léotard
Jules Léotard2.jpg
Born Jules Léotard
1 March 1838
Toulouse, France
Died 17 August 1870 (aged 32)
Toulouse, France
Known for Trapeze

Jules Léotard (French: [leɔtaʁ]; 1 March 1838 – 17 August 1870) was a French acrobatic performer and aerialist who developed the art of trapeze. He also popularised the one-piece gym wear that now bears his name and inspired the 1867 song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" sung by George Leybourne.

Early life[edit]

Léotard was born in Toulouse, France, the son of a gymnastics instructor who ran a swimming pool in Toulouse. Léotard would practice his routines over the pool.[1] He went on to study Law.


After he passed his law exams, he seemed destined to join the legal profession.[2] But at 18 he began to experiment with trapeze bars, ropes and rings suspended over a swimming pool. Léotard later joined the Cirque Napoleon.[3]

The costume he invented was a one-piece knitted garment streamlined to suit the safety and agility concerns of trapeze performance. It also showed off his physique,[4] impressed the ladies and inspired the song sung by George Leybourne.


According to notes from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jules Léotard died in 1870 from an infectious disease (possibly smallpox).[5] They list his year of birth as 1838.


  1. ^ Lynch, Annette; Strauss, Mitchell D. (30 October 2014). Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-7591-2150-8. 
  2. ^ McPherson, Douglas (1 April 2011). Circus Mania!. Peter Owen Publishers. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7206-1386-5. 
  3. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (16 October 2006). Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America. Psychology Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-415-93853-2. 
  4. ^ Marciano, John Bemelmans (3 November 2009). Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-60819-162-8. 
  5. ^ V&A museum biography


  • Michael Diamond, Victorian Sensation, (Anthem Press, 2003) ISBN 1-84331-150-X. Pp. 262–264.

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