Hugo Boss: German Fashion and the Nazi Regime

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Hugo Boss and the Nazi Regime

Hugo Boss is one of the most famous fashion brands worldwide and especially known for men’s suits  – professional clothing for the white-collar worker today. It was also the production of professional clothing that led him to the first success of his company at the beginning of the 20th century. Hugo Ferdinand Boss, born in 1885 in the German town Metzingen as the fifth and last child of Heinrich and Luise Boss, always knew that he would inherit his parents small lingerie store. He and his sister were the only kids, who survived infancy. After serving in World War I, the – alleged due to the safety of inheriting his parent’s clothing store – ambitionless young man, opened his own clothing factory in 1924.

The main focus of the Boss’s company was the manufacturing of shirts for different clients such as the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei = national socialistic working party Germany) – until today a controversy and negative stigma for the Hugo Boss fashion brand.

A total of two studies have examined the Nazi past of the Hugo Boss Group. The first one from Elisabeth Timm stayed unpublished while a second one got released in 2011. Here, German historian Roman Köster revealed that the company, in fact, produced uniforms for the SS and Hitler Youth, but the company was only one of many manufacturers. During the time of World War II, 140 forced laborers and about 40 French prisoners of war had to tailor Nazi uniforms in Metzingen. Fact according to the study is also: Boss himself didn’t implement it himself. Furthermore, the company was not involved in designing the cutting patterns of the uniforms.  

The Truth Behind the Nazi Past

After WW II, a prosecutor classified Hugo Ferdinand Boss as a National Socialist “burdened” as he joined the NSDAP in 1931 – two years before the party came into power. After the war, he had to pay a fine of 100.000 Reichsmark. Later, the sentence was lifted and he classified as a mere “follower” of the Nazi regime. When the Hugo Boss company boasted itself with the slogan “(Nazi) party supplier since 1924”, it was probably more for marketing purposes than anything else. During legal proceedings for Boss’ process of denazification, he revealed that he became part of the NSDAP because they had promised him to do something about the rampant unemployment in the late 1920s and early 1930s due to the global economic crisis. Furthermore, his membership brought him many orders which finally saved his company economically. For instance, from 1938 on, Boss received many orders for tailoring uniforms. Boss’s focus on workwear was also his luck: during World War II, garment production as a whole became more and more restricted, while the production of uniforms and workwear was expanded. Still, it remains unknown, if he privately kept a distance from National Socialism.

Hugo Boss Suits

Today, the product spectrum of the company contains – next to Hugo Boss suits – Boss by Hugo Boss cologne for men with its typical woody scent, Hugo Boss shows, Hugo Boss wallets, shirts and much more. Hugo Boss suits are considered as one of the best in the world – a business which started years after the end of World War II.

Featured image (cropped): SUITJonathan Mueller flickr – CC BY 2.0
November 3, 2017
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