Hugo Boss: Hitler’s Tailor
Hugo Boss AG was established in 1924 in Metzinger, a small town south of Stuttgart. Initially, the workshops were made uniforms for police officers and posters. The business did not go well, and the economic climate in Germany at that time, immediately after the First World War and the Paris Peace (1919) that is the beginning of the German economic downturn that propelled Hitler to power brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy. As a result, the employer had to find survival solutions in times of crisis.
Hugo Ferdinand Boss and his creditors conclude an agreement in 1931, after which the clothing company is left with only six sewing machines. The employer is trying to restart the business. Coincidentally or not, the wind begins to blow in the canvas of the tailor’s business Hugo Boss when he joins the National Socialist Party in the same year. Boss also becomes one of the financial backers of SS. But there is no evidence that he really adhered to Nazi doctrine.
Although Hugo Boss claimed, in a 1934/1935 advertisement, that he had been a creator of Nazi uniforms since 1924, he became an official supplier in 1928–1929. The company makes uniforms for SA (Sturmabteilung, a Nazi paramilitary organization that played an essential role in the rise to power of Hitler in the 1920s, nicknamed “Brownshirts”), SS (Schutzstaffel, the armed arm of the National Socialist Party), Hitlerjügend (Youth Hitlerism), NSKK (Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps — Nazi Motorized Division) and other party organizations.
Historians note that in order to cover the demands for uniforms from the last years of war, Boss used the work of about 40 prisoners and about 150 slaves from the Baltic states, Belgium, France, Austria, Poland, and the USSR. The same sources note that the directors of the company were in love with Nazism and that Hugo Boss had in his apartment, in 1945, a photograph of him with Hitler.
Called to be justified in 1946, after the end of the war, during the so-called denazification processes, he was summoned on the basis of his membership in the party, of the finances paid in the SS accounts and of the uniforms tailored for the Nazi party even before 1933, the year In which Hitler took over and became chancellor, Boss was considered both an activist and a supporter and beneficiary of Nazism. For all this, he paid the price: he was forbidden to conduct business and was fined a huge sum of 100,000 marks at that time. He survives only two years of this scandal (he dies in 1948), but his business thrives on.
After the death of Hugo Boss, the factory returned to make uniforms for police officers and postmen. The first Hugo Boss brand suits were produced in the 1950s. In 1967, Hugo Boss’s nephews, Uve and Jochen, took over the management of the company and began to transform it into what it is today. They changed their marketing strategy and company name into Boss. Between 1960 and 1970, Boss products became synonymous with men’s luxury accessories and costumes. In 1970, the brand became exclusively male.
The image promoted is that of a strong, confident man, with a superior attitude, of a boss, and her symbol becomes the American actor Sylvester Stallone. In 1990, with the changes in fashion, the brand is oriented towards casual and sportswear, very different from the sophisticated and very fashionable suits of the past, and the company rebrands itself from Boss to Hugo Boss.
Currently, the company has more than 6,000 stores worldwide and operates three different brands: Boss, Hugo, and Baldessarini. In 1993, Hugo Boss AG diversified its activity, introducing a type of men’s colony to the market, and at the same time, it launched a women’s clothing line including tops, dresses, lingerie, and footwear. But the brand remained focused on men’s clothing: suits, but also shoes, shirts, jeans, ties, and sandals. The Hugo Boss brand ties, famous on the fashion market, have a simple design and are made of the best materials, usually made of Italian silk.
Even though the Hugo Boss brand didn’t make Nazi uniforms after World War II, and even if they tried to hide the sins of their youth, the style was evident in the punk subculture of the 1970s (defined by many fashion critics at the time). On the other hand, this should not bring all the criticism on the Hugo Boss company as their Uniforms had nothing to do with the atrocities committed by the German army in World War 2.