FOR THE RECORD: Hugo Boss has financed the research and printing of a new study “Hugo Boss. 1924-1945. The History of a Clothing Factory During the Weimar Republic and Third Reich,” by Roman Köster, which will be released in German by C.H. Beck today. Over the years, the Metzingen-based Boss has periodically been confronted with allegations and rumors suggesting its founder designed the Nazi uniform or was Hitler’s personal tailor.
“We don’t want and have never wanted to hide anything, but rather want to bring clarity to the past. It’s our responsibility to the company, our employees, our customers and everyone interested in Hugo Boss and its history,” stated Philipp Wolff, senior vice president of communications.
This story first appeared in the September 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 104-page book took Köster, a professor at The University of the German Armed Forces in Munich, three years to write. It contains information already made public, but the company felt it was important for an independent source like Köster to further investigate the company history in a historic context. Boss emphasized it “was not involved in the research or writing and that no influence whatsoever was brought to bear concerning the study’s form or content.”
Key facts: Hugo Ferdinand Boss established his clothing factory in 1924, employing 20 to 30 seamstresses. The company was near bankruptcy in 1931, the same year Boss joined the Nazi party, and it subsequently received orders for uniforms. During World War II, the company primarily produced uniforms for the German armed forces and the Waffen SS. Boss, however, was one of more than 15,000 German factories producing uniforms during that period, and Köster writes, “There is no indication that the Hugo Boss company played any kind of leading role in [the uniform production] sector. Nor do the available sources indicate in any way that it was involved in designing uniforms.”
During the war, Hugo Boss also employed 140 forced laborers, mostly women, as well as 40 French prisoners of war from 1940 to 1941. Regarding treatment of those workers, there is some evidence that Boss himself tried to alleviate conditions, but Köster notes that while Boss was likely not personally involved in intimidation of the workers, “he took no action to stop [it] either.”
This is the second report commissioned by Boss on the company’s wartime history. The first, written in the late Nineties by the Munster academic Elisabeth Timm, was never published in book form, but was available over the Internet and public archives. That work had been prompted by reports of a Hugo Boss Swiss bank account, which turned out to have never been activated. At the time, Boss published a two-page release based on Timm’s findings, and contributed to the international fund set up to compensate former forced laborers.