Craft / November 2017

Ludwig Reiter: The Welt Is Yours

Discover Ludwig Reiter, the Viennese shoemaker that’s been making exquisite welted footwear for over a century.

Ludwig Reiter's maroon cordovan leather chukka boots. Photograph by James Munro.

‘Made in Italy’ and ‘British bench-made’ may be the appellations most commonly associated with fine shoemaking. But the cognoscenti have long known that Austro-Hungarian footwear is among the finest a fellow can buy. “Only the true connoisseur is aware of the legendary artisans who flourished along the banks of the Danube in Budapest and Vienna in the fin-de-siecle days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy,” as G. Bruce Boyer once put it. (Note: For the proper effect, one should always imagine quotes from Boyer read in the voice of Morgan Freeman).

Arcane though it may be, the Austro-Hungarian tradition remains very much alive, in part through centuries-old ongoing businesses, and in part through the shoemakers with whom the maestros of Budapest and Vienna shared their skills. Britain’s legendary George Cleverley, for instance, trained for almost four decades with a master shoemaker of the Austro-Hungarian school, Nikolaus Tuczek, before producing shoes under his own name. Tuczek’s Mayfair workshop was absorbed by John Lobb in the late 1960s, so there’s a fair measure of his spirit in that storied cordwainer, too.

Firms including Hungary’s Demeter & Halmos and Laszlo Vass, and Austria’s Maftei Maßschuhe and Georg Materna continue to traffick in the shoemaking arts innovated and cultivated in this corner of Europe, and subsequently passed down through generations. Captains of industry have been known to languish for decades in the queue to bespeak the recherché shoes of Rudolf Scheer & Söhne, founded in Vienna in 1816.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.