Less patience is required to acquire the handsome Viennese footwear of Ludwig Reiter.
While many Austro-Hungarian shoemakers initially built their businesses thanks to the largesse of 19thcentury nobility, Reiter’s background lies in
shoes of a less haughty, more practical nature. Founded by the eponymous Herr Reiter in 1885, the company got its
start supplying riding boots and dress uniform footwear to the Austro-Hungarian army, the k.u.k., under the reign of
Emperor Franz Josef I. During his time as a ‘journeyman’ apprentice shoemaker, the founder’s son Ludwig Reiter II
worked in Germany, England and the United States. In Boston, he became acquainted with the Goodyear welting
technique, which he implemented at the family firm upon his return to Vienna in 1909.
By the 1930s, the company had become one of Austria’s largest shoe manufacturers,
producing both men’s and women’s footwear. The war years naturally brought hardship, with many employees called into
military service, and remaining production turned to the manufacturing of boots for the army and police. Despite
looting of materials and product toward WWII’s end, the factory machinery survived the conflict intact, and normal
production resumed post-war. When the founder’s grandson, leather technician Ludwig Reiter III assumed control of
the company in 1960, he set about further improving the quality of the product, which happily resulted in ever
greater popularity — in the mid-’60s, Reiter had more than 200 employees and stores dotted across
Buffeted by cheap imports from the Far East, demand for high-quality European
footwear fell dramatically in the 1980s, and by 1985, Reiter was the last remaining commercial shoe manufacturer in
Austria, and the country’s sole practitioner of welting at scale. A new generation of Reiters, led by the founder’s
great-grandson Till, took over and proceeded to adjust the company’s operations and offering for the new
Counterintuitively, this mainly involved upping the traditionalism levels, and
rethinking and resurrecting classic Viennese styles such as the Budapester and Norweger. Also re-released were the
minimalist ‘old-school’ trainers the company had long produced for the military, but in new colourways in
collaboration with Helmut Lang, and the retro-styled casual-craftsmanship bona fides of shoes like the Bowling were
promoted, too. In another throwback move, in 2011, production facilities were relocated to a beautiful
16thcentury stately home, Süßenbrunn
Manor, in the country 20 minutes from the centre of Vienna. Here, on the factory floor in a converted
stables,70 employees craft around 100 pairs of shoes per day. Included among the machinery they use is a still-functioning welting machine from 1910, one
of the first Ludwig Reiter II purchased after his revelatory visit to Boston.
If a trip to Süßenbrunn or Reiter’s flagship store in Vienna’s historic
Drei-Mäderl-Haus sounds a step too far, peruse the shoemaker’s wares (including theHusaren boot, as sported by Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds) here at TheRake.com. Joining the
in-the-know Austro-Hungarian clique is but a click away.