Hugo Boss started his clothing company in 1924 in Metzingen, a small town south of Stuttgart, where it is still based. However, due to the economic climate in Germany at the time Boss was forced into bankruptcy. In 1931 he reached an agreement with his creditors, leaving him with 6 sewing machines
to start again.The same year, he became a member of the Nazi party and a sponsoring member (“Fördernde Mitglieder”) of the SS. He later stated himself that he had joined the party because of their promise to end unemployment and because he felt “temporarily” withdrawn from the Evangelic church.Hugo Boss sales increased from 38,260 RM in 1932 to to over 3,300,000 RM in 1941, while his profits increased in the same period from 5,000 RM to 241,000 RM.
Though he claimed in a 1934/1935 advertising he had been a “supplier for Nazi uniforms since 1924″, such supplies are probable since 1928/1929 and certain since 1934, when he became an RZM-licensed (official) supplier of uniforms to the SA, SS, Hitler Youth, NSKK and other Party organizations.
To meet demand in later years of the war, Boss used about 30 to 40 prisoners of war and about 150 forced laborers, from the Baltic States, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union.
According to German historian Henning Kober, the company managers were “avowed nazis”, “the Boss were all great admirers of Adolf Hitler” and Hugo Boss had in 1945 in his apartment a photograph of himself with Hitler taken in the latter’s Obersalzberg retreat.
In a 1946 denazification judgement, based on his early party membership, his financial support of the SS and the uniforms delivered to the Nazi party even before 1933, Boss was considered both an “activist” and a “supporter and beneficiary of National Socialism”. He was stripped of his voting rights, his capacity to run a business and fined “a very heavy penalty” of 100,000 marks. He died in 1948 but his business survived.
After Hugo Boss’s death, the factory returned to making uniforms for postal and police workers. It produced its first men’s suits in the 1950′s, but did not focus exclusively on men’s fashion until the early 1970′s.
In 1999, American lawyers filed lawsuits in New Jersey, on behalf of survivors or their families, for the use of forced workers during the war.
The company did not comment on these law suits but reiterated an earlier statement that it would “not close its eyes to the past but rather deal with the issues in an open and forthright manner”. It sponsored a research by German historian Elisabeth Timm. Nevertheless, after Timm told the press of her findings, the company declined to publish them.
A majority of the company stock was sold to the Italian group Marzotto in 1993.