Ludwig Reiter is a 137-year-old shoemaker based in the beautiful Süssenbrunn Manor on the outskirts of Vienna, and is run by Till Reiter, the fourth generation of the family that founded the firm in 1885.
‘The Maronibrater is one of our core products, and I love it as an example of a design that has developed over the centuries from the dialectics of practical use and craftsmen`s skills and abilities, where design in every detail results from functional aspects,’ says Reiter today.
‘The style was a kind of “Alpine standard”, with roots in felt boots for very poor rural people who could not afford leather shoes but needed something to survive winter in the mountains.’
The design was not exclusive to Austria, he explains: ‘There had been some similar styles in other places like Russia and Scandinavia, but this was the version designed for the requirements of the Alps.’
And the name? ‘The term “Maronibrater” was coined by Viennese bourgeoisie, describing the rural people who spent the whole day at winter markets in town, selling their homemade vegetables and, most popular in Vienna, fried chestnuts [Maroni].’
The Ludwig Reiter version is thus an elevated version of a practical worker’s boot. ‘We have not invented this style, we just excavated it from its traditional Alpine heritage and translated it – with Helmut Lang’s help – for the modern aspirational lifestyle, by improving leather quality, optimising patterns and construction methods, and introducing the fur lining,’ explains Reiter.
Helmut Lang first found fame as a minimalist fashion designer, heavily influenced by a Japanese aesthetic. The label he launched still exists, but he himself left the business in 2005 and is now an artist living in the States. Reiter knew Lang and the two collaborated on a trainer and Maronibrater boot in 1992.
‘The design aspect that inspired Helmut Lang and me [with respect to these boots] was a kind of irony: to create a luxurious product with the appearance of an “underdog”, thus making it recognisable for connoisseurs only and confusing the more ignorant,” says Reiter. It was, he exclaims, ‘perfect understatement!’
The irony was indeed lost on some. ‘At the beginning it was not easy to attract customers, but as I always loved these boots personally and use them very often, we did not give up and finally we succeeded, from Trondheim to Cortina and from Aspen to Kyiv.’ However, he adds that one market remained resistant. ‘Not Moscow; they never understood understatement.’
The Ludwig Reiter Maronibrater boots are available in bark-tanned leather in a variety of colours, with suede shaft uppers, shearling lining and Goodyear-welted all-terrain non-slip soles. A child’s version is made from bookbinder calf leather with an upper shaft of water-repellent felt, lambskin lining and Goodyear-welted ultra-light rubber soles; ludwigreiter.com
By Peter Howarth, the Editorial Director of Secret Trips. You can follow him on Instagram at @petershowmedia