In 1923, Hugo Boss founded his own clothing company in Metzingen, a small town south of Stuttgart, where it is still based. In 1924 he started a factory along with two partners. The company produced shirts, jackets, work clothing, sportswear and raincoats. Due to the economic climate of Germany at the time, Boss was forced into bankruptcy.
Boss joined the Nazi Party in 1931, two years before Adolf Hitler came to power. By the third quarter of 1932, the all-black SS uniform (to replace the SA brown shirts) was designed by SS-Oberführer Prof. Karl Diebitsch and Walter Heck (graphic designer).
The Hugo Boss company produced these black uniforms along with the brown SA shirts and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth.
Some workers are acknowledged to have been French and Polish prisoners of war forced into labour. In 1999, US lawyers acting on behalf of Holocaust survivors started legal proceedings against the Hugo Boss company over the use of slave labour during the war. The misuse of 140 Polish and 40 French forced workers led to an apology by the company.
In 1945 Hugo Boss had a photograph in his apartment of him with Hitler, taken at Hitler’s Obersalzberg retreat.
The Hugo Boss company was one of 15,000 clothing companies that produced uniforms for Nazi Germany.
Because of his early Nazi Party membership, his financial support of the SS and the uniforms delivered to the Nazi Party, Boss was considered both an “activist” and a “supporter and beneficiary of National Socialism”. In a 1946 judgment he was stripped of his voting rights, his capacity to run a business, and fined “a very heavy penalty” of 100,000 DM ($70,553 U.S. dollars).However, Boss appealed, and he was eventually classified as a ‘follower’, a lesser category, which meant that he was not regarded as an active promoter of Nazism.
He died in 1948, but his business survived.