How it all began

Once upon a time, there were three brothers

But don’t be mistaken: This is not some fairy tale. It is a true story. Lorenz, Hans and Adolf Wagner lived in the Bavarian community of Jetzendorf on the river Ilm more than 100 years ago. Their father taught the cobbler trade to them, and the three went on to make Alpine boot history as the founders of the brands LOWA, Hanwag and Hochland.

Prelude with music

Johann, the father of the three Wagner brothers, was both a cobbler and musician He played in the first Jetzendorf band started by his brother Josef Wagner in 1850. Johann’s sons, Lorenz, Hans and Adolf, were also musical and joined the band as well. The Wagner band performed many different types of music – from lively Alpine folk music to solemn church music. Lorenz Wagner assumed lead­ership of the band after his uncle and cousin.

Lorenz later described how he used music to help lay the foundation of his cobbler shop’s future:


“It was the custom back then for country cobblers to also be musicians. I played at weddings and other occasions. I earned a nice pile of money in the process and used it buy the machinery I really needed.”

Lorenz Wagner | LOWA

  • The childhood home of Lorenz Wagner, with cobbler shop and shoe store. He inherited the property in 1922.

    The childhood home of Lorenz Wagner, with cobbler shop and shoe store. He inherited the property in 1922.

Within a radius of 10 kilo­metres

Demand for shoes was huge in the 1920s because they were the most important piece of equipment people needed for travel. People who lived in both rural and urban areas primarily used “shanks’ mare” to get from place to place. Lorenz’s brothers also set up their own inde­pendent cobbler shops. Hans Wagner moved to Vierkirchen and his brother Adolf to Weichs, two towns that are about 10 kilo­metres from Jetzendorf. The band broke up, and the story of the three shoe brands began.

The brand known today as Hanwag was created in 1921. Hans Wagner supplied shoes to a Munich company and soon started producing its own drawstring and Bavarian Haferl shoes. He continuously expanded his business and began to market his shoes under the Hanwag brand name in 1952. The factory remained in family hands for its first 83 years of existence. The company’s founder passed lead­ership of the company to his nephew Josef Wagner. As a result, Hanwag had only two managing directors during all of these years in business. In 2004, the company became part of Fenix Outdoor AB. The “brother company” remains connected to LOWA as a friendly competitor to this day.

Adolf Wagner, the youngest of the three brothers, married in 1923 and moved to Weichs, where he took over the local cobbler shop and turned it into a shoe factory with 30 employees in the next 10 years. The moun­tain­eering and ski boots he sold under the name “A.W.” were very successful. Like his brothers, he produced mountain infantry boots during the war years. The company got a new start after the war under the brand name Hochland. His daughter Emma assumed lead­ership of the company in 1955 together with her husband. The company then made a global name for itself in the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1970s, the shoe factory was leased to Romika, a company that produced premium-quality hiking boots there. But the competitive pressure became too much, and the factory was forced to close for good in 1981.

The “Ilmtaler Sportschuh­fabrik”

The parallels to the stories of his brothers cannot be over­looked: As the oldest son, Lorenz Wagner, who was born in 1893, inherited the business from his parents in 1922. It included some property and the country cobbler’s shop run by his father, Johann. Lorenz had some big plans: He wanted to work with his wife, Therese, and turn the “small-time shoe­maker’s shop” into a real “company”. He then bought his first machinery and estab­lished his own company in 1923, a business that had not yet been named LOWA. He most likely operated the company under his own name at the start. The company “Ilmtaler Sportschuh­fabrik” appeared for the first time in records in the 1930s. Success arrived: In 1925, Lorenz Wagner employed two men who were older than 16. By 1930, the company had seven employees: six men and a woman. The work space was tight. The first factory building was then erected, 15 metres by 6 metres.

An ambitious apprentice, Josef Lederer, joined the company in February 1930. He said later:


“The shoe­makers worked in the attic. I was up there, too, as an apprentice. All of us ate in the house, including those who lived in town. Meals were part of our pay. Apprentices had to pay dues – in my case, I had to shine the shoes of the woman who later became my wife.”

Sepp Lederer | LOWA

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Did he suspect it at the time? Josef Lederer left LOWA after his appren­ticeship ended. But he returned to the company more than 15 years later and married Berti Wagner, the daughter of the company’s founder.

In the beginning, LOWA primarily produced Bavarian Haferl shoes made of leather. But the factory also produced “sports shoes” – that is, moun­tain­eering and ski boots. These boots were made of leather, too. Alpine sports exper­ienced a surge in popularity during the “Golden ’20s”, and shoe­makers Lorenz, Hans and Adolf Wagner profited from the trend.

How it all began 100 years of LOWA


Lorenz Wagner sets up his own shoe shop in 1923.

He purchases an initial set of equipment and expands the business. More and more employees produce the company’s Bavarian Haferl shoes and moun­tain­eering and ski footwear.


The company begins to run out of space, and its first small factory building is erected.

Josef Lederer, the man who would later become the son-in-law and successor at the company, joins the shoe factory as an apprentice in February of this year.


The National Socialists come to power.

In the same year, Lorenz Wagner becomes the First Mayor of Jetzendorf and employs 17 people in his “Ilmtaler Sportschuh­fabrik”.


The factory grows, and its machines are powered by a 13-horsepower electric motor.

Made of leather, the ski boots of the first generation are named after indi­vidual mountains.


The company runs into commercial diffi­culties, and Lorenz Wagner resigns from his position

as mayor for this reason.

He is reappointed mayor of Jetzendorf five years later and remains in the position until 1945.


Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the factory produces footwear used by mountain infantry soldiers.

The shoe and leather industry throughout Germany was placed under central control in 1934 and quotas were set as part of this change. Shoe­makers like Lorenz Wagner (and his brothers) enjoy a special status in National Socialist economic policies, which focused on self-suffi­ciency and equipment, because they produce the needed work shoes and boots.


Up to 30 French prisoners of war from the Moosburg main camp work at Lorenz Wagner’s shoe factory during the war.

They reside in the postal hall of Jetzendorf. The rela­tionship between the forced workers and their employer is apparently good: Following Germany’s capit­u­lation in 1945, the French

say comple­mentary things to the Americans about the Jetzendorf company.


Oper­ations and the product range are expanded during the postwar years.

The shoe factory is given a new name during this period as well: LO (renz) WA (gner).