The Apres Ski boots from Ludwig Reiter: A Review

Friday, December 23rd 2022
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By Tony Sylvester.

I used to travel to Oslo regularly for a decade or so. A beautiful city, but not one abundant with window shopping options for those interested in menswear. One of the exceptions was Cavour; slap bang in the well-heeled part of town, offering an outpost of Neapolitan style to the more cosmopolitan Norwegian gentleman. 

Whenever I was trotting past, I’d pop in for a coffee, a chat with the chaps and a peruse of their stock; a mix of very Permanent Style brands - Orazio Luciano, Ambrosi, Saint Crispin’s, Tie Your Tie et al - alongside some simpatico creations under their own banner. 

Now and again, an item of very specific geographic use would stick out among the more general gear; perhaps none did so more than the Apres-Ski boot, by Austrian shoemakers Ludwig Reiter

I had found to my chagrin that Oslo can be a treacherous town in winter. My first cold season there, I’d invested in a pair of Diemme hiking boots, albeit ones with the kind of Vibram wedge sole typically found on Red Wings. 

A huge error on my part, as their smooth rippled soles were transformed into skates on the perilous pavements of muddy ice and compacted snow. They went onto eBay soon after. 

But here, among the cashmere slips and challis ties, was something better: a simple boot of shearling-lined black suede sitting on a Goodyear-welted rubber commando-style lug sole. In place of laces or straps there was a zip running up the front, topped off with a suede puller. 

For such a plain boot, the zip gave them a louder, even slightly frivolous look, and I couldn’t help but smile at them. The immediate image that came to mind was of the French actor Jean Gabin. 

Gabin was a titan of French cinema, though rather less known outside his native land. He was also an inveterate clothes horse, and an icon to me as an appreciator of the sturdier, well-dressed fellow. 

His film costumes and personal wardrobe often overlapped, and his bespoke suits and sportcoats, from defunct Parisian maker Opelka, were often worn with polo shirts and roll necks and his trademark baker-boy caps - a style he stuck with throughout his career.

The photo in question is from 1949, and the actor, then a somewhat haggard looking 45 years old, sits on a step, cigarette in mouth. Cap tilted back, he stares off out of frame. 

His unbuttoned shirt strains to contain a voluminous cravat, filling the lapels of his sports coat. Knees parted, the cuffs of his flannel trousers are flipped up to reveal striped socks and, rather incongruously, similar zipped shearling boots.

I’ve loved this shot since stumbling across it years ago on Pinterest, or Tumblr. It looks less like a portrait of a film star at the height of his fame than the street style frames of ordinary Parisiens snapped by Robert Doisneau around the same time. 

And those boots. They seem so out of step with the rest of his look, it would be jarring on someone without the “nuclear levels of presence” that he possessed, in the words of London Lounge’s Michael Alden. 

The zipped shearling boot, like so many articles of clothing, has a military heritage. In the early days of aviation, pioneers would don knee- or thigh-high ‘fug’ boots of sheepskin to alleviate the altitudinal freeze. 

When Louis Bleriot completed his cross channel flight in 1909, he did so in a boiler suit, tweed jacket and fleece-lined boots, and even before WWI, Burberry’s, Dunhill and other high-end outfitters were offering leather flying suits, gauntlets and the self same fur-lined or sheepskin boots to cash in on the new sport. 

It was on a pair of boots that BF Goodrich’s new fangled ‘zipper’ made its debut in 1923, long before it appeared on clothing, and the innovation proved a boon for the military pilot quickly needing to scramble into his kit. This 1937 pair of USAAF flying boots typifies this useful, if a little bulky, development perfectly. 

Post WWII, the zips navigated to the side or back of the boot, for what I can only imagine were orthopaedic reasons. Shoemaker Sebastian Tarek talked to me in particularly negative tones when I enquired about making a pair of unlined boots with front zips similar to the style offered by Japanese makers Phigvel in the picture above. 

It was his contention that they would play havoc with the tarsal bones of one’s instep, and being a man who cut his teeth at James Taylor & Sons in Marylebone, the orthotic specialists, I took his advice to heart. 

The Ludwig Reiter boot, as the name suggests, takes its cues from a more leisurely source: that of the postwar Alpine resorts and the lifestyle that went with them. 

As Nick Foulkes puts it in the Financial Times, the boot “recalls the glamour of St Moritz in the 1950s and 1960s. It is exactly the sort of thing I can imagine wearing to lunch at the Corviglia Club after a morning spent not skiing, before not doing the Cresta later in the afternoon.”

Well, quite. He even contended that as they’re black, you could “wear these miraculous shoes with a dinner jacket if circumstances required.” A piece of juxtaposition akin to Agnelli’s donning of hiking boots with a grey flannel suit (below) - another iconic menswear image of rule breaking that works thanks to the individual themselves. 

On arrival of my own boots, and spurred on by Gabin’s personal idiosyncrasies, I decided to pay hommage to his portrait, donning a similarly dissonant ensemble from my own wardrobe. 

My zip boots were paired with my own AWMS striped sports socks, charcoal flannels and heavy black fresco DB (both bespoke by Fred Nieddu at Taillour), faded denim shirt from Drake’s and a Margaret Howell neckerchief. 

And perched on my bonce, a City Sport eight-panel cap in tweed from John Simons. I find this style of cap incredibly difficult to wear thanks to the current associations with the risible chaps from Peaky Blinders. The City Sport’s shaped band gives a little more definition to the cap, however, giving it a slightly different and in my mind, more elevated look. 

Was the outfit a ’success’? I have to concede that personally, it was not. A little too costumey. In aping someone else’s look, I lost too much of my own personality in the final result. 

The boots however, are a firm favourite, their arrival coinciding perfectly with the drop in temperature here on the English coast. 

They are the ideal companion for breezy walks along the cliffs to take the sea air and feed the local crows, sporting a look more akin to the one below - a vintage Polo duffle coat, natural wool watch cap from Worne Clothing and corduroy easy trousers from Uniqlo. 

The fit is close, probably due to the thick lining, and like all pull-on boots, took some effort to zip up the first couple of wears (Sebastian’s concern for the bones of my instep ringing in my ears); but once on, they’re incredibly comfortable. 

Their price point is on the rich side, a cool £555 from Cavour. While akin to welted boots with similar materials from similar makers, I admit it causes pause given the very specific nature of their look and usage. 

Personally, I can’t put a price on staying warm and staying upright, and they are already in heavy rotation with my winter footwear. But the more economically minded amongst us might also want to check out the Reproduction Of Found zipped trainer boot (below) currently on offer from Beige Habilleur in Paris. 

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Ben

Beautiful piece of writing – thanks what a pleasure to read

Ahmed

Outstanding writing; I had to scroll back up midway to note the writer’s name

Alexander

Is Agnelli really wearing a flannel suit in this picture? To me it looks like smooth worsted (or maybe high twist). Which would make the high/low thing even more pronounced.

Tony S

I think you’re right, I’d always *assumed* it was flannel (I’m my mind’s eye I always misremember it as pinstripe too), but on closer inspection, it does appear to be a high twist..

Good spot!

Gary

Agnelli’s choice of scruffy hiking boots is contrived attention-seeking to my eyes. I’ve never understood why the internet Gentlemen on the clothing forums regard him as a sartorial icon. It’s puzzling why so many wealthy businessmen (e.g. Zuckerberg, Musk, Bezos) and celebrities (e.g. Cowell, Corden) dress so badly. Inverted snobbery?

Simon

Very astute point, Simon. I’d add that it speaks to a larger trend of exceptionalism. Another non-menswear example is Dr. House, who doesn’t need manners because he is so good at his job. This exceptionalism is itself a form of freedom which is why it may be so popular in the USA.

Bob

Interesting. The TV show, House, is an interpretation of Sherlock Holmes/Dr Watson. If it should be popular anywhere, one would think it would be the UK?

Oggi

I think a pair of dark brown suede Galway boots would look great with any grey bespoke suit.Agnelli’s boots though look too beaten up.

Oggi

Yes wearing a tweed jacket and flannels would be nice.I can understand why you feel wearing a suit,tie and boots feels a little odd and uncomfortable.

A suit without a tie and suede Galways can work imo when combined with a navy crew neck sweater and open collar shirt.The whole thing looks elegant but relaxed.The space where the tie should be is taken up by the sweater and looks harmonious whereas a shirt even a button down one by itself does’nt work.

SartorialInterest

Keep in mind that Agnelli wore those types of boots to stabilize a badly damaged ankle, the result of a car accident in the 1950s. Which was itself a result of being caught in deli to by Clementine Churchill, his paramour at the time. Being Agnelli, he wore a suede version of hiking boots, which doesn’t quite come through in the photo.

VS

Nothing is attention-seeking here. Agnelli’s boots are steel-toe work boots. Not hiking. Remember he was in charge of running FIAT. His look is very common of the heavy industry company executive who is going between observing production lines and board meeting. Sometimes it’s just too time consuming to keep changing your shoes all the time. And such work boots are a must there. For your safety. Regardless you are an assembly worker, or a CEO. That’s why he looks so natural.

Robert M

Hi Tony, nice looking boots! But I don’t understand one thing – you say you took Sebastian’s advice to heart, but then you bought the boots anyway? Is it that these are lined, as opposed to the ones you wanted to have made? Does that make a difference in terms of “playing havoc with the tarsal bones”?

Tony S

Robert –

The advice was on getting a pair made bespoke – something he successfully talked me out of. And I can understand why.

The apres ski boot is supposed to perform the same function as the Nike Camp Moc or the UGG boot in its original iteration: that is to be thrown on post activity as a “leisure” shoe, so the orthopaedic worries are of less concern.

That said, I’ve worn em on several occasions as all day walking boots and found no issues. And yes, I think the lining probably helps in this regard.

Peter Hall

What a wonderful piece to read over a slow coffee. Tony gives an outline of flying clothing. In a previous life this is how I earned a crust. If anyone has an interest(the pictures are great) .
https://www.aerosociety.com/media/4847/a-brief-history-of-flying-clothing.pdf

Tony S

Thank you Peter, I look forward to digging into that!

Philip

Thank you for a fun and well-written post! I have been looking at these for the Stockholm winter. Tip: Morjas has a cheaper but very similar-looking model.

Mike

I couldn’t stretch to a pair of Galway’s so I chose a similar looking suede boot from Morgas. The fit is good but lower quality suede, a Danite looky likely sole. . I was a little disappointed.
by the time you add on VAT and delivery you are only £100.00 away from a C and J

Gary

Are you referring to Dubarry Galway boots? Their soles look like Vibram’s lugs that are found on fashion brands like Timberland. Dainite soles can be slippy in my experience and are not suitable for the country.
Have you thought of Goodyear welted Veldtschoen boots instead? Take a look at the Rannoch from Hoggs of Fife which IIRC is made by Joseph Cheaney on the same last as the Pennine II R. The Hoggs have a dark brown grain and are around £300 or under in the sales. They are a wide fit like the Galways and will take a thick sock.

D

They have great lasts, good fit and look.
However I agree with you on their quality Simon, it is not great. Not even reaching Loake, Carmina or Carlos Santos quality unfortunately.

Mathijs

I can’t speak for their boots, but I did buy a pair of black Oxfords from them and the first time I wore them the leather creased in such an immediate and quite honestly, ugly fashion leading me believe the leather quality is not quite there. Interested to hear why you disliked them Simon!

And mr. Sylvester, lovely read. Thank you!

Ajbjasus

Very nice, but I’ll stick with my Dolomite 1957, or Heschungs in deep snow.

You should check out Haderer in Kitzbuhel, still hand making bombproof Tyrolian footwear. Not silly money, either.

Tony S

Thank you, I shall check them out.

Peter Hall

Lennon’s hillboots or workboots are extremely good quality for the price. I have a pair of their WW1 soldiers boots-with vibram sole not hobnails and they are great. I spend much of my work day standing. in wet,Dutch polderland and they have never failed.

Zak

Interesting aritcle as always, Tony.

When you say that outfit with the ‘blinders cap’ was not a success makes me wonder whether or not the judgement of an outfit’s success – especially one that is a little less than personally ordinary – can be judged on one wear. I think, and maybe you do also, these things could be better judged on a number of wears, acquiring the taste, so to speak. You know, wearing an outfit enough to reduce the nagging spotlight effect and the feeling that one is wearing a costume. I suppose the problem then is, the finding the liking of something that one wasn’t prepared for at the outset. Or maybe that’s the whole fun of it.

Cheers

Z

Tony S

Zak – I see your point, and I agree that you need to take time to try things out in different ways to see how to make them “yours”.

In this case, it was the wholesale donning of Jean Gabin’s outfit that I deemed to be unsuccessful, from the point of view of intention rather than results. In trying to ape someone else, I lost my own identity in the process.

Cheers, Tony

Philip L

No discussion of Jean Gabin is complete without consideration of his contemporary update- Arlette’s little dog, in the French Netflix show, Call My Agent, in which the little beast’s sound much like the actor’s voice. In the show, the dog appears nude.

Stephen

Hi Simon, Tony, Manish, other guest writers and all the community of PS readers, wishing you all the best for a Merry Christmas.

Eneko

Did someone know the Mark of the Agnelli boots?

Burt

A wonderful read, thank you!

Pyc

First impression: resembles an Ugg boot with a zip.

Tony S

Understandably. The Ugg boots was designed by shearers on Aussie farms back in the 20s, but took off as an “apres-surf” boot in the 60s, so the utility and history is pretty parallel.

The nominative origins are similar too: Ugg boots an affectionate nod to their “ugliness”and the pilot’s “Fug” Boot- while initially named for the stuffy cockpits they were were worn in, the term caught on and stuck due to them being “fucking ugly”.

Stephen

I can see that resemblance too. Also reminds me of the boots I was made to wear in winter as a child in the 60s (in London so hardly alpine conditions -except the year of the big freeze!) and not at all fashionable. Although mine were probably Clarks.
Not to detract from a beautifully written piece though.

Gary

I had a similar thought. Front zips tend to be a feature on women’s boots like these – https://www.nordstrom.com/s/frye-julie-front-zip-combat-boot-women/4763487

Jim Bainbridge

Reminds me of Churchill’s zip up shoes – given that he did a bit of flying, I wonder if he ever wore anything like this? Perhaps. I love that duffle though. Nice piece, Tony.

Tony S

Jim –

Thank you! And I agree, I’d say there’s an argument to be made that Churchill’s zip derbies (bespoke by Peal & Co) were a dress version of an airman’s boot. Utility wise, they do seem to follow his penchant for “no nonsense” clobber shorn of frivolity, that he could put it quickly with no fuss. Along the same lines as his infamous Siren Suits from Turnbull. I wrote a little on them for Bryceland’s: https://www.brycelandsco.com/blogs/news/all-or-nothing-on-coveralls-and-culture

Philip Gilbert

Hi Simon,
Interesting post, and very topical after last week’s snow.
A few thoughts, my son bought some Diemme boots pre-Covid and found the same as you, lethal on slippery pavements.
The pic of Agnelli is legendary, rather like him! Whilst he looks cool, trying to replicate something so specific merely falls into the “try too hard” category.
Lastly, I like the boots, and the ones from Beige. My only complaint is suede! Yes, I prefer suede shoes, but in snow it seems a bit style over substance. Grained leather would be more practical I feel.
Compliments of the season to all
Philip.

Andreas

They’d look so much better if the last was actually shaped the way it is depicted in the vintage advertisement at the top of the article. The shape of final product just seems really disappointing to me in direct comparison. I’d probably go for the “Touring” model if I wanted a rugged winter shoe from that particular brand.

Ian F

It’s funny how associations resonate. Both my grandmothers wore boots like these sixty years ago (though clearly not at anywhere near the same price point) and I can’t see this ‘style’ without thinking of the headscarfed denizens of Bill Tidy cartoons.
 

Gary

“Their price point is on the rich side, a cool £555 from Cavour.” That’s not surprising in these hyper-inflationary times. Over the last couple of years or so, Tricker’s Burford and Stow prices have risen by around a third to a similarly rich £565! Crockett & Jones prices for winter boots are at a similar level. They would burn a large hole in most wallets.

Martins

but don’t most of jermyn street do sales at least around Christmas/black Friday? if you want particular model in particular shade… tough luck. but if you want dark brown captoe for end of next year? I think out of my 15 pairs of Goodyear/handwelted shoes, I paid full price for about… last 4? everything else was at least 50% off. last month I snapped 2 loakes for work to see if they’ll last longer than Clarks on 40-60k steps a week… for 110£.

Petrus

The original shoe, and if I’m not wrong, the origin to the poster is the wonderful Swiss brand Kandahar. The shoe, Cresta, is originally in pony hair.

https://kandahar.swiss/collections/men-shoes/products/cresta-m-black

by the way, Kandahar is named after Kandahar club in Mürren.
this shoe has been the same since the 30s. It was originally designed for curling.

Tony S

This is fascinating, thank you!

Eugene

It’s interesting to read that another tire maker was involved in the boots’ development. BF Goodrich for the zipper along with Goodyear for the welt/sole joining. Traction is traction, whether it be for a mechanical vehicle or the human body,

Jorge

Hi, the title says “Thomas” instead of Ludwig Reiter….On another note Imhave these boots siNce years and are excellent in the snow.
Thanks

Aodhán

Is “processed” in “‘nuclear levels of presence’ that he processed” a typo for “possessed”?

Also, I imagine that it should be “risible chaps” rather than “riseable chaps”.

Peter Hall

Hope you have a very happy Christmas, both Simon,Tony and the PS family and obviously to both of your respective families.

Perhaps you could slip in a short trip to the vintage shops of Amsterdam in the future. We could treat you to a stroopwafel and taart.

GS

Great article and welcome extension to PS themes ! Also reminding in authentic way the main task of finding own, personal style, with respect to history and craft.

Christoffer

A sartorialist in Oslo! What a time to be alive 🙂