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.



    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.”

  • 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.”

    - Josef Lederer



    Good and bad fortune were walking hand in hand when the former apprentice Josef Lederer, nicknamed Sepp, returned to LOWA. The company had run into economic problems, and Lorenz Wagner, the head of the company and its founder, had died. At the same time, Sepp fell in love with Berta Wagner and married her. Together with Berta’s brother, Josef Wagner, the new generation managed to save the company and turn it into an internationally known and successful brand.

LOWA celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023. Let’s look back at the many decisive phases and the history of the outdoor shoe specialist.
  • 1923


    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.

  • 1930


    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.

  • 1933


    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”.

  • 1936


    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.

  • 1937


    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.

  • 1939


    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.

  • 1944


    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.

  • 1948


    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).

  • 1952


    LOWA experiences a crisis. The Korean conflict causes the availability and prices of leather to swing sharply, and the company miscalculates. The former apprentice Josef Lederer, who was managing director by this time, and Lorenz’s daughter Berta, the head of sales, rescue the company. Josef and Berta marry on 5 July.

  • 1953


    LOWA KG is established on 13 February 1957. Josef Lederer and his brother-in-law Josef Wagner become personally liable partners. Berti Lederer acts as limited partner. The new marketing strategy: LOWA focuses on collaboration with experienced mountain climbers and provides the equipment used during expeditions to the world’s highest mountains during the following years.

  • 1962


    The “mountaineering and ski boots with a kick” are a hit, and LOWA continues to grow. At this point, the company employs 95 people and generates turnover of about DM 2.5 million.

  • 1970


    Josef Lederer boldly invests in the future of LOWA. After acquiring a vulcanising system in the 1960s, he purchases a polyurethane injection moulding machine for ski boots. In doing so, he becomes an industry pacesetter. LOWA TOTAL is introduced to the market.

  • 1972


    The development team at LOWA then pulls off its next big success. With the help of an inflatable air cushion, the inner-boot of a ski boot can be adjusted to exactly fit the wearer’s foot. The new boot is christened LOWA AIR and remains a top seller for years.

  • 1977


    LOWA expands sales beyond Germany. On 25 October 1977, Fritz Müller of Interlaken signs an agreement that remains in effect today LOWA Switzerland continues to be a subsidiary.

  • 1982


    The year of 1982 marks a mountaineering-boot milestone.

  • 1983


    LOWA employs more than 100 people in Altmühlmünster, Altmannstein, Pirmasens and Jetzendorf. Twenty percent of the company’s shoes are exported.

  • 1988


    The next change of generations at LOWA appears on the horizon. After Josef Wagner leaves HANWAG in 1979, Josef Lederer resigns from his position at LOWA and passes the reins of leadership to his son Stefan Lederer. Stefan Lederer then develops the area of trekking shoes and lightweight hiking boots.

  • 1992


    LOWA faces major business difficulties. Werner Riethmann becomes managing director.The Lederer family decides to sell its stake.

  • 1993


    The Italian company Tecnica acquires LOWA. It is a group whose other brands include Nordica, Rollerblade, Blizzard and Moon Boot. Processes at LOWA are optimised, and the ski-boot business is transferred to Italy. Jetzendorf remains the location for LOWA mountaineering boots and trekking shoes.

  • 1997


    Werner Riethmann and his development team achieve a breakthrough with the RENEGADE model. The shoe becomes a best-seller. The RENEGADE remains a sales hit and classic still today.

  • 2000


    LOWA sells 1 million pairs of shoes for the first time. The company grows and builds new production buildings. The 15-square-metre shop in which Lorenz Wagner got his start evolves into a modern plant with 7,000 square metres of space.

  • 2003


    LOWA and Schöffel Sportbekleidung GmbH open the first Schöffel-LOWA store in Frankfurt. The joint venture exploits synergies, and the products made by the two companies perfectly complement one another. More than 36 other stores are opened in Germany, Austria and Italy over the years.

  • 2010


    LOWA reaches its next milestone. Two million pairs of shoes! LOWA markets its products in many countries around the world – in addition to Europe, in the United States, China and Australia.

  • 2015


    “Made in Europe”: LOWA produces its shoes across Europe with production partners in Slovakia, Bosnia, Italy and Croatia.

  • 2019


    Alexander Nicolai becomes managing director and leads LOWA along with Werner Riethmann. In this same year, LOWA acquires its long-time production partner Riko Sport. The development location in Italy becomes known as LOWA R&D and the production operation in Slovakia as LOWA Production. More than 2,000 people now work at LOWA.

  • 2023

    LOWA celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023 – and produces over 3 million pairs of shoes. The brand is one of the most important producers of high-quality outdoor shoes worldwide and exports its products to 80 countries.