After the World War I, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to power and influenced almost every aspect in the world. However, one of the more surprising aspects of Fuhrer’s arrival in power in 1933 was the foundation of a German Fashion Institute. Known as the Deutsches Modeamt, it was a reflection of Nazi attempts to control every aspect of human lives, including what they wore.
Let us explore how Nazi deep influence changed the fashion industry entirely.
High on Style
The Nazis understood branding pretty well. Senior Nazi and Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels knew the importance of appearance. He believed that pristine uniforms made the wearer look tall, broad and imposing as compared to scruffy combat fatigues.
Goebbels intended to make a powerful impact on the people. It is said that he owned hundreds of suits and he would never wear the same suit twice in any calendar year. By insisting such principles, Goebbels brought in a brand presence in the Nazis.
Nazis Uniforms with Evil Design
Since the 1930s, the Nazi uniform has always been an epitome of the evil costume design. Taken into consideration, the crimes and atrocities implemented by the Nazis, they certainly qualify as the bad guys.
In fact, they are portrayed as the evil people in many famous films. George Lucas in the movie, “The Empire Strikes Back,” is a classic example of a movie on the Nazis. The costumes of Nazis are considered authoritarian and empire-like.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel or Coco Chanel
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was an established and renowned fashion designer right from the time when Hitler began invading Europe. He is also known by her nickname, “Coco” and pioneered the svelte and iconic little black dress. The Nazi invasion of France tried to get rid of her superstardom.
So, Coco decided to embrace Nazi rule in her “own style” instead of hiding or resisting. She fell in love with a German man Hans Gunther von Dincklage and turned into a spy and contributed in the recruitment for the Third Reich. Third Reich is the term used to describe the Nazi rule in Germany.
Chanel soon established herself as the most renowned French fashion designer. Rumors state that her association with the Nazi Germany gave her the required publicity and branding.
It may sound a little weird today. However, people during the Nazi regime loved toothbrush mustaches. Adolph Hitler is famous for his toothbrush mustache. Even Oliver Hardy and Charlie Chaplin are known for their mustaches.
Earlier, Hitler wore a long mustache with handlebar style, however, while fighting in the Great War, his mustache would interfere in his gas mask, and so he trimmed it down.
Hugo Boss and the SS Uniforms
In this article, we have mentioned how Joseph Goebbels made the Nazi officers look distinct from the rest. In fact, he supervised the design and production of the uniforms personally. The Nazi military units were also known as the Schutzstaffel or SS. The Nazi officers’ black uniforms and the sinister death’s head skull logo on their caps were sufficient to cause the required terror.
However, Goebbels instructed Munich-based outfitter Hugo Boss and his staff to create the different SS uniforms. Boss was manufacturing the “brown shirts” at that time for the officers anyway, and he had to follow Goebbels orders. Today, we buy Hugo Boss’s perfumes, suits, and sunglasses. But least did we know, that Boss would have played such a pivotal role in World War II!
Just like Hugo Boss and Chanel, even Christian Dior worked for the Nazis. The Gestapo captured him and made dresses and outfits for the wives of high-ranking officers. Dior was considered a traitor who was working for the Germans.
But Dior was working as a designer for a fashion house run by Lucien Lelong. Dior realized the mission to preserve France as the house of fashion, and so he set up his own fashion house. While doing so, he soon became a household name across the world.
When we utter the name Louis Vuitton, the first thing that comes to our mind is the famous handbags. When the Nazis invaded France in 1940, the Vichy State rules the country and most brands had to shut shops. But Louis Vuitton survived the war and continued their occupation.
In fact, Louis Vuitton was the only brand to receive permission to operate on the ground floor of Hotel du Parc. The French brand got many allowances due to their cooperation with the Nazis. Many competitors refused the deal, and as a result, they had to shut shops or had to stay afloat in the market.
Swastika, the Symbol of Peace
The Nazi regime’s central motif was the swastika or the peace symbol. Hitler and his team repurposed the symbol by having it on their uniforms. Since then, this symbol of peace is stigmatized.
Some biker gangs of the 1960s and 70s used swastikas, iron crosses and SS style lightning bolts which led to shock and offense among the people.
Asian Pop Culture Gets a Hit
Those sporting the SS uniforms have always faced the whip. In 2013, a controversy forced a Nazi-themed Indonesian café owner to shut down in Java. Even media giant like Sony had to apologize in 2016 after a popular girl band Keyakizaka46 performed at a concert wearing the SS uniforms.
The Hsinchu Kuang-Fu High School in Hsinchu City, Taipei, decided to design, create and stage a parade based on Adolf Hitler before the realization that it was wrong.
No More ‘Boyish’ Women’s Fashion
Germany has contributed to European style immensely in the 1920s. Berlin and Munich were the main places of design and high-end clothing. When Hitler came to power, he reshaped the national image of the German woman. Hitler wanted women to dress plainly and sensibly. According to him, pure Aryan race will shine through the beauty of German lady. He dictated no makeup, nail polish or fancy dresses to the women.
The Nazis wanted to end this, and so they established the Deutsches Moderamt or the Reich Fashion Bureau. As per the rules of this bureau, the women could wear only German-made clothing and materials. Coco Chanel introduced the “boyish” look for women wherein it was believed that skimpy clothes and short hair make women look slim.
Hitler, on the other hand, preferred round and fertile look which included shapely legs, fuller bust, and curvaceous figure. Soon, the Reich Fashion Bureau realized this and bid goodbye to the boyish look.