The House That Josef Seibel Built
Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Germany, roughly 60 miles from Strasbourg, France, is the municipality of Hauenstein. Despite the town’s pint-size population of fewer than 4,000 residents, the village has ties to one of the country’s most interesting exhibits, the German Shoe Museum.
The exhibition portrays the beginnings of the shoe industry in the nearby town of Pirmasens, which dates back to the mid 1700s.
By the mid-19th century, Pirmasens had developed into the most important site of the German shoe industry. This affected the little village of Hauenstein, which at the time consisted mainly of small farmers and forest workers.
In 1886, Carl-August Seibel started Josef Seibel footwear and named it after his son, Josef. He founded one of Hauenstein’s first shoe factory, whittling and hand-carving shoes and sandals within their own home. By 1914, 20 factories had been established, with more than 1,000 workers perfecting their craft through casting, stitching and assembling footwear.
In 1960, the number of workshops jumped to 35. However, as the years went by, time was not kind to the shoemaking business. Automation and the relocation of production to foreign countries led to a serious structural crisis in the German shoe industry, resulting in numerous businesses closing up shop.
The recession of the ‘70s hit Europe hard and it meant the Seibel family had to think quickly. The company took steps to introduce new ideas and developments, which allowed the brand to avert the difficult times. Towards the end of the 1980s new production facilities, offices and warehouses were built in Hauenstein, Hungary and Romania, allowing the Josef Seibel brand to remain.
Now in its fourth generation of operation, this family-held shoe company is run under Carl-August Seibel (named after his great-grandfather), who still lives in the renovated home in the original factory.
The brand is sold in more than 40 countries across the globe and has become known as “The European Comfort Shoe” based on its blend of comfort, style and value. Its collection of sandals, clogs, shoes and boots are made from high-quality leathers and continue to be handcrafted by skilled artisans in Europe.
Hand stitching is a core feature in the footwear offered by the Josef Seibel brand. This process offers improved flexibility, increased wear and an original appearance. From start to finish, it can take up to half an hour for an expert to stitch one pair of uppers to the soles. This process is known as “strobel.”
Strobel construction offers a much higher flexibility and strength than many other types of assembly, and this can be achieved in two ways: Flexible and AGO.
With the attributes of lightness and flexibility, the Flexible construction is especially well suited to casual footwear, such as the typical desert boot. Often shoes of this construction type are unlined ankle boots, walking shoes and sandals, with unlined summer shoes having the added benefit of dispersing perspiration through the holes caused by stitching.
The Flexible construction involves folding the excess upper material outwards from the last, then stitching this through the insole. Because of this, both the upper and insole edges are visible on the finished article, lending these articles to a more casual application.
Alternatively, Flexible shoes can be made without an insole, meaning the upper is simply stitched through to the outer sole. Either one or two rows of stitches can be used. The advantages of shoes constructed in this manner lie in their lightness, flexibility and simplicity of design.
The simplest and most widespread form of working, the AGO method, consist of a shoe’s upper being folded under and then attached to the insole, with the outsole later cemented underneath.
The advantages of this construction method lie with its simplicity, reducing the cost of production and making AGO suitable for almost any type of footwear. This cost reduction can of course be channeled in other directions, such as quality of materials, finish or fashion content. Importantly, AGO articles have a “clean” bond between sole and upper (i.e. there is no exposed stitching, etc.), giving this method advantages over others in terms of styling.
Still committed to original heritage of premium quality materials, the best workmanship and comfort, isn’t it about time you gave Josef Seibel footwear a try?