Monica D. Murgia

Art, creativity, and fashion
August 19th, 2014

Fred Braun: A Family History

Today’s post is courtesy of my reader, KC.  My previous writing on Fred Braun has developed a coterie, commenting on their fond memories of the iconic footwear.  Everyone is mystified as to what happened to Fred Braun and why the brand disappeared.  Several readers are even interested in reviving the brand themselves, and don’t know where to start.  KC, a relative of Fred Braun, stumbled on my blog and shared the following information in the comment section:

 

I found this article looking for more information about Fred Braun the man and his history. There is very little online. I found a newspaper article about his and his shoe company from 1961 among my grandmother’s old pictures. Based on the information in the article and other pictures we have, I believe Fred Braun is an Americanized name and that he was originally Frederick Braunschweig, my grandfather’s brother. The family was all in the leather business (tanners, hide salesmen, shoe distributors) in Germany before fleeing the Nazis. I’d be happy to share the article and pictures I have of him and if you find any more information about him or the company, I’d be interested.

I contacted KC, eager to learn more of what happened to Fred Braun.  He shared this New York Times article from August 15th, 1961:

fred_braun
Part of the cult-like following was due to Braun’s process.  The entire shoe was made by hand, by one artisan.  After going bankrupt once, Braun decided to listen to the customers.  He opened a store in Greenwich Village, and looked to customers for the opportunity to test the market.  And learn he did!  He charmingly explained:
“I’ll never forget the woman who told me that a certain bag made her face look too square.  Up until then, being a mere man, I had thought that handbags were only for carrying things.”
KC has been researching his family tree, and share this additional information:
This is assuming we’re right that he really is Frederick Braunschweig.   He married a woman named Renate. We don’t know much else about her. The article claims his mother had 6 children.  We only know about the 3 brothers but there may have been sisters we don’t know about, possibly they didn’t survive or were from a previous marriage.  This photo is of Fred and Renate cutting their wedding cake (date unknown).
fred3
We do know that Fred’s brother Theo (my grandfather) was a chemist in a tannery and his father, Issac, owned shoe stores/distributors in Munich and was in business with his wife’s (Sophie Muhlhauser) family.  Another thing we know is that Issac was killed in Munich.  Most likely murdered in the street by Nazi SA.  His grave is in Munich.  Sophie later attempted to escape to France, possibly to meet Fred. The article says he went to Strasbourg, a city known for tanners, which is just across the border from Zweibrucken, where Theo’s wife was born.  Sophie failed to make it to France and was later deported from Munich to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and killed there.
fred1
Left to right: Theo, Ralph (KC’s father), Anna (Theo’s wife), Fred.  Photo was taken in Lille, France circa 1940.
 

Please feel free to comment below with any additional information that you may have.   Thank you, KC, for sharing this wonderful article and information!

Image and article courtesy of the New York Times.

November 13th, 2011

Fred Braun

Fred Braun shoes.

Finding a pair of vintage shoes that have never been worn is an exhilarating experience. Lucky me, a few weeks ago I found a sample pair of olive green Fred Braun shoes in my size.  But the real excitement was that I magically stumbled upon an urban shoe legend.

Fred Braun was a New York based shoe designer during the 1960s & 1970s.  He had several boutiques throughout Manhattan, including: the Village, Lexington Avenue near 50th Street, and 34th Street.  As the shoes became more in demand, they were carried in independent retailers throughout Brooklyn.

 

The shoes still have a cult following, and there are message boards where devotees reminisce about their favorite styles, and the iconic red and white striped boxes they came in.  Fans explain that the shoes came in specialty sizes, and were beautifully made.  Judging from the pair I found, I absolutely agree.

 

When Fred Braun died , and the business closed.  The shoes are no longer produced, but sometimes pairs resurface on the vintage market.  Sources say Cobblestones, a vintage store in the East Village, often has pairs.  Or you might just find them at your local flea market.