M.1914 Schnurschuhe (Ankle Shoes)
The standard issue boot throughout the war for the German soldier was the M.1886 Marschstiefel. However, the boot prooved susceptable to rocks and mud entering through the open top of the boot in the trenches. Soldiers found that ankle boots with leg wraps prooved superior to keeping the inside of the boots free of debris. Germany imported most of its leather, which was severely restricted but the British due to their naval superiority. As leather became less available, the German army paid bounties to soldiers for providing their own boots, which more often than not were low boots. Later in the war the army had to accept low boots as the supply of leather just could not keep up with the demand for Marschstiefel.
The ankle boot at the start of the war was the M.1914 Schnurschuhe (pictured below). The previous model, the M.1901 (pictured at right), was a side-lace shoe, but that was changed in the M.1914 to a top lace, and by the 1917-18 period we reenact, most likely would not have been seen as boots rarely lasted more than 3 month at the front.
The M1914 Schnürschuhe should lace well up onto the ankle, and as on the Marschstiefel (Jackboots), they were supplied in their natural color, but after much wear, would darken. The soles were constructed of heavy leather and hobnailed.
For members of IR63, ankle boots will be natural oiled or blackened leather, the heels must also be made of leather and set with hobnails or horseshoe plates and the soles shall be hobnailed. It should also be noted that French ankle shoes and British "ammunition boots" were widely used by German troops and therefore the wearing of either is acceptable for members of IR63.
There are NO reproduction WWI German ankle boots. BUT, there also really wasn't only one pattern. The army did have one official issued pattern, but they also bought as many commercially available ankle boots as normal chains of supply could not keep up with demand. This is good for the reenactor and means that many reproduction period boots can suit the WWI German reenactor's needs. The best option though is basically just finding a quality pair of WWII boots. As an actual German made boot they are more than adequate and German WWII hobnails are also about as close as we can come to WWI and are far better than using a British or French pattern hobnail.
Side view of an original pair of M.1901 Schnürschuhe.
Bottom view of the M.1901 Schnürschuhe showing the common basic hobnail pattern.
Top view of the 1944 dated WWII Schnürschuhe.
Bottom view of the 1944 dated WWII Schnürschuhe showing the same common basic hobnail pattern as seen on WWI boots (sans toe plate).
Hobnails and Heel Plates:
One style of heel iron.
Another style of heel iron.
Basic WWII German hobnails.
Left: Some vendors supply a two-prong style of Hobnail - avoid these. We find they just don't do the job the regular "nail" version can do.
Notes on blackening leather:
In 1915 order came down that all leather was too be blackened. This was expected to be done by the soldiers themselves and was not part of the production process. Therefore, depending on availability of materials to do the blackening, this was not always done. There has been an ongoing debate since WWI reenacting began on how universal blackening was - and the debate continues.
Members of IR63 over the years have included many serious and casual collectors, and the sheer number of items dated 1916-1918 that we have observed that have never received blackening indicates to us that non-blackened leather was not a rare occurrance (or blackening was definitely not universal). Therefore, IR63 is not going mandate that all leather be blackened (although blackened is the preferred condition.) See the "How-to" page for a non-dye method of blackening.
Now, deciding not to blacken leather DOES NOT mean you should show up at an event with pristine undyed leather. One limiting factor for blackening is oil - if you tried to blacken/dye heavily oiled leather the color would not take, and worse, it would rub off on everything around it - including your uniform and hands. Germans were fastidious on leather care as leather was a limited quantity and preservation of what they had was more important than its color. So, if you don't dye - OIL.
Over oiling is not good, but a good coat of oil applied periodically will naturally darken leather over time. So, how much is too much? Hard to quantify, but the is an article on leather care Leather Preservation that should help.