In this article, we plan to show you some of the most interesting shoes from around the world that have become a part of traditional costume. We’re sure many of these unique shoes will leave you both delighted and amazed! Let us remind you that some of them are a bit out of this world, and rather controversial or crazy. But surely, they have carved their part in history.
Germany, Belgium, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Denmark — Klompen/Sabots clogs
And while people had to wear thick socks to prevent injury, the shoes were safe because they could protect one’s feet from cold and hot surfaces and sharp objects.
Even now, there are gardeners, farmers and even folk dancers who wear them. Some are even created for tourists.
These lovely shoes were handmade by experts who custom-carved them during the earlier centuries. But as the 20th century began, machines began to make the clogs.
China — Lotus shoes
Foot binding is an ancient practice involving the deformation of a girl child’s foot with the aim of keeping the feet small. Due to the tight binding in the procedure, the child’s feet would stop growing.
Lotus shoes aided in this tradition and the women who practised it, wore them regularly.
These shoes pretty much looked like a lotus bud and were made from silk or cotton. More often than not, they were decorated with gems, embroidery and other elaborate embellishments.
Uzbekistan — Kavush
The Kavush shoes were typically produced in brown or yellow and 100% embroidered with threads or silk. These shoes were worn by rich men who could pay the high price for the time taken to craft the footwear’s embellishments and detailing. The elaborate embellishments implied they were not made for labour or farm work.
Japan — Jika-Tabi Boots
These speciality boots, easily recognisable for their split in the toe design, are called Jika-Tabi. They are also called ‘ninja boots.’ Often appearing to look like a pair of thongs, these boots are actually lightweight and have a good grip because of their rubber-sole.
What is now known as ninja boots is popular in action movies and also amongst those who love running on tracks.
China — Kung Fu Shoes
Yes, you read that right! Kung Fu shoes are popular in China amongst people who practice Tai Chi, Kung Fu and other martial arts. These shoes have a strong grip for the comfort of the wearer. All you need to do is just slip them on.
Nowadays, canvas-style Kung Fu shoes are produced around the world. But instead of using a plastic sole, the manufacturers use a rubber or cotton one for adequate comfort.
Cuba — Cuban Heels
In the 1980s, these shoes became popular footwear for both men and women. If you’re ready to do some Latin dance, rumba, samba or cha-cha dance routines, then make sure to grab a pair of Cuban heels (which by the way, are regarded as the perfect Latin heels).
Finland — Plaited Birch shoes
Yes, what you’re thinking is correct! The shoes are made from the plaited fibre of the birch tree. As they’re easily replaceable and super cheap, they were most commonly worn by peasants. Most of them lasted for just a week.
Women of the 20th century used to wrap their feet in cloth before they would wear these plaited birch shoes.
Poland — Poulaine
And if you think 6 inches is long enough for pointed toes, then what would you say about these 24-inch shoe tips?
As fashionable as they were, poulaines were also quite controversial. Due to the length of the toe area, people wearing them couldn’t kneel down and pray. But later on, the laws changed in England in order to curtail the toe length based on one’s class in society.
Italy — Chopines
Designed in Venice, chopines or zoccoli were worn by men and women between 1400 and 1700 AD. One notable feature about this shoe was that its platform height was linked to the person’s social standing. Some of these shoes were as high as 20 inches.
However, you might not notice that someone was wearing chopines as most of the people back then wore long dresses which covered their shoes.
Tidbit: Chopines were often so high that wearer needed an assistant, servant or a cane in order to walk with them!
Canada — Moccasins
There are moccasins without any designs or patterns and others that have exquisite patterns and detailing. Fashion changes and so with new trends, the modern moccasin’s look is always revamped.
Argentina — Alpargatas
If you’d go back in time to 1883 and you’re in Argentina, you’re most likely to find people wearing the Alpargata, a very popular type of shoe during that period. These everyday shoes, which were a favourite of Spanish Espadrilles, were commonly made in white or black and sold under a reasonable price.
Today, the alpargatas are popular in many Argentine cities such as Buenos Aires.
Peru — Rigel
Don’t miss out on buying a pair of these floral shoes from Peru if you’re looking for unique and fun items to take back with you as souvenirs! Rigels are noted for their crafty and intricate details along the ankle strap, which don lots of floral embroidery.
Try wearing rigels as a part of your summer getup as its pretty details and patterns complement many airy outfits.
Sweden — Träskor
These shoes first made their appearance in the small factory of August Johansson in Troentorp in the year of 1907. August, the man behind the clogs, spent 8 years trying to learn how to make them before he opened the factory. Then, he passed the business over to his sons when the clogs became popular all over the country.
As in the past, clogs are water-resistant, long-lasting and are still made using nails. With the passing of the time, different countries and designers started introducing their own versions of the clogs, made from different types of materials and wood.
Philippines — Bakya
You might want to try a pair of bakyas if you’re a fan of wooden shoes. These clogs were commonly made from light wood such as Laniti and Santol. They have custom-cut heels to achieve the right foot size.
Bakya is shaped and shaven so that it’s smooth for wearing. And in the heel area, common designs with landscape, geometric and floral patterns are printed.
The shoes are then varnished or painted. Often, fabric decor tends to adorn its top portion, which is fastened into the base with tiny nails.
United States — Cowboy Boots
Cowboy boots fit the criteria for easy shoes back when land was cheap, and there were many cattle animals to look after. Because they had to move around so much, cowboys needed a specific kind of shoe — and these boots were perfect.
Back in the days, cowboys had to work in the ranch, take their money and go to town for new boots. The boots then became a symbol of celebration for how they were safely able to move their herd to a new location.
Spain — Espadrilles
These shoes have been around since the 14th century. Generally, their upper part is made from canvas or cotton, or some sort of natural fibre. Espadrilles are still worn during fashion shows to display fashionable summer dressing.
India — Jutti
Made with extensive embroidery and leather material, the jutti was inspired by the royalty of India some 400 years ago. They are elaborate ethnic shoes made of real silver and gold thread. These shoes are easily recognisable with their curved tip which marks a special design for their male pairs. Juttis are still common during wedding ceremonies in India.
Pakistan — Multani Khussa
Made with vegetable-tanned leather, multani khussas were worn by royalty. These shoes represent the local ethos, cultural diversity and ethnicity of Pakistan. The design of the multani khussa reveals the shape, nature and colour of its applique. Often, the designs on the shoes include weaves, punches and embroidery.
Syria, Turkey, Lebanon — Kabkabs
The shoes had been worn to protect one’s feet from dirty and hot stone floors and the broiling waters usually found in public bathhouses.
Kabkabs were also designed with expensive decorations and embellishments like silver, mother-of-pearls, gold and carvings, to name a few, and were made in materials ranging from velvet, silk and leather.
Morocco — Babouche
Last but not least, are the handcrafted babouche shoes. These are made from leather material or cloth, without heels and mostly come with pointed toes. The best part is that they are super comfy, hence perfect for just hanging out around town or enjoying a movie night.
Shoes form a vital part of a country’s national costume. They reflect the beliefs, environmental conditions and traditions of a place. In the early days, they were worn despite the awkwardness or inconvenience associated with wearing it.
Which amongst these extraordinary shoes is your favourite? Would you consider wearing them?