Take a look at the shoes you’re wearing right now. Are they sneakers? Flats? Boots? Where in the world did they come from, and when was the last time you took a moment to think about the trend that the shoes on your feet were participating in? Join us as we take a look at unique shoes from around the world, to get a better sense of different traditions and trends that have contributed to the fashion we see on the feet of many, today.
Geta from Japan
In Japan, Geta are seen as traditional footwear, intentionally paired with kimonos. There many variations of the shoe, including: Mitsu-ashi (three legged geta), Maiko-okobo (intended to encourage smaller steps from those who wear them due to the sole’s smaller surface area), Senryou-geta (now seen as a “very lucky” geta, formerly very popular in Tokyo), just to name a few. The shape of the shoe tends to change depending on whether they’re made for men or women.
Chopines from Italy
These women’s shoes were popular in Italy from the 15th to 17th centuries, useful in helping protect outfits from dirt and other street soil. Height for these shoes became a larger symbol of class, with higher heights correlating to higher statuses in society. They’re typically made of wood or cork, and according to some, caused a slightly unstable/awkward gait. Some women needed two servants to accompany them as they walked, to keep them from falling over.
Wooden Bridal Shoes from France
A popular gift from groom to future bride amongst couples in the 9th century, these French shoes were crafted from wood and the story behind them isn’t entirely clear. Some say that the shoes were originally rectangular in shape, made from the trunks of walnut trees, until shoemakers started to pull on branches of the trees, warping and bending the wood to inspire a different material for the shoes. There’s no complete certainty as to how these shoes got their unique exact shape, but people seemed to believe that the front point of the shoe corresponded with how much the groom loved his bride.
Paduka from India from India
Paduka is known as India’s oldest footwear, worn in the past by both common people and those of higher classes. Today, the shoe is mostly worn by saints of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The structure of the shoe requires those who wear it to situate the knob between the big toe and second toe. The shoes were often made of simple wood, but could sometimes be decorated with different types of design in materials like sandalwood and fine teak.
Lotus Shoes from China
Chinese Lotus shoes were worn by women with bound feet, and made from different materials like silk and cotton. The shoes were often decorated with art that included animals, flowers, and other elegant visuals that would sometime span the entire shoe and even the sole. At times, the shoes could be found with heels or wedged soles, and some of the designs only fit over the tip of the shoe, making the foot appear small and bound when worn with longer clothing.
Hye and Hwa from Korea
In Korea, Hye translates to shoes that don’t cover the ankles, and Hwa are shoes that do cover the ankles. Both words are used to describe a variety of different shoes that were and remain popular in Korea, to this day, which also happened to be made by one particular shoe craftsmen called Hwahyejang. Danghye and Unhye are two types of shoes that were most commonly seen on the feet of upper class women in Korea — both shoes were usually made of silk, with detailed embroidery at the heel and toes.
What are some traditional shoes you can think of, that weren’t listed here?
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