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The Story Of Footwear In India

Avtar
Feature Images

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Be it the Chinese lotus shoes, Japanese okobos, Roman gladiators or Indian Mojaris– the fetish for stylish footwear is age-old. Societies all over the world have exhibited their culture through their couture. Cultural beliefs, values and traditions have always reflected upon the elements of our outer appearance, and Indian footwear is no exception.

History of Footwear

In feudal China, the social status of people was perceived from the shoes they used to wear. In the Southern Dynasty, ordinary people wore shoes made of the fiber cloth, which was usually exclusively blue, green or white. Nobles wore leather and silk shoes.

History of Indian Footwear

On the other hand in India padukas or toe-nob sandals were worn by holy gurus. The simple footwear was made in religiously symbolic shapes, like fish. Meanwhile, Indian kings and queens wore juttis or clothed shoes, which were embroidered with precious gems, pearls, silver and gold threads.

The word pada ('foot') is cited in the ancient Hindu scripture - Rigveda. It represents the universe namely the Prithvi (earth), Vayu (air), Akash (sky) and the element of the realm beyond the sky.

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, King Dasaratha who had a curse on him, sent his son Rama (an incarnation of god Vishnu) for 14 years of exile. At the behest of his wife Kaikeyi (stepmother of Rama).

Ramayana Testimony

As she wanted her son Bharata to be crowned as the king. Rama, his consort Sita and brother Laksmana went into a forest to spend their period of exile. Bharata did not want to have the kingdom. He met Rama who was living in the forest and requested him to return to Ayodhya.

Rama told Bharata that he will return only after completing his fourteen years in the forest. Bharata requested for Rama's paduka to serve as his proxy, to be crowned in Ayodhya Raj Singhasan (King's throne) of Kosala country. And serve as an object of veneration for Rama's followers.

Bharata carried Rama's golden sandals (padukas) with great reverence by placing them on his head as a mark of his obedience to his elder brother. Bharata ruled Kosala as Rama's proxy in the name of "Ram's Padukas".

Different Types Of Traditional Indian Footwear
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Different Types Of Traditional Indian Footwear

Trends in the shoe industry are more focused on integrating historic designs. Shoemakers around the world are pioneering the art of incorporating traditionally worn footwear into mainstream contemporary fashions and fashion trends.

"Kolhapuri Chappal"

The traditional Indian footwear which our countrywide called chappal, comes in a wide range of designs and are both comfortable and long-lasting. Their long-lasting characteristics are the reason for their longevity. These were initially designed in Kolhapur, Maharashtra and were widely known as Kolhapuri chappals. They are designed from processed leather and are stout, sturdy, day-long usable. Today these are designed in a more modern and contemporary way to reach to the masses. This precious craftsmanship is struggling for its survival because of low sales and high-end brands market. This is a pure Indian craft and Indiabycraft has taken the initiative to endorse these. Popular since the 18th century, these are made from processed leather. Hides of buffalo are processed and grazed. Grazing makes the leather hard enough for daily wear. Kachkadi, Bakkalnali, and Pukari are some of the traditional designs of Kolhapuri chappals and are also extremely popular in the rural areas of Maharashtra.

"Khussa"

The Indian footwear’s popularity in recent times can also be credited to ballerina flats making headway into casual footwear. Khussas are a local and far more blingy variant of the ballerina shoes. It goes extremely well to jazz up the usually sedate western casual attire. The traditional leather plain khussa, today is available in every conceivable material and embellishment ranging from gold and silver zari work, dabka, Mukesh, velvet, ribbons, sequins and mirror work.

Jutti And Mojhari
Jutti And Mojhari

"Mojhari"

It is celebrated as men’s closest shoe with an extended curled toe, this Indian footwear have an open look from behind. These were traditionally designed in the blue city Jodhpur, and the pink city Jaipur, of Rajasthan. Mojharis are gorgeously embroidered with gold and silver threads, along with the delicate decoration of precious gems and pearls. These are mostly adorned at weddings, in the past, they were considered as the royal ethnic footwear to be worn with traditional Indian dressing like sherwanis and churidar kurta (pyjamas). Today, they are available in a wide range of colours, designs and are usually handcrafted, designed out from buffalo, cow or camel leather soles, while the upper part is designed out of leather or simply textile. Both parts of the footwear are joined together with a paste and later stitched by white cotton threads. They offer comfort and grace equally, the flat-soled footwear has no left-right distinction which further makes then stand out of the box. In the recent scenario, they became widely popular with the glitterati and are worn by Bollywood stars and professional sportsmen.

"Jutti's"

Modern shoe designers have transformed the ancient austere looking functional footwear into style statements with a touch of panache. "Juttis" is one such traditional style of footwear that have retained its shape, style and heritage through all these years of civilization.

Jutti or Nagra was first patronized by the Mughals and was extremely popular among the kings and the queens who belonged to the richest era of Indian history. Making of these exquisite shoes was first originated here.

The style of Jutti was more ornate and richer in texture and design due to fine gems, stones, and precious pearls. With the passage of time, Nagra shoes gained a lot of popularity in Punjab, and underwent various forms of experimentation and innovation.

“Jutti” also spelled as jutti is an Urdu word for a shoe with a closed upper attached to a sole. Punjabi and typically Indian, the jutti, also known as ‘mojari and ‘nagra’, is traditional footwear worn mostly in North India.

Originally made out of pure leather and have exquisite embroidery and additional embellishments that give it a unique appeal. From day to day wear,  weddings, religious occasions, to parties and festivals, juttis provide an essential ethnic appeal. They are timeless fashion and make a major part of the fashion industry.

pretty peach
Photo Courtesy: pretty peach

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The Process Of Making Juttis And Handmade Footwear In India

Exclusively handcrafted by skilled craftsman who primarily hail from Punjab, the making of Juttis is a tedious task. Construction of one pair of juttis involve people from different communities: the “Chamars”.

The Chamars process raw hides which are used with a vegetable dyeing process. The “Rangaars”, colored and painted the jutti. The “Mochis” assembled the pieces together. Earlier, Juttis were embroidered with pure gold and silver wires. Popularly known as ‘tilla‘ covering the entire surface of the pair.

The process begins at a tannery where raw hides are processed using the method of vegetable tanning. For this, a substance called tannin, extracted from the bark of Kikkar or Babool trees is used. For coloring, sarfoola (yellow) and arsigulabi (green) powdered pigments are mixed in water to create a thin solution of different shades of red.

After this, the painted leather is cut out into different shapes according to the requirement of the shoe design. The shoe upper for instance is made of one piece of leather or textile, embellished or embroidered with cowries, mirrors, brass nails, bells, ceramic beads, and other adornments.

Clubbing the upper and back (known as Adda) to the sole (known as Talla) is done using cotton thread which enmeshes the leather fibers efficiently.

Embroidering the jutti involves the use of stencils, for cutting and tracing designs on to the leather parts of the shoes. They range from simple cut-out shapes to be filled with simple embroidery, to intricate punches, weaves and embroidered designs.

pretty peach
Photo Courtesy: pretty peach

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Indian Juttis

Jutti's are quite popular in India. Different styles, patterns, and adornments are added to keep up with the changing generations. One can find a vast array of juttis that come in all kinds of colors.

Several modern-day inspired patterns have been added along with a traditional touch, and this has become a style craze with women across the world. Apart from the traditional thread and bead work, motifs and images have been used to stylize the jutti.

Incorporating a more modern twist bringing a touch of latest fashion. To a large extent, Cartoon characters, retro images and pop art scenes have been experimented with. Shoes in colored threads and beads, shells, cowri, etc. are weaved too in modern day today.

Some designs are intrinsic and delicate. Some jutti's showcase plain or colored leather with a few additional add-ons.

pretty peach
Photo Courtesy: pretty peach

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From The IKF Desk

Several Indian fashion designers and brands have finished off their creative ensembles with the evergreen and ever-stylish jutti.

Dr. Rohini, founder and creative director of a brand like Pretty Peach is one such example. She is pursuing her extraordinary love for all things fashion. Despite being a practicing, ENT, Head & Neck, Skull base Surgeon, she kept her Indian heritage alive.

Testimony 

Through Pretty Peach which provides a wide range of products. Right from their exclusive juttis with a modern twist to strappy sandals and modern clothing.

The process begins with sketching/ digitally illustrating the designs, handpicking high-quality fabrics. Like pure silk, satin, georgette, cotton, etc or using specially created printed fabrics.

The team at Pretty Peach strives to provide excellence in design and quality and to be affordable. We love their modern yet traditionally chic Juttis along with other footwear that can be perfectly styled for various occasions.

Check out their website for more products like accessories, clothing and more.

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