100th Post! – My First Huarache Design

This is Huarache Blog’s 100th post! So for the occasion I would like to introduce readers to a Huarache styling exercise I did almost two years ago when I was in Sahuayo, Michoacan and when Huarache Blog was only a few posts old.

As you might already know about this time 2 years ago I traveled  to the town of Sahuayo in Mexico, which with over 200 production centers (factories and workshops) is the manufacturing center for Huaraches in Mexico.

I arrived in Sahuayo and after some asking and searching I found the Artesanias Ochoa ‘Taller’ (click on the link to see some Artesanias Ochoa Huarache designs) down this dusty street.

Antonio Ochoa and his son Victor are the only Huaracheros in Sahuayo who exclusively make formal/dress Huaraches. After some time learning about their craft, I suggested that they try using some new formal lasts and that they try elevating their Huaraches not only as they had been doing in construction and materials, but also proportionally. Baffled by this ‘foreigner’ showing up at their doorstep with ideas about evolving their designs, they nevertheless agreed to help me make my own pair.

Below is Antonio Ochoa, who showed me how to cut and weave my Huaraches.

I picked a traditional ‘Armadillo’ Huarache design, also known as the ‘Costeno’ and paired it to a new, ‘faster’ formal last that I bought in the city of Leon (shoe manufacturing center of Mexico). Then once I had bought a hide of vegetable tanned leather I began drawing and cutting out the parts for the upper.

For those new to this blog, I would like to point out that woven Mexican Huaraches are uniquely constructed, in so far that the upper is woven into the sole from a single strip of leather. This type of traditional woven construction is not only very complex, but also effectively combines upper construction and lasting into a single operation. Making footwear from a woven strip of leather reduces and can even eliminate the need for pattern cutting, so that very little leather is wasted.

Weaving my Huarache, you can see the single strip of leather (correa) that marks the weaving start point. The spike tool on the right is called a ‘corregidor’ and its used to guide and sometimes force the leather strip through the tight weave.

Finished weaving, notice the the end of the single strip of leather (correa) showing under the heel.

Much to the dismay of the two purist Ochoa Huaracheros, I later also bought a factory made leather outsole and heel from Leon, to be certain that the finish of the Huaraches would be sharp. The factory outsole was then stitched together with the punched Huarache midsole.

Most traditional Huaraches are made without glue and have no stitching, they are simply made from leather, nails and more recently also rubber from old car tyres for the sole.

With the outsole and heel buffed, the Huaraches are ready to be polished.

A quick comparison to some existing Ochoa Huarache samples.

I had intended to keep the natural vegetable tan finish, but the Ochoas convinced me otherwise. The polishing done, the Huaraches were ready to wear.

For more information and to discuss potential orders of this and other Artsanias Ochoa Huarache designs as seen below, contact Antonio and Victor  at +52.353.532.7503.

Later a celebratory Huarachero picnic in the country.

With a mere 149 clicks for the month of February 2010 and with over 4000 this month, Huarache Blog continues to grow. Whats more there is still a lot more information about Huaraches to learn about and share.

I would like to thank all readers of Huarache Blog and bloggers who have linked, those who have provided me with encouraging comments and suggestions, but especially all the Huaracheros, Huaracheria Owners, Anthropologists and everyone else who has helped me collect much of the information published on Huarache Blog. Gracias!

“onward, upward, till the goal ye win” – Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893)


Opanaks and Opancis

With the sole of a Moccasin and the upper of a Huarache, the Opanak is a traditional woven shoe from the Balkan regions.

The Wikipedia entry says this about the Opanak :-

Opanak (Serbo-Croatian language: Opanak, pl. Opanci/Opanke, Serbian Cyrillic language: Опанак, pl. опанци/опанкe, Macedonian language: Опинок, pl. опинци, opinci, Bulgarian language: pl. опинци, opintsi are traditional peasant shoes worn in Southeastern Europe (Balkans: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria).

The attributes of the Opanci are: a construction of Leather, lack of laces, durable and various ending on toes. In Serbia, the design of the horn-like ending on toes indicates the region of origin. The concept, and the word, exists in Romania (as opincă) which is borrowed from Slavic. Opanaks are considered the traditional peasant footwear for people in the Balkan region.

Until 50 years ago, they were usually worn in rural areas of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia,  Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. Nowadays, they are only used in folk costume, for folkloric dance ensembles, festivals, feast days or other cultural events.

Travel to the Balkans to buy a pair, or get them on the web through www.etsy.com.

Photo above on left by Patrick Horton from www.lonelyplanetimages.com. The moccasin in the top photo is made by The Arrow Moccasin Company in Hudson, Massachusetts, which crafts a highly recommended ‘Double Sole’ Moccasin.

Native American Huaraches

In my Huarache research I have often wondered if you could draw an imaginary line across the American continent, separating the traditional use of Moccasins from that of Sandals (Huaraches).

It seems that woven footwear and sandals similar to Huaraches were also used by Native Americans in California and Oregon. This indicates that if a line were drawn it would probably start much further north than the existing US-Mexican border.

These 2 ‘Pata de Gallo’ type sandals are from Mojave and the more southern Chemehuevi in California. The photos are from the Phoebe A Hearst Museum of Anthropology.

The photo below is of Native American sandals from 1932 in Weldon, California.

Via www.cdlib.org

This is a fascinating 1907 Klamath or Modoc, WOVEN  tule moccasin, from Oregon!

Via www.cdlib.org

Whether made from leather or natural fibers, these photos are a confirmation that woven footwear was also used by Native Americans in the North West and the South West of present day USA.

The yucca sandal below on the right was found in Zion National Park, Utah and is part of the Zion Park Museum Collection.

The photo above on the left of the woven Klamath-Modoc tule moccasin comes from the Crater Lake Institute.

Adidas Originals Huaraches by Jeremy Scott

For Spring/Summer 2012, Jeremy Scott has designed a footwear line for Adidas Originals that includes one heavily inspired Huarache design.

I hope his Huichol Huarache inspiration gets a mention somewhere, maybe in the press release or the name of the model.

16.05.2012 Edit – In a Spring/Summer 2012 footwear collection that celebrates footwear culture with various ‘Mashups’ including Cowboy Boots and Creepers, unfortunately the Adidas Jeremy Scott MEGA SOFT CELL SANDALS make no reference to their creative origins as Mexican Huarache Sandals.

Brindle Burras at the Mercado La Soledad in Leon, GTO

Huaraches in the State of Veracruz.

Given the cultural diversity in the state of Veracruz, the geographic distribution of Huaraches in the state is very complex. In the north of the state, the Totonac men who used to walk barefoot, did not make the Huarache transition to modern footwear. Today traditional Totonac footwear is considered ankle boots called ‘Botines’.

Photo from the Mueso Teodoro Cano in Papantla, Veracruz.

I was told that Huaraches were traditional in Papantla by Veracruzanos and even a reader of Huarche Blog many months ago. But the native Totonac group in Papantla wear boots not Huaraches. Below are some photos showing Totonac men wearing traditional dress and ‘Botines’ in the town of Papantla, Veracruz.

In the south of the state of Veracruz some Nahuatl groups walk barefoot.

In and around the cities in Veracruz, Huaraches have virtually disappeared. Just like in so many Mexican towns, there once used to be many Huaracheros, but over the years they have either stopped making Huaraches or passed away of old age. Today Huaraches made in the cities are mainly worn as costume footwear during the city festivities and are made from inexpensive synthetic leather and EVA soles. The few authentic Huaraches for sale are mainly imported from the neighboring states of Puebla and Oaxaca.

Below is a selection of Huaraches from the Mercado Hidalgo in the city of Veracruz, the largest city in the state. The dark brown Huaraches with the yellow sole in the photo on the right are the costume footwear Huaraches.

Xalapa the capital of Veracruz has surprisingly no Huaracherias. A few ‘Cruzado’ Huaraches are sold in shoe shops at the Mercado Jauregui and at 2  Talbarterias a few blocks north of the center.

The first Talbarteria on 220 Revolucion sells 2 styles, a ‘Correa Blanca’ Huarache and a ‘Cruzado’ Huarache’, both imported from Puebla.

The second Talbarteria selling Huaraches is located opposite the Mercado Galeana/Pipila. Talabarteria ‘El Jarocho’ buys from the only local Huarachero from the nearby town of Xico. As his production is small the Huaracheria also buys a small selection of Huaraches from nearby Puebla.

In Xico lives the only Huarachero near Xalapa. So I went to visit him. It wasn’t hard to find his house as everyone knew him.

Senor Mapel Luna, sells some Huaraches from his workshop and supplies some nearby shops also.

Unlike many Huaracheros he tans the hides himself using both vegetable and mineral methods.

He was very resourceful and was also treating some sheep’s wool to use as pillow stuffing. I’m not sure why he had an Apple computer box, I think he appreciated the quality materials used for the packaging.

Senor Mapel Luna makes 2 kinds of Huaraches, ‘para el campo’ for the field and ‘para banquetiar’ for party. These ‘Correa Blanca’ Huarache ‘Cruzados’ are for the field.

Further south west towards the borders of Oaxaca and Puebla the variety of Huaraches for sale in the big city markets increases.

In the city of Cordoba, the Mercado Revolucion had a good selection of Huaraches from Puebla and Oaxaca.

Huaracheria Gaby had an interesting Huarche ‘Tejido’, ‘Con Pelo’.

A new batch of Huaraches arrived packaged in this very interesting way.

Zapateria ‘Dos Hermanos’ around the corner sold an impressive selection of Huaraches.

Many from as far away Juchitan, Oaxaca.

A ‘Dos Correas’.

An ‘Una Correa’.

A Huarache ‘Cruzado’.

A Huarache ‘Arana’.

And an unusual rustic selection of Huaraches for women, decorated with bright lines.

In nearby city of Orizaba the main styles for sale at the central Mercado Melchor Ocampo were :-

This ‘Cruzado’ style that is locally known as ‘Huarache con Pelo’, from Puebla.

And a ‘Correa Blanca’ Huarache, was actually locally made and for which they also sold replacement ‘Correas’.

A few hours south in the small market town of Zongolica a town where in contrast to the cities most of the men wear Huaraches, those for sale also came from Puebla.

Including this Huarache ‘Tejido’ design.

Although the Huarache ‘Cruzado’ is worn almost exclusively in Zongolica, I did spot an unusual style of Huarache worn by a passing man.

Later the only remaining Huarachero in Zongolica, showed me that style, while sadly reminding me that he was the last of many Huaracheros in Zongolica. Called Huarache ‘Tapado’ or ‘Chinela’ this style originally came from nearby Tehuacan in Puebla.

This pair even had the traditional ‘Garbancillo’ studs in the sole.

In English Garbancillo is known as Hobnail, or Boot Stud. They were commonly used on leather soles for outdoor use up until maybe the 1950’s. Today they are still used on army boots during some marching parades.

Abarcas Trespuntás – Woven Sandals from Colombia.

Another reader very kindly mentioned the very original Abarca Trespuntás traditional woven sandal from Colombia. This is good news not only because Huarache Blog can help promote the Abarca Trespuntás, but also because I hope a community can form to collectively promote traditional footwear.

There is little written on the  internet about this fascinating design and there are only a few photos. The best source of information is the facebook group Yo Uso Abarcas “Trespuntas”. Click on the link for more information.

A happy coincidence is that this facebook group is like Huarache Blog promoting a traditional footwear design to the world, through the internet! The images below of the Abarca Trespuntás are all borrowed from Yo Uso Abarcas “Trespuntas”.

The name ‘Abarca’ probably comes from the Spanish word ‘Abarcar’ meaning to clasp, embrace, or contain. Abarca is also the name of another traditional Spanish footwear design also worn by farmers there, this design was probably introduced to Colombia by the Spanish. The Abaraca Menorquina from the Spanish island of Menorca being the most well known.

But the Abarca Trespuntás being a very different design is I believe unique to Colombia. Traditional to the the northern coastal areas, the Abarca Trespuntás is also worn in the ‘savannah’ regions of Córdoba (Chinu), Bolívar and Sucre.

Like Mexican Huaraches the traditional Abaraca Trespuntás is a woven leather sandal with a leather, or car tyre sole. Originally worn by farmers in Colombia and self made using veg. tanned leathers, today Abaraca Trespuntás designs are also commercially available and crafted in workshops called ‘talabarterias’. New designs have started to include new materials as textile straps and thinner die cut rubber soles.

The word ‘Trespuntás’ means ‘Three Points’, meaning that the straps are anchored to the sole in 3 points. To understand how the ‘Three Points’ work, it would be very interesting to see a photo of how the 3 inside/medial straps connect to the sole and to see how the strip in between the toes is connected to the straps.

If any readers have more information about Abarcas Trespuntás or other disappearing traditional footwear from Central and South America please let Huarache Blog know. Thank you again to all the readers who have contributed to Huarache Blog.