I was recently interviewed about Huaraches by Put This On, a process which I enjoyed very much.
CLICK HERE to read the full interview. Thank you Derek.
The úkata+ Oaxaca are probably the softest woven Huaraches you’ll ever wear and not only, they will also mold to the shape of your feet.
It’s my first Huarache design and took me many samples to fine tune, mostly because soft woven leather surfaces don’t like to keep their rounded shape (this footwear is unlined). This I learned also depends on the last shape and the weave angle. My first last supplier lost patience threw in the towel after about 6 rounds of revisions, I revised the weave angle in about double that number of samples and will post photos of each unique iteration soon, pointed lasts, textile strips etc.
Its taken me over 1 year to get to this stage, not only because of sample making (these Huaraches really are woven from one single continuous weave), but also because I also source only the best materials myself. Walking the surreal tyre recycling neighborhood in North Guadalajara to find a supplier for a 5mm recycled truck tyre sole, to finding the softest leather, tanned in a drum with Acacia tree extract and water solution. The last 2 years have been one long treasure hunt and how many tales I have to share. Now all thats left is some grading for other styles, QC, negotiating pricing and production schedules.
The ukatamas website is also almost ready, but for the next few months or so I will be selling small quantities of úkata+ Huaraches from MY STORE in the top left of this page as a sort of preview of what things to come.
The úkata+ Oaxaca Huarache last was designed especially for an anatomical barefoot fit with no heel, its unique shape also allowing the soft leather weave to expand evenly to accommodate even wide feet comfortably with no pressure spots, or ugly sudden changes in appearance of the weave. The traditional Oaxaca Huarache weave was adapted by me also to fit my rather wide feet (as you will notice in the photos).
I included some traditional and sometimes forgotten features that make Huaraches better; a lasted the heel for a better fit, that is also taller and easier to grab when putting on the Huaraches and of course the hand carved symbols traditional on Oaxacan Huaraches.
And from the same woven strip of leather I also added a loop as part of the upper weaving sequence, to easily put the Huaraches on quickly.
Warning: These Huarache will mold to your feet and you may never want to take them off again. I’ve worn mine almost every day for the last 2 years and not just in warm climates.
If you have narrow feet, please order half a size smaller.
NEW SHIPPING OPTIONS AND LOWER SHIPPING RATES – FREE SHIPPING AVAILABLE TO THE USA AND CANADA.
At this time I have only mens sizes, but more sizes and a nice website are expected this Summer 🙂
During a recent visit to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto I was very privileged visit their archives and photograph these very old Men’s Zapatilla Huaraches from Uruapan, circa 1910.
Men’s Zapatilla Huaraches Courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.
They immediately reminded me of 15th Century Poulaine European footwear and also of the recent Mexican fashion of Botas Picudas – Pointed Boots.
I wish to thank everyone at the Bata Shoe Museum for a very special visit.
The Museo Regional Tlaxcala is currently holding an exhibit of photos of indigenous people in Mexico taken between 1870 y 1950.
Called “Geografía Humana, etnias de México” the exhibit is a short but interesting overview of some of the 56 main ethnic groups and 280 ethnic variants native to Mexico. The photos also offered a small insight into some traditional Huarache styles.
The most interesting photo was of a man from Yucatan wearing ‘Alpargatas de Oreja’, or ‘Eared Sandals’. This variant of the ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huaraches has the lace made from henequen fiber instead of leather.
Youth from Michocan
A Huichol Shaman.
With disappearing traditions and changing styles of footwear, its not easy to find old Huarache designs to photograph and its even harder to see people wearing them.
Books about Mexico, many which are often out of print indirectly offer a valuable insight into what old styles of Huaraches looked like, who wore them and how they were worn. Here are some old images from books and a few from the internet to give an rough but interesting overview of some traditional Huarache designs that nowadays are hard to come by.
I will start with a very interesting collection of prints from ‘El Traje Indigena en Mexico’, by Teresa Castello Yturbide and Carlotta Mapelli Mozzi, INAH 1965.
Tzotzil from Huixtan in Chiapas wearing ‘Caites’, which nowadays are hard to find and worn only during ceremonies. ‘Caites’ soles are usually 7 layers of leather thick and the heel patch is often up to 25cm tall depending on rank. As the heel patch leather is usually quite stiff and rough, the calves of Huixtecos men who wear ‘Caites’ regularly are often scared.
Zapotec men in Yalalag, Oaxaca wear a ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache which is knotted over the toes. Photo from the Sunday Market in Tlacolula.
Only 2 kinds of traditional women’s specific sandal are known of in Mexico. One is worn by Zapotec women in Yalalag, Oaxaca and are traditionally decorated with bright velvet underlays of butterflies, flowers and ducks to stand out. This sandal being very bright is only worn on Holidays, like these ones from the Sunday Market in Tlacolula.
The other traditional sandal is worn by Nahua women in Hueyapan, Morelos. This sandal design of plaited ixtle fibre is very similar to pre-Hispanic ‘ Cacle’. The sandal is traditionally made in San Felipe Ixcatlan.
This print of Amusgos from Xochistlahuaca in Guerrero, shows a traditional Huarache without a buckle like the photo on the right.
In Yucatan, men traditionally wore ‘Alpargatas de Oreja’, or ‘Eared Sandals’. These were made of leather with 2 leather tabs sticking out from under the sole, but instead of being laced with a leather strip as other ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huaraches the lace was made from henequen fibre.
Also from Yucatan a Huaraches ‘Chillonas’, or ‘Noisy’ Huaraches. ‘Chillonas’ are unusually made with oil soaked leather placed between the 2 layers of the sole. This detail makes the Huaraches creak when walking and dancing. A famous song by Carlos Duarte Moreno mentions this detail. Women wear a similar Huarache to dances and it is sometimes decorated with plastic.
Up unitl the 1930’s the Morongo, or Mestiza shoes were also worn at dances in Yucatan. They were made from white or coloured satin and embroidered with flowers and spangles. With an Asian design influence they were made in Merida, Tikul and Hunucma,
Studio photos of Huaraches above from the Shoes Or No Shoes Museum.
The book ‘Arte Popular Mexicana’, Editorial Herrero SA Mexico 1975 has some interesting photos.
Tzetzale leaders in Tenejapa, Chiapas wearing woven Huaraches with thick soles similar to their ceremonial ‘Caites’.
Below is a photo I took of similar Huaraches worn by Huixtecos in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.
This semi woven Huarache from Chapayecas,
is similar to this one from nearby Nayarit, sold in Mexico City.
‘Artesania Popular Mexicana’, by Carlos Epejel also shows how woven Huaraches are used in non-ceremonial occasions, as by the Chamula Goberndaores in San Juan de Chamula, Chiapas.
Huichol men wearing both ‘Pata de Gallo’ and Woven Huaraches.
The potter in Tecomatepec and the porter in nearby Valle de Bravo are both wearing ‘Cruzado’ Huaraches.
‘Popular Arts of Mexico’, by Kojin Tonyama. Shows the Chamula Gobernadores in San Juan de Chamula wearing ‘Caites’, or ‘Cactli’ in ceremonial dress.
For the Fiesta San Sebastian ceremony in Zinacantan, the Zinacanteco men wear bright red socks with their ‘Cactli’.
Huichol youth wearing woven Huaraches.
The book ‘El Viento Limpia el Alma’, by photogrpher Walter Reuter has has some excellent images of Huaraches from the Mazetaco region of Oaxaca.
From Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.
And from Durango.
An old 1970’s edition of ‘Indumentaria Mexicana’, by Artes de Mexico shows a Huichol man wearing woven Huaraches, similar to those also worn by the Cora in El Gran Nayar a region that covers parts of Nayarit, Jalisco and Durango (see the last photo in this post).
The photos below are of a man with blue eyes in Guanajuato and a traveling boy in Veracruz.
Notice the ‘Momia’ Huaraches, traditional in Guanajuato and Aguascalientes.
Some current ‘Momia’ Huaraches from the Mercado Juarez in Aguascalientes.
An Otomi musician from Izcaltepec, Hidalgo.
Similar loosely woven Huaraches can be seen at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
Photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo famous for her photomontage titled ‘El Sueno De Los Pobres 1‘, took another photo including Huaraches called ‘Aprendiendo’.
Unlike other ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache, the Nahuatl design above on the left, does not use a knot to fasten the leather strip beneath the toes, instead the strip is woven into the sole. I have used this detail on my own Running Huaraches Sandals. The same detail can also be seen on the white ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache in the photo below.
‘La Tejidora de Vida – Coleccion de Trajes Mexicanos de la Banca Serfin’ dedicates a few pages to Huaraches and Caites.
The Museum Volkenkunde in Holland, has a good collection of old photos from Mexico. The photo below is from Oaxaca, notice how the woman has no shoes. Traditionally whereas indigenous Mexican men wore Caites or Huaraches, the women were barefoot, even though early Huaraches were homemade. I don’t know why, maybe because women generally stayed close to home and did not walk far.
The accompanying text of ‘El Traje Indigena en Mexico’, by Teresa Castello Yturbide and Carlotta Mapelli Mozzi, INAH 1965, explains how over time richer indigenous women began wearing sandals which they were able to buy at the markets.
The photos below are of a Yaui and a Yaqui from the northern state of Guaymas.
Last but not least famous anthropologist and photographer Ruth Lechuga took some spectacular photos of the week-long Cora Easter festivity called ‘La Judea’.
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.
This is a fascinating 1907 Klamath or Modoc, WOVEN tule moccasin, from Oregon!
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.
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.