For those who were able to make it to college in the India of the 80s, of the many nostalgic memories perhaps the mouth-watering variety of affordable street-foods takes first-place! The second on the Nostalgia List, I would dare to guess would be the Kolhapuri Chappal. Both had in common the essential ingredient- there was one for every pocket!
Kolhapuri chappals, to those who view them now with well-earned amazement are an endearing piece of history and fabulous craftsmanship. They are flat, decorative, handcrafted leather footwear traditionally made in Kolhapur by the Chamar community who use buffalo hide and also fine goat leather, for the more pliable, plaited strips that decorate their upper portion. The leather is dyed in natural tan, deep maroon, mustard yellow and dark brown colors they are then embellished with leather braids, borders of colourful thread-work and even hints of zari. The cords used to stitch the sandals are made of leather and no nails are used in their making. Customary designs have thong-like straps with a toe strap for further strength. New designs such as kachkadi, bakkalnali and pukari have evolved over time.
Like so many crafts, a product that was designed and made for daily-wear for field-workers and farmers in the villages of India, on account of its simple design and robust structure, has appealed to style and comfort seeking urbanites globally. The Kolhapuri chappal making is now a well-developed handicraft industry with many well-trained craftsperson’s.
Every pair of feet that ever walked in these has contributed to this happy story. How wonderful a walk is that!
Photos courtesy CraftsBazaar.