The Long and Interesting History of Huaraches

The trendy woven sandals called huaraches from Mexico became popular in the USA during the early 1960s. Huaraches are handmade Mexican sandals that are intricately handwoven and traditionally made using either reeds or leather. People across Central America and Mexico have been wearing them for several centuries, and they are still worn today.

Early Versions and Changes

According to researchers, the earliest huaraches were cloth pieces tied to wooden clogs to save the wearer’s feet from the scorching sun. The word huarache is derived from the Tarascan language that was spoken in parts of Mexico by Mayans, who the predecessors of modern huaraches. Mexican farmers still use some of these versions, and a leather upper and large pieces of fabric are attached to holes in the sole.

After the Spanish conquistadors occupied Mexico, tanned leather replaced the untanned leather versions. With time, leather huaraches cow leather became popular as people sought hardy footwear that would be light enough to withstand summer temperatures. While the early ones were made at home by the indigenous Yaquis, the light and sturdy footwear soon evolved into a complicated art form.

Transformation after the 1930s

Over the years, huaraches were made using discarded tires as soles, and there was a huge surge in demand. Tire treads were sturdy and cheap, making these sandals affordable and long-lasting. It also led to artisans to spend less time on weaving the upper. Interestingly, the tire huaraches were very similar to early versions of these sandals and could only be created by experienced artisans.

These tread leather Mexican sandals were trendy in cities because of their secure grip. This design proved that these sandals could withstand fashion trends. While farmers favored the light handmade versions fashioned out of leather and ropes, intricately woven huaraches made of patent leather were preferred by the middle class and wealthy.

Huaraches Today

Traditional huaraches are made in large factories and by traditional artisans that have learned the art over generations. As the demand for light and sturdy footwear continues to grow, the production of these sandals has increased. Although local Mexicans have replaced huaraches with sneakers and shoes, the fashion-conscious still wear these handcrafted sandals in summer. Purists, who want to keep the traditional Mexican huarache sandals alive, ask buyers to source them from traditional artists to keep the age-old designs alive.

The huarache is regarded as a symbol of Mexico’s resistance to invaders and foreign rulers that tried to change their way of life. The state of Jalisco is considered the heartland for huarache, and intricate versions of these traditional Mexican sandals are made by hand and in factories.