Mexican Huaraches: Understanding the Fascinating History of Mexican Sandals

A summer wardrobe is incomplete without a pair of Mexican huaraches. But did you know that these sandals are a part of the pre-Columbia Meso American life? They have survived despite conquistadors destroying many aspects of native culture. If you plan to buy huaraches Mexican shoes, here’s a short history of these beautiful sandals.

The Origin

Huaraches are believed to originate from the states of Jalisco, Michoacan, and Yucatan. The name originates from the Tarascan word ‘kwarachi,’ referring to the local word for handwoven shoes. These sandals were worn mainly by indigenous communities and made using untanned deer leather.

After Colonization

Around the 20th century, these sandals became popular throughout Mexico when farmworkers and people in rural communities began making them using tire treads and handmade leather. As Europeans introduced tanning, cattle leather also became a popular material.

Over the years, huarache designs became more complex and artistic. They also symbolized the wearer’s social strata. While the poor and daily wage earners made simple designs using basic materials, the middle and upper-class wore fancier versions.

Then, because of the 1960s hippie culture, Mexican huarache sandals became popular in the United States and have been the go-to summer style ever since. They are so well-known that Nike even launched a collection of shoes named after the Mexican sandal when they created their Air Huaraches. The term has since been appropriated by several American brands, including Urban Outfitters.

Despite its rich history, many Mexican sandals you find today are cheap and factory-made versions with little or no detail. These poorer-quality sandals have driven down profits for artisans who have been handweaving them for generations.

Why Buy Huaraches Online?

However, some retailers are working to preserve this traditional art. Online retailers like Brand X Huaraches works with local artisans to create handwoven huaraches using a single strand of vegetable-tanned leather. Each huarache can take up to six hours to weave, but the resulting shoes are unique and durable. By buying huaraches from these online retailers, you support a historic artform and the artisans who work to keep it alive.

Why Are Huaraches Special?

Each huarache is handmade using only a knitting needle. The leather is vegetable-tanned and softened in oil overnight to make it pliable and durable. The intricately woven upper is hand-stitched instead of glued to the sole. While the cheap commercial sandals don’t last beyond one season, the handmade sandals can last a lifetime.

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Resource Box: The author regularly writes about Mexico and its handicrafts, including the Mexican huarache sandals.

Brand X Huaraches