Huaraches are a pre-Columbian style of sandals that survived Mexican colonization by the Spanish Conquistadors. In some ways, they are symbolic of how the indigenous people have survived against great odds.
While some attribute these handmade sandals to the locals in and around the Yucatan region, others believe that they may have originated in areas surrounding Jalisco. Whatever region you think invented the huarache sandals, they’ve become an integral part of Mexican culture.
The earliest-known huarache sandals were first made using untanned deer leather. When Europeans brought with them their knowledge of tanning, light-colored leather huaraches become very popular.
Simple ones could be made by the wearer using cut-up tires and mainly were for poor laborers who had to use what was available. The more complex and intricately designed huaraches were custom-made for the middle and upper class.
Huaraches in Modern Day Mexico
Huaraches are still made the traditional way using softened and vegetable-tanned leather. This leather is soaked in oil and water overnight to make it pliable. Then it is woven onto a leather sole.
Although there are not many artisans that make these kinds of shoes, some retailers support those who continue the craft. For example, Brand X Huaraches, an online retailer of Mexican huaraches, works with artisans who have been crafting these sandals for generations. Their sandals are designed in California by their in-house team.
Huaraches are now a part of chic summer and beachwear beyond Mexico. They look cool, fit snugly, and are easy to maintain. They’re also a perfect souvenir for anyone returning from Mexico.
Every upper in a huarache is made with a single woven strip of vegetable-tanned leather. It is woven and not glued to the insole, going in and out of every hole until the leather completely covers the sandal’s surface.
What makes these huaraches special is that every weave is unique. Plus, certain weaves can minimize stretching and help the durable sandal retain its shape.
What to Look for When Buying Huaraches
There are plenty of cheap huaraches in Mexican market stalls made using cheap leather and produced using a simple weave. You can also buy inexpensive pairs in the United States. Many of these sandals are mass-produced in China and do nothing to support the local Mexican artisans.
If you are interested in buying Mexican huaraches, make sure you buy them from retailers who work with the local community and support this dying craft. Besides, nothing can compare to the uniqueness of handcrafted leather huarache sandals.Plus, the cheaper variations don’t fit well or last long. These producers don’t understand the intricacy of the weave pattern or appreciate the nuances of the softened leather.