Walk through Life

Walk through Life

Ivana Tinesová

Shoes in the past, but currently as well, performed a number of basic functions. They ensured foot protection at work, protected from the weather, and were parts of festive and ceremonial clothing. The term “traditional footwear” refers to shoes made by hand by local masters or by craftsmen in workshops. On the topic of folk costumes, this component of clothing is usually only mentioned in passing, or sometimes pushed to oblivion altogether.

Children used to go from spring till late autumn barefoot. Buying boots or “krpce” (peasant´s shoes from leather) for them was often a financial burden for parents, since the children quickly outgrew the shoes. The first shoes were often received when children reached school age, however in poor households cases of children walking to school barefoot even during hard winters were not unheard of. Most parents therefore tried to sew, at least for the wintertime, some canvas slippers or “krpceky” (small shoes made from leather) for their children.

In Slovakia, footwear can be distinguished by the characteristics of the regions of origin- the mountainous and cold regions where the most appropriate footwear was light and tightly held to the leg and vice versa for the regions that were warm and flat, for which the most appropriate footwear was loose and tall (like boots). Krpce, slippers, kapce (felted boots), were typical mountain footwear. From the beginning, they were fashioned by men for themselves and for their families, later they were sewn by local boot makers. In the lowland regions, most commonly occurring were boots.

To work and around the house walk men and women, in warm weather, mostly barefoot. The women often walked like so in winter as well.

The most widespread male footwear were krpce. They were worn in mountainous regions of Slovakia. With the shoes, men often wore “onuce” (old pieces of cloth). In the winter they wore low, canvas like cloth, “kopytcia” (tall socks made of sheep wool and woven on needles), and straw which insulated and made the shoe warmer. Besides the “krpce”, men wore in some regions during the wintertime also cloth or knitted slippers or even “kapce”.

In the lowland areas of southern Slovakia were popular during the summer as work shoes, “pantofle”, a slipper from thick cowhide. They were worn for work around the house and in the fields. For holidays and winter work, black boots were worn. Older models were very simple shoes with soft side seams while newer designs had softer ankle support with hard side seams. The poorer people bought their boots at markets while the richer ordered them directly from the craftsman.

Climate conditions of the mountain areas were ideal for shoes from cloth. In the winter, in the cold and snow, women wore mostly cloth shoes- a favorite type was low slippers or “kapce”.

In southern Slovakia, in the lowland areas were mainly worn boots. In the summer, women wore them on Sundays and during holidays; in the wintertime, every day.