Traditional footwear or tilla jutti of Rajasthan are entirely hand-made, with tilla (silver and gold wire), embroidered uppers and no nails as they are strictly hand-stitched. No distinction is made between the left and right foot.
These ethnic shoes were once worn by the Maharajas and Maharanis of India. The designs have changed very little from the days of the Mughal kings and till today, the men's jutti is still characterised by an upturned toe resembling a proudly curling moustache.
These footwear were made with thin leather in various shades of brown for the insoles and base. A pair of prized jutti by skilled craftsman often include dense embroidery even in the leather insoles.
Above all, it is in the embroidery work that the jutti will be judged and differentiated. Beautifully stitched with threads and beads, you can often tell which region a jutti is made by the embroidery pattern.
Do you know that traditionally, the role of a shoemaker in a tribal Rajasthan village was considered so crucial that he had 1st right to all the skins of animals which died a natural death? He just had to share them with the village sweepers.
Not only that, he was also given a fixed share of the village produce in return for which, he was to supply his patrons and their families leather shoes and other leather tools once or twice a year.
Jutti making has since become a family occupation with the women embroidering the uppers with an awl while the men construct the shoe using cowhides for the uppers and buffalo hide for the insole.
This vibrantly coloured collection belongs to dear Walter, beautifully embroidered by none other than his Ro.
Note the pointy shoes in pic depicting 19th century Indian musician.
Many thought our Banjaran musician usually performed without shoes, not our Walter who is always very careful about his appearance. That's why he owns the same shoes in twelve different colours.
Dear Ro, on the other hand, has only two pairs. Although lacking in quantity when compared to Walter's, these shoes, weaved with hemp dyed in the brightest hues, are no less durable and pretty. These shoes were made for dancing but Ro wears them only on very special occasions like when she is chairing the village meetings.
If you love shoes like me, you will know that the problem is never about buying them. It is always about storing them. That's why Walter is suffering a headache now.
I walked into this old textile shop just down the road from my house for the 1st time 3 weeks ago even though I have stayed in this area since 1992. I saw the trimmings shown here at the 5th pic from the top stashed in a box and in matter of 5 minutes, the sleepy old lady at the shop slashed the price from S$12 a pack to S$8. She told me that the trimmings were made in Bombay (probably true) 9 metres each (not true, some were only 6 and all less than 9) and good value (absolutely true). I bought 14 packets, all different colours and Walter's shoes are the 1st things I made with 12 of them. Ro's shoes are painted.