Just like Champagne cannot be labeled Champagne unless it is made from specific grapes in the Champagne region of France, or tequila cannot be labeled tequila unless it is distilled in Tequila, Jalisco; you cannot call a Mexican sandal a huarache if it isn’t handmade in the traditional Mexican weaving technique.
The word huarache translates to sandal. The name comes from an indigenous group in Jalisco dating back to the pre-colonial era. The huarache’s convenience and wearability come from its origins; they were created out of the need for a comfortable and durable shoe that allowed airflow while working and walking from place to place in the hot climate of rural Mexico. Authentic leather huaraches can mold around your feet and withstand the environment; this efficiency has allowed this Mexican sandal to withstand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation to continue to be widely used to this day.
For generations, authentic leather huaraches have been handmade by tejedores—men and women weavers— in Mexico using the traditional weaving technique passed down from previous generations. The result is a beautiful crisscrossing of real leather straps that softly envelop the foot. The woven straps are then stitched onto a flat leather sole. These leather straps are stained with a vegetable dye—bright yellow, teal, magenta—vivid colors as well as neutral tones are all used to give the huaraches their trademark charm.
The Mexican sandals are comfortable and durable because they are solely made out of real leather. Authentic leather is a durable material made to withstand the environment for years of use. Being an animal product, there is no need to be gentle with it because the material is durable and created for the outdoors.
Leather is a malleable material, so when it is used for long periods it begins to mold around the shape of your feet. Not only is it comfortable to wear, but it improves posture and results in less back and leg pain when walking or standing. The leather allows for more airflow as it is a breathable material; it prevents your feet from sweating and absorbs any odors.
Apart from complying with the traditional weaving practices and design, there are several other ways you can check to see if you have authentic leather huaraches.
- Review the materials listed in the packaging; if it claims to be real leather, it will say “leather” or “made of animal products”. However, if it says “man-made material” anywhere in the description, then you know its synthetic material and, therefore, not authentic.
- The smell of leather is undeniable. If the product, when smelled up close, does not expel a natural musky scent, then it's probably not leather.
- Dropping water on the sole of the sandals is also an excellent way to tell if they are authentic. Real leather will absorb water when you drop water on it; any other material will cause the drops of water to pool on the surface or glide right off.
Huaraches are a traditional Mexican sandal made out of necessity by the indigenous people of Mexico. They have been passed down from generation to generation, a technique that has only improved with the accessibility of new technologies and raw materials. Generations of Mexican artisans have perfected the complex method, woven to be delicate yet incredibly sturdy.