An Overview of The Royal Footwear: Punjabi Juttis

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The versatile, durable and one of the oldest materials, leather was once used to adorn the feet of the Kings. The same material, later on, went on to become the raw material for not just sturdy shoes for the mass, but also for exquisite footwear symbolizing royalty.

Over the course of time, a wide variety of footwear was created in India by the craftsmen, in a plenty of shapes using numerous materials and decorating assortments. Perhaps the presence of a large number of cultures, ritual conventions, and even different climatic conditions acted as a catalyst to introduce the abundance of shapes and forms in the footwear industry.

Among many styles and shapes, Jutti is one such footwear that has undergone various rounds of evolution due to near and far influence. “Jutti” is an Urdu word for a shoe and its uniqueness is defined by the lack of difference between its right and left piece and inevitably flat sole.

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In Punjab, Jutti is a common footwear with curled upturned toe as the highlighting feature. It’s still executed by hand and adorned with intricate embroidery work and motifs. What is called Punjabi Jutti today was once embroidered with pure silver and gold wires. They were so light in weight that cobblers used to say that even sparrows could wear them and fly with them.

Exclusively handcrafted by experienced and skilled craftsman, the making of Juttis involves folks from different communities. The “Chamars” who process raw materials, “Rangaars” who color the rawhides and “Mochis” who bring together the raw materials, stitches them and embellish it motifs, pattern, and embroidery.

The Process of Making Juttis

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The process starts from a tannery where vegetable tanning methods are used to process the rawhides. The process helps in making the leather strong, flexible, and wearable. Once the tanning is done, the leather or rawhides are colored with yellow (sarfoola) and green (arsi gulabi) powdered pigments using a shaving brush.

The processed leather is cut into Panna (the Shoe Upper), Cowries (Shells), Adda ( the Shoe Back) and Talla (Sole). Men handle the cutting, shaping and assembling of Jutti components and women work on embellishing the components with elegant patterns and embroidery. The embroidery involves the use of stencils, intricate punches, embroidered designs, and weaves.

Epigraphs for Juttis

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The Juttis of Punjabi towns – Muktsar, Fazilka, Patiala and Malaut – are most sought after because of their intricate designing and impeccable finishing. The basic Juttis that are handcrafted in these towns have many regional variations.

  • Salem Shahi Juttis: Named after Mughal Prince Salim (Jahangir), these juttis are characterized by a pointed or sometimes a spade-shaped sole.
  • Lucky Juttis: “Luck” in Punjabi means waist, and thus, with a narrow midsection, these Juttis are called the Lucky Juttis.
  • Khussa Juttis: These Juttis have upturned front – a quintessential curled mustache of a Punjabi young man or Punjabi Gabru.
  • Kasuri Juttis: These Juttis have unique toe indent design and transcend borders.

The Present Scenario

“As per reports, more than 1.8 lakh pairs, with a turnover of `400 lakh, are manufactured and sold by artisans of Fazilka a year, giving bread and butter to more than 2,000 families involved in Jutti making business directly or indirectly.”  – As per a news piece published by Hindustan Times.

Also, there are design institutes in India offering designing courses that include designing on and with various materials such as leather, wood, etc. For instance, Indian Institute of Crafts & Design, Jaipur, offers under-graduates and post-graduates programs on soft material applications (Leather, Textile, Paper, Natural Fiber). These programs enable the students to employ traditional and innovative skills, while exploring constantly evolving materials and technology, to create diverse solutions that span many disciplines and sectors.

The programs take relevant contemporary issues into consideration such as market knowledge, natural resources available, sustainability, eco designs and ease of manufacturing with cultural diversity and expression of crafts.

Wrapping Up

With the passage of time and foray of technology in the footwear industry, Juttis are being produced with different materials. However, the graph of market demand for Juttis still shows a tilt towards leather Juttis for there are many patrons who appreciate and prefer original craftsmanship and the finest of the handcrafted pieces.