Made in Spain: Menorca at your feet with abarcas menorquinas

by admin
abarcas menorquinas
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A waiter almost did a happy dance as he watched me recently enter a chirinquito somewhere along the coast in southern Spain. He delightedly pointed to my feet: “Son de mi isla,” he said, beaming at my feet, adorned with ‘abarcas menorquinas’.

You see these type of sandals often, especially along the Spanish east coast and the Balearic Islands. Women, men and also children wear them in all colours and sizes. When I first noticed them, I asked where they were sold. “Everywhere!” was the obvious answer. It was indeed a hit in the first shoe store. I took a pair with me to Andalucia and got hooked.

All the colours in the universe

The authentic leather summer shoes from the northernmost Balearic island of Menorca are very comfortable, even at 40 degrees. And they look nice too! The leather moulds to your feet and they are slightly dressier than flip-flops. They are pretty much the espadrilles of the Balearic Islands and available in every conceivable colour in the universe, in a rustic version, but also elegant with shiny leather and a higher heel for a classier occasion.

Carthaginians

Since time immemorial, abarcas have been the typical footwear of the Menorquinas. There are even indications that the Carthaginians, who visited the island around 200 BC, wore similar shoes. Between 1875 and 1885, Archduke Luis Salvador, writer, historian and scientist, wrote in his work “Die Balearen im Wort und Bild” that most people in the countryside wore abarcas. The soil on the island off the coast of Catalonia is rocky and farmers needed sturdy, yet flexible footwear to comfortably harvest their fruits and vegetables.

Leather and rubber

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the shoe was made exclusively of leather. This changed with the invention of rubber. The islanders used worn-out car tires and gave them a new life as the soles for their sandals. The entire shoe was made by hand, down to the sewing of the leather with sturdy waxed thread. From the second half of the last century it became almost a tradition for all islanders to order a new pair of abarcas at the beginning of summer from the small factories that had sprung up.

From country sandals to royal footwear

When tourists discovered the comfortable and airy footwear and took it with them to their home address, the production method changed and the abarcas menorquinas were made on an increasingly larger scale and in factories. Carmelo Servera is the only exception to this: he still makes the shoes one hundred percent manually with the original tools. The video shows how he makes an abarca menorquina.

The shoes became a symbol of Menorca and now people also wear them in countless places outside Menorca. From centuries of rural roots, the abarca menorquina has managed to reach all levels of the population. The sandal even adorns the noble feet of the members of the Spanish royal family every summer during their summer holidays in Mallorca.

Abarcas Menorquinas are easily available online and cost between €39 and €55 per pair. You can also find more and more variations on the authentic model. They are now also made from fabric and materials other than leather.

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