Men’s Flats in Other Cultures

Women have pretty much monopolized the “closed toe, open instep” style of shoe that is generally called a “ballet flat” in most of the west. However, that isn’t true in in a lot of other cultures around the world. In many cases these shoes may not be the standard footwear for men, but they still present an option for men.


The traditional dress of Korea is called “Hanbok” and for formal or wedding dress men wear a silk shoe with an open instep.


However, the style of shoe is worn far more than just formal settings. They vary from an inexpensive rubber version, called Gomusin, to more dressy leather versions that are incorporated into more modern versions of Korean dress.

hanbok gomusinhanbok-men-korean-traditionalkorea-men-s-modernized-traditional-clothes-hanbok-temple-stay-wear-linen-pants


The traditional “kung-fu” shoes of china have a variant that is similar to the ballet flat and are worn by men.

China shoe 2Chinese-Men-Kung-fu-Uniform-Male-Cotton-Tai-Chi-Suit-Novelty-Wushu

India and South Asia

The jutti in India is worn by both men and women. While the name itself comes from Punjabi in NW India and Pakistan, the shoe are worn all over South Asia and the Middle East. The men’s version is often called a “khussa” and frequently is characterized by a curled up toe (which is supposed to represent a man’s mustache). The styles range from simple everyday leather leather  shoes to very ornate shoes worn for weddings.


Indian waistcoat-suitindian-men-traditional


Romanina peasant sandals (opinci) were worn by both men and women. Opinci were worn throughout Romania and over a wide area of southern and eastern Europe, but by the 20th century this form of footwear had become less common. They were made frm a a single piece of leather and were tied with thin strips of leather to the foot. The shoes can still be seen now in poorer rural areas today, although they are sometimes made of man made fabrics such as tire inner tube or plastic are sometimes instead of leather.


opinci 1Taran-cu-opinici-si-brau



The Basque region of Spain has a style of footwear similar to the opinci called abarka.” This sandal is also made from one piece of leather and is tied by braided wool laces. There are more commercial versions avaliable today, however the style was mostly replaced by espadrilles and rubber sandals for agricultural activities, but remain used for dance.


Spanish (and Mexican) bullfighters also wear a shoe called Zapatillas that are similar to a ballerina slipper. The bow in front is very functional as it allows the shoe to be tightened so that it will not fall off during a bullfight.


The Scottish have a buckle style brogue worn by men for formal events, especially military events. It is also worn by those who choose not to wear the traditional laced Ghillie.


I am sure there are other cross-cultural examples of the instep in men’s shoes; feel free to post any example you may find in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s