Monday, October 15, 2012

Kolhapuri chappals

- By Deepa Krishnan

When I was in college, it was quite cool to wear kolhapuri chappals. In fact, every self-respecting college going kid with anti-establishment / Marxist / Commie leanings wore some variant of these :)
The female version came with a narrower frame. The male version was broader and rugged. But all of them were handmade, stitched and patterned in a way that was instantly recognizable. Many had attractive red tassels as well.
It was not just college kids with leftist ideas who wore them. They were the standard outfit for the "creative" ad agency types, as well as intellectuals and social workers. If you walked into the JJ School campus, you'd find tons of them. The standard combination was kolhapuri chappal +  khadi kurta + cloth jhola + a tattered pair of jeans. Reading glasses and frizzy hair helped further complete the look. Stubble or full-blown beards were also de rigueur.

I went to one of the liberal arts colleges in the city recently, and found that the kurta-jeans-jhola look was still in vogue, and the stubbles/beards were still in place - but the kolhapuri chappal had been replaced by blue Hawaii slippers or all-weather floaters or other non-descript sandals. What a pity :) 

The kolhapuri hasn't totally disappeared, though. Walking through Ranade Road, I spotted this shop with the giant chappal at the top:
Chandrakant Chappal Mart
Sellers of Kolhapuri Chappals
As I peered quickly at the stock, I saw that this shop had decided to hedge its bets by including not only kolhapuri chappals, but also several other designs and styles. So about 40% of the stock was kolhapuri.

At the bustling market outside Vile Parle station, I found the modern avatar of the traditional kolhapuri chappal, with colourful variants for women. They seemed to be very popular:
In this new avatar, the kolhapuri has lost all its anti-establishment charm. College girls are wearing these to match their outfits, not to make Commie statements. Here's the colourful kolhapuri, having its moment in the (Bollywood) sun.
Quite the fall of an icon, eh? :) :) I'm never wearing these purple ones, I tell you.


Mahesh Vijapurkar said...

I believe there are two kinds of kolhapuris - one genuine, other not - and this is talked about even in Kolhapur. However, I must confess to not knowing what makes them different. they look alike to me. Maybe you would know?

Deepa Krishnan said...

Mahesh, I read up a lot about Kolhapuri chappals when I wrote this article. There seem to be 3-4 typical styles/models of chappals, going by the name kapashi, dangar etc. Some of them are closed shoes and some are open. They are made, not in Kolhapur, but in villages on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. You can see one such village here, called Athani: Other villages are Nippani, Kapshi, Miraj, Jamkhindi, etc. The reason they became known as Kolhapuri is that the royal family of Kolhapur patronised them and helped to spread the popularity. Today they are also made in Kolhapur with some families established there. An authentic Kolhapuri chappal is basically characterised by the manufacturing process used. The leather is cured in a particular way, and it is made as a cottage industry. The entire household participates in the making. Men do cutting, women do stitching and children do weaving the ‘veni’. Different parts of the animal skin are used for different purposes, such as tail skin for thread, head skin for ‘patta’, skin of goat for ‘veni’ etc. Each family produces 35-45 chappals per week. There is more info here if you want to read:

Mahesh Vijapurkar said...

Thank you, Deepa

Shanaya Sinner said...

wow ! really enjoyed reading this post :D
will be wearing these tmro :P
xoxo <3

Anonymous said...

For quite sometime in my teenage years...the flag-bearer of Kolhapuri chappals was the super suave Milind Soman!

Anonymous said...

would you like to review a book written about Mumbai in the 1950s? Bombay City of Sandals by Shanne Sands (

If you would like we could send you a copy just email



nivi said...

hi Deepa,
Ive been an ardent fan of kolhapuri chappals since my college days(over two decades). Interestingly enough,Im in kolhapur and just picked up couple of pairs of kolhapuris for self ,hubby & teenage son.Did a reality check on authentic kolhapuris.
This will never go out of fashion.
Check this place out- no frills-but good stuff -(

Delima said...

Nice captures...Thanks for sharing...

bodhisattvaintraining said...

Love your comment about the purple ones :-)

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GetGlamr said...

Great post on Kolhapuri chappal ... I love to buy this from my favorite online footwear stores !!

Dan said...

What is it about Kolhapuris that made them the must have footwear for students with Marxist leanings?

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