HANOI: Made from recycled military truck or aircraft tyres, Vietnam’s famous rugged footwear, the handmade rubber sandals of Vietnam, has come a long way for decades.
in the bustling capital HanoiAll types of shoes are on sale: from $1,000 Gucci heels to $2 plastic slippers.
But for those who nod to the old-fashioned, hard-soled rubber sandals—story of the resourcefulness of the communist state under fire—are available at markets and small stores alike.
Dao Van Quang paid $8 for a standard pair at a shop outside the Hanoi Museum dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, the country’s revolutionary leader – and dedicated rubber sandal wearer.
“I used to wear rubber sandals in the 1980s when I was in school,” the 47-year-old from central Kwang Nam province told AFP.
“They are of historical value, easy to wear and look good.”
In the museum, the well-worn pair belonging to the former president of North Vietnam affectionately known as “Uncle Ho”, along with his Chinese-style uniform is displayed in a glass box.
Ho’s sandals have also been praised in national anthems praising his simple lifestyle.
“These sandals helped uncle come a long way, and with him, he overcame difficulties to build the country,” says the lyrics of a song.
Vietnamese people first began making rubber sandals in the late 1940s First Indochina War against the French, using the tires of an army truck from an ambush.
He found that the sandals were cheap to make and survived well in wet, muddy and mountainous conditions as soldiers walked through dense forest.
Later, during the Vietnam War, the simple but sturdy boots became a symbol of the ingenuity of the communist Vietnamese military in their fight against the military might of the United States.
Even in peacetime, the design remained popular for sustainability reasons, said Nguyen Duc TruongWho has spent his life making shoes.
“I think there is still a lot of potential for rubber sandals,” the 58-year-old said.
Vietnam is one of the top four countries in the world for shoe manufacturing and its factories produce pairs for major brands such as Nike and Adidas.
According to government data, the footwear export industry generated about $12 billion in the first half of this year.
While the humble rubber sandal doesn’t generate the same amount of revenue, it is high on heirloom value and is growing in popularity as a casual shoe.
Vu Dep Lop, which started as a small business and became Vietnam’s rubber sandal leader, sells shoes for around $10 a pair.
In their workshop in Hanoi, shoemakers use sharp knives and chisels to craft sandals from large tires that are the same height as workers.
While the traditional black models are bestsellers, a colorful modern twist is helping the sandal’s appeal to a younger demographic.
Nguyen Tien Kuong He took over the business from his father-in-law in 2011, and has since sold over half a million pairs of rubber sandals.
“We tried to make them softer and more fashionable. After changing the style and format, we started having more customers,” he said.