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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM (IST)

Stepping out

Indian juttis, Turkish clogs, Dutch klompen, Arctic specials, Victorian slippers, Chinese shoes...traditional footwear from all over the globe is on display at the San Francisco airport

Rameshinder Singh Sandhu

For many, reaching the San Francisco International Airport many hours before the official check-in time of the flight can be a rewarding experience. The reason is clear: it is home to many open museums and exhibitions which passengers can explore for free.

Striking a chord with passengers from across the globe, Stepping Out: Shoes in World Cultures is one of the latest additions. Based in the main terminal hall, it passionately rolls out an incredible diversity existing in footwear among different cultures of the world.

In this little world tour, unique designs from all over the globe are on display in nearly 20 large glass boxes. They present with pride not just Turkish clogs, Dutch wooden shoes, Arctic specials, Chinese shoes, Victorian slippers, Japanese sandals, but also Indian juttis and padukas. Each one of these is labelled with their core traditional facts, and some even with  historic pictures, making it engaging.

Underlining some notable observations, when it comes to Indian-Afghani juttis that are made up of leather and wood — there are 10 pairs exhibited from 19th and 20th century of both men and women. Also on display is a black and white picture clicked in the early 1830s somewhere in Tamil Nadu of an Indian officer and his wife seen wearing juttis. From the 18th and 19th century, there are also five varieties of Indian toe knob sandals, popularly known as ‘padukas.’ These are made up of wood, ivory and even silver and termed as one of the oldest forms of footwear in India, still worn by some religious saints. 

Coming to Turkish clogs, these take one to the Middle East where these have been so commonly worn since ages in the traditional hammams (public baths). Also known as ‘nalin’, the pair here unfolds that it is mainly made up of wood with a highly elevated sole to prevent the feet from getting wet.

Jumping to its neighbour, the Dutch wooden shoes, also called clogs and klompens, traditionally worn during farming. The pairs presented here have colourful flowers painted on them, symbolising Netherland’s bond with flowers.

Chinese children’s shoes made up of cloth or leather. These are customarily made by elderly woman at home. These have paintings or embroideries of animals like tigers which are said to scare evil spirits and help children grow fearless and strong. Snow shoes crafted with animal skin and hair from Alaska, Canada and Greenland speak volumes about how cold it must be in those regions but when eyes catch the snow shoes of Japan of 1830s — made with straw and rope and are still promoted to not let the age-old tradition die, it rings a bell of surprise.

Meanwhile, the culture of open exhibitions and museums at this airport started  in 1980 by the airport commission in 1980. Frequent flyers also call it an airport of exploration. After all, there are nearly 20 such experiences — all around the airport — throwing light on art, history, culture, aviation and science.  

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