A pair of tsarouhia hanging on the wall of a shoe repair store in a beautiful traditional alley in the old market of Ioannina, was the occasion to meet with one of the last tsarouhi makers in Epirus.
The 54-year-old Costas Arletas “resists” the evolution of technology and continues a job that seems to be lost over the years, but for more than a century supported his family.
Society’s needs may have changed and manpower has been largely replaced by industrial manufacturing. However, Arletas did not want to leave this traditional handicraft profession, which he learned from his father.
Chatting with him revealed the secrets of the once famous footwear, now worn by only a few elderly in Metsovo and Tzoumerka. Ever since he was twelve he has not changed profession, despite the tough economic crisis Greece has been dealing with the past few years. As he said, there was a time when customers would come and go, but the shoe manufacturing industry is able to produce shoes at a much greater rate than individual shoemakers can, therefore shoemakers are now quite rare.
We also noticed that the tsarouhia were decorated with embroidery on the leather. Arletas explained that the customer can choose some embroidery to pretty up the design.
Tsarouhia are highly resistant and beautifully worked in hand.There are many traditional dancers who still wear tsarouhia made 30 years ago, which require only small repairs. The selling price of a pair of tsarouhia goes for 280 euros. As Arletas emphasized,“Tsarouhi making is an art, because it can only be hand-made.”