Giveh: handmade Iranian shoes

  • Women producing the upper part of the sole
  • A corner of history
  • Ali working in his shop
  • Ali’s lab
  • Tools and material to make giveh at a local museum
  • One of the parts of the sole
  • Iranian women working on giveh
  • Feminine version of giveh shoes
  • A section of the sole
  • Giveh in the making
  • Assembling mould

Ali working in his shop

Persian handicrafts have a long history, as Iranians have always excelled in art and culture. One of the articraft to be found in Abadeh, and specifically in Timche Sarafian caravanserai, is the Giveh traditional Iranian shoes.

I became acquainted with these kind of shoes thanks to a chat with a young artisan, Ali, who has a small shop inside Timche Sarafian. Ali tells me that in the golden age, a thousand craftsmen in the Timche area produced Giveh shoes. Now Ali is one of the few artisans left; he learned the trade from his grandfather, and they have been artisan shoemakers for four generations. Ali started learning his skills at the age of 16 and is now 25.


One of the parts of the sole

Giveh shoes, also know as Kalash in other areas of Iran where they are also produced, like Marivan in the Iranian Kurdistan, are a durable kind of traditional slippers made by the villagers, and used to be very popular all over Iran in the past thanks to their suitability for long marches. But this is not the only feature of these amazing shoes.

One of the great characteristics of Giveh shoes is that they keep your feet cool thanks to the specific and natural materials used to make them, as well as the presence of pores in the fabric of the shoe top that allows ventilation inside the shoes, thus preventing any unpleasant odour. This is a real godsend if you think of the extreme heat in the Iranian summertime. Giveh shoes adapt perfectly to the the shape and morphology of the feet, from their top to their soles, the more you walk in them. They are also known to relieve fatigue and pain in the legs while walking. These features make Giveh shoes still very popular in spite of the huge number of modern shoes manufactured by shoe factories in the market.


Women producing the upper part of the sole

These are shoes that last a lifetime, and they have a lot of work behind them. All stages of the production of Giveh shoes are manual. Their top is generally made of two types of silk thread and cotton thread, and it can be washed innumerable times. Their sole has 3 layers, one of cotton, one of cowhide and one of leather (or rubber). Giveh shoes top is made mostly by women, always and religiously by hand, and on average a woman takes about 20 to 40 days to weave a pair of shoes, depending on the number of twists in the cotton and silk thread. Their soles and the final assembling is a men’s job. If you wander an Iranian market you can often see artisans making Giveh shoes inside small shops or make-shift stalls.

Interestingly enough Giveh shoes have no right or left pair. Each of these handmade shoes can be worn either by the right or the left foot. Also, Giveh shoes have no variety of colours and are only made in plain white.


A section of the sole

Give shoes were intended for and are typically worn by males. Initially they had a bow tie that was tangled to tight them to the feet, and they were heavily tipped, as men wore them while working.
They traditionally have no female version; however, in some regions, Giveh shoes are also welcomed by women in the hot summertime. Hence, some producers have come up with designs intended for women, beautiful and attractive designs with colourful bows and cottons and even some decorations that make Giveh shoes suitable for pairing with all kinds of fashionable clothes.
Before starting to use Giveh shoes, they need to be rubbed on the grass so that any holes left in the soles are filled by it; this way, Giveh shoes will be naturally waterproof.


Giveh in the making

The price of Giveh shoes is high by the local standards, costing from 2 million to 6 million tomans (40 to 120 euros). The price mainly depends on the type of sole and on the weaves in the cotton and silk thread with which the shoe covers are made.
Giveh shoes is definitely an investment from the point of view of the environment: as they are made only by natural materials, they do not cause any environmental pollution during their production. And even after many years, as their materials are completely natural and decompose in less than a year, returning to their natural elements.
I take leave of Ali, but not before ordering my tailor-made Giveh shoes. Not only do I buy an excellent product that will remind me of this amazing country each time I wear it, but I will also sponsor a young and enthusiastic artisan that keeps alive this incredible Iran art.

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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