A pair of vintage miniature traditional Korean Hanbok child's shoes.
Hwahyejang are craftsmen who construct traditional Korean footwear. The shoes are classified into hwa (shoes that go over the ankle) and hye (shoes that do not cover the ankle), hence the word “hwahyejang". Historically, the two distinct types of shoe were made by separate specialist craftsmen, the hyejang and the hwajang.
The basic form of the Korean shoe was developed during the Three Kingdoms era, although earlier forms date back to prehistoric times. During the early Joseon period as many as 30 professional shoemakers were employed at court. The shoemaking caste, however, was considered cheonmin, the lowest possible caste. At this time, shoes were an important indicator of a person's profession or social status, with designs, colours and styles varying depending on social caste or occupation. However, after the Gabo Reform of 1894, traditional leather shoes became less popular, and in the twentieth century were largely superseded by rubber. It can take as much as a week to craft a single pair of shoes. The shoes are typically made from leather obtained from cows, pigs or sheep, although historically horsehide and deerskin were also used. Whereas Western shoes are shaped differently for left and right feet, Korean shoes are identical for both feet; the softness of the leather gradually conforms to the shape of the owner's foot. Some types have ribbons or laces that are knotted around the ankle to keep the shoe in place. Many are decorated with floral designs, and are sometimes covered with an ornamental silk upper.
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