The tsarouchi — the flat, hard-soled shoe with the famous large tassel — is an iconic part of the Greek traditional costume.
It is the shoe that the great warriors of the Greek War of Independence wore, and became world-famous as an integral part of Greece’s national costume.
Greeks in rural and mountainous areas used to wear tsarouchia until as late as the 1960s. They were worn by farmers because they were robust, powerful and long-lasting. As for the tassel, it would protect the toes from the snow and cold.
When one thinks of Greece’s War of Independence in 1821 and the great heroes like Theodoros Kolokotronis and Georgios Karaiskakis, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to the foustanella (the skirt-like garment) and the tsarouchi, the typically-Greek shoe of old.
The tassel on the tip now symbolizes the small tree of liberty and inside the tassel there is a blade that symbolizes the kick that the brave man who wears it will give to every enemy who dares to hurt the little tree of liberty, and if the blade is real, then it becomes a good hidden weapon for close combat.
Today, the rustic shoes are part of the uniform of the Evzones, the select guards of the President, the Presidential Mansion and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Greek parliament. In this case though, on the bottom of the tsarouchi an evzonas is wearing there are about 50 nails, something that makes his gait more imposing and threatening.
A pair of tsarouchia an Evzonas is wearing weighs two and half kilograms. The red color symbolizes the blood of our ancestors and the black tassel is to remind of the 400 years of slavery.
The tsarouchi has nails underneath and the Evzonas who wears it has to stomp loudly on the ground when he walks to make a noise loud enough so that our ancestors can hear that we are alive and we are free.
Tsarouchi as a chic item
Today the tsarouchi is a cherished piece of folklore. Yet, it can also become a chic item. Greek designer Efi Pantazi took the tsarouchi design and gave it a spin, without sacrificing any of its ‘Greekness’.
For those busy souls who want an added ‘Greek touch,’ a major accommodation can be online shopping. EFI Store, Doromu.com and Etsy.com offer a wide selection of ‘Greek Tsarouchi’ bracelets and necklaces at affordable prices. All jewelry is handcrafted and can be shipped worldwide.