Khussas have been in style regardless of the occasion or time of year, and with Eid inching closer demand for this traditional footwear has increased in the city’s older markets.
Brightly coloured leather or fabric and intricate designs set khussas apart from shoes in other parts of the world, and they remain a favourite of both women and men.
For Eid, many people choose khussas to match their Eid outfits, from the colour down to the style of embroidery and embellishments.
Old shopping areas, such as Purana Qila and Kashmiri Bazaar, are home to all kinds of styles and fashions. There, one can find footwear shops selling colourful, embroidered and embellished khussas displayed in vertical rows, drawing in customers who browse through the wide range on show.
There are also exclusive outlets that produce handmade khussas. Craftsmen work day and night to produce these shoes, which have a history as old as the Indian subcontinent.
Khussas were also worn during the Mughal period and were named the Saleem Shahi Joti, inspired by the pearl, gold and silver-embellished leather khussas favoured by Emperor Jehangir.
The handmade shoe business has been almost edged out by the readymade footwear industry due to multiple factors, leaving its skilled workforce has no choice but to switch over to other jobs. However, the shops in downtown Rawalpindi have been producing khussas to meet the increasing demand for 40 to 60 years.
“Our workers make traditional khussas, and they work hard shaping, stitching and moulding the footwear according to the customer’s wishes. We also repair and replace pairs if they are damaged,” Shahid Abbas, the owner of a khussa workshop in Purana Qila, told Dawn.
Mr Abbas said his father, Farhad Hussain, learned how to make khussas in India. He set up a workshop, and they have been making these shows for 30 years, he said.
He added that the introduction of machinery that brought some ease to the workers, but the shaping, stitching and moulding of khussas is still an art that has to be carried out without using machines.
“Leather khussas used to be popular, but because of the high cost of leather people wanted khussas made from fabric or some other material. Most customers give their own embroidered zari pieces to make footwear for brides and bridegrooms, especially on Eid or for weddings,” he said.
Leather khussas can cost between Rs3,500 and Rs6,000, Mr Abbas said, but lighter versions made with other materials cost Rs600 to Rs700 for a pair.
“That is the main reason people wear them on special occasions,” he said.
In the old days, he said, people preferred leather khussas because they were the best to wear during hot days on the plains of Punjab.
A customer in Kashmiri Bazaar, 62-year-old Bushra Rehmat said she cannot wear heeled shoes or sandals because of pain in her knees. The best option for her is to wear flat shoes or khussas, she said.
Another customer in Kashmiri Bazaar, Farhan Zaidi, said he was out to buy khussas for his children. He said this was the best option for footwear in the summer.
Potohar Chappal Store owner Naveed Ahmed said that although Kolhapuri chappal and Peshawari chappal are also available, most people prefer khussas because they are comfortable and reasonably priced.
“The best thing about khussas is that they can be worn with simple suits and wedding attire,” he said.
Originally published in Dawn, May 26th, 2019