When looking for the Cretan tradition, you will find many things that will impress you. One of them is the handmade Cretan boots, the “stivania”. It is perhaps one of the most distinctive elements of Cretan traditional costume and one that many men still wear today.
In many areas of Crete, visitors can find shoemakers, who, faithfully in the traditional way, make stivania. Apart from beautiful and elegant, they are extremely durable and comfortable.
The word “stivania” comes from the Italian word <<stivale>>, which means boot, and this adoption of the name is due to the Venetian era. The Cretans wore stivania both in their daily lives and at work. The boots were about knee length to protect the foot well. The men’s boots in their workplace were usually made of hard beef, while the ones worn in their daily lives were of soft leather.
There were also the “domoi” boots, a different type of stivania, which were worn mainly in Sfakia and Anogia. The word “domoi” is an ancient Greek word meaning a technical layer of stones, slabs or bricks in masonry. The domoi had reinforced soles of two or three layers of animal sheep or even boar. Their characteristic features were the two heels, one at the back, and one at the front, which helped to climb the rocks.
The work stivania were black or red, and those of everyday life were black or white with colossal patterns.
The traditional way of making stivania is not far from today’s modern way. All that has changed over the years are modern tools that make their construction easier and faster. The shoemakers remain loyal to the tradition and with the same love and passion as the old ones, continue to make handmade stivania in many designs of different quality leather depending on their use.