The Disposable Shoe | The Jipsin of Korea

Sometime last year, I ended up at a park in the middle of the work day. It had just rained and my pretty red shoes got soaked in mud. That was the day my red shoes died. I wasn’t particularly upset as I’d had those shoes for a long time and its days were numbered indeed.

That’s when I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be great if we could purchase disposal shoes for outdoor occasions such as this one? Yes, I can hear you saying, “Well, you could have bought a new pair…” I know, I know. But the truth is that I have enough pairs at home and definitely do not need a new pair!

We have all sorts of disposable things in this world–forks, knives and even underwear. So why not shoes? Before you tell me that it’s not eco-friendly and all that, I have a story that I’d like to share with you.

The Jipsin

Koreans have worn straw sandals since ancient times. They date back to the Joseon era.

The jipsin were sandals made of either plants or straw. The word jipsin itself, when translated from Korean, literally means straw shoes. They were made from either rice straw, hemp, sedge, the inner bark of vines or cattails.

As making jipsin required no special skills, most households made their own shoes and sometimes a few extra to sell. The correct material would be procured to meet what the shoe was being created for. The sandals, which were available in various styles and materials, were one of the most popular everyday commodities.

They were worn and made mostly by commoners, farmers at work and scholars who were on outings. Shoes for women were generally made of soft straw.

Although they were cheap to make, they did not last long. In the event of a long journey by foot, people went through a pair daily. They were extremely cheap to purchase and were readily available in markets or sold on the streets.

They were only designed to last a few days and were disposed of when no longer needed or when they had served their purpose.

Maybe it’s time to bring back the disposal shoe…


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