Spain’s Shoe-Making History
Unless you’re already passionate about shoes, it may come as a surprise that Spain has one of the most influential shoemaking industries in the world. Indeed, even the English words Cordwainer and Cordovan are both rooted in the Spanish town of Córdoba.
However, it’s the town of Almansa, which is often credited for Spain’s shoemaking heritage. As you may have noted above, many of the brands we featured here were made in that very place!
During the 18th Century, Almansa’s shoe production grew as a modest cottage industry in a variety of scattered workshops. A “maestro” artisan would oversee his two officials and a single apprentice as they produced all their shoes by hands.
Although local shoemaking was originally destined for the residents of Almansa, word would spread of their craftsmanship and they began supplying nearby towns. Consequently, there were 200 registered workshops by the end of the 19th Century.
Mechanisation & The Industrial Revolution
Like Italy, the Spanish mainland was slow to entire the industrial revolution and begin mechanising production. Nevertheless, the Balearic Island of Mallorca that would kick-start a new industry for Spain.
This, however, was out of pure necessity. Following a devastating phylloxera outbreak, the island’s vineyards were decimated. Therefore, many of its inhabitants turned to leather working to make ends meet.
As labour was cheap and the island was dotted with empty wineries, the island used this opportunity to introduce machinery for Blake stitching and Goodyear welting. As a result, Mallorca became a trailblazer in the nascent shoe industry.
Meanwhile, the Coloma workshop of Almansa had also started incorporating new technologies into their production line. By the turn of the 20th Century, Calzados Coloma was the biggest factory in Spain and was producing 87,000 pairs per year.
In fact, just before the First World War, demand boomed and they producing over 4 million pairs per year!
Today’s Spanish Shoe-Making Industry