I recently bought my first pair of tabi shoes. Although it hasn't come up much on this blog, I really appreciate traditional Japanese clothing. Tabi shoes, workwear, geta and all things kimono. There is this strong theme throughout Japanese clothing that I think I can easily identify and wholeheartedly love although I can't adequately describe it. Sometimes I wonder whether it's something inherent in the clothing or if it is just the fact that I really used to like anime and manga when I was a teenager and it somehow sowed the seed deep inside.
|Female peddler in work clothing|
Near Kyoto, ~1900
|Margiela tabi boots|
|Fashion shoot by i-D|
As it so happened my interest in tabi shoes was rekindled when I visited the "Karneval der Kulturen" (carnival of cultures) in Berlin, a sort of parade of culture associations that present their nation with music, costumes and dance. This year I had the pleasure of seeing Japan represented by Kashiwa Ren carrying a 40 year old Mikoshi (a portable shrine). The music was nice, the people seemed motivated (how could you not be with a shrine on your shoulders) and there were tabi, lots of tabi. Festivals are another common occasion to wear tabi shoes.
|My favorite Japanese modernist writer Yukio Mishma carrying a shrine and wearing tabis, how could I not include this?|
Summer Festival of Kumano Shrine, 1956
|Sou Sou tabis|
|Dazzle camouflage. As one can't actually hide ships this camouflage is supposed to obscure the shape, orientation and speed of the ship, to "dazzle" the enemy.|
Sou Sou has an American store. Unfortunately that on didn't have the white tabis, listed as festival tabis, I wanted in stock (it also seems to sell a lot more stereotypical "Asian" designs), so I had to buy from the Japanese website instead. Considering the costly international shipping from America this was actually cheaper too. $110 + $32 shipping versus ¥9874 + ¥2800 (~$115).
Nothing on the Japanese site suggests that it is possible to buy from outside of Japan and international buyers are forwarded to the American site. If you actually try to check something out however the address data form offers the option to mark your prefecture as "abroad" and on the following delivery method page one can actually select EMS shipping to Asia, EU, America etc. I put my German address into the the Japanese address form and also put the full German address into the comment field to be sure they get it. For international customers payment is Paypal only. I soon received an English confirmation mail and quickly another mail with the tracking number. For customs plagued nations: the parcel was marked as gift.
I was really relieved when I got the tabis and they weren't too big. I followed the measuring guide on the Sou Sou site but ended up being in a spot where rounding up to the bigger size was a big step. With socks they fit just right. Because my feet are rather wide than long I don't fill the toe part out completely but they are fairly tight around the ankle. There is two rows for attaching the closing clasps and I'm wearing it on the bigger one. The shoes are designed with a slender ankle in mind.
I don't have anything bad to say about the quality of the shoes. They are well manufactured. No glue spill or shape that fights the human body - as is sometimes the case with poorly designed patterns. With socks they actually feel rather thick despite being the summer variation. The fabric on the inside is patterned with black and white stripes that look somewhat like dripping paint. This pattern is slightly visible from the outside through the white outer layer. They come with an insole.
|"Kabukimono"(x) tabi by Sou Sou|
I'm really happy with the way the tabis look worn and already have my eyes on other Sou Sou tabis. The dazzle camouflage ones are quite intriguing to me, black tabis would be swell too and then I regretfully found their selection of leather tabis. They aren't quite on par with Margiela shoes and only a little cheaper.
*According to wikipedia