Bakya, Philippines

The bakya reached the height of its popularity between the 1930s and 1950s when American tourists and military personnel stationed in the Philippines brought them home as exotic souvenirs.

But these wooden clogs – the unofficial national footwear of the Philippines – have been around for centuries.

Bakya (“wooden shoes” in Tagalog), may have been influenced by early Japanese settlers in the Philippines who predated the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

Japanese influence or not, Paete in Laguna is often cited as the birthplace of bakya.

The wood carvers in this small town, hailed as the “Carving Capital of the Philippines”, have been making some of the finest wooden clogs for over 400 years.

Fashioned from light timber such as santor and lanete, the upper portion of the sandals are made with either thin rubber or a varnished plastic strap.

Modern-day bakya, fast gaining popularity around the world, vary this upper portion, using anything from chic leather and embroidery to knitted fabric.

But the most beautiful part of the bakya is the ornate heel carved with motifs of flora and fauna, landscapes and even bahay kubo (traditional nipa houses).

Kasut manik, Malaysia

The Peranakan Chinese and Chitty Melaka communities in Malaysia are renowned for their long heritage of needlework.

One of the most enduring legacies of this can be seen in kasut manik, successor of the intricately embroidered kasut sulam.

Translated as “beaded shoes”, kasut manik are handcrafted slippers with colourful embroidered mosaics composed of tiny rocaille beads.

These slippers are decorated with motifs that mirror the hybridised Peranakan culture, including the phoenix, swan and goldfish popularly seen in Chinese art, as well as European elements like the English rose and swan.

Worn with the Nyonya kebaya, kasut manik were extremely popular in the 1920s, especially for formal occasions.

These days, young Peranakan artisans are working to keep the kasut manik heritage alive, creating contemporary designs with geometric and abstract patterns.

This 21st century update includes putting a spin on the beautiful Peranakan slipper, with its distinctive beadwork appearing on heels and even open-toe footwear.

Guoc moc, Vietnam

Said to be a popular item during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), guoc moc are wooden clogs crafted from durable, lightweight jackfruit wood.

These handcrafted sandals were once so expensive that only the wealthy could afford them.

Naturally, everyday folk developed a liking for the stylish guoc moc, and craftsmen in rural villages in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Ha Tay, Thanh Tri and Thanh Xuan started crafting them.

The guoc moc, with its shallow heel, is a perfect match for the ao dai national costume, and by the French colonial period they were all the rage in Vietnam.

Today, brands such as Pinocchio and Guoc Moc Viet are fusing light weight fir and bead tree lumber with contemporary creativity, turning the simple sandal into fashionable footwear for Vietnam’s new generation.

According to