'Botas de Vilão'

The culture of this archipelago is rich in iconic pieces, which are important symbols of the history of the islands and their people. Madeira's 'botas de vilão' became one of the most famous examples of this. Today, they are an unquestionable calling card of the region and an unequalled testimony to the olden way of life.

The 'botas de vil√£o' are one of the most outstanding elements of this Autonomous Region's crafts production. They represent an extremely relevant historical role, since they were created in a context where there was a fraction of the Madeiran population, mainly from the island's hinterland, that, due to its lack of resources, was forced to walk barefoot.

Therefore, the 'botas de vilão' were produced with leather. These carefully handmade tall boots were then known for their great resistance, durability and impermeability - ideal, therefore, for walking long distances up and down the steep Madeiran slopes, if necessary.

Traditionally, this footwear was produced in two different ways: the 'flat boot' and the 'country boot'. The first ones were made of goatskin, and the sole was made of cowhide. There was also a slight variation according to gender: women's boots had a narrow strip of red leather on the shaft, and men's boots were unadorned.

In turn, the 'country boots', widely used by peasants (as the name indicates), were made with cowhide and rubber sole. They were more suitable for agricultural work and the roughness of rural roads. Nowadays, this is the footwear used by the 'carreiros', who drive the famous basket sledges of the parish of Monte. They use the rubber sole, in this case quite thick, as brakes to control the vehicle.
In a first phase, Madeira's 'botas de vilão' were made with imported skins, but later on they started using the leather from the island's cattle. This led to the creation of several workshop, called 'pelames', which processed goat and bovine skins.
In addition, in the different municipalities of Madeira, shoemakers were specialising in the making of these shoes, who were called 'white shoe cobblers'. The professionals who performed this craft sold the boots in the city of Funchal, in the 'Mercado das Botas' (boots market). Today, besides continuing to be used by folk groups, they are the subject of great curiosity by visitors.
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