We stopped by the Tucson, AZ studio of craftsman Jesse Aguiar to see his moccasin making process and find out more about the unbelievably comfortable shoes that he's been perfecting since 1969.
Jesse and his staff of six moccasin makers hand cut, punch and stitch each pair of shoes using traditional Native American methods that are over 400 years old. Using a technique called blind-stitching that was brought to the Southwestern United States by Spanish colonists, the soft suede top of the moccasin is attached to the harder leather bottom with stitches that are done on the inside of the shoe. This method is unique to southwestern style moccasins and helps to keep dirt, rocks and debris out and improves the overall longevity and durability of the shoe.
The soles of the moccasins are made of thick and flexible latigo leather, cowhide tanned and infused with oils and waxes. The Southwestern tribes traditionally needed a thicker sole to protect the bottoms of their feet from the extreme heat, rocky terrain and cacti of the desert environment. Just before production, Jesse soaks his latigo soles in water under the hot desert sunshine to soften them.
Aguiar's moccasins are made to last – "Some people come into the store who have moccasins I made 20 or 30 years ago.” The thick leather sole is not only durable, but over the first few weeks of wear the leather molds to your feet, creating a custom and uniquely comfortable fit.