A certain kind of people ask questions in a manner that will give them authority over you. Authority of having done that important must before you did. For instance, did you do the Pyramids? Did you do the Tower? And so with the Poet Sandal Maker. Did you do the Poet Sandal Maker? Your well traveled snooty friends will ask.
The store with that name was established in 1927, by the very old Greek noble Melissinos family, in Monastiraki. A shoe district close to the ancient Agora of Athens. On the exact same spot that Simon, a friend of Socrates, ran his own sandal store 2.500 years ago. Until the 1950’s the store made rubber-sole shoes that were meant for hunters, in addition to the luxury shoes that were designed for the upper class, like the Queen of Greece who visited the store in person to buy her shoes.
“In 1954 the store that was on the verge of economic disaster, was inherited by the next generation. In a time when Greece was in the midst of political and economic turmoil rescue felt very far away.”
But with the first tourists slowly coming to Greece so came also the solution in the form of an elegant lady that placed the very first order of six pairs of ancient Greek sandals. The first order since the fall of the ancient Athenian Republic. After that lady, the Beatles came, Maria Callas came, Gary Cooper came, Barbra Streisand came, HRH the Prince of Wales came and so did my mothers friend, an actress, who bought sandals here in the late 70's and wore them to all of the Parisian fashion shows and according to her, made them the talk of both the town and of the seasons.
I also came. Much later and of course without a legendary legacy. Instead I had with me my best friend and we came with something much more common. A hungover easily described as a Greek tragedy! It was crowded, it was hot, we had to wait for hours and we had a hard time focusing on making a decision on what to buy. All this while having to listen to loud Park Avenue ladies trying to squeeze their feet into the elegant strappy sandals and eager Japanese tourists photographing every second with a selfie stick. Even so, it was well worth the while.
I have worn my sandals for summer weddings, on long walks along the hillsides of Capri, on lonesome beaches in the south of Sweden and of course while climbing the marble stairs of the Acropolis. The timeline of human civilisation suddently feels very short and very much present, when wearing shoes made with ancient techniques.
Today, the store is run by Mr. Stavros Melissinos, a renowned poet with his best known work The Rubaiyat being on the curriculum of a number of American universities. He has been the subject of documentaries and his works are in the Harvard and Oxford libraries. As sandals, his poetry is also inspired by ancient Greece.
All of the designs can be worn by men and women and are handmade of the finest calf leather. They come with care instructions like other foot wear, but thus far, no brand has ever warned about keeping them away from puppies.
So, having said all of that, if you’re in Athens, also you can come, and add to the history of this tiny little store. Picture: Vogue / STELIOS VASILANTONAKIS, CO-FOUNDER