Rubber sandals may be a common object in most countries but in Vietnam, they have a heritage value. Vietnamese began making them in the 1940s during the first Indochina War using tyres from French army trucks.
Cheap to make and practical for wet weather, they later became a symbol of the communists’ fight against the US. “I wore rubber sandals when I was at school, in the 1980s. I like them very much. They are of historical value, easy to wear and look nice.” says Dao Van Quang, a tourist from Quang Nam province.
Vua Dep Lop in Ho Chin Minh city is the country’s rubber sandal leader, The average price for a pair is 10 dollars. It has sold more than half a million pairs in just a decade. Nguyen Tien Cuong took over the business from his father-in-law in 2011 and has sold more than half a million pairs of rubber sandals since then.
Nguyen Tien Cuong admits the traditional models are bestsellers, the colourful ones attract young customers. “When I changed (the style and format of the sandal), I started having more foreign clients, says the businessman, So to be successful, I have to renew the style of the Vietnamese rubber sandals while still maintaining the advantage of the handmade method and their historical value.”
The southeastern Asian nation is one of the world’s top four countries for shoe manufacturing and its factories produce pairs for major brands. The industry generated nearly $12 billion in the first half of this year, according to government figures.