Peasant sandals – opincă (pl. opinci)

Foot wraps – obiele

The oldest type of footwear is peasant sandals (opinci) worn with woollen or felt foot wraps (obiele) or woollen socks (caltuni). Evidence for this style of footwear can be seen on a clay foot found in Turdaș, dating from around 2500BC. Opinci were worn throughout Romania and over a wide area of south and east Europe being known as opanke (Serbia), tservuli (Bulgaria), opinci (Macedonia) etc. Opinci are made of a single rectangle of cow, ox or pig hide gathered round the foot in various ways. Two main types are found in Romania but with numerous zonal variations. The first type of opincă is cut out of one rectangular piece of leather with front edges uniformly pleated. The other is cut out of a rectangle of leather with angled edges. The head of the rectangle is then folded in half and the two sides are sewn together to make the ‘gurguiu’ or peak of the opincă. The sides of the rectangle are folded along the edge to enclose the heel and fit to the shape of the foot. Opinci worn in mountain regions usually had higher gurguiu while those worn in the plain were lower. Opinci were tied to the feet using one or more nojită (narrow strips of leather or strings made of goats or horsetail hair which was usually died black although white is used in Moldavia). Opinci were sometimes decorated with stamped patterns (repoussé) or with tintacks or appliqué strips of leather. Many 18th and 19th century pictures show Romanian peasants wearing opinci, though by the 20th century this form of footwear had become less common. F B Florescu, in her book on Romanian opinci said that this form of footwear had completely disappeared by 1957. However opinici can still be seen now in poorer rural areas today, although they are sometimes made of manmade fabrics such as tyre inner tube or plastic instead of leather!

Foot wraps – obiele

Foot wraps – obiele

Oabia (pl. obiele) (Bulgarian navoi) used to be were worn with opinci. These were rectangular pieces of white woollen cloth which were wrapped round the feet and legs and held in place by hemp cords. In some areas these were very thick and so became like a padded “bootleg”. Obiele were sometimes decorated with black (or occasionally red) stripes. In southwest Oltenia, south Transylvania and Banat the cloth was woven from brightly coloured wool on four heddles. The most vivid coloured obiele come from Banat where red, white, and navy blue fabric is used for young or black or white for older people. The method of wrapping them round the leg also indicates age, young people wearing them with the tops turned over outside.

Decorated leg wraps or spats (ghetra, pl. ghetre) are worn by călușer dancers in southern Transylvania. These are made of pieces of woollen cloth wrapped round the lower leg (like obiele), and decorated with coloured embroidery and rows of bells.

Călțuni, cioareci, toloboni or cioci are worn by women in many regions in winter in place of obiele. These were made of woollen fabric (dimie) and were a type of sock or stocking. The piece of fabric was folded and sewn along the foot. They can be knee length or reach over the knee in which case they take the place of the obiele. These are decorated according to local fashion. They are also worn by men in north Moldavia and Muntenia, central and east Transylvania and in this case are called tureaca or tureatcă. Cioareci are thought to derive from tight woollen leggings called tureci worn in certain mountain regions. In certain regions călțuni are made of red wool and are decorated on the edges.

Knitted Woollen socks – chiorapi

Opinci and woollen socks

Hand knitted woollen socks are now worn with opinci in the majority of regions by both men and women. They are usually crocheted or knitted using 5 knitting needles in white wool with fancy stitches. Knitted socks were often also worn under obiele. The Saxon village of Vișcri in Transylvania now specialises in producing knitted socks which they sell to tourists.

Boots – cizme, bocanci, gheată (pl. ghete)

Men’s boots

Boots were introduced during Ottoman times, and were worn first by the upper classes, only becoming available to the richer peasants in the 19th century. Initially the Hungarians in Transylvania banned the Romanians from wearing boots, but boots are now widely worn by men especially in west and north Transylvania and also by women in some regions of Transylvania such as Țara Oașului, Sibiu, Făgăraș, around Cluj and Hungarian Kalotaszeg. There was a fashion for women’s boots to be made in red leather in the early 20th century.

Women’s ankle height boot

Men’s calf length boots (cizme) were made of black leather. Heavy military style (hob nailed) ankle boots with thick soles (bocanc, pl. bocanci) were worn in the Hungarian arm.

Women in Sibiu, Mediaș and Făgăraș wear a ankle height laced black boots called gheată (pl. ghete). A low boot laced at inner or outer side called cepok is worn by the Szekelys.

Men in performance dance groups now wear specially made lightweight boots for all regions.

…. and shoes

In most areas now fashion footwear such as stilettos, platform shoes or trainers are frequently worn with costume!

Region Summary
Banat Obiele called obialăs are woven in striped or chequered patterns, in red, white and black (reminiscent of the Scottish plaid designs).
Câmpia Banatului Obiele decorated with red motifs
Maramureș, Oaș
Maramureș Legs wrapped in thick broad, cioareci / obiele which are made in the same way at the gubă, by introducing tufts of white wool into woven fabric.
Oaș Black boots (cizme) worn by women
Kalotaszeg Women’s boots are sometimes made of red leather.
Pădureni Colțuni – foot and part of leg wrapped in thick white woollen material called ” tolobani,” worn with opinci with tall gurgiu (toe tips) (10cm) sewn with narrow strips of neat leather and decorated with tin tacks for walking on rough roads.
Hunedoara, Orăștie, Petroșani and partsof Țara Hațegului Obiele are made of white wool with narrow grey and black stripes at 2-3 cm intervals.

Țara Hațegului – Opinci have wide gurguiul, which bends back towards the ankle.

Sibiu, Făgăraș,Mediaș Low black ankle boots (gheată, ghete) worn by women
Sibiu Decorated leg wraps (ghetra, ghetre) made of woollen or knitted wool and decorated with coloured embroidery and rows of bells are worn by călușer dancers.
Romanați and Dolj Opinci worn by men are heavily decorated with punched ornaments. Woollen stockings and gloves are decorated with woollen embroidery
Câmpia Dunareni Style of opinci worn have a T-strap which is similar to those worn in Bulgaria, this style possibly having oriental origins.
Moldavia Nojite used to tie opinci to the feet are made of goats or horse hair and are dyed white.
Published on 15th December 2017, last modified on 25th February 2018