Manolete and the manoletinas: a very bullish woman’s shoe

Manoletinas, un calzado bailarina especial

You’ve probably wondered more than once exactly why this type of women’s shoe, often called a ballet flat, is also called a manoletina. Far from being an arbitrary label, manoletinas are the fruit of a fascinating story with an exceptional protagonist: the famous bullfighter, Manolete.

Why are ballet flats called manoletinas?

Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez, better known by his legendary name Manolete, was undoubtedly one of the best known public figures of his time in Spain. This is particularly significant in order to comprehend how an already long-established type of footwear took on a new name, all thanks to one individual. 

Manolete brought about an evolution in the art of bullfighting. His use of a red cape and the unique way he faced up to the bull blazed a trail, and he still remains a leading figure among bullfighting professionals and fans today. It is easier to understand his enormous success when we consider the setting of Spain in the immediate post-war period, where escapism and figures that embodied the meaning of struggle and sacrifice were much-needed. On top of that, the legend of Manolete was elevated even further by the hero’s tragic death in Linares, executed by a bull whose reputation has also taken on almost mythical proportions: Isleño.

Until Manolete came along, the shoes worn by bullfighters were characteristically Moorish, or Middle-Eastern in style (as written in documents preserved from the time). In other words, they were espadrilles. A commonly worn shoe in the 18th century featuring a flat jute sole and tied with ankle straps. They were comfortable on the soft, dry ground so characteristic of bull rings. Espadrilles would go on to become more luxurious in the nineteenth century, with decorative elements such as buckles, becoming a one-piece shoe that left the ankle exposed.

So how exactly did these espadrilles become manoletinas? For his innovative style of bullfighting, Manolete needed a comfortable and hard-wearing shoe that would also give him excellent stability on the sand of the bull ring. He had a shoe made for him that was similar to a ballerina’s shoe, but with a semi-circular shaped opening on the upper, elastic, and a half centimetre heel.

The shoe, designed by the bullfighter himself, instantly grew in popularity. Given their similarity to traditional ballet shoes, manoletinas were mainly a hit with women, who quickly incorporated the shoes into their wardrobes. A trend that continues today. It is easy to see why, and the reasons are almost identical to those Manolete had when he opted for this style of footwear: their comfort and flexibility.

Manoletinas: women’s shoes that took the world by storm

But without a doubt, the main reason manoletinas have endured through the ages until now is down to their remarkable versatility. The shoes can be worn in all manner of settings. They also go well with a huge variety of garments, so they can be worn a lot, and last a long time. Their long history and enduring popularity is a reason why buying ballet flats will always be a safe bet if you are looking for a shoe that will not go out of fashion. At Lottusse, you can find the ballet flats that best suit your taste: made in cow, calfskin, or goatskin leather; in different colours, with embellishments, woven, with a heel or flat… All you need to do is take a look at our online store. And if you’re looking for more information and inspiration, why not read our article about types of ballet flats and how to wear these women’s shoes.