Hwahyejang refers to a craftsman skilled in the art of making traditional Korean shoes.
It is a compound word consisting of “hwajang,” a person who made hwa (long-necked shoes), and “hyejang,” a person who made hye, or shoes that did not cover the ankles.
According to Gyeongguk daejeon (National Code) published in the Joseon Dynasty, the demand for shoes was so high that there were 16 hwajang and 14 hyejang affiliated with the central government office.
This record also shows the separation of the two specialties.
Hye are made by pasting several layers of cotton or ramie cloth onto the cotton lining and covering them with silk to make the outer rim.
This is then sewn onto the sole made of leather.
It is important to maintain balance to prevent the tip of the shoes from twisting.
The shoes were finished off by shaping them with wooden lasts.
Since traditional shoes were mostly made of leather, their manufacture involved numerous different processes and consequently called for a high level of skill.
Many records from the Joseon Dynasty mention shoe craftsmen and shoe-related matters, giving us an idea of life at that time.
For this reason, the art of shoe making is historically important and worthy of academic study.