Our backless Babas are entirely handmade by master craftsmen at the Sabah Workshop in Turkey -- every material, technical & design element serves a purpose. This is the anatomy of a Baba.
A backless, closed toe shoe is called a mule in English and is believed to have originated around the 16th century in Istanbul, also known today as the babouche. Slip it on and go, the mule can be casual or dressy and is always comfortable, cool, and stylish.
Not all mules are the same and our mule, which we call the Baba (meaning "father" in Turkish), has a distinct set of characteristics -- many of which are not completely evident, but we believe make it particularly comfortable, wearable, durable and beautiful!
Here we break down the anatomy of a Baba -- the various parts that will help you appreciate it as much as we do!
The upper is the top part of a shoe, the part that cradles your foot. The Baba’s upper is made with our own proprietary Sabah leathers, which are drum-dyed, using only the highest grade, full grain hides. The Baba is lined with a super soft cow leather lining. Unlike most industrially produced shoes, our Babas are not reinforced with synthetic materials. Constructed this way, Babas will form to your foot’s shape and breath by wicking away moisture and keeping your feet cool and well ventilated. Bonus points: Your Babas will never smell!
There is a binding stitched along the top of the upper which helps keep the upper from stretching too much and adds a beautiful design element which accentuates the lines of the pattern.
The last is the form that the shoe upper is pulled over which gives the shoe its shape and fit. Unlike many industrialized shoes, Babas are still hand-lasted which allows the craftsmen to very precisely manipulate the leather and ensure a perfect fit & feel. At the end of the hand-lasting process, the Baba is pulled off of the last retaining its shape. The dimensions and shape of the last are the elements most important to giving the Baba and Sabah their style when you look down at your feet. We spent a lot of time developing the last -- for a great fit, a great shape, a beautiful silhouette and to ensure comfort when walking.
What you step on, inside the shoe, is called the insole and is a critical part of the foundation of the shoe. The Baba’s insole is made with the same water buffalo leather we use for the outsole. The water buffalo leather is very flexible and soft, flexing where your foot would naturally flex. At Sabah, we believe in the power of our minimal structured footwear which allows the foot to function in its most natural way. Some shoes, especially sneakers, have built up arch support and overly padded insoles which can destabilize your gait and weaken the muscles in your feet and legs. Wearing Sabahs and Babas is the closest thing to walking barefoot -- they have a uniquely comfortable and natural feel!
The sole on the Sabah and the Baba is 100% vegetable tanned water buffalo leather. This is one of the defining and differentiating elements to our shoes - you won't find water buffalo leather in modern shoes. It's difficult to source, expensive to produce, and not easy to work with; however, it is special. The leather’s superpower is its thickness, flexibility, and softness and, over time, how it forms to the shape of your foot, creating a personalized orthotic, unique to your feet. The Baba’s sole is attached with a stitch using a sewing machine developed over a hundred years ago which can stitch the upper, insole and sole together with a heavy waxed thread using a “lock stitch” method. If one of the stitches should wear out the other “lock stitched” threads will not unravel, all the other stitches will remain as strong as the moment they were first sewn into the shoe.
The other unique method used to attach the sole is the partial hand skiving of the sole’s edge which is then lifted before the sole is stitched, then cemented back down covering and protecting the stitched thread.
The heel on the Baba is also made with the vegetable tanned water buffalo leather. The slight increased height gives feet an angle which pushes the foot forward enabling the foot to better remain in the backless Baba. The heel is also stitched to the insole with the heavy waxed thread to keep it attached to the sole and insole. In addition to that, we believe the heel gives the Baba a classic silhouette and extra stylish look.
Why Baba?! Why Sabah?!
If you already own and love your Sabahs, we recommend a pair of Babas! Each is unique in its make and design, but equally considered when it comes to craft, quality of materials and attention to detail. The Baba is great all year (we wear it with socks in the winter; and they make for perfect house shoes) but really has its moment in the summer -- at the beach, running errands, on a road trip! We offer a variety of colors and materials, each unique, fanciful, and imaginative! We hope you enjoy and wear them well.
Baba User Guide: Where-To-Wear You Babas!