Meet Athens' Most Renowned Traditional Sandal Maker

Ethel Dilouambaka

Everyone may think that a trip to Athens is incomplete without visiting one of its stunning ancient landmarks, but few know that there is another important spot travellers ought to visit before returning home. The pocket-sized shop of Athens’ most iconic sandal maker, Melissinos, is located at the entrance of colourful Psyrri.

“What did Jackie O and Maria Callas have in common (besides me)? Their Melissinos sandals of course!”, reads a sign depicting the smiling Greek tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, at the entrance of the tiny shop belonging to sandal maker-cum-poet, Pantelis Melissinos. A third-generation sandal maker and second-generation poet, Melissinos is the owner of the legendary shop, opened by his grandfather, Giorgos Melissinos, who in 1927, established his store in Monastiraki, the shoe district at the time. Upon his death in 1954, the shop went on to his son, Stavros, who contributed to relaunching the trend of Greek leather sandals, attracting a plethora of celebrities such as Maria Callas, Jackie O, Jeremy Irons, Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn.

But unlike many trends that quickly come and go, the Greek leather sandal frenzy continued, even after he had to relocate to Psyrri, the shop’s current location. When he retired in 2004, his son Pantelis, playwright, artist and poet, carried on the family tradition and the celebrities kept coming, including Sofia, Queen of Spain and actress Lily Tomlin.

Pantelis describes sandal making as an art and often says that each sandal is a poem from him to his customers. Offering more than 30 classic designs, including the popular Jackie Onassis or the Jeremy Irons, Pantelis enjoys meeting his clients and doesn’t hesitate to measure their feet to ensure a perfect fit. He also makes custom designs for those who prefer to have their own kind of poetry on their feet.

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