Making of oil wrestlers' leather pants: A craft hanging by a thread
EDİRNEAs little children and big men covered oil and dressed in leather pants hit the meadows of Kırkpınar, the Thracian venue for historic oil wrestling, on July 22 for the start of this year’s competition, one persistent man, Adem Kayın, was looking at them with pride.
He is one of Turkey’s last three masters of producing kıspets, the traditional leather pants oil wrestlers wear, and he has been struggling to keep the tradition alive. However, it is not easy to raise new masters, he told Anadolu Agency.
“Kıspet production should continue,” he said.
“I am a handicrafts teacher. I love traditional arts and I want it to survive. The reason why I learned this mastery was to revive the kispet craft that was doomed to disappear. I am putting up a struggle to revive this tradition. While everyone is following the wrestling in Kırkpınar, we follow the kispets. If even one of the wrestlers wearing a kispet I sewed makes it to the next round, I’ll be really happy.”
Choosing the right leather is vital for kıspet-making.
“We choose a calf skin that has no knife scars, what we call vidala,” Kayın said.
The leather needs to be hand-worked really well before it is cut according to the body measurements of the wrestler.
“Then we make the secondary and tertiary layers to improve its resilience. We stick them together and sew the main stitches. We design it with handicraft embroidery. Embroidery is very important because it shows our true mastery. Then we merge the parts,” the master explained.
The merger of the three parts, known as kasnak, hazne and paça, is the most crucial step of making a kıspet, he said.
“We need to make a kıspet stable so that it doesn’t come off during wrestling. I make kıspets with the exact measurements. That is why we stand out in the craft. The wrestler should not feel any discomfort,” he said.
Since wrestling competitions are held from May to October, Kayın stated he gets very busy during this time period.
He also added he has had difficulty finding an apprentice because his income during the five months does not total a substantial amount and therefore he struggles to deliver the pants on time.
The 655th Traditional Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition, which began on July 22, will end on July 24.
Kırkpınar is in the Guinness Book of Records and on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. While some attribute the use of olive oil in wrestling to the Greeks, it is more likely the Byzantines who began to use it first.
Kırkpınar, located near the northwestern city of Edirne, is within easy access to Istanbul, and attracts thousands of locals and foreigners every year during the festival.
Kırkpınar is the oldest sporting event in history that has been held almost continuously, taking a break for about 70 years total in its history due to war.