According to historic records, Kolhapuris were first worn as early as the 13th century. Previously known as Kapashi, Paytaan, Kachkadi, Bakkalnali, and Pukari, the name indicated the village where they were made.
Official government documents state that in the late 1920s the Saudagar family developed an indigenous design of chappal, which was thinner than the original and had two side flaps, which gave it the name "Kanwali" or a chappal with ears. It also had a decorative upper. It was sent to Bombay and was noticed by J.J. and Sons, a prominent footwear retailer that still operates in the Prarthana Samaj neighborhood in South Mumbai. They ordered 20 pairs of new designs of Kanwalis and sold them in Bombay. The increased demand for Kanwalis had prompted Saudagar family to teach the skill of making these chappals to others. J.J and Sons got an order from Calcutta where this type of chappals became more popular.
Originally made from buffalo-hide and thread, they weighed as much as 2 kilos because of the thickness of the sole, which made them durable despite the extreme heat and mountainous terrain found in the state of Maharashtra.