Carved from a singular piece of wood, clogs are a shoe commonly worn by farmers in the Netherlands due to their affordability, comfort, and practical nature. These shoes have been a staple symbol of Holland along with tulip fields and windmills; however, it is less common to see clogs being worn on the streets.
Wooden shoes have been around for centuries, dating back to the 1300s. Most commonly worn by peasants, clogs are a symbol of hard work and farming rather than a style worn by the Netherlands high society, until they became a fashion statement in the twentieth century.
THE HISTORY of the CLOG
The inspiration for the clog was found in a Roman shoe called the calceus. This shoe had a sole made of wood, with leather straps that wrapped around the foot. Eventually, this design evolved into the modern-day clog, with additional covering to keep away rain, mud, and anything that might harm the wearer.
In the early 1300s, these clogs became popular in Europe, beginning in Holland and branching out to Scandinavia, France, and other nearby countries. It was most commonly used as a work shoe for peasants since most employment for the lower class involved difficult labour in the fields. Wood served as a cheap and weatherproof material that could be worn in harsh conditions without wearing down. The clog became such a staple amongst peasants that the high class and noblemen refused to wear them for fear of the association with the lower class.
The association of clogs and peasant status existed for centuries, only changing in the 1900s. In 1926, L.C. studios (based in New York) included clogs in their newest bathing suit launch. Described as ‘sand clogs,’ the inclusion of the wooden shoe from the Netherlands made an unprecedented fashion statement. By 1929, there were several variations; the first was a flat platform sandal with straps over the top of the foot and the second was a type of clog heel that could be decorated with satin or feathers.
By World War II, women’s fashion had taken a more feminine turn and thus disregarded the clunky clog. However, by the 60s, clogs were back in style with a newer, curvy, more womanly appearance. Herbert Levine, a popular American shoe brand, designed wooden clogs in 1963 that were made of multiple types of wood to form wedges in order to add an element of glamour to the original shoe. This trend carried on into the 70s, with platform clogs that came in bright yellows, white and even rainbow patterned materials.
HOW is the CLOG MADE?
Originally, the clog was hand-carved from a piece of wood that would not split easily, such as alder or sycamore. The makers of the shoes were known as ‘bodgers.’ Once clogs took off in the fashion world, people began making them by machine, however, there are still traditional clog makers in the Netherlands that craft them by hand. The Kooijman Workshop is a factory near Amsterdam that utilizes antique machines to craft and sell more than a million clogs each year.
CLOGS in the 21st CENTURY
It is not uncommon to see clogs coming down the runway in the 21st century, especially pairs that resemble the sleek styles from the 60s. DiorQuake clogs were seen on the runway at the Dior Fall/Winter 2018 show, featuring leather and patchwork styles. An affordable clog option was designed by Swedish Hasbeens and Danskos that make clogs a comfortable stylish option for those who cannot afford Dior’s spin on the traditional Netherlands shoe.
The clog has seen its fair share of ups and downs over several centuries. Starting out as a shoe worn by peasants, it made its way in the world of fashion, fell out of style, and made a strong comeback on the runway. Regardless, the iconic nature of the clog has remained sturdy and unworn, just like the shoe itself.