Holland vs Netherlands

Online sightseeing of The Netherlands.

Why walk on wooden shoes?

Have you ever wondered why someone would intentionally want to walk around in shoes that could give you a splinter? Nowadays wooden clogs are largely sold in the Netherlands as tourist souvenirs, only a few farmers will walk them regularly  A clog is a type of footwear made in part or completely from wood. Clogs are used worldwide and although the form may vary by culture, within a culture the form often remained unchanged for centuries.

Early History
The Dutch have been wearing wooden shoes, or clogs, or “Klompen” since medieval times. Originally, they were made with a wooden sole and a leather top or strap tacked to the wood. Eventually, the shoes began to be made entirely from wood to protect the whole foot. Originally, alder, willow and poplar woods were used. The first guild of clog makers dates back to around 1570 in Holland. Wooden shoe wearers claim the shoes are warm in winter, cool in summer and provide support for good posture. The wood also absorbs perspiration so that the foot can breathe.

Workers Footwear 
In Holland, wooden shoes are worn by farmers, fishermen, factory workers, artisans and others to protect their feet. Nails, fishing hooks and sharp implements that might pierce a regular boot will not go through a wooden shoe. On boats and docks and in muddy fields, wooden shoes also keep feet dry.

For every profession the wooden shoe would be shaped differently. Fishermen had a sharp point on the nose, so the clogs could help sort out the fishing nets. If your work was to dig out peat, the bottom of the clog was a large square. This way your weight was better spread offer the soggy soil. The square was also the perfect size for digging out the peat blocks.

The working clogs where just blank, nothing special about them. For wear around house, church, weddings etcetera clogs were painted or carved. A regular painting would be yellow with some red and black on the top. Wooden clogs were poor man shoes. To make them look like the fancy leather shoes with laces the design on top often featured the laces and the lace holes. Each clog maker had is own design, it was his signature.
Wooden shoes, as icons of Dutch culture, appear in customs such as the practice of young Dutch men presenting their fiancées with a pair of carved wooden shoes.

Making clogs
Every town or suburb used to have his own clog maker in The Netherlands. It would take 3-4 hours to make one pair of wooden shoes by hand. First with a pull saw you had to slice the tree trunk. Then the slice needed to be split and given the rough shape with a special small axe. With a sharp knife the clog maker would smooth the shape of the clog on the outside before scooping out the wood from the inside. Clog makers always work with wet wood as they have to make a lot of curves (dry wood would splinter). Drying of the carved clogs takes about 3 weeks and is done by the wind.
Nowadays there are only 12 clog makers left in the whole of The Netherlands. Machines are used to speed up to process. Clogs are still worn by a few people when working in the gardens or on farms.

Visit a traditional clog maker 
Master clog maker Frans van Kuijk loves to demonstrate you his passion of clog making, which has been in his family for 300 years. He will demonstrate his craft by hand and machine. www.klompenmakerijvankuijk.nl

As he only speaks Dutch you can also book a tour with a private guide who can translate 😉

One comment on “Why walk on wooden shoes?

  1. Pingback: A History of Clogs - The Natural Shoe Store Blog

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2012 by in Country side, History and tagged , .

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