Clogs are a type of footwear that is known worldwide, however their appearance and the material that they are made from may vary from culture to culture. Traditionally used in agriculture, some types of clogs are specifically worn for various styles of dancing, which demonstrates the diversity of the shoe.
Carved wooden clogs originated in the early 1300s in Europe, and while originally they were worn by peasants and the lower classes, clogs became a fashionable choice of footwear by the 14th Century. Clogs are derived from “calceus” shoes, which were wooden soled shoes from the Roman Empire. Calceus shoes had a leather strap that wrapped around the top of the foot, and so the design of the clog developed due to the high demand for an enclosed shoe that offered protection from the elements. The oldest surviving European wooden shoes that resemble the clogs that are still worn today have been found in the Netherlands, and date from 1230 and 1280.
Traditionally, clogs were hand crafted from a single square block of wood, which was wet down, then axed and smoothed into shape. Craftsmen specialising in the making of clogs were commonly known as bodgers, and they preferred to use wood such as balsa, beech and sycamore as these types of woods do not split easily. The clogs were then painted, and the styles and designs varied across Europe depending on the local fashion.
There are three types of clog styles: whole feet or wooden upper, which is typically associated with Holland, wooden soled and overshoes. Whole feet clogs were traditionally worn as protective clothing in agriculture, industrial facilities and mining, and while they are still worn in these industries today, they are also worn by nurses and chefs for both protection and comfort.
Clogs make a characteristic clicking sound when worn, which inspired clog dancing in Victorian Britain. By the 18th Century, clog dancing had made its way to America, and the traditional clog inspired the design of the modern tap shoe that we know today.
Modern clog designs often mix the traditional clog style with more modern materials, such as leather and cloth. In the 70s and 80s, Swedish clogs became a fashionable accessory for both men and women. When worn without socks, clogs were considered to be somewhat of an avant-garde fashion statement for the fashion forward man.
In the 80s and 90s, clogs and sandals with a platformed heel were incredibly fashionable for women. The large mid section of the heel, which typically ranged between 6 and 8 inches, was typically made of cork, while the rubber sole was often a pale sand-like colour.
Platformed clogs have also featured on the high-fashion circuit; Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf included heeled clogs in their 2007/08 Winter Collection. Clogs returned to women’s fashion again in 2010 thanks to top designers such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton including them in their Spring/Summer Collection.
While clogs are fundamentally a practical type of shoe, clogs remain a truly iconic style of footwear thanks to their unique shape, with variations of the design remaining true to the traditional look of the past.