Dutch clogs. isolated on white image by Accent from Fotolia.com

Clogs are carved wooden shoes that were traditionally worn by both male and female peasantry throughout Europe since the shoes originated in the early 1300s. Wooden clog shoes were designed as a practical covering for the foot that provided protection and comfort against harsh elements. Throughout history they were traditionally worn by the peasant classes, but by the twentieth century they evolved into fashionable footwear.

Places of Origin

Wooden clogs originated in Holland, eventually spreading to France, England and Scandinavia. The clog shoe became the most common work shoe in Europe throughout the Industrial Revolution era. Clog shoes were derived from "calceus" shoes, wooden-soled shoes that existed during the Roman empire. Calceus shoes had wooden soles and leather straps that wrapped over the top of the foot. The design of the wooden clog evolved from the demand for an enclosed shoe that would protect the feet from the wet and cold elements.

Shoes of Peasants

Both male and female members of the peasant classes wore clogs throughout history for warmth and protection. The strong support offered by clogs made them an ideal choice of shoes for miners, farmers and construction workers. Wooden clog shoes were considered more utilitarian than fashionable, being worn for their comfort for working in fields and for labor-intensive jobs and activities. They protected the feet in extreme climates. Throughout the early history of wooden clogs, members of nobility would not wear wooden clogs because they were associated with the garments worn by peasants.

How Clogs Were Made

Craftsman who specialized in the making of clogs were referred to as "bodgers." Balsa, alder, willow, beech and sycamore woods were favored by these craftsmen for creating clogs because these woods did not split easily. Traditional clogs were made from a square block of wood. The wood was wet down, axed and smoothed into shape. The shoes were stacked to allow for thorough drying. They were then painted, usually with a variety of patterns. Many villages had their own patterns and designs for clogs, and the styles of shoe varied throughout different areas of Europe.

Evolution of the Clog

Clogs make a characteristic clicking sound when walking, and it was this unique rhythm that inspired clog dancing during the Victorian era in England. Clog dancing eventually made its way to the United States during the eighteenth century, and wooden clog shoes inspired the creation of modern tap dance shoes. Throughout the late twentieth century in Europe and the United States, clogs became very fashionable. Modern clogs borrow the styles of traditional clogs with wooden soles, with new materials such as leather and cloth used for the structure of the shoes.