Wooden shoes, also known as clogs, are a type of footwear made primarily from wood. They have been worn in various cultures worldwide for centuries and are associated with traditional costumes in areas such as the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. But what exactly are wooden shoes called? Here is a deep dive into the many names and terminology associated with this unique type of footwear.
The Many Names for Wooden Shoes
Wooden shoes go by many different names, depending on the country and language. Some of the most common terms include clogs as the most widely used English name for wooden shoes. This term can refer to both traditional wooden shoes and more modern, industrial styles. Sabots is the French word for wooden shoes, common in areas of France and French-speaking countries. Klompen is the Dutch name for wooden shoes, used especially to describe traditional Dutch clogs. Trumaskor is the Swedish name for clogs, referring to the traditional wooden shoes of Sweden. Zoccos is the name used for wooden shoes traditionally worn in Northern Spain, while Galochas is the Spanish name for wooden shoes worn in other parts of Spain. Pattens is sometimes used in English to refer to wooden soles or overshoes worn to elevate the foot above mud or dirt.
In summary, while “clogs” is the most common all-encompassing English term, traditional wooden shoes go by many names worldwide tied to regional heritage and language.
Key Features and Styles of Wooden Shoes
Beyond naming conventions, it’s also helpful to understand the key features that characterize different wooden shoe styles and designs. Traditional wooden clogs are made from a solid piece of wood for the sole/base and often have an upper part made of leather. Styles with full wooden upper are also common. They have outer soles angled slightly upward from heel to toe and commonly have decorative carvings and painted motifs.
Industrial wooden clogs are made with wood sole but have heavy metal reinforcements used as protective work shoes, especially before modern safety shoes. They often have perforations for ventilation and less decoration compared to traditional styles.
Wooden soles/pattens are not fully enclosed shoes, mainly just wooden soles worn over normal shoes to elevate the foot and provide protection from mud/dirt. They attach to shoes with leather straps or rings.
Wooden sandals are sandal-like wooden shoes with toe post between first two toes secured to foot with straps over tops of feet. They allow more air circulation compared to enclosed clogs.
Platform wooden clogs are a fashion-forward modern style with very thick wooden sole to add height. They have a more stylized leather upper with ankle strap popularized by Swedish Hasbeens and other brands.
By understanding the design nuances and styles associated with wooden shoes, it becomes easier to identify the characteristics that define this traditional type of footwear in its many cultural incarnations.
The Origins and History of Wooden Shoes
Wooden shoes have a very long and storied history spanning many centuries. The earliest known wooden shoes date back to the 12th century BCE in Northern Europe, when wood was plentiful and cheaper than leather. Wooden sole pattens became popular throughout the Roman Empire as a way to keep feet dry and elevated. In the Middle Ages, wooden shoes spread through peasant communities in Northern Europe for affordability and availability of materials. By the 1600s, sabots became widely worn by French peasants and farmers, becoming a symbol of poverty and the working class. During the Industrial Revolution, clogs became daily work shoes in factories due to their affordability and suitability for wet conditions. In the 19th Century, traditional hand-carved wooden shoes were a core part of regional costumes in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Spain. By the 20th Century, wooden shoes began a decline as modern footwear became more widely available, but remained in use for specialized work applications.
In summary, wooden clogs have hundreds of years of history spanning work wear, cultural identity, and stylistic status. Their origins are rooted in affordability, availability, and functionality – properties that continued to define their place in society through modern times.
Traditional Production and Hand Crafting of Wooden Clogs
For many centuries, wooden clogs were individually hand-carved by skilled craftspeople using traditional production methods. Willow and alder were preferred materials in Europe for their softness, though lighter woods like pine could also be used. Wood was harvested from forests and sawmills provided pre-cut blocks. The wood needed to be partially dried and seasoned before carving.
The basic sole shape was carved from a single block of wood using chisels, axes, and knives. The sole was carved with the upper part of the tip angled slightly upward and a hollow for the foot carved into the sole. Grooves were added for attaching leather upper parts. Intricate designs and motifs were then carved on the outer sides and top edges in regional styles – geometric patterns in Holland and leaves and flowers in Sweden. Paint or colored varnish was applied to highlight the carved designs.
Leather uppers were shaped and nailed to the wooden sole, with linen strips helping bind the leather to the wood. Complete shoes were polished using wax or varnish. The shoes were usually mass produced in whole sizes and ready for fittings, with custom shaping done during fitting to accommodate the uniqueness of each foot. This hand production process imbued traditional wooden shoes with distinctive regional styles and personalized fits suited to the wearer.
Traditional Regional Wooden Shoe Styles
Wooden shoe styles, decoration, and production varied greatly by country and region across Europe. Dutch clogs originated in the Middle Ages and became ubiquitous by the 1600s. They were carved from willow due to its water resistance and often had leather fronts over tops of feet. They featured rich decorative painted flowers and regional motifs and were worn as everyday shoes by all social classes. Swedish Träskor were simpler, coarser wooden shoes of pine or alder with braided leather or fabric uppers and painted leaves, flowers and geometric patterns. They were worn by farmers, fishers and the rural working class.
In Spain, Zoccos and Galochas were worn in northern regions and made from poplar or willow wood. They featured angled tips and lace-up leather uppers with painted or inlaid motifs and designs. They were associated with farmers and mountain dwellers. French Sabots were iconic as the shoes of peasant farmers and country workers. They were put together more roughly using cheaper softwoods with leather uppers over the instep and toes. They were known for producing a “clip-clop” sound when worn.
The unique culture and environment of each country produced distinctive wooden shoe styles still associated with traditional regional dress.
Later Evolution Into Industrial Work Clogs
Starting in the 1800s, the use of wooden shoes evolved from traditional peasant footwear into industrial work clogs. This new style adapted traditional wooden soles for factory conditions, originating in Northern England among textile workers in the 1840s. They were designed with metal toe caps and reinforcing nails/plates to improve durability, and ventilation holes were added to improve breathability in hot factories. Industrial clogs took over from traditional clogs as everyday work shoes in industrial towns as they were mass manufactured using machinery, losing the individual crafting of traditional clogs. They were used extensively in industries like mining, textiles, and manufacturing, even persisting after modern work boots were available due to familiarity. The industrial clog became closely associated with factory work conditions and blue collar labor activism.
The industrial clog emerged as an evolution of the traditional wooden shoe made to suit modern factory work. Though lacking artisan detailing, it played an important role in working class life and labor culture.
The Decline and Niche Persistence of Wooden Shoes
As modern footwear became more widely available by the early 20th century, the use of wooden shoes began to decline in most parts of the world. However, they persisted in some niche contexts such as clog dancing, where carved soles with tapping plates became part of the emerging dance style. They continued to be used in messy work settings like food service and healthcare for their protective qualities. Individual craftspeople kept the tradition of hand carving wooden clogs alive for enthusiasts, even as mass production declined. In parts of Europe, wooden clogs remained part of traditional regional dress and cultural identity. They adapted to orthopedic footwear with custom supports and shaping for medical uses. Wooden clogs also persisted as gardening shoes that could get muddy and wet. Additionally, they were used in historical theater productions and cultural reenactments.
So while no longer everyday modern wear, wooden shoes lived on in certain niches where their unique properties still provided value, allowing them to remain associated with cultural traditions.
The Modern Revival and Fashion for Wooden Clogs
More recently, wooden clogs have seen a revival in popularity driven by both nostalgia and fashion. Interest in vintage workwear and dress has created demand for old industrial clogs for their vintage appeal. Chunky platform clogs emerged as a retro callback to 1970s style. Hand carved clogs with folk motifs appeal as artisanal footwear. Wood and natural materials resonate with eco-conscious consumers who value sustainability.
Swedish Hasbeens played a key role by repopularizing platform clogs beginning in the 1970s. The wide range of traditional options from floral painted Dutch clogs to solid Swedish work styles attracts collectors and enthusiasts. The cool retro vibe and artisanal appeal of wooden clogs has led to newfound popularity with consumers looking for authenticity and statement style.
How Wooden Clogs Are Made Today
While largely a niche product today, wooden clogs are still produced using both historic and modern techniques. Some fully hand carved clogs are still made using traditional tools and craft for those seeking that artisanal appeal. However, many soles are pre-cut by CNC machines for consistency in sizing. Power tools like sanders, grinders and rotary tools help speed up decorative processes. There is also some partial machine production, with components like leather uppers being machine produced for efficiency while the soles remain handmade.
Sustainable wood sourcing and forestry practices ensure providers can access responsibly harvested materials. There is still an emphasis on custom final adjustments to fit the wearer’s feet properly. Production remains small and specialized rather than mass scale. While processes are partially modernized, many producers focus on hand finishing like painting, sealing, and polishing to deliver quality. This mix of traditional skill, modern process, and sustainable material supplies allows wooden shoe producers to maintain quality and responsible practices.
Key Brands Producing Wooden Clogs Today
There are a number of companies today keeping wooden clog production alive through small batch manufacturing. Some notable brands include:
Swedish Hasbeens, famous for 1970s revival of wooden platform clogs known for bold colors and chunky silhouette. Birkenstock, producing contoured wooden soled clogs with suede upper based on their original cork designs. Draxtor from Spain, creating handmade wooden clogs with traditional Catalan styling and motifs. Mozo Shoes based in Colorado, producing wooden soled clogs designed for food service and hospitality work. DeBoos specializing in recreations of intricately decorated, hand-carved Dutch clogs. And South Korean company Baek Clogs crafting modern engineered wooden clogs with traditional namaksin motifs.
While small in production scale, these brands and local artisans are preserving the heritage wooden shoe making skills still valued today.
How to Buy Wooden Clogs
For those interested in purchasing some wooden clogs, it’s recommended to try on different styles in person, since many run in whole sizes. Consider ordering custom sizing for an optimal comfort fit tailored to your feet. Think about your intended occasion – everyday styles tend to be more durable while fashion clogs feature more delicate materials. Take time to evaluate construction quality and responsible use of eco-friendly woods. Learn about a brand’s heritage and process to understand their craftsmanship. Taking this time to consider fit, use, materials, and brand philosophies will help identify the ideal pair of wooden clogs for individual needs and style.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wooden Clogs
Q: Are wooden clogs comfortable to wear?
A: Properly fitted wooden clogs can be very comfortable, thanks to the anatomical shaping and ability to mold to feet over time. New wearers need an adjustment period to break-in the wood.
Q: What are the main benefits of wooden clogs?
A: Benefits include durability, water resistance, slip resistance, and breathability from wood’s natural properties. The stable supportive platforms are also beneficial orthopedically.
Q: Should wooden clogs be worn with or without socks?
A: Most types of wooden clogs are designed to be worn without socks to maximize the breathability and molding of the wood to feet. However, socks can provide extra warmth in cold weather.
Q: How long do wooden clogs typically last with regular wear?
A: With proper care like re-varnishing, wooden clogs can last 5-10 years or longer. The soles and leather uppers will need occasional repairs over time.
Wooden clogs have a storied history and regional diversity that gives them a special place in traditional dress and footwear heritage. Beyond the rustic stereotypes, they demonstrate impressive craftsmanship and practical design. Their durability, comfort and natural appeal has allowed them to persist even in the modern era. While once ubiquitous work shoes, they are now a niche product sought by enthusiasts who appreciate their nostalgic quality and statement style. By learning about the varied terminology, cultural styles and production methods, it becomes easy to see why this iconic footwear has endured across centuries, adapted over time, and continues to inspire artisanal devotion today.