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Clogs

Clogs are 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.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines a clog as a "thick piece of wood", and later as a "wooden soled overshoe" and a "shoe with a thick wooden sole".

It is important to note that not all clogs look like the traditional wooden clogs that you may be picturing in your mind from Sweeden.  They are not simply folkloric footwear. 

Are all clogs the same?

NO they are not.  Old fashion clogs, are generally thought of as all wood clogs that cover the entire foot.  However, there is now a more modern version that is often just “partially" wood.

Wooden Clogs

The modern day Swedish clogs (wooden bottom and leather top) can still be seen as a trendy fashion item from time to time.  You will have to check with the fashion magazines to see if they are in style this year or not.  Clogs are often used now as ladies’ high-heeled boots.

Leather Clogs

Different types of clogs:

As mentioned above, the history of the world has witnessed various types of clogs.  They are not all the old fashion all wood clog.

Wooden upper clogs; are made by hollowing out a lump of solid wood to make a combined upper and lower.  

Two main variants can be seen: whole foot clogs; where the wooden upper covers the whole of the foot to near the ankle, such as the familiar Dutch klomp. They are also known as "wooden shoes".  Whole foot clogs can give sufficient protection to be used as safety footwear without additional reinforcements.  However, in modern times, you may want to go with a steal toed boot if you really need a significant amount of protection.

half open clogs; is when the wooden upper extends over the toes or slightly further, such as the Italian "zoccolo" or Belgian sabots.  The upper is similar in outline to a court shoe.  Half open clogs may have additional covering or securing straps in some sort of fabric or leather.  This type of shoe does not offer as much protection as the whole foot clogs.

Wooden soled clogs; use wood for the sole only.  This would be the more common type if you were shopping for fashion clogs.  Wooden soled clogs come with a variety of uppers: complete uppers made from leather or similar material, such as English clogs.  For more protection, they may have steel toecaps and/or steel reinforcing inserts in the undersides of the soles. 

Overshoes; are wooden soles with straps designed to be worn over other footwear for protection, commonly known as pattens.  Patten style clogs are rarely (almost never) worn in modern times.  Some medieval pattens were in two pieces, heel through to ball and ball to toes.  Joining the two was a leather strip forming a hinge, thus allowing the shoe above to flex.  A derivative of a pattens are galoshes.  The word  galoshes comes through French and Latin from Greek and originally meant a shoemaker's last; literally "wood" + "foot".  By the 14 C it had been transferred to English style clogs, that is those with a wooden sole and fabric (e.g. leather) upper.   By 1572 the term also applied to "a Gallage or Patten", that is an overshoe with a shaped wooden base to raise the wearer's good shoes off the ground.  Over time galoshes took on a newer meaning.  A more current explanation is that galoshes (from French: galoches), also known as dickersons or overshoes, are a type of rubber boot that is slipped over shoes to keep them from getting muddy or wet. The word galoshes might be used interchangeably with boot, especially a rubberized boot. Properly speaking, however, a galosh is an overshoe made of a weatherproof material to protect a more vulnerable shoe underneath and keep the foot warm and dry.

Some overshoes look more like whole foot clogs, like Spanish albarca, whilst other wooden soled clogs raise and protect clothing in the way that overshoes do, such as Japanese geta.

Why would anyone wear clogs?

Traditional clogs remain in use as protective footwear in agriculture and in some factories and mines.  Clogs are also used in several different styles of dance.  When worn for dancing an important feature is the sound of the clog against the floor.  This is one of the fundamental roots of tap dancing, but with the tap shoes the taps are free to click against each other and produce different sound to the sound made by a pair of clogs.

In addition to the functional uses of this type of shoe, they are also worn simply for style.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Swedish clogs became popular fashion accessories for men & women. They were usually worn without socks and were considered suitable attire for the avant-garde man.

In the 1980s and 1990s clogs based on Swedish clogs returned in fashion for women.  Platform clogs or sandals, often raised as high as 6 or even 8 inches right through between sole and insole, were worn in many western countries. The large mid layer was often made of solid cork, although some were merely of plastic with a cork covering.  The sole, more often than not, was made of a light sandy-colored rubber.  Some of the platforms of these clogs were encompassed about with a string-laced effect.

  • Cork is a subset of bark tissue that is harvested for commercial use primarily from Quercus suber (the Cork Oak),

In 2007 Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf introduced high heeled Dutch clogs on the catwalk, with their winter collection of 2007/08. In 2010, Swedish clogs for women returned again in Chanel's and Louis Vuitton's Spring / Summer 2010 collection.

Above are only a few of the examples how designers and trends have been effected by this type of footwear.

How do clogs stay on feet without falling off?

The type of upper determines how the clogs are worn. Whole foot clogs need to be close fitting and can be secured by curling the toes.  In contrast wooden soled clogs are fastened by laces or buckles on the welt and therefore the toes are relaxed as in shoes.  Half open clogs may either be secured like whole foot clogs, or have an additional strap over the top of the foot.  Some sandal types, and in particular toe peg styles, are worn more like "flip-flops" and rely on the grip between the big and next toe.

Being wood, clogs cannot flex under the ball of the foot as softer shoes do.  To allow the foot to roll forward most clogs have the bottom of the toe curved up, known as the cast.  Some styles of clogs have "feet", such as Spanish albarca. The clog rotates around the front edge of the front "feet". Japanese and Indian clogs may have "teeth" or very high pegs attached to the soles. The clog can rotate around the front edge of the front "tooth" as the wearer strides forward.  

What are the benefits to wearing wood shoes?

If you are going with an antique or finely crafted all wood clog, you are getting a piece of history or craftsmanship that is very unique.  Think how nice it would be to wear a pair of shoes that had been handcrafted from wood.  Possibly, not the most comfortable, but the understanding the craft would certainly bring some sort of emotional pleasure (if you have a reverence for the arts, history, or fine workmanship).  Since wooden footwear was a hand-made product, the shape of the footwear, as well as its production process showed great local and regional diversity in style.  At the beginning of the 20th century machine-made wooden footwear was introduced. After WW2, in particular, wooden shoes disappeared from sight. They were replaced by more fashionable all-leather and synthetic footwear.  To be honest, I generally like to wear a pair of sneakers rather than a whole wood clog.

What is the difference between mules and clogs?

Some people refer to them as the same type of shoe.  The primary difference is the clogs generally have a sturdy wooden heel.  When mules arrived on the scene, they typically had a higher heel.  Its not an exact science, but some say that a closed-toe shoe that has a fancier heel would be called a mule.

Is a clog & mule different than a slide?

Learn about other types of footwear.

If you enjoy this type of footwear, you may want to check out the Alexander McQueen Embroidered Clog.  That was a spectacular work of art.  You can see more examples of clogs on the Fashion Blog.

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Learn about performance fabrics in our fashion terms section.


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