Monday, September 17, 2018

Pattens (wooden overshoes) and Pantoffles

By the 14th century poulaines (long toes shoes) were protected by wooden overshoes called pattens. These safeguarded the delicate materials preventing mud and water from destroying the materials they were made from.

In Spain during the Spanish Renaissance the pantoffle, a cross between the wooden soled clog and the patten overshoe, became popular. The wedged mule footwear consisted of a wooden sole with a soft leather or fabric upper. Pantoffles were popular and worn by the women of the court usually in platform style. The pantoffle crossed over into mainstream fashion more readily than the traditional wooden clog which remained very much footwear of the peasantry.

By the 16th century pattens were regularly advertised in the London Gazette and popular with both sexes. By the 17th century many references to pattens were included in popular literature. In his diary, Samuel Pepys complained in 1660 about the poor workmanship of his wife's pattens.

In 1694 Queen Mary II was known to have a collection of satin pantofles with gold and silver lacing.

In Jane Austen’s novel, “Northanger Abbey,” the character Catherine Morland records on her trip to the abbey that some girls wearing pattens stopped to curtsey.

In Charles Dickens’ novel, The cricket on the health, Mrs Mary Perrybingle was described as 'clicking over the wet stones in a pair of pattens.”

The early settlers to Brisbane (circa 1824) were known to embark from their ship wearing fashionable small patten overshoes to protect their shoes.

Reviewed 6/09/2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A brief history of Clogs

Clogs or wooden shoes have a long social history which has association with shoes of the peasantry. Cheap, durable and made from available wood, clogs were commonplace from Scandinavia to France and Northern England. The all wooden shoe was made from a single block of wood and were called different names in different countries e.g. Klomp (Netherlands), Klompen (German) and Sabots (France).

The choice of wood was important and those most favoured were woods which would not split. Alder, birch, sycamore, willow or beech were commonly used. Wooden clogs were worn either with no embellishment or with a thick straw bed used to pad against the rigidity of the wood.

In Europe, itinerant craftsmen, known as bodgers, prepared the wood for clogs by roughly shaping the soles. These were stacked in pyramids to allow air to circulate ensuring a natural and even drying. One of the essentials of a good pair of clogs was to pair them from the beginning so the wood would shrink together.

The first clog maker’s guild was formed in Netherlands in 1570 and the first English clog making guild came much later in the 1600s. Clogs had a brief flirtation as stylish shoes for the middle class but was soon forsaken and condemned to be the footwear of the worker.

By 1792, Citizens of the Revolution wore proletarian costume, which included sabots. Lithuanian peasants from the end of the 18th century wore wooden clogs to work in the fields.

Clogs were popular with mill workers in the North of England during the nineteenth century and worn up until the Second World War. On Sundays or festive occasions, the custom was to replace the clogs with leather shoes sporting a silver buckle. The custom of "Sunday Best" still exists in modern society.

Clogs were worn by both sexes and sometimes varnished black with a coloured pattern or the initials of the wearer included in the design.

A Dutch courting custom was for the young man to present a pair of hand carved and decorated clogs to his fiancé.

George Beau Brummell (1778-1840) was an outspoken critic of clogs and according to a biographer publicly condemned them. In private the bella figure occasionally wore a pair of clogs.

The design of Swedish clogs differs from the shoe type traditionally seen elsewhere. It consists of a backless shoe with a wooden sole. This design is closest to the older patten style and ironically remains the most popular design of modern clogs.

The traditional wooden clog is still worn on ceremonial occasions and at traditional dancing events but sadly the number of craftsmen able to make clogs has significantly reduced.

(Video Courtesy: treemaid Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 16/09/2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Guốc Mộc : Vietnamese wooden sandals

Guốc Mộc are sandals worn by Vietnamese and considered by many as a national dress. The earliest reference to sandals was in the third century, when a Vietnamese resistance leader called Ba Trieu wore ivory clogs. Experts believe it took until the Tran Dynasty (1407-1409) before bamboo sandals made from bamboo roots were worn by the population who up until this time went unshod.

Bamboo sandals were usually kept for festivals or visiting friends and wooden clogs were worn at home. These were usually homemade and had thick soles with slightly turned-up tips. The straps, which attached through a hole in the front and a pair of holes on the sides, were braided from soft cloth.

The curved sole meant the knot of the front strap did not rub on the ground. The soles of women's clogs were shaped like hour-glasses, while sampan clogs (men's clogs) had straight soles. The white wood was left unpainted but well-to-do people would have their clogs painted in black and brown with a pale coloured triangle on the side of the sole. In some areas clogs were known as ‘dons” and a common saying was "a foot with a shoe, a foot with a don" to indicate rich people who put on airs.

Before the August Revolution in 1945, clogs produced in Hue were called "capital clogs" or guoc kinh. These clogs had soles made from coconut shells or light wood, painted white and gold with embroidered straps.

The Guoc Viet (wooden sandals) became more popular under the French Rule during the Nguyen Dynasty (1858 -1945). At first rich town dwellers wore the new wooden sandals before the costume eventually spread to rural workers. Generally school children wore clogs up until the 1940s. Guoc Viet were made in craft villages in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Ha Tay, and Thanh Tri and Thanh Xuan districts in Ha Noi. The sandals were made from a special wood called mit because of its light weight, strength and durability. Sandals varied from the very expensive to the cheap and cheerful. Most people kept their better sandals for special and solemn occasions and they were often worn with traditional ao dai dresses. Gradually the wooden sandal was replaced with designer fashion.

Traditional wooden sandals are still available and can be bought in the market places for about VND40,000 (US$2.50). It is common for tourists to combine their favourite sandal sole with an attractive strap and the sandal merchants will nail the shoes to order. More fashionable sandals are now available and made from the wood of the bead-tree, fir and coral tree. Bead-tree wood is considered the best quality as it does not easily break or bend. It is also a heavy wood and so some manufacturers use fir tree wood because it is a lighter wood. Artisans shape the sandal then they are painted with a glossy paint, before decorations are drawn onto the surface.

(Video Courtesy: RFA Tiếng Việt Published on Youtube Channel)

The Vietnamese poet To Huu considered the zither like sound made by young girls and their wooden shoes to be a romantic.

(Video Courtesy: Lê Tâm Published on Youtube Channel)

During the American War in Vietnam, Viet Cong wore sandals made from tyre rubber with the sandal soles reversed to confuse anyone following in their footsteps through the Củ Chi tunnels.

(Video Courtesy: turtleface77 Published on Youtube Channel)

Thursday, September 13, 2018


The national footwear of the Philippines is wooden clogs with a plastic strap and called ‘bakya.’ Bakya were made from local light wood e.g. santol and laniti. These were cut to the desired foot size before being shaven until smooth. The side of the bakya was thick enough to be carved with floral, geometric or landscape designs. Afterwards, the bakya were painted or varnished. Uppers of plastic or rubber were fastened using clavitos (tiny nails).

Bakya became much sought after souvenirs in late 40s and 50 and were particularly prized by the US personnel posted to the Philippines. The shoes were ubiquitous until the 70s when their popularity began to wain as cheaper rubber slippers replaced them. Bakya were demoted to shoes of low socio-economical groups and the term ‘bakya’ became synonymous with poor taste.

Several attempts have been made to relaunch the ‘bakya’ as a fashion style with appeal to the current market. To make ‘bakya’ stylish the traditional wooden base was shaped and a leather strap replaced the original plastic. Added comfort in the form of footbeds with heel gel cup and triple-layer sole features are also featured. The new bakya are available in a wide rang of styles for men, women and children.

The traditional Bakya Dance has young girls and boys teasing each other rhythmically with their bakya.

(Video Courtesy: omilkris Published on Youtube Channel)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wooden shoes in Antiquity

Although light sandals carved from smooth wood were discovered in the tombs of ancient Egyptians it is generally thought the Greeks then the Etruscan used pattens or clogs. Wooden shoes were exquisitely carved and worn high (platform style) to keep the feet dry. Some had sandal like straps whilst others had woven sheaths to cover the forefoot.

The wooden shoes were ornately decorated and sometimes included inlaid mother of pearl and silver. The wooden shoes were commonly used in bath houses and Indian and Persian clogs (knob sandals) were held next to the foot with a toe grip, similar to sandals.

Wood platform sandals were worn by the harem women and the unique sound of the wooden shoe hitting the tiled floors led the shoes to be called kap-kaps The fashion was most often found in the coastal areas of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, from the Nile to the Euphrates. The origins of kap-kaps remains clouded but most likely these were associated with ceremonial dress before they became a general fashion.

According to Rossi (2000) at Eastern weddings knobs on women’s sandals were connected by a small chain which required the bride to take small mincing steps, signifying the bride’s sub-servience to her husband.

Overshoes made from wood (pattens) were also know in Roman Times and worn by people living in the Ardennes region (Belgium and Luxembourg and parts of France). At the same time the French region of Ardenne was inhabited by the Gauls and the wooden overshoe became known as "galoche" which later evolved into galoshes. Wooden pattens were serviceable, hardwearing and provided protection from the wet ground. Romans wore wooden clogs in the hot baths and these were referred to as "Tyrrhenian sandals."

Wood was also used to make footwear in Japan where young girls went to the temple wearing wooden clogs or getas. These were platform wooden shoes often 3-4 inches from the ground and were worn with tabi, a special sock. The Geta were made from nezuko wood because it was waterproof, lightweight and hardwearing. Reference to clogs was common place in the songs, poems and novels of the Meiji period at the turn of this century.

For centuries Samuari warriors wore geta and zori sandals made from woven straw or wood.

Reviewed 13/09/2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Madreñas : Wooden overshoes

The mountainous areas of Northern Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Catabria and the Basque Country) and Castilla and Leon, Aragon and Catalonia, have a humid climate with a lot of rain which makes roads and fields very muddy. Traditional footwear local to these regions include madreñas which are wooden over shoes. Soles include added blocks to lift the feet from the mud. The shoes were made locally by village craftsmen and are highly decorated with carvings or painting. The design is usually different for men and women.

Madreñas are similar to Dutch and Sweden clogs and made from a single piece of wood of green alder, beech, walnut or less often brown poplar.

(Video Courtesy: Cultura Gijón Xixón Youtube Channel)

Monday, September 10, 2018

From getas to concealed platforms

Noritaka Tatehana is a shoe designer responsible for Lady Gaga’s clog-like shoes Indeed his creations which are between 25 and 46 centimetres (10 to 18 inches) off the ground have become her signature icon. As a result the Japanese designer’s footwear is in such high demand despite their $US 15,000 price tag. The elfin, Lady Gaga has more than 20 pairs of shoes of his shoes and all are hand crafted to fit her feet.

Inspiration for his sky-high platforms originated from the traditional geta shoes worn by geishas.

In his Tokyo workshop there are dozens of shoes in various stages, from ideas to completed pairs covered in Swarovski crystals or golden studs. The 26 year old was still only a student at the Tokyo University of the Arts when he began his career. The shoes he created as part of his graduation thesis were to become the first pair for Lady Gaga. When the fashion designer announced his creation in an industry-wide email, one of only three responses happened to come from Gaga’s stylist. Tatehana’s designs have been displayed at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, with curator Valerie Steele commenting that he is one of the most important shoe designers of this generation. His “heel-less” high-heeled shoes have revolutionized the idea of extreme footwear, she says. The secret of Tatehana’s shoes is his designs transfer the mass of the wearer from the heel to the ball of the foot. Lady Gaga can walk and dance in her as if shoes as if she were on tip toes.

(Video Courtesy: Lady Gaga Youtube Channel)

The popularity of Tatehana’s high stacks led to the rise of concealed platforms as the new fashion vogue for the glitterati. However. sometimes what seems a good idea on the drawing board may result in challenges to those not so well schooled in deportment. X Factor (UK) judges, Tulisa Contostavlos and Mel B (aka "Scary Spice" from the Spice Girl) found themselves teetering on the bring recently when they attempted to negotiate stairs in their fashionable concealed platforms. Both nearly came a cropper in front of the paparazzi.

Reviewed 11/09/2018