Thursday, August 15, 2019

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 by 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 by 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 by Youtube Channel)

More Information
Wooden sandals come back with pizzaz Viet Nam News 2006. Reviewed 16/08/2019

Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

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)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Pair of Leather Clogs

A Pair of Leather Clogs. Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

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

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)