Sunday, May 31, 2009

Clogs, Sabots and Sabotage

Traditional clogs may have a workman like past with only a brief flirtation with high fashion but for many they remain a sexy shoe appreciated by both males and females. There are several societies devoted to the appreciation of clogs (cloggies) . From the available literature it seems many admirers are attracted to the footwear because they have seen someone of the opposite sex wearing them. This may suggest an initial attraction is the idea of uni-sex dressing. Terms like "feeling sexy", "appearing attractive to others", or "exuding power in stature" appear popular reasons for wearing clogs. Most males consider clogs as mainstream fashion for females but cheeky and avante garde for men. Many associated shoes with the wearer indicating men pay particular attention to their partner's attire. Some cloggies love the sound they make and others revel in the different materials they are made from. Most wearers insist it is the comfort of the style which draws them to clogs. "Dipping " describes the action of feet sliding in and out of clogs. This habit is reportedly much appreciated by foot partialists and fetishists, alike.

The history of clogs is long and honourable one. Starting life as overshoes or galoshes the evergreen footwear has been part of the evolution of the modern exercise sandal and platform shoe. The shoe type has been associated with poverty and initiatives to promote wearing clogs have always met with disappointment. Perhaps because it is the shoe of ordinary people its many names are onomatopoeic. The wooden shoe does however have many admirers.


A common misconception relates to the etymology of "sabotage" and how it relates to clogs (or sabatage). A popular misunderstanding is Luddites threw their wooden shoes (or sabots) into the machines to break them up. Hence. they sabotaged the machinery. However, Sabot in French not only refers to wooden clogs but also railway sleepers and in all probability disgruntled French workers in 1912 cut the railway tracks and used the sabots (sleepers) to destroy industrial equipment.

Reviewed 8/01/2016

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wooden Clogs: fashion and fashionista

Wooden clogs have rarely ever been fashionable despite their comfort. Always associated with the working class, even after the French Revolution, when the sabot was taken as national dress of the Citizens of France, the costume was later changed to leather shoes. Wooden shoes remain popular throughout the Nordic countries and are worn by both men and women, yet only fleetingly make it to the fashionable catwalks of New York, Rome and Paris.

During the Second World War shortages in Europe meant leather was no longer available for boots and shoes. Instead governments encouraged people to turn to wooden soled shoes as a practical solution. Although fashion magazines patriotically photographed their top models wearing them it failed to persuade others to follow suit. By then most people associated clogs with working-class poverty and were less inclined to adopt them as a fashionable clothing. Even when the middle classes were eventually forced to wear clogs it was very much under duress.

In Occupied Countries some black marketeers were reported to wear clogs which had shoe prints going the opposite way. This was thought to be an attempt to confuse authorities trying to follow them. Black marketeer’s clogs were also reputed to contain secret compartments to hide clandestine contraband and or information.

The hey day for clogs as fashionable shoes came briefly in the 1970s when the supergroup Abba were popular. Although the group are better known for their platform boots they were also photographed many times wearing wooden clogs. A popular line of fashion clogs followed which had the ABBA logo stamped on the outer side of the soles.

Actor and singer Adam Faith loved wearing clogs especially in his most famous television role of Cockney larrikin, ‘Budgie’ Bird in Budgie.

Another clog devotees is Brian May (Queen): and Whoopi Goldberg was seen wearing them in several of her movies including Made in America.

Reviewed 7/01/2016

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clog Dancing

Clog dancing became very popular in Victorian times among the working class people in the North of England. The hardwearing wood against the cobbled streets allowed the dancer to create rhythm by tapping with the toes and heels. To make the clog lighter the uppers were cut lower at the ankle and the soles made from ash wood.

Dancers required to be nimble because the steps were complex. Solo dancers danced on a slab of hardwearing wood that made a ringing sound. Amateur dancers added drama to their performance by using metal tags, nailed to their soles, which caused sparks to appear. Clog dancing was mainly a male preserve with troops of male clog dancers found all over the North of England. Gradually however female clog dancers became very popular in music halls.

One of the most famous professional clog dancing troupe were J.W. Jackson's Eight Lancashire lads. A young Charlie Chaplain joined the troupe in 1896 and was paid one pound sterling per week plus his keep.

Clog dancing was introduced to US, towards the end of the nineteenth century, where upon it was quickly transformed into tap dancing. The mania swept from coast to coast. At first the tap shoe was a modified clog but later these were replaced with tap shoes with metal jingles. Initially tap dancing was a male preserve but soon became popular with women and chorus lines.

The girls wore special shoes known as Mary Janes, kept on with ankle straps fasten with a buckle or button. The shoes were often split clogs with half a sole and the heel in wood. To emphasise the sound some shoes had jingles attached to the shank. When the heels hit the floor they made a sound like two coins struck together.

Clog dancing still can be seen at traditional folk festivals and dance exhibitions all over the world.

Reviewed 6/01/2016

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Clog Makers

Clogs incorporate many styles from slip-ons to lacing. Blutcher and Derby style lacing clogs are especially popular and well-known companies continue to make them. These include the long established Swedish firm Troentorptoffel who produce clogs in Bastad (pronounced bow-stodd). Mia Clogs and Olaf Daughters (now closed) were Swedish producers of popular lines throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Berkemann is a well-known German company and make orthopaedic clogs; Danish clog makers, Dansko and Sanita still produce quality clogs.

The successful secret of all shoes is the tread line across the ball of the foot which results when the heel height and toe spring are matched. The rigid lever of the shoe allows the foot to pivot against the ground during stance phase and propel effortlessly forward. Clogs shaped to meet the contours of the sole of the foot further reduce peak pressures across the area and give the shoe added comfort.

The same principal was used with exercise sandals, popularised by Dr Scholl in the sixties and seventies.

Critics of clogs frequently dismiss them as improper footwear for general wear on the basis they do not provide adequate support to the foot during locomotion. Provided clogs fit with the tread line and ball of the foot in close approximation, then the shoes provide the same functional support as any other. For those navigating reasonably flat surfaces and at a leisurely pace clogs provide adequate protection for most active people.

There is a Conformite Europeenne (CE) classification for the Dutch clog. This was awarded in 1997 when the Netherlands organisation for Applied Scientific Research published safety requirement, results. According to CE regulations clogs must be able to withstand temperatures of -20 degrees C to 150 degrees C without degrading; they should support peak pressures of 75kg and water should not destroy the soles. In the original tests pressure of 400kg on the instep and 750 kg on the nose of the clog failed to make an impression, and lastly the clog endured the fall of a blunt axe of 20kg from a height of 50 cm. people. The following is a list of UK clog makers taken in good faith from the Morris Federation home page.

Reviewed 5/01/2016

Further Reading
Time to put my feet up! Clog-maker who runs father-and-son business finally closes the doors after 65 years making wooden shoes
History of Walkley Clogs

Thursday, May 7, 2009

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 4/01/2016