Object: Wooden Shoes

E/1966/7/6
Europe: Wooden Shoes
20th Century
Materials: Wood

This is a pair of wooden shoes from 20th century Europe. Each shoe is made from five pieces of wood glued together to form the body. The toe of each shoe is pointed and there is a slight elevation to the heel. Two holes near the rear of each shoe probably served for cords or ties. The shoes are painted yellow and measure approximately 12 inches in length, though the actual size of the shoe’s interior is less than 8 inches in length.

Wooden shoes are thought to have originated among the Dutch as early as the 14th century. The first organized clog-makers guild, however, was not recorded until the late 16th century. Wooden shoes were first used as pattens, a form of wooden sandal strapped under a shoe to protect it from mud, water, and dust. Among the peasantry, wooden shoes provided a cheap kind of footwear because of the durability and protection they offered their wearers. Wooden clogs provided a hard casing around the foot that did not break when trampled by farm animals or hit by heavy tools. In walking through wet or muddy areas, wooden clogs provided a waterproof form of foot protection. In urban areas, wooden shoes protected feet from direct contact with street refuse. To this day, in many parts of Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden, wooden clogs are still in use, as seen here.

Wooden shoes are made from a single block of inexpensive wood such as poplar, birch, or sycamore. In modern production, machines are used to carve the block of wood into the shape of the clog. The interior of the shoe is carved out and a sander is used to remove the splintered portions of the body. A video of wooden shoe production can be seen here.

[Lauren Simons]

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