Dutch wooden shoes, known as clogs or "klompen" in the Dutch language, have been used as footwear in the Netherlands for at least 800 years. Along with tulips and windmills, they are viewed internationally as one of the symbols of the Netherlands, to the extent that Dutch people are sometimes nicknamed "cloggies." Some 6 million souvenir clogs, ranging in scale from full-size clogs to small keyrings, are produced each year for the international market.
The oldest known surviving clog dates from around 1230 and was discovered in Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam. Another early clog, found in Rotterdam, dates from around 50 years later. The organic nature of the clogs means that they would easily decay and as a result it is likely that wooden shoes were used in the area before the 13th century, but that examples do not survive.
Traditionally clogs were made by hand, and an experienced clogmaker could expect to produce seven pairs in a single day. The clogmaker created each clog from a single piece of wood which he carved, dried and sanded to produce the shoe. Wood from poplar, alder or willow trees was a popular choice of material. Once created, the clog would then be finished off with varnish or paint.
Clogs in Dutch Life
In the past, farmers and people working in plant nurseries wore clogs to work. However, they also wore them for festivals and celebrations, when clog-dancing was a popular activity. Even today, children often wear clogs, and when they grow out of them the small clogs are hung on an outside wall as a plant holder.
Clogs as Safety Wear
Clogs were awarded a CE mark by the European Union in 1999, which indicates that they are suitable for use as safety footwear. Tests indicated that professionally made clogs are actually superior to a steel-reinforced work boot in certain respects. Clogs can withstand water, penetration by nails, intense pressure and the impact of a 20kg weight being dropped on them.
Future of Clogs
In recent years, the market for clogs has been mainly tourists, who take home around 100,000 full-size pairs each year and many thousands more smaller souvenir pairs. Unfortunately for clogmakers, the domestic market has shrunk as the generation of older clog-wearing farmers and horticulturists dies out and younger farmers choose alternative footwear. In 2009, only 10 clogmakers remained in the Netherlands.
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