What do you think of when you think of Holland?
Chances are good that you answered that question with either tulips or wooden clogs. Despite worldwide popularity for the past millennium, we continue to associate the clog with Holland. While that may seem like it is playing to stereotypes, the Dutch have a long history with these notorious wooden shoes.
What Is a Clog?
Clogs are any shoes made out of wood. Although most clogs have a wooden sole and a leather upper, the Dutch variety is carved entirely out of one block of wood. Willow and poplar were the most common and preferred types of wood used thanks to their tough durability and waterproof nature.
Rise to Dutch Popularity
The oldest clogs ever discovered were found in Rotterdam and date back to the 1200s so we can safely assume that the Dutch were the original inventor of the wood clog. By the 1570s Holland has its first clog makers guild and the popularity of he clog spread throughout Europe. Clog we’re however, especially useful in Holland, as much of Holland’s terrain is swampland. The shoes were especially durable to water and muck. They were also loved for the protection they offered. Like most countries, Holland was historically an agricultural nation. The shoes provided extra protection to the foot when working with heavy equipment and animals during farm chores.
Decline of the Clog
Today, in any given city in the Netherlands you are unlikely to find anyone wearing clogs. However, you will find them in nearly every tourist shop.
As Holland became a more developed nation, and trade became better facilitated, clogs began to fall out of use and were replaced with classic leather shoes. Today only 30 Dutch Clog makers remain, and it is in fact a dying art. However their importance permeates rural culture. In the Dutch countryside clogs are still valued for the same reasons they were hundreds of years ago: they are durable and protect the foot.
The Modern Clog
Today although clogs look much the same as they have for hundreds of years, they’re much less labor intensive to make. Clog makers now have ample use of machinery to aid in the process. Tourism proves to be he largest source of revenue for modern clog makers. However the clogs found in tourist shops, often with intricate hand painted designs, are usually not suitable for wearing. More utilitarian clogs can be found in agriculture shops in the rural areas.