Nothing says ‘the Netherlands’ or rather ‘Holland’ more clunkily than clogs. But this iconic form of Dutch footwear is – literally – enduring.
1. Clogs, or wooden shoes = the Netherlands. Why the Dutch should be identified as wearers of wooden footwear par excellence is unclear but there it is. Some form of clog was and is worn by people all over the globe and many are jolly nice too, like the elegant Cantabrian albarcas and the edgy Danish traesko.
A traditional pair of Dutch clogs… for tourists
2. The classic Dutch clog covers most of the foot and is usually made of poplar or willow wood. Its sturdiness has earned it a CE certificate which means they are actually EU certified safety shoes. So good for cows stepping on your toes but not so good for making a quick exit from a hay loft via, say, a ladder.
3. The traditional clog had either a black base, for work on clay soil, or a yellowish base for work on sandy ground. In this way the clogs wouldn’t appear very dirty. The decoration on top is said to give the clog the appearance of a shoe, a commodity few farmers could afford.
4. In Belgium clogs are called ‘holleblokken’, or hollow blocks, and if you look at this old news item from 1925 you will understand why.
5. There is, of course, a clog museum in the Netherlands. It has some 2,200 pairs of wooden footwear from all over the world, including a pair of clog skates made by Eite Wijkstra. His son Berend finished the Elfsteden skating marathon on a pair in 1954.
6. After World War there were some 3,900 clog makers in the Netherlands, now only a handful remain. One of the biggest clog manufacturers in the world is Nijhuis in Beltrum which started in 1938. It manufactures some 300,000 pairs of clogs a year which are exported all over the world. Part of the clog making process takes place in… China. Clog wearing is in decline which is why Nijhuis is promoting the sustainability and the orthopaedic- and ventilative- properties of the clog.
7. Clog wearing is not as easy as you think. It involves bending the toes to keep the thing in place, a strenuous process which may be painful to start with but which will get easier with time. Farmers could even dance in them, the so-called ‘klompendans’.
If your toes can’t handle the strain you can always opt for clog slippers as beloved by tourists. Fashionistas will love a pair of Viktor&Rolf’s high heeled clogs.
8. The oldest clog ever found to date is said to from 1230 and was made from elder wood. It was found during excavation work on the Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam. The biggest clog ever made from a single piece of wood can be found in Enter, in the province of Overijssel. It is 403 cm long, 171 cm wide and 169 cm high.
9. The Dutch language not surprisingly has a fair number of expressions featuring a klomp or klompen. Dat kun je op je klompen aanvoelen ( you can feel that wearing clogs) i.e. something very obvious indeed. Or Nou breekt mijn klomp (this breaks my clog) i.e. well, I never!
10. Clog making by hand is still held in great esteem. There is even a European Wooden Shoes Foundation dedicated to keeping the craft alive by means of clog days and festivals and courses in clog making.