Monday, March 15, 2010

Clomp this Way: A Quick Appreciation of Clogs

Don't know about you, but when fashion, in its necromantic way, revives a shoe style that was a fixture of my past, I think about the old shoes with the same sort of affectionate nostalgia that farmers must have felt for hardworking plowhorses that have since passed on to happier pastures.

Such is the case with me and clogs. Whatever the reason, this shoe in particular (rather than trainers/sneakers or some other form of walking shoes) were my absolute favorites. And so, a tribute to the clog past and present, with a special focus on a couple of styles in between.

It all started in simpler times when peoples of the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and elsewhere in rural Europe discovered that shoes carved from wood--also known as sabots--were a cheap way to elevate the feet off cold flooring and mud, protect them against accidental blows, and--once the feet were broken in to their contours--provide good support for long days walking, standing, and labor. This latter reason is why chefs still wear clogs in professional kitchens, though today's versions are as often as not plastic Crocs (about which no more will be said). In France, clogs came to be worn by factory workers during the industrial revolution, and disgruntlement with management might cause one to be tossed into the mechanical works, hence the term sabotage.

Closed-toe mules, which are essentially clog-style shoes with a lower vamp of fabric or leather, had a style heyday as a boudoir option among glamorous gals in the 1950s, and cyclically thereafter, especially in the early 80s, when Candies were the way to go if your Jordache jeans could use an extra hit of Lolita at the food court down at the mall.

But it was clogs per se that had their first major period of fad-dom in the US in the late 1970s, most especially the Swedish versions produced by Olaf's Daughters. These shoes, with their rounded toes, moderate wooden heels, and suede or leather uppers became de trop amongst preppier sorts of girls, typically worn with Levis cords and Fair Isle sweaters, and no socks ever, because if it was cold/wet enough to need socks, you wore your duck boots instead. What's more, a flying clog was a missile to be reckoned with, and bare toes prevented accidental launch. I would kill to have my taupe suede pair today, and do a periodic scan of eBay to see if any will surface, but they never do. However, Swedish manufacturers like Ollson continue to make like versions, if this is the sort of thing you're after.

Come the late 80s, clogs reappeared in an under-the-radar way as go-to footgear for a busy day around town. These had the contours of a cowboy boot, with a more pointed toe, an underslung heel, and tooled or otherwise decorated leather up top. Lucchese makes some of the coolest current examples, but a host of other manufacturers produced them back in the day and they are relatively easy to find under the keywords "cowboy clogs" or "cowboy slides."

And now, roll on Spring 2010 and its revived fascination with clogs as fashion, although this season's incarnations alternately have heels so high they are reminiscent of the Candies of yore, grafted onto a pricetag that is galactically higher still, or embellishments so trailingly odd (that's you, Louis Vuitton) that there might be some risk factor riding escalators in them.

As much as I love clogs I won't be going for the trendy versions, but if I can find a pair of taupe Olaf's Daughters (mine, mine!) that's another story.

(Olaf's Daughters clog image from this awesome gallery of Swedish and other clogs; Lucchese clogs on; Louis Vuitton clogs below from Fashionologie, many thanks.


  1. Hi! I was looking for something about clogs and I found your blog...I think it's cool but also useful and interesting! However, you maybe would like to see a post about clogs on my blog, even thought we have different opinions about this topic... If you like, let me know what do you think about it! Have a nice evening... Bye!

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