Wooden Clog


Wooden clogs are heavy work shoes that were typically worn by French and Dutch peasants up through the beginning of the twentieth century. Known in French as sabots, and in Dutch as klompen, these sturdy shoes protected the feet of agricultural workers from mud and wet and from injury by the sharp tools used in the field. French clogs were often made from a combination of wood and leather. However, the classic Dutch clog is entirely wooden. Wooden clogs are naturally highly water resistant, and therefore they were especially useful in the marshy fields of the Netherlands. Farm workers also wore specially decorated wooden clogs to church and on holidays. In World War I, entrenched soldiers wore wood and leather clogs called sabotines. Up through this time, clogs were typically made by hand.

Later, industrialization made leather and rubber shoes more readily available, and wooden clogs became less wide-spread. However wooden clogs are still worn by Dutch farm workers, and also by Dutch fishermen and steel factory workers. Clogs made a resurgence in the 1960s across Europe and North America, not as a work shoe but as fashion. They are still popular in the 1990s. These modern clogs are usually a leather shoe attached to a wood sole. Clogs made entirely from rubber are also popular as gardening shoes.

Raw Materials

Wooden clogs are usually made from one of three kinds of wood: European willow, yellow poplar, or tulip poplar. These woods are all hard and water resistant. After the lumber is cut, it is not treated in any way, but made into shoes as soon after felling as is practical. No other material is necessary to make wooden clogs, though some shoes are varnished or decorated with paint.

The Manufacturing

Wooden clogs were traditionally made entirely by hand, either by their wearers or by specialized artisans. The shoes were roughly carved on the outside, then clamped into a bench that held them vertically, toe down. Then the artisan scooped them out with a long-handled tool. Less than a hundred years ago, a wooden clog factory might consist of dozens of workers making shoes in this same manner, by hand. The introduction of automated machines sped up the process, though machines still required attentive operators.

Making the blanks


Carving the interior




Where to Learn More


Rowland, Della. A World of Shoes. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989.

Once sanded, the wooden clogs are decorated and then varnished.
Once sanded, the wooden clogs are decorated and then varnished.

Yue, Charlotte. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1997.


Chargot, Patricia. "Clompin' Around." Detroit Free Press (March 23, 1998).

Kuniholm, Erin. "Going Dutch: Wearing Clogs Is the Next Best Thing to Going Barefoot." Women's Sports and Fitness (October 1997): 82-84.

Angela Woodward

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