Souvenirs from Netherlands
No one can visit the beautiful Holland without falling in love with one of its millions of pairs of clogs. These wooden shoes are one of Netherlands’ symbols and most colorful cultural icons, celebrating a unique medieval rural culture and a spirit of playful art and practicality. Worn on a large scale in the countryside as protective footwear, nowadays wooden shoes versions are often viewed as chic fashion statements. The clogs have been handmade for centuries using a special type of wood and crafty shoemakers carved both shoes in an identical way while Dutch artists decorated them in a splendid variety of patterns and shades typical for the Dutch traditional costumes and old dances. Today visitors are charmed by the lovely clogs, a representation of a rich Dutch heritage and a picturesque landscape. A beautiful resin fridge magnet is a perfect souvenir which keeps Netherlands’ magic alive.
The History of Holland’s Clogs
Historians are still debating the origin of the wooden shoes across Europe tracing it back to the Ancient Greek theatre actors and even the soldiers of the Roman Empire. In Netherlands, clogs have become an ordinary item of everyday village life during the Middle Ages. Because most of the old wooden shoes were used to fuel farmers’ fireplaces, the oldest pairs of clogs have been found no earlier than the 13th century around Amsterdam and Rotterdam. At the beginning of the 20th century heavy industrialization put an end to the craft of shoes hand-making and machines were introduced on a large scale to produce the wooden footwear. After the Second World War, the demand for clogs drastically diminished as they were replaced by the modern leather or plastic shoes.
Old Wooden Shoes for Modern Days
The tradition of wearing wooden shoes is over 700 years old in Netherlands. Iconic for Dutch tourism, the clogs were used in the past not only for their practical value but also as a symbolic gift offered by young Dutchmen to their fiancées. Initially the Dutch clogs (called ‘Klompen’) were made of a leather strap attached to a wooden sole but for safety reasons they started to be manufactured entirely of wood, most often of willow and poplar. The first record of a clog maker guild dates back to 1570 and a lighter version of the clogs was used for the traditional Klompendanskunst, an old Dutch tapping dance during which the clogs touch the floors or each other to create different rhythms. Acknowledged by the European Union for the safety and comfort they provide, the Dutch clogs are currently manufactured by 25 traditional shoe makers only.
The Art of Making Wooden Shoes
The craft of shoe making requires great skills: the tree wood is carefully selected to suit a specific size and both shoes need to be made from the same part of the tree to ensure the same shrinkage rate. Every pair of clogs made in Holland is eventually carefully evaluated: the wooden shoes have to be safe enough to resist low or high temperatures or above-average weights. Whether they are painted, carved or simple undecorated shoes, the clogs have a long history of different shapes and colors. The first one to paint the clogs is believed to be artist Pieter Brueghel the Elder around 1550. Nowadays only a few Dutchmen wear the clogs (most of them are farmers or gardeners) so most of the 3 million pairs of wooden shoes produced annually in Netherlands are purchased by tourists especially since their design was promoted by famous brands in the 1980s and 1990s.