Whatever you may think of them, traditional Dutch wooden shoes or clogs (klompen), are a practical part of Dutch heritage and are even still worn in rural parts of the country today.
You won’t see many people wearing clogs in Amsterdam, but they are still an important part of Dutch culture. The Dutch language has many idiomatic expressions associated with wooden shoes. Clogs are still popular with people working in agriculture as they’re great for walking on muddy ground and can easily be removed. Dutch clogs are made from different types of wood – poplar and willow being favourites – and are often painted.
Traditional hand-crafted wooden shoes
Clogs have long been worn by workers as protective clothing. In fact, clogs have even been certified by the European Union as safety shoes as they can withstand sharp and heavy objects and concentrated acids. Traditionally, skilled artisans made them by hand. As you can imagine, it’s quite a job to hand-carve an identical pair of wooden shoes, but professionals could produce up to seven pairs a day! These days clogs are machine-made but at the Zaanse Schans, just a short trip outside Amsterdam, you can still see wooden shoes being crafted by hand.
History of clogs
As wooden shoes were used to fuel the fireplace once they were worn-out, it proved difficult fot historians to precisely date the origins of clogs. Nevertheless, they estimate that the first clogs appeared at least 850 years ago and the oldest wooden shoe known was found in the Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam. This clog dates from around the year 1230 and is made of alder wood. The shoes were made in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on who would wear them. Some had rounded edges while others had pointed toes to help fishermen pull their nets in.
About six million souvenir clogs are produced in the Netherlands each year, so you're sure to find just the right pair to take home!