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Why?

Why do people wear wooden shoes?

The benefits and history of the wooden shoe.

Today, wooden shoes for the most part are sold as memorabilia, but the fact that they are still worn by many farmers, construction workers, gardeners, masons, fishermen and other artisans speaks for itself. Wooden shoes still are a pleasant garment. Not only are they safe and functional, they are pretty comfortable as well.

● Wooden shoes are water ressistant, wich makes them perfect for walking marshland. Even when the waterproof rubber boots were designed the wooden shoe didn’t lose its leading position.

● Wooden shoes are safe. The firm wood surrounds the entire foot, protecting it against harsh weather conditions, muddy fields, sharp objects, heavy animals, falling tools etc. This is validated by the fact that the footgear is approved for industrial use with CE Safety Certification.

● Wood is porous, which is why the garment is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

● Wooden shoes are orthopedically shaped, resulting in good support of your feet and a healthy posture.

● Wooden shoes can easily be put on or off, as a result of which no household has to suffer from dirty outdoor jobs.

● Bedraggled or muddy wooden shoes can easily be rinsed off with water and soap.

● And after all….when wooden shoes are worn-out, you can use them as decoration, turn them into boats or plant containers. You can even warm yourself on them when used as fuel in a fire.

 

A brief history

Wooden Shoes? A typical Dutch heritage? Probably there is not one person who can give us a solid answer to that question. Through the ages, wooden shoes were found all over the European mainland, from the Scandinavian countries up north to the Mediterranean south. Some even claim that it were the French who invented the wooden footwear. Fact is, that nowadays wooden shoes are a true symbol for Holland, just as much as windmills, tulips and cheese.

Girls on the Island of Marken around 1890

Middle Ages

One says wooden shoes date back to the Middle Ages. However, this is not an undisputable truth. Because they are made out of trees, Mother Nature has taken most of the ‘old’ pieces back to herself, and old shoes where probably used for stoking the stove. In the Netherlands the oldest wooden shoe ever found dates from 1230 ad. This shoe was found in 1979 by the Nieuwendijk, a historic street downtown Amsterdam. Another antique wooden shoe was found in 1990 in the dam that was built to close Rotterdam’s Rotte river. This wooden shoe, dating from 1280, can be seen at the Schielandshuis in Rotterdam. Both wooden shoes were made from alder. We can conclude with certainty that wooden shoes are worn for over 800 years, and probably even longer. Until the Middle Ages, it was quite common that people lived their lives walking on bear feet. Especially in the countryside shoes were out of reach for most people. Shoes were worn by the elitists. To protect their valuable shoes one used the so-called ‘trippen’ or ‘platijnen’. Trippen were wooden soles having two bulges at the bottom and two triangle-shaped pieces of leather on top for attachment, showing resemblances with sandals. Trippen might well have been the predecessors of wooden shoes, or ‘klompen’, as the footwear is called in Dutch. Anyhow, wooden shoes gained in popularity ever since the beginning of the 16th century. Because wooden shoes are made out of one piece, they proved to be a firm, practical and relatively cheap alternative. They protected the feet from dirt and formed a useful additive in the moistures Dutch climate.

1900’s till now

Wooden shoes made today differ little from their ancestors 800 years ago. However, incongruent with some existing presuppositions stressing that wooden shoes are still widely used in Holland, they are being worn less and less through the decades. After 1890, the flourish of industrial shoe manufacturers incited a negative trend in the demand for wooden shoes. Merely the breakout of both World Wars derived short periods of revival. Leather shoes became scarce, thus wooden shoes emerged as substitutes. Until after World War II, almost every village bore its own wooden shoe maker, resulting in a variety of styles, colors, carvings and decorations. In general, one had plain wooden shoes for the working days and painted ones for Sundays. Men’s wooden shoes usually were black or yellow, whilst those of women were lacquered blank or had elaborate decorational motifs. But it wasn’t until 1920 that one started to paint the garment. Before, neat wooden shoes were smoothed and finished with carvings, also differing from region to region. Also it was not unusual that shapes altered for the different sexes.

Thus, not too long ago gross of the population possessed wooden shoes and had them on on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the wearer of wooden shoes is becoming an endangered species today. Wooden shoes are merely seen on the countryside, used by gardeners, farmers, blacksmiths. fishermen, masons and road workers.