The English clog is basically a wooden sole with a leather upper attatched. The history of the clog suggests that it's origins may come from the pattens or wooden soles which were strapped onto early leather shoes to protect them when walking out-doors. The clog as a complete item of footwear probably dates to the 16th century and was found throughout England. However in most peoples minds the clog is symbolic of the industrial North and the late 19th Century, the period of the industrial revolution. This association with industry led to the idea that clogs were for the poor and oppressed rather than the well to do and so people aspired to wear "proper" shoes or boots. The introduction of cheap mass production for shoes and boots led to a rapid decline in clog making in the early 20th century.
However clogs are hard wearing and in certain industries have benefits over leather footwear. The steel, glass and mining industries all continued to take clogs since wooden soles insulate the foot against heat, cold, damp and boken glass. When well made they are also very comfortable to wear if you have to stand up for long periods. Additionally the blucher style clog with its flap covering prevents dust or sparks entering the clog. But the popular image of clogs is in the mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It was in these towns that the Processional dance style became rooted and documented and studio portraits of dancers at the end of the 19th Century often show the dancer wearing highly decorated clogs.
For this reason the clog has become associated with the style of traditional dance known as North-West Processional Morris. This is the style danced by Wakefield Morris who wear clogs, but they are not clog dancers!Clog dancers are usually solo performers carrying on a tradition of step dance that evolved into tap dance. However you may see a team of clog-dancers performing as a group, the Green Ginger Clog team being a good example to look for. Nor is the dance style "Clog Morris" there is no such thing. In fact research has found many dance teams who danced in boots, shoes or pumps. The clog however does have the big benefit of making a good percussive noise when worn for dancing and so is the preferred footwear of most teams dancing the North-West style today.
OK so what do the Dutch wear then? The all wooden shoe worn on the continent is correctly know as a sabot.
Are clogs heavy? Compared to a shoe possibly but then dancers tend to have decent leg muscles.
Aren't they uncomfortable? Not if they are well made.
How long does a pair last? Speaking from experience I have a pair coming up to 20 years old now. Mind you thats the uppers I've had three sets of soles on them.
What's that on the bottom of the clog? Depends. For real maximum fun the sole is shod with a clog iron, but irons are getting hard to find and caretakers get really miffed if you wear irons to dance on their polished wooden floors. For general use a hard rubber compound sole is used which contrary to opinion does not mark floors, thats cheap trainers that do the scuffing. Quick tip if your dancer has no sole of any sort on the clog just bare wood then you are looking at a step dancer.
Where can I get a pair? Try looking around craft fairs, folk festivals or contact me at this site. Our clog maker of choice is Trefor Owen who has a web contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do they cost? From around £80 for a decent pair.
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