Wooden shoes or clogs were originally worn by peasant men and women throughout Europe. These types of foot covers appeared in the early 1300s. Wooden clogs were designed as practical foot covers that provided protection and comfort against harsh elements such as snow, mud, manure and water . Throughout their long history, they were traditionally worn by peasants who worked in agriculture. In the Netherlands they are called “klompen” in Dutch.
Wooden clogs originated in Holland or the Netherlands and spread to France, Germany and Scandinavian countries. They have become the most worn work shoes in Europe. The term “hoof” comes from the word “calceus”, which was Latin at the time of the Roman Empire. These early types of shoes had wooden soles and leather straps on the top of the foot. Eventually the demand for a closed shoe evolved to protect the feet from the wet and cold northern European elements.
Solid foot support-type shoes were the preferred choices of miners, farmers, and construction workers. They were therefore considered utilitarian rather than fashionable. European nobility did not wear them as they became associated with the peasant way of life. In Holland, wooden shoes were worn by farmers, fishermen, factory workers, craftsmen and other tradesmen to protect their feet. Nails, fish hooks and other sharp tools could not penetrate wooden shoes.
The first corporation of clog makers dates from 1570 in Holland. The European Union had declared them its official safety shoes. Different professions have slightly different shaped hooves. Farmer’s clogs have a wider square nose to avoid sinking into the mud. Fishermen pointed to them to help sort fishing lines. Workers’ clogs are simple and undecorated.
The sabotiers were called “bodgers”. Certain woods such as balsa, alder, willow, beech, and sycamore were favored by clog makers. These woods did not split easily. Traditional wooden clogs are made from blocks of wood. Clog makers would wet them and chop them into relative shoe shapes. Then the blocks were allowed to air dry. They could then use wood rasps and other tools to create the finished products. Some clog makers painted scenes there or used woodworking tools to create decorative designs. They then applied transparent fillers like varnish, tung oil, etc. to make them more attractive to customers. Eventually, the boring machine was developed to hollow out the interior to accommodate feet of different sizes. Many villages had their own designs for wooden shoes. The styles varied according to the countries or regions where they were developed.
Hooves make a characteristic clicking sound when walking on hard surfaces. As they walk, they develop a rhythm that inspired clog dancing in Victorian England. Clog dancing finally made its way to America in the 18th century. These early wooden shoes gave rise to modern American tap dancing shoes. Throughout the late 20th century in Europe and the United States, clogs became very fashionable. Modern clogs borrow from traditional clogs wooden soles combined with leather or fabric straps.
A few years ago my wife and I traveled to Kentucky to sightsee and buy some antiques. We stayed at a hotel where many clog dancers were training for a competition in the city. These girls wore them and practiced patching everywhere they went in the hotel, even in the elevators. A recent TV commercial featured an entire family of saboteurs clogging up everywhere in their apartment even while eating, doing chores, brushing their teeth, etc.
In 2016, my wife, Jeri, and I took part in a tour of the “WWII and Western Front” countries in England, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway . During our stay in the Netherlands, we took a detour to the business of a local wooden cobbler. He demonstrated to us the procedures described above. Of course, there was a gift shop where visitors could buy shoes of different sizes and decorations. I didn’t buy any there due to lack of space in my suitcase, but found some authentic ones at local antique malls that were nicely decorated with windmills. For Oktoberfest in my German lessons I wore them with lederhosen, long white socks, a white shirt, blue and white suspenders (Bavarian colors) and a tricorn hat with lots of German pins from Germany and Germany. other German-speaking countries. I allowed some students to try walking in the shoes. They are difficult to walk on terrazzo floors. Herr Lewis became the mad Bavarian for a day.
DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory in Holland, Michigan manufactures wooden shoes in the United States. They use poplar wood to make their shoes. Their main sculptor has been specially trained and graduated in woodcarving from the Netherlands. Their website says the shoes are good for gardening, mail, and general use. They are frequently found in malls and antique stores here in the Midwest.
A local wooden shoemaker named Gerhard (George) Deymann plied his trade as a shoemaker in Teutopolis, making practical wooden shoes for the early German pioneers in their agricultural life. George was born in 1849 in Kleinstaffen, Hanover, Germany. His family came to Teutopolis in 1863 and he married Mary Uthell in 1877. They had nine children most of whom did not survive to adulthood.
George’s wooden shoes were impervious to mud, cold, water and cow manure on farms. George made them from basswood, which was easier to work with. The shoes were worn with thick woolen socks to help them stand during working hours. Some of his earliest examples are in the Teutopolis Monastery Museum. George also sold some of his wooden shoes as souvenirs for 50 cents to $1 a pair. When Governor Henry Horner visited Teutopolis in 1936 for his re-election tour, George presented him with a pair of his wooden shoes. Horner sent him a thank you note upon his return to Springfield.
In the early years, local school children would pull out their wooden shoes on December 5 to hold treats delivered by St. Nicholas for St. Nicholas on December 6.
George’s main business was the Deymann Brick Yard, which he ran for many years. Some of his bricks can still be found in some of the earliest buildings in Teutopolis. He usually made regular quantities of his soft brick for various businesses and homes in the Teutopolis area. A huge order he filled was for 600,000 bricks in 1895. His brick-and-stone folk Victorian-style house is now called the Wooden Shoe Haus bed and breakfast. His small workshop behind the house was where he carved his wooden clogs. His home and studio are located at 210 N. Pearl Street in Teutopolis. This property is now owned by Leo and Debra Kitten. The house has been owned by the Kitten family since the 1930s. In the small house behind are more than 150 pairs of miniature wooden shoes donated by a former Airbnb guest.
Deymann died on October 5, 1937, aged 88, and is buried in St. Francis Cemetery alongside his wife, Mary.
The local Teutopolis sports teams were named the wooden shoes by Jerry Griffin, a local teacher, coach and administrator. He served 45 years as a business teacher in Teutopolis Unit 50 and coached basketball and tennis teams. Jerry and Ralph Koelsch, a Latin and biology teacher, helped start the National Trail Conference in 1932. Jerry became the first lay superintendent in 1970. I was hired at Teutopolis Unit 50 School District in 1972 after being interviewed by Griffin and the school board. for the post of German teacher. I replaced former German teacher Susan Gentry, who got married and moved away. I met her several years later at a foreign language conference in Chicago.
If you have any memories or comments to share, contact Phil Lewis at [email protected] or call him at 217-342-6280.