About French wooden clogs

The origin of the word French Sabot that means Clog goes back to the 12th century and would be the combination of the words Savate (from the Arabic Sabbat for shoe) and bot (feminization of boot) as it applied to a ankle length shoe.
The images I have selected to illustrate this post are of Dutch wooden clogs because I find them so beautiful! Hope you will too.


Painted wooden clogs

Painted wooden clogs

The use of clogs spread like wildfire in the late 15th-early 16th century especially in the eastern, northern and western parts of France.

Shoes were then commonly called sabottes.

The making of wooden clogs

The making of wooden clogs

Clogs were worn by the rural populations for practical and obviously economic reasons as leather shoes were very expensive and could not be worn for working on the farm.

Clogs were traditionally made from birch, willow, beech or poplar, soft woods that are easy to work but are also very resistant.

The making of wooden clogs

The making of wooden clogs

Once finished the clog was left to dry for several weeks before being put for sale.

Clogs were always a size larger than the foot to allow for straw and later thick woolen socks to keep feet dry and warm.

The making of wooden clogs

The making of wooden clogs: clogs are now left to dry before being put for sale

Farmers wore wooden clogs about until the mid 20th century when cheaper materials came up on the market and allowed for large scale manufacture.

Wearing clogs has never really stopped but they are now found in various forms and colours…  and in plastic.

The clogs are finished and in the shop!

The clogs are finished and in the shop!

Fortunately there is a very clear return to traditional products and wooden clogs are becoming fashionable.

The French seem to follow the example of the Dutch that produce wonderful painted wooden clogs that could almost be considered works of art. Unfortunately French clogs were not painted and were more considered for their practical use than their aesthetic.


Painted wooden clogs

A selection of painted wooden clogs...which one to choose?!

Reminder: the images I have selected to illustrate this post are of Dutch wooden clogs because I find them so beautiful!

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About the author

I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.
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  • Very colorful and well presented. Thanks for sharing !

  • Glad you enjoyed the clogs ! I had to use photos of Dutch clogs as they are so colourful and cheerful compared to the French ones…

  • Bill Snead

    I have a wooden clog that my father bought near Bayeau, which is near Omaha Beach. He bought in 1944. It is quite a relic. My father can still remember the sound of the people walking down the street with those wooden shoes on.

    • What a wonderful story, Bill. I’ve been to Bayeux and visited Omaha Beach. I imagine your father has some interesting stories to tell!

  • Hello Bill, apologies for such a late reply to your comment.
    I know Bayeux very well as I have a whole section dedicated to WWII landing beaches on my site, and I think that the story of your Dad is marvellous! In fact it makes this terrible time of history more “human”. I have a few friends whose Dads have stories about the war, either Allies or French inhabitants, and they all are very endearing!
    Coming to clogs, people, especially in rural areas used them until the war because they were resistant but also because in time of war leather shoes were very expensive… if they could find any!
    Thanks again for your comment!