Wednesday, October 20, 2010

spotlight on clogs with Lindsey

by frédérik sisa

I'm on a clog kick these days stemming from yet another exciting game of "what's out there for guys?" in which I pick something and go looking for it. While the pickin's are slim, there actually IS an answer to the question - one that isn't whiny and, for bonus points, ties into last week's post on the dreadful nature of the shoemaking industry. But before I get to that I wanted to take a detour.

Every Clog Has Its Day, as the name suggests, is all about clogs. Lindsey Cochran has devoted herself to finding, discussion, and posting pictures about clogs that come in a surprising variety of shapes and sizes. Before you can hum the Swedish national anthem, however, consider this: Lindsey's perspective on clogs is far more expansive than what you might typically think when you hear the word that sounds like an airhorn. From her interviews with designers that have taken the clog in new directions within women's footwear to finding appealing designs from the major fashion houses and retailers, Lindsey reveals just how much wooden shoes can be the subject of imagination and, perhaps, a little bit of obsession.

Say "clogs" to most people and they'll either think it's time to call the plumber or the fashion police. But we both know there's more to clogs than the stereotype. What have you discovered out there that goes beyond the usual block of wood? Among all those wooden gems, which have made it into your shoe closet?

One of the guiding principles of my life is a quotation I learned about from a lesbian friend who was involved in the leather community. I tell you her background because it makes the quotation all the more remarkable for how apt it turned out to be. It is an observation on life courtesy of the 19th century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. And far from being an aphorism that was wrested out of context, I believe it is a word of truth that applies to all of us wherever we may find ourselves in our life journeys.

Stevenson wrote, To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.

I believe that every soul on this planet has no higher calling than to fully live out her or his own unique potential. None of us has any real say in choosing what gives us pleasure and what fills us with satisfaction. Many people spend their lives running from truths about themselves that they don't want to admit or refuse to see. But I believe that when we have been blessed to learn where our pleasure and satisfaction may be found, it is imperative that we pursue it and give our souls the chance to sing with delight.

I can't parse for you the mysterious power that elements of fashion can have in our lives. But I can say that among readers of my blog, I've noticed that there is a feeling of empowerment that many of us enjoy when we're wearing the "right" shoes. For others it might be a stiletto heel or a knee high boot. In the clog community, there seems to be a power conferred by the sensation of a block of wood beneath our feet. Some of it may lie with the sensation of being elevated by the pedestal we've placed beneath our soles. Or it may reside with the firm grounding the solid wood provides with each step. For my part, I know there's some pleasure in feeling my feet firmly constrained by the inflexibility of the wooden midsole contrasted with the mobility I can enjoy wearing a pair of good fitting shoes. And let's not forget that any element of fashion is a method of adorning the temple of our bodies. I take pleasure in putting together a look that makes me feel good about myself. Pure and simple, when I think I look good, I feel good.

Having said that, I recognize that each clog fan's experience is her or his own unique expression. One regular reader of my blog Every Clog Has Its Day is a fan of clogs that are either trimmed or liner with shearling. Another reader has had to bid heels goodbye in her wardrobe, and looks to clogs to provide a unique accent to her daily style. Personally, I'm a fan of high chunky heels...preferably in a boot style that firmly embraces my entire foot. So even within this subculture of clog fans, there are even further divisions of taste and desire.

What seems to be paramount is the awareness that in wearing clogs, one is traveling outside the norm and defining one's style on one's own terms. Wood would seem to be the essential material for the construction of a proper clog. But many of us are happy to purchase a pair of manmade clogs if the shoes offer a design that somehow resonate with some inner template of "clogness" that we carry. One does not wear clogs to make one's feet look dainty and delicate, so I think there's some visual appeal in the clunky boxiness a pair of wood soled shoes provide.

As for what wondrous clogs I've been able to make my own, I'm afraid I wear a tall size and am frequently limited by considerations over fit. So when I find something within that smaller universe that speaks to me with its design and style, I am smitten. As I mentioned, this past year has been a boon to a clog fan such as myself. I'm especially enjoying the Bernardo XRAY clogs that came out late this past summer. So much so that I bought the shoe in both blue and burgundy. (I'm wearing the blue pair today, in fact.) I also purchased the Jeffrey Campbell Charli-C clog earlier this year and counted myself fortunate to have nabbed its companion lace up clog boot, the Underground, when a pair was returned in my size to an otherwise sold out online retailer. I've also been quite thrilled with the Vince Camuto Coco clog boot that just came out a couple weeks ago. This maker had released a slip-on clog earlier this year, but the pair I bought sat idle in my closet all summer. As much as I liked the general design, I just never felt moved to put them on. So when the Coco came out in my size, it didn't take anytime for me to return that pair and place an order for the clog boot.

What's interesting is that these wood soled shoes don't necessary obey any of the expected rules. For example, the Bernardo XRAYs are my "go to" clogs right now, but they don't feature any stud accents as part of their design. Usually studs or nail heads are one of the design touches I love in a pair of clogs. Yet this style is able to make me considerably happy without them. It just goes to show that it can be tricky trying to map the desires of the heart.

From's Lindsey's shoe closet -
back row: Jeffrey Campbell, Underground clog boot; Topshop USA, sock lined clogboot; N. Y. L. A., Sully clog bootie; Vince Camuto, Coco clog boot

middle row: Next, tan low clog boot; Zigi Soho, Claudie clog boot

front row: Bernardo, XRAY clog in Beet Root; Bernardo,XRAY clog in Steel Blue

on Lindsey's feet: Jeffrey Campbell, Charli-C clog
It seems to me that while clogs have bobbed in and out of the mainstream over the decades, they have always maintained a dedicated following. That's a lot more than be can said for, say, bell bottoms or other fashion pieces that are tied to particular periods of time and tend to live or die with the cycles of fashion. The enduring appreciation of clogs would seem to make it a footwear icon. Would you agree? What do you think is the lasting appeal of clogs?
I'm only hesitant to confer on clogs the status of icon because the style exists in the fashion repertoire in a variety of forms. You mention that it has a dedicated following, and I think that's true where the basic Swedish low heeled slip-on is concerned. Apparently that style has caught on well with chefs, doctors, nurses, and other professionals who must stay on their feet all day. But the comfort and wearability they enjoy are not the features that a clog fan like myself appreciates in the shoe. Consider, too, the variety of different styles that fall under the loose heading of "clog": traditional Swedish clogs, polyurethane soled versions from Dansko, the latest crop of medium and high heeled styles, the lace up oxfords and boots that are manufactured with features normally associated with clogs, and more. I think clogs can be considered a durable fashion category such as sneakers, but unlike the iconic Chuck Taylor shoe, I don't think there's a single clog design that stands out from the pack as a style that's being embraced as a fashion statement. The clogs that people are currently excited about are not the traditional Swedish style, they're the more fashionable variations. So rather than being an icon, I think the clog that most people think of when they think of clogs (the traditional Swedish clog) is a fashion non-statement. It's something they just throw on when they need to put something on their feet, but they don't give it any thought.
Obviously, for people like me, my relationship to this footwear is different. I'm so accustomed to being outside of the norms with my tastes that I would probably feel a little crushed if clogs became embraced by the world at large. I'd have to transfer my obsession to some new corner of the footwear world. I wonder how I could manage with a passion for tabi shoes? Hmmmm.
You have a wonderful blog, Every Clog Has Its Day, dedicated to wooden shoes. How did your passion for clogs begin, and when did you decide to blog about it?
I discovered clogs years ago when I was in high school. At the time, they were only a peripheral fad in the culture of the time. But they caught my eye, and I made a few tentative forays to incorporate them into my wardrobe. As time passed, they made less sense. And quite honestly, the styles that were available didn't offer a lot of choices that captured my imagination or held my interest. Then about six or seven years ago, I started collecting photos of intriguing shoes I spotted online: boots, platforms, heels, and clogs. (Infinitely less expensive than actually purchasing them!) That led to a friend suggesting that I launch a blog about clogs at the end of the summer of 2009. I hemmed and hawed for a week or two, then took a closer look at what would be involved. When I realized I already had enough photos to manage posting something new every day for three months, I realized I could give it a shot and see where those three months would take me. It wasn't long before I was reveling in a steady stream of clog images that I was collecting by myself and with the help of readers and designers. And the fact that having a "clog blog" gave me an excuse to shop for and purchase some of the newest styles was an extra benefit. It's been a fun journey online.
With many thanks to Lindsey for taking the time to share her perspective and passion on that most misinterpreted shoe, the clog, with us, here's the link again to her blog Every Clog Has Its Day.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. If you're a clog fan, what brands are you wearing? If you're not, are you tempted to reconsider? Comments below!

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