Clogs, a.k.a. cha kiak in Hokkien, are a type of shoe that was popular in Singapore in the mid-1900s. They are made using wood for the soles, and rubber for the straps.
It is said that a long time ago, there was a man who felled trees for a living. As he wore shoes made of cloth, he often injured his feet while walking in the forest. One day, he stepped on a stick and tore his shoes. He could not wear them anymore.
Being forced to think of a solution, he noticed that there were pieces of wood lying around. So, he tied two wooden pieces to his feet with rope and started walking in them. He found that the wood not only protected his feet from sharp sticks and stones, but also prevented him from slipping on wet ground.
From then on, he chopped trees for wood to make soles for clogs.
Clogs were subsequently used in wet kitchens and markets, to keep feet dry when walking on wet floors. These were some important traits that made them the perfect shoe:
- Imitate a flat surface
- Thick soles create distance between feet and wet, dirty ground
- Wooden soles create friction to prevent slipping
- No need to differentiate between left and right: both sides are the same
Take note! Red clogs with curvy edges are for women. Green ones with straight sides are for men. It may take some practice to walk in them, but it’s just a matter of getting used to.
Today, with the wide array of footwear available, clogs have become redundant. However, you can still get a pair at a souvenir shop as a keepsake!
Read more about the clog makers and other super interesting trades in our latest graphic novel, Once Upon A Singapore… Traders. You can preorder the book here. We’ll also be having our book launch at The Arts House on 10 November 2018, 2pm-3pm, so make sure you don’t miss it! Register here for free!