At Hermès’ Spring/Summer 2021 Show, the luxury brand’s “Calya” mules, conceived by designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, accompanied every look. Made of wood and leather and sporting an “H,” these clogs completed the elegant minimalist silhouettes that paraded the runway. Since their appearance, they’ve been seducing the eternally chic crowds, proving that the patchouli-scented country-style stereotype once associated with the shoes has officially departed, making room for a more carefree and contemporary design.
Sculpted from wood, clogs (or sabots in French) first appeared in rural parts of 15th-century Europe, from Denmark and the Netherlands—where they became an iconic symbol—to Belgium, Germany and France. The word for these practical and inexpensive shoes would later be adopted by 19th-century anarchists, giving us “sabotage.”
By the 1920s, the shoes had left the countryside and slipped onto the feet of elegant New Yorkers. Colourful and waterproof, clogs were perfect for walks along Long Island beaches—a favourite summer pastime. But it wasn’t until the 1960s, the decade of free love, that they rose to iconic status. Designers like Herbert Levine and Ulla Olsenius—who sold up to 23,000 pairs of clogs imported from Sweden every month in her Greenwich Village boutique, Olof-Daughters—created versions that represented the hippie youth movement, which called for a return to simple things and natural materials. The focus had always been on the heel, but now designers dared to diversify: The clogs got higher, embellishments were added and they started to resemble sandals while still retaining their signature wooden sole. Stars of the bohemian generation—including Jane Birkin, Cybill Shepherd and even Cher—professed their love for the über-trendy design, which continued its ascent in the ’70s before waning during the rise of sportswear and sneakers that came with the next decade.
In the 1990s, clogs got a hit of luxury with the addition of prints, buckles and fur and showed up on the runways of Chanel, Gucci and Dior. At the turn of the millennium, they continued to make the occasional appearance, according to the season and the whims of brands and designers, but for spring/summer 2021, Hermès, along with Celine, Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney and Bally, has raised clogs to the upper echelons of footwear trends. And there are no signs of them losing their seductive allure anytime soon.
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