German Schoolwear:  Footwear--Wooden Shoes

Figure 1.--Here we see an unidentified boy wearing wooden shoes in the difficult econoimic condition following the war. Many children went barefoot, but that was not possible when the weather got colder. The boy here is wearing long stockings , suggesting along with the baren trees that it was early spring. The photograph is undated, but was probbly taken in the late-1940s. Notice the extra heavy socks worn with the wooden shoes. Source: Hans Lachmann, Bundesarchiv. Bild 194-0097-39.

Wooden shoes are primarily associated with the Dutch. This is a misnomer. They were widely worn by working-class people and farmers in northern Europe. They were less common in southern Europe because the climate permitted low income people to go barefoot for most of the year. Leather shoes were expensive, commonly the most expensive garment. Wooden shoes were much less expensive and more practical than leather shoes on a muddy farm. They were widely worn not only in the Netherlands, but also Belgium, northern France, Germany, Denmark, and other countries. Not only did workers and farmers wear them, but also their children. We do not see them being extensively worn in schools, although the photogrphic record shows that they were worn. We suspect that many working-class families splurgedon leather shoes for school. This may have varied somewhat between city and rural schools. We do not know if there were regional differences. Wooden shoes had some advantages, but they were not ideal for schoolwear. The primary disadvantage is that you could not run very well in wooden shoes. Economic dislocation was another factor. In difficult economic conditions, more children might wear wooden shoes because they were less expensive and going barefoot was not possible during the winter. Here we see a German boy going to school wearing wooden shoes after World War II (figure 1). While we see many children going barefoot, wedo not see many children wearing wooden shoes.


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Created: 9:59 PM 9/15/2011
Last updated: 9:59 PM 9/15/2011