If you know me well, you may have noticed at one time or another that I usually lounge around in a comfy pair of chef’s clogs. Perhaps you think, “He is wearing clogs. Why? Is he going to perform a traditional Dutch folk-dance? I don’t think he’s Dutch….maybe he is Dutch and I just never knew!”
I am not Dutch.
I do not folk-dance.
I do, however, love my clogs. I started wearing them back during my student days at Le Cordon Bleu Boston, and I haven’t stopped. Nor do I ever think that I will. Because nothing–I mean nothing–holds fatigue at bay like a good pair of professional clogs. Ask a chef. Ask a nurse. Ask a doctor. Ask anyone who stands for long periods of time.
You might ask yourself another question (other than, “Is he Dutch?”) That question might be, “Will I seem like a pretentious snob by wearing a pair of chef’s clogs in my own home kitchen? What about wearing them in public?”
No. You will not seem like a pretentious snob if you do so. Why? Well, the answer is something that crosses the lines of both the Food and the Biker: form and function!
- Function: They help me from slipping; they protect my feet from falling objects or hot spills; they are ridiculously easy to keep clean.
- Form: Slick patent leather is ever-so-reminiscent of the chrome on my bike. Fatigue alleviating design keeps your feet happy no matter how long you stand.
I own two pair: “Birki Professional” clogs, which can go into an industrial dishwasher. The other pair, by Sanita, are black patent leather. (Insider’s tip: Skip buying Dansko clogs, and instead, purchase Sanita brand instead. Dansko’s are now made in China instead of Europe, and apparently the quality is no longer as good.)
The Sanitas are cool, too, because if you’re in a kitchen during service, you could wear them to go out after service. Cleanup is pretty easy with those, too–just wipe them off with some glass cleaner and they’ll look as good as new.
Although Crocs work for Mario Batali–god love his craft-salumi making heart–I tried them (briefly, in a store), and the quality didn’t compare to the Birki’s or Sanitas. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not slamming Crocs. They are lighter than your average clog, but I can’t seem myself in a kitchen, taking a chance on a mislaid knife falling on top of my Crocs. I know that both my Birki’s and my Sanitas would handily protect my tootsies.
And speaking of a mislaid knife, if you need to go that extra mile (and some employers require that you do) a few manufacturers offer steel-toe clogs. They’re not as comfortable as a standard clog, but you’ll be a lot happier should someone accidentally drop a 30-lb frozen turkey on your foot.
So again, you don’t need to be a professional to wear them. Simply put, they’re the right shoe for the right job. In the kitchen, it’s imperative to use the right culinary tool for the right job, and the same holds true for what you wear while cooking. (You wouldn’t wear bowling shoes when you’re going hiking, right?)
Anyhow, I got in touch with the co-owners of Cambridge Clogs, Elizabeth Lefavour and Seth Lamoreaux to discuss all-things-clog-related. This fun duo really knows their stuff, and I’ve happily purchased a few pairs from Cambridge Clogs over the past few years. I can’t recommend Cambridge Clogs enough, as they’ve always steered me in the right direction – particularly in light of the fact that I specifically have lower back problems and they understand that quality clogs will aid one’s posture.
As opposed to ordering clogs online somewhere, Lefavour and Lamoreaux help you find the right fit in person – which is all the more reason why a brick-and-mortar store is essential for purchasing specialty footwear. These two clearly love what they do, and Lefavour explained that it was the “best decision ever made as a business owner to start selling clogs. It was just the right business decision at the right time,” given that clog sales were trending up back in the 1990’s.
Here’s a bit of information from Lamoreaux as to why clogs are specifically designed for those who stand all day long:
“Clogs are an essential tool for people that stand at work. They can minimize soreness and fatigue, are easy to clean, and last a long time. I think the ever expanding popularity of clogs is mostly due to the fact that they actually work.
Lets face it, standing upright is an evolutionary aberration. There are 26 bones, 33 joints and 38 muscles in each foot. With so many moving parts, there are lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. Plus, your feet are under the stress of your body weight. Time after time, step after step between a hard surface and hundreds of pounds of pressure.
The anatomical foot-bed of a clog spreads the impact of each step more evenly across the whole surface of the foot, so that each of those small parts carries some of the load. Until people figure out an efficient means of working in a kitchen without standing, clogs shall remain a staple in both professional and home kitchens.”
When I asked Lamoreaux about clog sales, he’s made it clear that this market has been hit by the economic downturn, despite the popularity of clogs:
“Clog sales have been a little flat the last couple of years, more as a result of general economic conditions than anything else. I suspect this is a better result than many product lines, which have seen a big decrease in sales. I do think the celebrity chefs are increasing demand for more interesting styles. I have noticed that clogs are becoming more of a “lifestyle” item, than strictly a work-wear item, and anticipate the manufacturers offering more and more choices.”
The good news here is that clogs aren’t the clunky wooden floor clackers that they used to be back in the 1970’s. Lefavour explains that back in the 1970’s, clogs “would have only been wood.” She goes on to explain: “Sanita invented [a] product with a flexible frame which still provides the same center arch support, but with a little bit of flex…[increased] quiet…a little bit more energy return on those materials.”
On the fashion side, things have also changed dramatically clog-wise since the 1970’s by moving out of the professional kitchen into the mainstream. What’s hot? Here’s Lamoreaux’s take on current clog fashions:
“Because clogs are one of the oldest forms of a shoe, there is always some inspiration to be found design wise playing with tradition and trend…I think we are seeing both of these elements represented in this fall[‘]s collection. (Fall selling season starts in July) There are a few styles with embossed leather this year that have a very traditional tooled leather look. Think of the very detailed work you might see on a saddle…or in your case maybe a saddle bag for a bike. There are also some mash-ups of the old and new…Traditional black patent with neon soles and stitching for both men and women…There is a new pearlized patent style for women that has an almost 3-d effect. Think of the finish on certain electic guitars or sports cars that have sparkles with a sense of depth. There is a fantastic electric blue that is sure to be a big seller. It has the WOW factor, but is still wearable everyday.”
So whether or not you’re a culinary professional, again I strongly recommend that you go by yourself a pair of ridiculously comfortable chefs clogs. I wear mine in public. Whether you choose to yourself, is really up to you.
By the way, if you’re a culinary professional, bring your business card and make sure that you mention to Lamoreaux or Lefavour at Cambridge Clogs that you’re in the industry. They understand how hard it is to stand in the kitchen all day, typically for low pay. In light of this, they’re currently extending a discount to industry professionals.
Look. Even if you don’t wear them outside of your house, I can guarantee you that if you find a well fitting pair, spending more time in the kitchen is a breeze. Fatigue creeps up on you in a kitchen, and sometimes you don’t even know why you’re tired.
Clogs are the secret that chefs and surgeons have known for years. Now you know it too.
Do don’t just sit there and read about clogs. Go do something about it. Your feet will thank you. (And if you tell your friends, soon they’ll be thanking you as well.)