Chinese clogs (木屐)

It’s almost Chinese New Year. The Chinese use the lunar calendar and this year Chinese new year is on January 23rd 2012. This year is also the year of the black water dragon, which confusingly starts on 4 February 2012. Chinese new year comes early this year; the year of the dragon starts on ‘li chun’, which is the first day of spring. In 2012, ‘li chun’ is on 4th February.

Since Chinese New Year is almost here, I thought I would write about Chinese footwear. One example of casual Chinese footwear would be Chinese clogs or 木屐 which translates as ‘wooden clogs’. We call them ‘cha kiak’ in my family, which means ‘wooden clogs’ in the Hokkien dialect of Chinese.

Apparently, clogs from Wen Chang county on Hainan Island in South China has a very long history, centuries-old, and was the forerunner of the Japanese ‘geta’ or wooden slipper. Since my father’s ancestors came from Wen Chang county in Hainan province, my father’s side of the family wears clogs all the time. My paternal grandmother runs a coffee shop (a very traditional Hainanese profession) and she wears clogs around the shop, house and even to go next door. My uncle and aunt also regularly wear this type of footwear around the house and my aunt prefers them to slippers because according to her, her feet are cleaner while wearing clogs, unlike slippers which collect dust. Chinese clogs remind me of my childhood because their clack-clacking sound reminds me of my grandmother, and of the times I spent in her coffee shop.

There is no left or right side to the clog. You can wear them on either foot. They are very comfortable too. The design of the clog, with its elevated sole, helps to keep your feet dry. The wooden sole is also amazingly non-slip and is good to wear on wet surfaces. These clogs don’t come in any standard size. At the clogmakers, they generally come in big, medium, small or kids size. Clogs with straight sides are meant for men and clogs with sides that curve in (like in the picture) are for women.

Chinese clogs (木屐) or ‘cha kiak’ from my grandmother’s home

Interestingly, red wooden clogs are also included in a Chinese bride’s dowry. Two pairs of clogs, beautifully painted in red, make up part of a traditional Chinese dowry.

Sadly, making traditional Chinese clogs is a dying art. It is increasingly difficult to find these type of clogs as they have to compete with more modern footwear. Nowadays, these clogs are becoming more of a tourist souvenir item than everyday footwear.

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Levi’s recycled shoes

Earth’s population is now 7 billion and continuing to increase by a billion every 13 years or so. With limited resources on earth, it is in everyone’s best interest to be more eco-friendly and practice the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. Separating my rubbish into plastics, glass, paper and cardboard had been my extent of recycling until I bought a pair of recycled shoes made by Levi’s. These are not secondhand shoes, but shoes that have been made from recycled materials.

Levi’s is a company that is trying to be more eco-friendly. It has a Water<Less range of jeans which uses on average 28% less water to manufacture. Levi’s encourages consumers to donate their old jeans and they also used 25 500 pairs of old jeans to make recycled denim insulation for their San Francisco headquarters.

Additionally, Levi’s also has a range of footwear called their Red Tab shoes, which is made from old jeans. According to Levi’s, no two pairs of shoes are the same.

This recycled Levi’s shoes started life as a pair of jeans.

While I love the design and idea of the recycled shoes, I have an issue with the cost. The Levi’s recycled shoe cost more than the pair of Levi’s shoes made from new materials. Surely recycled shoes should cost less since the recycled materials used to make it would cost less. If recycled shoes were cheaper than shoes made of new materials, this would encourage more people to recycle.

Both pairs of Levi’s shoes that I bought were made in Indonesia, and they seem to be made to fit Indonesian feet too. I found the shoes to be slightly too narrow for my feet, but I still love the style of the Levi’s shoes.

Red Tab recycled shoes by Levi’s also come with denim shoelaces.

Levi’s shoes

Levi Strauss & Co. is a company most often associated with jeans. It was founded by Levi Strauss way back in 1853 in San Francisco, California and was the first to manufacture blue jeans. Interestingly, these days Levi’s has diversified from jeans and clothing into lingerie (yes, lingerie!), eyewear and also footwear.

The versatile Levi’s shoes can be worn as a high top or low cut sneaker

The style of Levi’s shoes is similar to a Converse/Chuck Taylor shoe. They are more versatile than other sneakers as some styles of Levi’s shoes can be worn up like a high top sneaker, or rolled down for a low cut look.

Rear view of a pair of Levi’s shoes