The clog is back in the industrial North of England but it is no longer a simple, economic, and characteristic article of the mill girl’s wardrobe.
Clogs do not clatter along the tarmac as they once did along the cobbles. They are today a highly specialised product worn increasingly for safety in the heavy engineering industries. Clog-making, which is showing signs of a minor boom, has become a complex business. A Huddersfield clog factory, where more than a dozen people are employed, offers a range of 400 different types and prices to suit the whims and needs of the customers. The man who runs it, Mr Frank Walkley, talks of clog “permutations,” and says it is impossible to quote a sample price off the cuff unless he knows exactly what is needed; almost every order is supplied to meet a specific requirement.
It is industrial firms, rather than individuals, who order Mr Walkley’s products, which are now almost exclusively for factory wear. This year he expects to achieve a record production of 40,000 pairs and is hoping, if he can find the skilled craftsmen, to engage more staff.
The pay can be extremely good. It is possible for an experienced worker to earn £20 a week. But the applicants, though experienced, are not always suitable for the demands of what has become again a “modern” industry. Some are sixty or seventy years old; others are cobblers who want to make a few clogs on their own premises in their own time. Mr Walkley is at the moment trying to bring back from Canada a skilled, emigrant clog-maker.
The business which he founded in a Huddersfield back-yard when he was demobilised from the Royal Tank Corps after the war, and ran single-handed, is receiving inquiries from factories all over Britain. For heavy industrial workers he has produced a basic clog with part of the uppers reinforced with steel. For women, he has produced a lighter version which, still having the old property of being warm in winter, is ideal for the mid-century girl in the frozen food factory and is even, it seems, used around the home.
At present Mr Walkley, who has already moved his factory once, is again looking for bigger premises. There are two other firms, one in the north and the other in London, producing clogs in large quantities. Only one door, apparently, is closed to this new, old Industry: the door to the export market. Mr Walkley went to Dusseldorf to examine possibilities of European trade, but found that most countries were amply equipped to meet their own demands for clogs.