At the most there were hundreds of shoe factories in Norway. Today, there are only a few left – including Aurland Shoe Factory located in Aurland, Sogn og Fjordane County, famous for its lace-less shoes with a “little secret”.
The first so-called ‘Aurlandssko’ (Aurland Shoe) was born in the mid 1930s. At that time, there were 19 shoe factories in the village, and nearly 100 people were employed in the industry. Today, Aurland Shoe Factory is the only manufacturer left.
Knowledge from America
Around 1908, an early edition of the shoe came on the market. It was developed by Nils Tveranger and completely different from today’s Aurland Shoe with laces and ears. Later, the model was named National Shoe.
Founder Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger (1874-1953) came to Aurland as a young man. He had lived several years in the US, probably in Chicago, where he learned the profession. The early Aurland Shoe became so popular that many started to copy it.
During the 1910-country exhibition in Bergen, Tveranger won first prize for the popular footwear. In addition to being a clever and innovative shoemaker, he was also a good seller. While the 1930s were characterized by economic crisis, there were good times in Aurland. A new shoe was about to be launched, and it became a success. At the time, it was known as the Aurland Moccasin.
Tveranger also came up with the idea and design for the new model. The shoe was similar to the local ‘Tese Shoe’ which had been made in Aurland since the second half of the 1800s. It has been claimed that Tveranger was inspired by the Iroquois people’s moccasins in America as well as the Tese Shoe worn by the “indigenous people of Aurland”.
After World War II, the new moccasins became popular among both men and women, and they became a symbol of women’s liberation in the 1960s when high heels were replaced with flat shoes.
Since 1989, Aurland Shoe Factory has been the only manufacturer of the comfortable shoe, and it is the most important product in the local community. “Everyone” in Norway has heard of the Aurland Shoe, and through the establishment of a new display center called Aurland Èconomusèe, the popular footwear will be manufactured for many years to come.
The Little Secret
The Aurland Shoe is hand-made of genuine leather, and there are about 25 ‘operations’ per shoe. In 1936, an American shoemaker started to produce Aurland Shoe under the name “Weejuns” – sounding like Norwegians.
Being lace-less is not the only distinctive feature: A partly hidden Norwegian old penny ‘tiøring’ is placed on the saddle of each shoe. There are many stories on how the coin ended up there, but most often it is said that if you had a penny in one shoe, you were single.
Today, the ‘tiøring’ has become a trademark on the ever so popular Aurland Shoe.
Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Source and inspiration: Aurlandskoen
Bottom photo by: NRK