The traditional uniform of the carpenters of Edo consisted of a navy blue patch on the backside of their trousers and navy blue split toed socks. Above this, they would have grass sandals made from flax which were held together with a navy blue lace which had been threaded through the flax. As they had to step and walk on wood, they wore these flax sandals so that they wouldn`t leave any marks in their wake. This was a trademark of a carpenter.
A strap would be tied to the front of the sandals, and the front would then be folded back slightly, so that the carpenter could not put his foot all the way into the sandal. Hence the reason this type of method for wearing sandals was referred to as `slip on`. This looked rather smart. If the foot went all the way into the sandal, this was regarded as uncouth.
This type of work gear appeared around the middle of the nineteenth century and originated in Edo. It then spread across the country to become the norm by the end of the Edo era. Before the Edo era, carpenters would wear just their loincloth and flax sandals.
It was particularly difficult to become a skilled tradesman. When one became an apprentice carpenter, one had to go for 7 or 8 years without pay during a period known as `Nenki Bōkō` (yearly service). One wouldn`t starve or be short of clothes, but apprentices never received more than pocket money. Afterwards they would go through a year of `thanks service – Orei Bōkō`, which of course did not produce an income. Only when this was completed could they then set themselves up in business. Up until this time they were called `apprentice – deishi`, yet from then on they could style themselves as a craftsman, a `shokunin`.
After paying their respects to the head carpenter, they would be handed their toolbox, which would be the first time they had ever received such equipment to use as their own. They would only be permitted to wear the same insignia as the head carpenter after they had been made a craftsman. (pp.85-87)