The history of veldskoen or ntawuli in South Africa began with the arrival of working-class farmers from European countries like France, Holland, Germany, Belgium and even Britain.
Historically the veldskoen was used and worn by largely agrarian people that worked the land as it is one of the easiest types of footwear to manufacture and can be made with almost the complete absence of machinery. Places in Europe that still have a strong link to veldskoen include the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands( Rafa Nadal hails from Mallorca) and there are many small manufacturing workshops making stitchdowns or veldskoen dotted all over the world, but nowhere else in the world is veldskoen so closely allied to national identity than South Africa.
The definition of a veldskoen or stitchdown is that the upper leather is flanged outwards and then cemented onto the insole after which the upper is then stitched onto the insole. This stitching historically could be done by hand–the leather could be shaped to the user’s foot while it was still raw or wet. Leather back in the day could be‘tanned’by scraping the flesh side of the skin to remove the fat and then drying the skin in the sun. The animal’s fur could be removed using lime and water to release the hair from the follicles and just scraped off or just left to fall out naturally.
Moravian missionaries from Germany brought techniques to South Africa in the 18thcentury to make veldskoen in a more organised way, but veldskoen were well suited to the agrarian way of life in South Africa and had been made by people on farms and in the countryside using raw leather and locally available materials for many years before this.
There is even a strong argument to be made that Lance Clark, of Clarks of Street in England, when he discovered the veldskoen in North African souks( informal Arab markets) would have been brought there by South African soldiers who preferred wearing veldskoen to the uncomfortable British army boot(most South African soldiers fought in North Africa under Field Marshall Montgomery).
One of the major advantages of veldskoen over other types of footwear is that the foot tread–the area that you stand on can be made much wider than conventional footwear and thus allows your feet to have a much more natural shape, which is better for posture and balance. Things like your hips and knees are benefitted by this–obviously most veldskoen are also relatively flat.
Veldskoen is also an extremely durable and strong construction and as such is second only to the Goodyear welt in terms of longevity and its ability to be repaired and resoled. As such, as a self repairable boot in remote bush environments it remains the king of all footwear.
Lastly Veldskoen, vellies, veldskoen are part of our South African way of life and as such can never be owned by any private company, trademarked or usurped for private gain–it is a part of our South African heritage just like biltong, braaivleis, boerewors, pap and all our other unique and somewhat eclectic manners and ways.
Kiff and kwaai and safe my mate.
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases and more …