Freestyle veldskoens seen at the Root 44 market outside Stellenbosch (on the R44 main road between Stellenbosch and Somerset West - Sundays!

Freestyle veldskoens seen at the Root 44 market outside Stellenbosch (on the R44 main road between Stellenbosch and Somerset West – Sundays!

 

Veldskoen (or vellie, colloquial, veldskoene plural, alternately velskoens or velskoene plural; pronounced “FELL-skoons”) are Southern African walking shoes made from vegetable-tanned leather or soft rawhide uppers attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole without tacks or nails.

The name comes from Afrikaans vel (“skin”) (later assimilated to veld (“field”)) and skoen (“shoe”). They were first made by the Dutch East India Co. in the 17th century by the first Dutch settlers in South Africa. Their design is believed to be based on the traditional Khoisan footwear observed by these settlers. The footwear was later embedded into the Afrikaans psyche when the velskoen was used as the footwear of the Great Trek. Easy to make, lightweight and extremely tough, the vellie could withstand the harsh conditions of the great migration north. The vellie has become part of South African, Zimbabwean (previously Rhodesian) and Namibian society, worn by all classes and professions but favoured by farmers and safari guides. Nathan Clark’s company, C&J Clark, made the desert boot famous but Clark’s design is modeled after the same round toe and style last used to manufacture velskoen. Clark was inspired by the shape and design of the velskoen he discovered for sale in the bazars of Cairo, which were imported to Egypt from South Africa.

They are sometimes considered light boots, and can essentially be considered a subset of chukka boots or desert boots although vellies tend to have a lower topline.Veldskoen soles are sometimes cut from old car tyres rather than crepe rubber.

Veldskoene saw considerable use by the Rhodesian Army during the Rhodesian Bush War as tough light-weight boot. Vellies along with canvas “Takkies” were also favourites of the Selous Scouts as the creped sole made going untracked easier than the heavy lugs normally found on infantry boots.

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Our veldskoens are made by Freestyle:

Freestyle is incorporated as a closed corporation founded in 1985 by Ethwyn Munro and now managed and owned since 1996 by Grant N. Munro. Freestyle exports through partners to the USA, Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana. The main market for Freestyle products is South Africa.

The factory is based in Ottery, Cape Town. Our current capacity is 400 pairs of shoes per day. Approximately 40-50 staff are employed. The product range includes satchels, handbags. belts, hats and shoe-care products. The footwear range includes shoes and boots made by the stitch-down and stuck-on method, slotted and hand-lasted sandals and specialised footwear according to exclusive designs.

Footwear consists of mens, ladies and children’s boots and shoes, designed for the outdoor market and work-wear.

Registered brands include Freestyle, Cape Vellie Company, Bush Treads and Mates by the Millers. In 2005, Freestyle began producing the Der Lederhandler brand under license.

Materials Used:
Bovine cow leathers and Buffalo in suedes, nubucks, waxy and oiled leathers (mainly in full-grain). Exotic hides such as Springbok, Kudu and Ostrich are also available. Wherever possible procurement of leathers and other components is placed locally to support the establishment of local skills and industry.

HISTORY

The business began as a hobby following Ethwyn’s interest in leatherwork that was sparked by a trip to Greece in 1972. In 1985 after retiring as a professional classical actress, her stage name was Ethwyn Grant, she started a stall on Greenmarket Square as one of the original founding stallholders. Working at night and beginning with a start-up capital of R200 she worked determinedly in her newfound craft, often working on the stall during the day and making products at night for the following days trading. She was greatly assisted by George Henry de Lange, who is still involved on a consultancy basis to this day, with the technical aspects of the craft and other influential enablers included Trudi Schneider, Clive Carter, Pieter van Niekerk, Sal and Stan Miller and Fred Johansen. As the business grew my sisters, Lindsay and Tracy and my dad Norm all joined in what became a family endeavour. The business enabled me, Grant, to complete a tertiary education during and after which I joined the fledgling business full-time.

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