Veldtschoen Construction

In shoemaking jargon, the veldtschoen, or stitchdown construction method is strongly recommended for boots and shoes which must be weather resistant and flexible.

The English translation of ‘veldtschoen’, the 17th century Cape Dutch name for what is technically known as a stitchdown, is ‘field shoe’. Today it is seldom spelt that way. In modernised Afrikaans the familiar footwear is known as a ‘veldskoen’ or a ‘velskoen’ – the former meaning field or bush shoe, and the latter skin shoe. Now affectionately and commonly called a ‘vellie’ (pron. felly).

The stitchdown holds a special place in the southern African footwear industry. Developed by the Dutch Voortrekkers and Pioneers, it was a product of the African bush, a rough shoe made of untanned game hide on the Great Trek northwards. By the simplest definition of construction, the upper was out flanged and stitched onto the sole and runner. The original workshop for producing veldtschoens was near Algoa Bay at a place today called Uitenhage.

The veldtschoen shares with the sandal and the moccasin the distinction of being the world’s oldest footwear constructions. Clarks of England and others like Courteney have made the style internationally famous. Today, making stitchdown shoes and boots is a highly specialised and technically challenging process. Although unchanged from its original concept, today’s veldtschoen benefits from modern technology and the advantages of innovative shoemaking.

It all starts with the last, which is a carefully developed wooden or plastic foot-shaped form or model. It is three dimensional, similar to the average human foot but with allowances for the toes, movement and expansion. To ensure maximum support and comfortable fit, the Courteney lasts were manufactured in England by the makers of Clarks of England lasts. The footwear designer works on the last to produce a comfortable and stylish boot or shoe.

With the veldtschoen, or stitchdown, method of construction the upper material is flanged outwards during the lasting process and attached by adhesive and stitching to a layer of material known as the runner or midsole. The sole is then attached by adhesion. At Courteney we double stitch the gameskin upper to a Giraffe leather runner which is combined with a microcellular rubber mid sole for additional strength. Courteney soles are made at our workshop from natural rubber prepared to Courteney specifications, and are attached with a two part polyurethane adhesive.

The Courteney Boot Company has incorporated the old fashioned values of hardiness and durability with modern ideas to produce a genuine veldtschoen which, with care, will serve you faithfully, and become an integral part of your adventures for years to come.


Gameskin Leathers

Gameskin leathers are more comfortable to wear than bovine leather, as well as being more beautiful:

Buffalo leather has a very noticeable grain as the fibres are thicker and more widely spaced. Buffalo leather differs from cowhide in thickness and flexibility giving an exceptionally comfortable boot. It also absorbs and releases moisture making it comfortable during both summer’s heat and winter’s cold. Buffalo leather is incredibly durable provided it is well cared for.

Buffalo leather will take your footprint (conform to the foot’s shape) but will not stretch, and will become more supple with the passing of time provided it is regularly polished.

Hides vary from buffalo to buffalo depending on the time the hide was taken, the age, gender and maturity of the animal. Scars and markings are intrinsic and to be prized.

Kudu leather is a lighter, softer leather, and features a lot more scratches as Kudu graze among thorn trees in the bushveld. We make no attempt to disguise these natural markings and scars which give the leather its character and which should not be seen as faults. This leather is wonderfully strong and durable yet its softness makes footwear with slipper-like comfort. Semi aniline tanning gives Kudu leather a soft silky touch and a very stylish look. Kudu is reversible and we use both the leather and the lush textured suede, often in combination.

Impala has all the same properties as Kudu leather. We use Impala leather suitable for lining, collars and tongues for our footwear, and for our haversacks.

Ostrich leather is one of the most durable leathers because while the fibres of most leathers lie parallel to each other, the fibres in Ostrich lie in a random criss-crossing pattern thus making it stronger. Ostrich is very thin and very pliable, soft to the touch, naturally oily and resistant to drying, cracking and stiffness. Ostrich leather is exotic and known for its unique quill pattern made by the empty quill follicles which swell closed, leaving a high round bump. It is a costly, exclusive luxurious leather, and its unique appearance and qualities give it timeless appeal.

Hippopotamus leather has an absolutely beautiful striated appearance and is superbly soft and velvety to the touch. It is extremely flexible and durable as well as being really strong and comfortable. Hippo leather always carries scars from the tremendous battles waged during its life and these are wonderful characteristics of the finished leather. We deliver our Hippo boots with the natural ‘suede’ finish. You may choose to keep that suede look, or polish the leather in which case it will become smooth.

All Courteney leathers are dyed through, never spray-dyed or painted.

The fact that our products are made from gameskin leathers does not mean they can be cared for differently from any other leather product. Gameskin is still leather. It can withstand a great deal of abuse and getting wet but provided it is cared for, and cared for properly and regularly, it will last a long time. 

Conservation note: Our luxury gameskin leathers are all from CITES-certified/approved, renewable sources and are hand picked for quality. Each individual animal had a natural life. Wild spaces are only allowed to exist if they are used profitably. Thus, wild, free-range leather does more to preserve the natural environment, than cattle ranching.