Every Frontier Partisan’s closet should be home to at least one pair of desert boots. They’re classic masculine footwear — comfortable, practical and … somehow… timelessly stylish.
“Desert Boot” is kind of a misnomer — the famous Clarks Desert Boot is really a Veldskoen. A what you say? A veldskoen. A “field shoe.” It’s Afrikaans. The veldskoen dates back to the 17th century, when Dutch settlers in the Cape made them from rawhide. The veldskoen was the moccasin of the South African frontier, the national footgear of the Boer Great Trek, the favored shoe of the great early African white hunters.
Boer, Brit, Black or Khoi, there is one thing that our pioneering forefathers all wore at some stage; the ubiquitous veldskoen. Easy to make, without the use of tacks or nails, these lightweight and extremely tough walking shoes could withstand the harsh conditions of the Southern African frontiers and became a legend in their own right… The veldskoen walked the trails of southern Africa and wherever the Trekboere, frontiersmen and hunters went, the veldskoen became part of their lives and part of history. Even foreign hunters equipped themselves with these die-hard shoes.
The vellie moved north with the Pioneer Column into Rhodesia, and Nathan Clark was inspired to make his desert boot by examples he found in Egypt — imported from South Africa.
I have a pair of Clarks I practically stole at a sale at Macy’s in Portland. Love ’em. My daughter Ceili says they’re almost hip. Don’t know about that. They are, however, timeless.
When I wear ’em with my tweed Orvis Norfolk Jacket (more stuff that works) and a Baldwin hat I feel ready to party like it’s 1899.
Which is exactly where I like to be.
Speaking of Der Boers….
I recently discovered a Frederick Remington illustration that adorned the cover of Harper’s Weekly, October 14, 1899, at the very beginning of the Second Anglo-Boer War. Didn’t know Remington had touched the Boer War, though it is perfect for him. Craggy, bearded, armed men in a rugged landscape — pure Remington.