It’s been called the “desert shoe,” and the “field shoe,” worn by farmers in South Africa for centuries — and Thandie Newton and Prince Harry more recently — but colloquially, these shoes are known as “vellies,” short for veldskoene, a combination of veld and skoene, the Afrikaans words for “field” and “shoes,” respectively. Now they’ve caught the eye of businessman Mark Cuban, who has invested in the South African footwear brand Veldskoen.
Veldskoen, a Cape Town-based start-up founded in 2016 by Ross Zondagh, Nic Latouf and Nick Dreyer, has updated and reimagined the iconic shoe, adding contemporary touches of color and creativity. In terms of construction, each pair is still handmade, cut and sewn from South African rawhide leather and attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole without tacks or nails, making each shoe not just unique, but ethically sourced and produced.
Cuban and his partners Angela and Steve Watts are behind Veldskoen’s expansion into the U.S. market, where the shoes are now available online, retailing from $127. The Watts first partnered with Cuban after they appeared on “Shark Tank” with their company Slyde Handboards. South African-born Steve Watts felt vellies was an authentic product emblematic of South African culture and style that could resonate in the United States.
Veldskoen also entered the U.K. market earlier this year, an expansion that was made possible by a major cash infusion from Long4Life, a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and headed by South African entrepreneur Brian Joffe.