Welcome to the inaugural edition of Ask Lars, in which I (believe it or not) ask Lars Jensen—the virtuoso Norwegian bootmaker behind Østmo—probing, essential questions about footwear construction, leather, patterns, and more.

If you want to learn more about Lars and Østmo, I highly recommend checking out my original interview with him, as well as the Stitchdown Shoecast episode in which Lars gets deep with Ticho and I about his work, and also Norwegian waffle cheese.

This time: veldtschoen vs stitchdown! They look kinda the same! But I think they’re not! So what’s the deal, Lars??

Ben: Ok Lars, give it to me. What’s The difference between veldtschoen and stitchdown construction?

Lars: Truth be told, I pulled apart a vintage Lotus veldtschoen shoe to be completely sure I wasn’t going to be talking out of my ass for this premiere installation of Ask Lars. As such, I will illustrate the differences in construction with photos to ease the understanding of the two different construction techniques.

The short answer is that stitchdown and veldtschoen are both very different yet similar, as the only thing separating the two is a welt, which is obviously a major structural component. Veldtschoen is a welted construction, while stitchdown is not.

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Veldtschoen shoe with leather outsole removed. Big mean ol’ hole in it and everything!

First of all, let’s get into semantics. One might think that the term veldtschoen alone implies that we are talking about welted shoes. However, veldt is Dutch for field, so the term veldtschoen translates to field shoes. With the upper being turned out the full 360-degree perimeter of the shoe, it disperses water and mud out and over the edge of the sole; as there is no gap where the upper has been lasted around and under the insole where water can seep in, like with for example handwelted or goodyear welted construction. This is where stitchdown and veldtschoen construction are the most similar, both featuring the turned out upper; yet it is also where the similarities end.

In the Scandinavian languages, stitchdown construction is somewhat unfairly called sandal seam, as you will see the same folded out upper that is stitched down to the sole on a lot of sandals, mules and slippers. Think of Clark’s Desert Boots, where the whole upper is unlined and stitched down to a combination insole-midsole, and an outsole is simply glued on. This is where things can begin to become confusing, since there are a multitude of different types of stitchdown construction techniques, where the only similarity is a folded out upper.

It’s also worth mentioning that both stitchdown and veldtschoen are fairly closely related to Norwegian construction and Norwegian welted construction respectively, but that is a story for another day!

I’ll begin with veldtschoen construction. At the heart of the shoe you will find an insole that is either channeled so it can have a welt stitched to it; or it has canvas gemming that serves the same purpose, depending on the maker. On the particular pair of Lotus shoes featured in the pictures, a leather insole that has been channeled is used. Another interesting aspect with these shoes is that they feature full double uppers in addition to a full lining, but you can detract the “inner” upper and replace it with only a lining and get the same results. The old British veldtschoen shoes and boots were made for maximum water resistance in a time where wellingtons was not yet a thing, which is why they are so overbuilt.

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Outsole and midsole removed. Note how the cork filler, wood shank and steel nails are fully intact and not oxidized, despite the shoes being otherwise worn to the ground. This is a good example of how water resistant veldtschoen construction really is.

With veldtschoen, the lining, heel counter and toe puff is lasted around and cemented to the insole. After an initial lasting of the upper to “set” the stretch of the leather to the shape of the last, the entire upper is folded out and away, and a welt is stitched to the channeled insole, through the lasted lining, toe puff and heel counter. This is where stitchdown and veldtschoen differ the most. Veldtschoen can be done with a 360- or 270-degree welt. In the case of these Lotus shoes, it’s 270 degrees.

The heel counter and lining at the very back of the heel on these shoes are nailed to the insole with clinching nails. Over the top of the lasted heel counter and lining a rand is nailed on, which is just a piece of leather that creates an even plane for the mid- and outsole to adhere to, as well as for the folded out upper to attach to around the heel. You will find a rand on most 270-degree goodyear welted shoes and boots, too. In the case of a 360-degree veldtschoen welt, a rand is not necessary and the heel counter and heel lining is also stitched to the welt, thus omitting the need for any nails to attach them to the insole. In fact, many of the Indonesian bootmakers do a 360-degree veldtschoen construction.

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Cork filler, shank, and rand removed.

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Upper detatched from the welt and pulled away from the parts that are stitched to the welt and insole.

The upper is then folded out over the welt and wiped, meaning it is pressed as tightly against the perimeter of the shoe last as possible, by means of a special machine in a factory or the use of a thick fishing line or metal wire when done by hand, so the shoe retains the shape of the last. Finally, the folded out upper is stitched down through the welt, midsole and outsole. This seals the construction, and unless water seeps through the actual upper leather, you will be very hard pressed get your feet wet in a pair of veldtschoen boots.

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Welt in the process of being removed.

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Welt removed and insole detached from the lining and toe puff.

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Layers of a veldtschoen construction shoe. L-R: upper; lining and toe puff; insole; welt, leatherboard heel counter and other bits and pieces.

Now let’s talk stitchdown construction, the way we see it executed by heritage bootmakers like Nick’s, Viberg and also Østmo.

The insole of a stitchdown boot will be a thick slab of leather, and it’s not channeled for stitching. Instead, the back half of the upper, heel counter and lining is tack lasted to the insole with clinching nails that go through the layers of leather and insole, forming little hooks that mechanically hold everything together. The lining and toe puff at the front is cemented to the insole. Some makers, like Nick’s, also blake stitches the lasted upper, counter, lining and toe box to the insole instead of only using nails and contact cement.

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Stitchdown construction boot ready for midsole attachment. Upper is tack lasted at the back half, lining and toe puff cemented to the insole. Cork filler is used to remove negative space around the shank and in the cavity where the lining and toe puff is lasted.

From here, a midsole is attached, usually by nailing down the back half with more clinching nails. The forward toe portion of the upper, the vamp, is folded out and stitched to the midsole. The midsole of a stitchdown boot or shoe does in many ways replace the welt used in veldtschoen construction, as the lining and toe puff that is cemented to the insole gets sandwiched between the insole and midsole.

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Midsole in the process of being attached, upper ready to be folded out over the midsole.

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Wiping the folded out upper against the last, in this case with a sleeking bone.

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Folded out upper in the middle of being stitched to the midsole.

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Folded out upper stitched to midsole; midsole nailed on, going through the lasted upper, counter, lining and insole. At this point the boot is ready for attachment of the outsole and finally the heel.

A second row of stitches through the folded out upper, midsole and outsole secures the outsole. It is a fairly simple construction method, yet exceedingly sturdy and water resistant. Unless you’re ankle deep in a bog, it’s unlikely water will make its way through to your socks. However, due to the upper being lasted around and under the insole at the back half of the boot, it is wise to use brass nails and tacks, as any eventual water seepage will not corrode the nails and rot out the leather the same way steel nails will.

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Outsole stitched on (by hand in this particular case) and roughly trimmed to shape, before the heel is built.

And that is that! I hope this clears up one of the most common questions I get asked about different boot construction methods.

Ben: Thank you Lars, may you never cease to be such a wonder.

Lars: [says something in Norwegian that is unknown but clearly incredibly humble]

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