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The Waxi boot is an enduring icon of the Border and Bush Wars — Conflicts which dominated South Africa and present day Zimbabwe during the Cold War. Outside of Africa and certain military circles both of these wars have faded into obscurity. Don’t get the wrong idea though, they were anything but boring.
At the height of the Border and Bush wars, both South Africa and Rhodesia found themselves geographically, economically, and diplomatically isolated. They would be facing off against the best efforts of the USSR, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, and several members of the Soviet Bloc. All of whom would be providing training, arms, logistics and advisory support to a rainbow of communist terrorists, militant groups, and Sub-Saharan nation states. The resulting violence was characterized by its fast pace and indiscriminate brutality — with frequent attacks on public infrastructure and civilian populations.
This period of counter-insurgency combat in the African savanna and wildlands forced tactical and material improvisation. Scrambling to stay competitive, South Africa and Rhodesia would develop doctrines and equipment that would stay relevant for decades to come.
Like many South African designs, the Waxi Boot is essentially a standardized field improvisation. Fighting in the bush necessitated two things, long term endurance, and bursts of high mobility during close contact. Traditional combat boots provided neither — especially when you consider the sweltering heat of Africa. With this in mind, many South African and Rhodesian soldiers opted to wear their physical training footwear instead of their issued combat boots. The most popular choices were takkies (hockey shoes) or commercial high tops from Converse and others.
This philosophy would eventually give birth to the Waxi or “Half Combat” boot. Sitting halfway between a high-top sneaker and a combat boot, the Waxi runs, jumps and flexes like a tennis shoe while delivering the protection and durability of a boot. The "Full Combat" variant has a taller profile with an extra buckle but sharing the same design as the rest of the Waxi.
Our Waxis are manufactured by hand, by the same family owned company who has supplied them to the SADF for decades. They are lightweight and strong, with a full Goodyear welt and double stitching on all load-bearing seams.
For the uninitiated westerner several things about the Waxi will come as a surprise. The first and most noticeable is the fit. The Waxi is built with an extra wide toe box. A feature which increases airflow and accommodates swelling from extended marches. We suggest you wear yours the African way: thick wool socks, regardless of the weather.
Which brings us to the second thing most people will not expect; the thickness of the leather. Without a doubt the Waxi is a durable boot, however it does this without the weight and stiffness you might be used to out of a pair of Red Wings. This makes sense when you consider the Waxi’s parentage; it is a desert boot, not a logging boot for North American forests.
This thin flexible leather performs two important tasks. It significantly reduces the time required to break in your boots and it increases comfort in hot weather. Spend a few days outside and will find that your pair readily shapes, creases and forms to match your feet. It’s also great for moisture transfer. You will find that you sweat straight through the leather of your boots instead of swimming in them.
The Waxi boot was the brainchild of South Africa’s elite Recce units (short for “Reconnaissance”). The cream of the SADF, Recce were experts in both long-range combat reconnaissance and counter-insurgency. In truth though, they did far more. Recce quickly became the “go-to” fighting force for nearly everything, from airborne raids to underwater demolitions.
Limited by attrition and embargos, Recce frequently purchased their own kit on the private market. This included the first Waxi boots, which were made to order for individual soldiers. Among these first purchases were many of the now famous “anti-tracking” boots — variants of the Waxi featuring a completely flat sole.
The anti-track Waxi replaced the Recce footwear of choice — black high top sneakers with the soles sanded flat. In the dusty conditions of the bush, the flat soles left faded prints, disguising fresh tracks as weeks old.