The Story Of Uwezo
One of the first questions people ask us when they see ‘Uwezo’ printed onto the sole of their shoe is, “What does that mean?” Literally speaking, the word ‘uwezo’ is a Swahili word that means ‘capacity’ or ‘ability’. But, likely when asking what Uwezo means, you are looking for more than a simple dictionary definition.
To us, Uwezo is the beauty, strength, and opportunity that each individual has inside of them. It is the promise of unrealized potential, peace, and prosperity. It’s a means by which to turn surviving into thriving.
Style With Substance
At Uwezo, we believe in style with substance. Fashion is more than just the clothes on your body. It is a way to portray who you are, what you think, and what you believe in. It shows others what you care about and is an undeniable form of self-expression. So, what are you expressing with your fashion? What do the brands you wear stand for?
At Uwezo, we believe in doing our part to help the world. We donate a portion of the profits from each pair of cowhide shoes sold to Empower African Children, a charity organization that provides scholarship funds for East African children to attend secondary and post-secondary schools. Empower African Children invests in the best and brightest young people who can then receive the tools they need to be a positive influence in their communities. This organization directly reflects what Uwezo means. It gives young people the ability to reach their potential, their capacity, in a way which they might otherwise be hindered.
Again, each pair of shoes sold helps contribute to this organization, but even if you don’t leave today with a pair of Uwezos in the mail, we still encourage you to check out Empower African Children to learn about more ways to help.
About Our Hair-On Cowhide Shoes
Often when we talk about our shoes, we refer to them as “hair-on cowhide shoes” so they are not confused with leather shoes. Our boots, Oxfords, and slip-ons are truly unique in the sense that no two pairs — heck, no two shoes! — are exactly the same. We use cowhides with the hair still on them to make our unique shoes. This means that your left shoe may look a hair (pun intended) different than your right shoe, though, they are cut from the same cloth — another great pun! When you order a pair of Uwezos, you need to expect a little bit of variety in the pattern of the shoes. For a better idea of this, you can follow us on Instagram so you can see what an everyday pair of Uwezos might look like.
Personally, we love the variety of our shoes. You never know quite what you’re going to get, but you know you’re going to love it.
The Cowhide Shoe Patterns
Brindle: A pair of brindle cowhide shoes will probably be as close as you can get to an identical left and right shoe, but again, there will be some variances. Brindle is a common coat coloring seen on mammals ranging from guinea pigs to dogs to horses. Some people describe brindle as being a very subtle tiger stripe, as the hair grows in close-knit patches or stripes. On cows, this typically emerges from a caramel-colored undercoat with streaks of deep brown throughout. The result is a beautiful and dimensional coat.
Black And White: Our black and white oxfords, slip-ons, and desert boots reflect the classic black and white spotted cow pattern. These cowhides can range from having large black spots on a white coat to having a smaller pattern of black and white splotches.
Brown And White: This cowhide pattern we use for our cowhide shoes is similar to the black and white pattern. The color of the brown spots can range from a tan to a deep brown, but is typically a medium reddish-brown color.
How To Care For Cowhide Shoes
If you own a pair of nice leather shoes, you likely take good care of them by keeping them out of the rain and polishing and protecting them with shoe polish. However, as soon as you take a look at your hair-on cowhide shoes, your first thought might be, “Well, I can’t polish those.” That’s an accurate statement! Trying to polish hair-on cowhide will result in an awful mess and probably ruin your shoes for good. But, don’t worry. We’re here to tell you how to care for your hair-on cowhide boots, loafers, and Oxfords in a way that will keep them looking great for years and years to come.
How NOT To Clean Your Uwezos
Perhaps it is best to start with a few tips on what NOT to do when it comes to cleaning your cowhide shoes. The first and probably most important thing to remember when it comes to your cowhide shoes is this: don’t let your shoes get drenched or soaked with water, as this can cause problems when they dry. This includes not putting them in the washing machine, even if that works for your favorite pair of Converse canvas shoes. Another important thing to remember is to not brush your shoes in the opposite direction of the hair growth. Remember, you’re trying to clean your shoes, not give them a new hairstyle.
Cleaning Your Uwezos
For day-to-day cleaning, use a hard-bristled brush to keep the shoes free of dirt, sand, and small pieces of debris. You can use a brush specifically designed for brushing cowhides, or you could even use a new toothbrush — just be sure to keep it separate from your normal toothbrush, as you likely do not want to put a toothbrush that has been used on your shoes into your mouth!
Handling Spills And Stains
No matter how careful you are, it is inevitable that at some point you or someone else will spill something on your beautiful cowhide shoes. The best thing to do in this situation is to not panic. Follow the steps below to handle a spill:
- Soak up the excess liquid as quickly as possible. Be sure to dab the spill instead of rubbing it, as rubbing the spill might make it soak in even more. You can use a paper towel, clean sponge, your sock, or whatever you have on hand.
- If you get something like mustard or mud on your shoes, dab up as much of it as possible and leave the rest to dry. After it has dried, use the blunt end of a knife to try and scrape off the excess in the direction of the hair growth. For the little pieces leftover, use your brush and try to brush it out.
- If a stain remains, mix a dab of shampoo with some warm water. Using a clean cloth, rub the mixture into the cow hair. After the stain is removed, use another damp cloth to remove any shampoo residue.
- If shampoo does not work to remove the stain, you can attempt to use a tiny bit of eucalyptus oil, which is thought to be safe to use on clothing, especially to remove grease and food stains. Using a cotton swab, rub a couple drops of eucalyptus oil into the strain and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Keeping The Shape
In addition to keeping your cowhide shoes clean, you will also want to make sure that the structure of the show is not compromised. Like any shoe, your Uwezos may feel a little stiff at first but should “break in” a little more with each subsequent wear. It is important to take action to maintain the shape of your shoe, as this will lead to a more comfortable fit and a longer-lasting product.
When not wearing your cowhide shoes, keep them in a shoe bag or box to limit the amount of dust that gets on them. Additionally, keep the shape of your shoes with a shoe tree. These devices, often made of wood, helps to extend the life of the show by preventing creasing and preserving its shape. But that isn’t all they do. Wooden shoe trees also help to wick away moisture from the inside of the shoe, which otherwise could lead to rot and degradation of the cowhide.
Putting your shoes on is also an opportunity to take action to maintain the shape. One of the most common places to see shoe damage is on the heel. This is the result of attempting to shove your foot into the shoe and accidentally bending the heel forward in the process. To prevent this, simply use a shoehorn when putting the shoes on. We offer beautiful, authentic cow horn shoehorns made from polished Ankole Watusi bull horns that can become an heirloom to pass down to your children.
Following the steps above, as well as being sensible about where and when you wear your Uwezos, will help keep your cowhide boots, slip-ons, and Oxfords in great shape!
We currently offer our cowhide shoes in three men’s styles.
Every man needs a pair of Oxfords in his closet, and owning a pair that is completely unique and one-of-a-kind is all the better. Our men's Oxfords are ideal for those special occasions, such as weddings or business meetings, when you need to look a little more formal. While many men opt for owning a pair of plain black Oxfords, there’s truly something to say for a man who puts himself out there in a more unique shoe choice.
Our men's slip-ons are the ideal piece of casualwear when you still want to look put together and like you put effort into your outfit. Our cowhide slip-ons can be worn with jeans or shorts for any event, whether you are heading to work or heading downtown for a night out.
We offer our boots in a desert boot style. The men’s desert boot, also called chukkas, first became popular in the 1940s and 50s. Inspired by boots worn by South African soldiers, desert boots were designed to be lightweight enough to trek through the hot desert, while still having enough support to be worn as a combat boot. Our cowhide boots can be worn with jeans or a suit, and are perfect for just about any event.
We offer our women’s shoes in similar styles to our men’s with one exception. Instead of the classic slip-on that we offer in our men’s collection, our unique women's shoes include a beautiful mule loafer.
Originally worn by students at the prestigious Oxford University, Oxford shoes are smart, comfortable, and fashionable, even today. While first designed as a men’s shoe in the early 1900s, women soon took the shoe and made it their own. Our unique Oxfords for women look super chic with a pair of cropped work pants or are the perfect addition to a pair of tights and a high-waisted skirt.
Our women’s desert boots are very similar to our men’s, and are designed to be worn in the same way. These shoes pair as well with a pair of jeans as they do with a sundress.
Call them mules, call them slides, call them loafers — these women’s slip-ons are the epitome of fashion. Our cowhide loafers feature a leather saddle and leather sides with accent piece of hair-on cowhide. These shoes can truly be worn for any occasion, whether you’re going to work or to a festival.
Try Our Cowhide Shoes
Uwezo’s cowhide shoes are truly unique. With three men’s and three women’s styles to choose from, there is a pair of Uwezos for every occasion from weddings to work and from beach days to lazy Sundays. Shop our entire collection today to get a pair of your own! And don’t forget, when you order a pair of our unique cowhide shoes, a portion of the profits are donated to Empower African Children. After all, what is style without substance?