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Shoe leather question

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Why don't shoemakers have vegetable tanned uppers? From what I've read, vegetable tanned leather is tougher (a plus, IMHO) then chrome tanned leathers. It is used for the sole of the shoe, and is what gives my C & J's such a lovely smell. There are two drawbacks: vegetable tanned tends to be less flexible and dye does not penetrate well. I don't consider this second issue to be a true drawback. Here's my thinking - I love the look of Edward Green antiquing, where the wear areas are purposefully "╦ťpolished' lighter. Grenson's (and others) have the opposite effect, with the toe box and outside edge burnished darker. The problem is that in even my oldest pair of cowboy boots (3 resoles) have minimal discoloration. My guess is this is so because the chrome tanned leather has actually worked too well. A premium is placed on the antique effect, as sort of a throwback to older technology, yet it's tough to achieve naturally. By this I mean through wear, not through careful application of different colors of cream to achieve the "look". What do you guys think about that? Why don't we have more vegetable tanned uppers? Is it solely because chrome tanned is more flexible or cheaper? Are those EG's actually bark tanned? Am I completely missing something obvious? I think I'd prefer the durability, the smell, and most of all the lack of dye retention of a traditional oak bark tanned shoe. Further reading
post #2 of 2
Vegetable-tanned leather by its very nature is not soft and pliable. The vegetable tannage causes the leather to shrink, whereas chrome tannage does not. This means that all other things being equal, a chrome-tanned leather will be softer and thinner than a vegetable-tanned leather. It really only makes sense to use vegetable-tanned leather for uppers if you're looking for an exceptionally tough upper or if you want shell cordovan. It's true that you can produce chrome-tanned leather that will never really achieve any antiqued effect, but that's a function of the way that its dyed rather than the fact that it's chrome-tanned. Edward Green, Grenson, Crockett & Jones, and every other purveyor of antiqued shoes that I know of use chrome-tanned leather for uppers.
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