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Hand dyeing leather


Active Member
Feb 16, 2011
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I've been offered an option for 'hand dyed leather uppers (to any colour)' on a pair of MTM dress shoes. (Not burnishing, but really 'dyeing' - in the words of the maker, 'adding colour')
However, I am sceptical hand dyeing (or colouring the uppers by hand) is even possible, and am afraid it's just applying (or dipping or spraying) a layer(s) of paint/dye on top of the finished uppers

From my limited knowledge of leather production, uppers are prepped, go through a tannery where it is treated (chemical process occurs), and the finished upper is then sent to shoemakers. Colour choices are limited at the shoemakers end, and 'customization' is usually limited to burnishing/antiquing etc.

My question to the shoe experts, shoemakers, cordwainers, tanners is:
1. Is hand dyeing leather uppers possible? How does it differ from the tannery-dyed uppers? What are the drawbacks?

2. Can someone explain how colour is imparted / infused into the leather uppers, and where along the production process this comes in?

3. Is depth and richness of colour, and ability to develop patina with age determined solely by the quality of leather (full grain, corrected grain)?
Why then do some of the shoes I've seen with the same quality leathers (but different colour eg. tan vs dark brown vs burgundy) have different 'depth'?

With construction (GY, Blake etc) and type of leather (full grain, corrected etc.) dominating discussions, I hope an expert would chime in and fill this gap, and tell us what makes certain uppers so beautiful.

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