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Leather Quality and Properties

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. YRR92

    YRR92 Senior member

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    Where do you place the line between the polishing that should take place as the last stage of production and "antiquing" (fake patination)? Should that be completely even, or is the very slight darkening of the toe that I often see on brown shoes something you'd consider acceptable?

    Also, it may be perverse of me, but I like the "bad dye job" leathers. They remind me of '70s vinyl-bound books my grandparents had growing up.
     
  2. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    Here are an original and its replica. Foster gets a passing mark...??


    http://cobblersweb.style.coocan.jp/bespoke/bespoke-shoemaker2/foster&son.htm
    [​IMG]


    http://cobblersweb.style.coocan.jp/foster&son01/count100-top.htm
    [​IMG]
     
  3. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Natural patina is acquired patina, the side effect of time and care. Sort of like a lady aging gracefully.

    Painted on patina is applied patina, similar to small kids putting on make ups and or costumes and parents shoes to look mature.

    Very different.

    On the other hand, there are shoe painting artists that don't claim their work as "antiqued" or "patina" but painting artworks onto shoes that intentionally look nothing like a natural beauty.
     
  4. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    All 'patina' is an acquired sign of ageing in a given material. Some deteriorations are culturally desired, so they are given the fancy name 'patina', while others are not, so they are called 'dirt', 'stains', 'tarnish', 'discolouration', 'fading', etc. In a leather briefcase you may call the dirt and sweat rubbed into the handle and next to the locks 'patina' while a water stain is just that: a water stain (unless there are dozens and dozens of water stains acquired over decades, then it will be called patina.

    Artists and craftsmen have used for centuries techniques to accelerate the speed and to have greater control of those inevitable effects of ageing. Copper roofs have been treated with acid to speed-up 'verdigris' which rain and pollutants would have caused anyhow. Artists have used coloured tints and varnished to mellow the colour of the paints used. Gilders have rubbed soot into the crevices of newly gilded decorations. August Rodin is supposed to have encouraged his assistants to urinate over finished bronze sculpture sitting in the back yard.

    'Antique' finishes in leather are just the same. Whether or not you like the sponged effect of 'Museum calf' is just a question of preference and taste. In principle this finish is not different from marbleized paper or stucco marble (which was during the Baroque a more preferred and more expensive method than natural marble as it allowed the craftsman the absolute freedom of colour and swirls which the natural stone would not allow).


    This division into 'good' and 'bad' patina is absurd. All patina is acquired, whether I use the long or the short route, whether it takes one hundred years or one hour.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    ^And this is just sophistry. It's tantamount to claiming that paint is a patina.

    These are the very same techniques that counterfeiters and hoaxers use. It doesn't make them "patina." And no matter how it is achieved such "stains' never really replicate a natural patina.

    If nothing else, the distinction can be found in the intent. Patina is honest--a product of honest use and care. "Antiquing" is an attempt to make something look like what it is not. And there's a lot of that in the leather Trade.

    It's...

    ...corrected grain leather pretending to be quality, GY marketed as excellence (or near-as-nevermind). Tofu turducken. You can always tell, simply because all these people and techniques aspire to be, and masquerade as, something they are not. It's all cut from the same cloth.

    Applied patinas...in any form...are not only an oxymoron, they are, at bottom, a studied deception....as is the strained and specious attempts to legitimize them.

    And just for the record...there's nothing wrong with antiquing. I'll antique shoes esp. gimped edges to accentuate those edges and those lines. But it is what it is--antiquing. It's not patina. Nor is it forced or destructive...as it would be if leather is left out in the sun.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
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  6. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    You might want to tell this firm.............that you prefer 'honest' emulsion paint.

    http://www.hvart.co.uk/
     
  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Again with the sophistry...again with the posturing. Again with the misdirection.

    I never said anything untoward about paint or plaster or any of the decorative arts.

    I objected to the misuse of the word "patina."

    I understand...you need to quibble...so you conflate paint with patina. And even when someone says clearly...explicitly, specifically...""Applied patinas..." you close your eyes to it. To read what is not, and never was, there.

    I am a shoemaker...I have worked with leather for over 40 years...with my hands. I don't need to posture or present myself as something I am not. I know leather and I know shoes.

    There's a lot of folks here who think that as long as they have access to Google...and can throw out a cite, a photo, or a link...they're de facto experts. What they don't understand is that, as with all such "applied patinas", it is easily (and quickly) spotted as deception.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
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  8. Numbernine

    Numbernine Senior member

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    Wait just a minute now TOFU TURDUKEN ..............!!!!!!?????
     
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    :fonz:

    (the devil made me do it...:decisions:)
     
  10. Munky

    Munky Senior member

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    I write as someone who wants to learn about leather and about shoes. I have no claim to expertise (at least, not in this area). I do find the debate about patina an interesting one. My understanding, so far, is that all shoes, like a lot of other objects, develop a patina over time. This is not a good or a bad thing, just something that happens. However, for whatever reason, some people may want to appear to accelerate that process, through 'unnatural' means. Given that patina will develop over time, my best guess is that those people want to appear to speed up the the development of patina do so because they want their shoes to look older than they are. A nice paradox occurs here. People are paying good money for new shoes- ( 'these are my expensive new shoes'.) However, some are happy to pay just as good money, -if not more - to buy shoes that are new but appear to be much older than they are ('these are my expensive old shoes'.). While there is no limit to 'newness', there is a limit, presumably, to 'oldness'. Few, I suspect would like to be wearing the oldest shoes possible. The person or company who develops 'false' patina does so within limits, even if self-determined limits. Again, presumably no one is going to buy shoes that seem to be worn out.

    Overall, I suppose, this is an argument for allowing shoes to age of their own accord. However, presumably anyone with the right money can order shoes that are in any state. Notice that shoes with with accelerated patina are made that way with an aesthetic idea in mind. Shoes that develop a natural patina cannot be guaranteed to develop in such a way. However, as indicated above, many might prefer the 'natural aesthetics' of shoes allowed to patinate on their own.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  11. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    You said that applied patinas.....in any form (not just in shoes)......are a studied deception. Of course they are. They even take pride in deceiving. There is nothing wrong with deception. Trompe-l'œil (to deceive the eye) has been around for hundreds of years. It can be done skilfully, it can be done crudely.


    I think the word 'patina' is the one misused. In certain metals 'patina' is the result of oxidation, the very same thing as being 'tarnished'. Why has 'tarnished' negative, but 'patina' has positive connotations? Maybe you explain us your use of the word 'patina' and why you see it as something positive and (in leather) not just an accumulation of grime and the scars of time.

    You stated the 'museum calf' (which I am not fond of at all) looks like a 'bad dye job'. But as leather has no natural colour, (chrome tanned leather is white-ish, veg-tanned acquires the colour of the tannins used) you are at liberty to dye leather in whichever way you want: plain, stripy, blotchy, swirly. If people like their leathers blotchy, isn't that their prerogative? These are people in the tanning and shoe industry who have, just like you, 40 or more years of experience.

    You might not share their ideas, but you do use every opportunity to put everyone else down. Did you ever consider trying to understand why people make things differently from the way you make them?

    No, you don't! If someone does anything different from DWF, they must be wrong.


    "You play Bach your way, I play him his way!"
    Harpsichordist Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) to her collegue Rosalyn Tureck (1913-2003).
     
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  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Your quote by Landowska is so apropos...it's too bad you don't understand it. More importantly you don't seem to want to communicate with anyone. Whatever patina is...to you, a non-shoemaker...it is not paint or plaster. You can not make the two words synonymous even with obduracy and repetition. If paint is patina then welcome to corrected grain leather.

    And no, there's nothing wrong with deception when it is acknowledged and/or pursued for its own sake. You've taken a discussion about the qualities of leather and the pros and cons of trying to patinate leather through exposure to sunlight (infrared and ultraviolet), and through misdirection and deliberate misconstruction, made it into a discussion about something altogether different, with you imposing your own singular definitions of the words being used. That's not just deception, it's posturing at the very least and trolling more likely. Acknowledged or not.

    People can like Museum calf...I've no problem with that ...but acknowledge it for what it is. It's not patination. I said it looked like a poor dye job. That's my opinion...but it is based on a depth of knowledge and experience that is not easily duplicated in the modern world. That's not to say it is right, in some absolute sense, but it will pass for truth until a better rationale...grounded in experience...can come along.

    Many makers do things differently than I do...again I have no problem with that, despite your repeated and unsuccessful (maybe even hysterical) attempts to change the narrative.

    But these are makers. They are not posturing. They are not supposing. They are not fantasizing. They have real reasons for making their choices...sometimes I disagree but in almost every circumstance I at least understand--a claim you cannot legitimately make given your level of understanding and contact with the work.

    Do you see the difference? Words have meanings...a concept you seem to have trouble with--from pattens to patinas.

    Whenever I get into one of these attenuated, suspiciously disingenuous, discussions with you I am reminded of the old saw: "Opinions are like a$$holes--everyone has one but they're not all worth sniffing." My opinions are grounded in experience, in sweat and tears and mistakes and wax under the fingernails. For whatever they are worth they are not the product of daydreams or the parasitation of other people's work...and their grounded opinions.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I think you've mostly got it right...although there are many, esp. here on Style Forum (as opposed to Substance Forum?), who really want to give the impression that they are old money...or so old money that they can afford to be indifferent to the condition or quality of their clothing. That's what, if I read him correctly, Chogall was getting at with the comment about "studied sprezz." It's posturing, it's affectation, and it's entirely transparent. But it's what some people like...indeed structure their lives around.

    There is, as far as I know, no one antiquing or accelerating patina who gets it exactly right. Darkening is added where the leather is most exposed to sunlight or most apt to be worn and the leather is often lightened where the shoe is the least exposed. Look at the Fosters posted earlier. The old one, the chewed up one, is darker on the sides of the shoe--where the pant would cover and protect the finish and the leather. The peanut brittle coloured pair have been deliberately lightened at the same location. How does that make sense? It's a mish-mosh...almost random...in many cases. And again, to those who really know, it's immediately apparent. Like a thumb in the eye, it just looks fake. So, yes shoes with a natural patina will look different than shoes that have been "doctored."

    The whole point of the discussion, however, is not whether a natural patina is preferable to to an applied patina--that's a matter of personal opinion, as declasse as it may be, but simply that some of the techniques...such as prolonged exposure to sunlight...are actually extremely detrimental to the life of the leather.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  14. dbhdnhdbh

    dbhdnhdbh Senior member

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    Without venturing into whether it should be called "patina", it does seem that many on SF like the appearance of shoes on which the color of the leather varies. Some may share DWFII's ability to tell at a glance whether this variation is due to years of wear, polishing and exposure to elements or a result treatments used to produce the effect. Most, I suspect, are like myself and would have no clue how to distinguish age from an artist's efforts. Those of us who are clueless need not care how the appearance came to be. Those few who can tell the difference still have to decide whether they like the look of a particular pair of shoes.

    Why does the dye job has to be uniform? It is probably harder to get perfect uniformity than variation, and it may well be that leather that is less than perfectly consistent in color may be less expensive than flawless samples. Hence "bad dye job" may also be "cheap dye job". But these are back to matters of taste. Some people like it, some do not. What is there to argue about? Not one of my favorite musicians has anything like the audience of the big pop stars. But I feel no need to debate a pop music fan about whose taste is "correct". Free country.

    For my shoes, since I buy cheap and old, if they have color variation it could due to age, it could be due to a cheap dye job when the shoes were new. It could be bad dye job on aged shoes. I don't care. But most SF folk are far more interested than I in the appearance of their shoes.

    DWFII: aesthetics aside, is there a reason to prefer uniform to varied color in new leather, or color variation due to age over variation due to finishing in older shoes?
     
  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The short answer is "no."

    But the longer answer is something along the lines of "Why prefer naturally finished, aniline calfskin to corrected grain calfskin?" "Why prefer short even stitches to long stitches?"

    The only reason is that non-uniform dyeing, long stitches, etc. (and on and on, ad infinitum), are generally signs of sloppiness and expediency.

    To some extent, it's context--and the context is shoemaking. I am a shoemaker; I see with the eyes of a shoemaker. I understand construction and technique and longevity from the background of having been a shoemaker for closing in on half a century. I am a craftsman. I think about things in terms of how they can be done, if they can be done and how they can be done to effect best quality and function.

    Substance versus style.

    That said, it's not heart surgery. It's not world peace. It's just shoemaking.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  16. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    I disagree completely.

    Acquired patinas are from aging and usage. Applied patina are imitations to look aged. It's a pretty well defined division.

    There are for sure ways of creating applied patina, but they are still applied patina, not acquired patina. An antiqued bronze statue is just not an antique bronze statue.

    In addition, a part of the acquired patina for personal items is that they are very personal, sometimes nostalgic, and what made the shoes "mine".

    p.s., oxidation of metals are sometimes the required finish to protect the metals, i.e., intentional rusting coat for carbon steel knives.
     
  17. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    I think the question is what's better or what do you prefer between finished aniline calfskins or unfinished/semifinished crust leather that are dyed/creamed in the shoemaking process. i.e., JL/Vass box calf vs. EG/G&G semi-finished crust calf.
     
  18. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    I appreciate this conversation, but I have an off topic question. I saw somewhere that there is a difference between french and italian calfskin. French is supposedly durable than Italian? Is this true. If this is true, why? Breed of cattle? Tanning procedures?
     
  19. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I don't think it's necessarily true. I can't speak to all French calf or all Italian calf but I suspect it depends on the tannery itself. Each tannery, even in the same country, is going to be doing some things differently than all the others.

    The only thing I would observe is that in my experience Italian calf tends to have a more delicate finish. Of course, the French calf I have been using is fairly large (probably more like veal than calf) and is struck through, as well. It's also a bit thicker (3 oz.) than the Italian calf I've seen.

    But take that with a grain of salt...we see more French calf this side of the pond than we do Italian calf.
     
  20. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    Here is Finnish elkskin, which is not expensive, but nor cheap.
    • size : 22 - 30 sq.ft.
    • thickness : 4 mm
    • price : US$ 12 / sq.ft.
    Other prices in Japan for reference.
    • Anilou (Puy) and Vocalou (Annonay) : US$ 20 / sq.ft.
    • Chromexcel (Horween) : US$ 12 / sq.ft.
    • Shell cordovan (Horween) : US$ 120 / sq.ft.
    From http://l-phoenix.sblo.jp/article/44106019.html [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Deerskin is very stretchy, but not fragile. It is hard to break. Besides, it is so porous that it is lightweight and breathable. I think these are strong points. From http://archive.org/stream/smithsonianmisce1201969smit#page/232/mode/1up [​IMG] I have Midwestern's genuine deerskin and Churchill's genuine elkskin, and one of their weak points that I think of is that the grain is so thin as to be liable to peel off, compared with calfskin and steerhide respectively. [​IMG] Cross sections of deerskin (upper) and steerhide (lower) from http://www.nihonshika-hikaku.com/product/index.html [​IMG] [​IMG] I think shoemakers avoid deerskin and elkskin because they have poor resistance to friction and their grain is easily scratched. Instead they prefer to use buckskin (grain side is buffed) or deerskin suede (maybe reversed leather). G&G buckskin
    [​IMG] Carmina deerskin http://tradingpost.jp/shibuya/6073/ [​IMG] [​IMG] C&J deerskin http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/eton/item/658348/ [​IMG] An important reminder: Elkskin (except genuine elkskin) is usually cowhide/steerhide at least in the US. From Pfister & Vogel leather swatch http://archive.org/details/leatherspecimenb00lacr [​IMG] From Russell Moccasin catalog [​IMG] From American Leathers [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] Justin genuine European elk http://www.ebay.com/itm/JUSTIN-EURO...D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
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