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vege tanned vs. Chrome tanned leather: which one?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by the.chikor, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. the.chikor

    the.chikor Senior member

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    Can anyone really tell me which type of tanned leather is better for making bespoke dress shoes and why? [​IMG] Every bespoke shoe maker I have been to pushes the chrome tanned. I have read that chrome tanned leather doesn't lose color when exposed to water, shines easier, etc. But, I think I remember reading that chrome tanned leather cracks over time where vege tanned doesn't. If anyone has any insight, I would appreciate the education.
     


  2. sho'nuff

    sho'nuff grrrrrrrr!!

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    vegetable tanned leather uses tannin from barks of trees that will allow the leather to resist decay. it is used more for leather soles.

    chrome salt tannedleathers are very resilient and stretchable and used for shoe uppers , luggage, furniture etc
    i would think they use chrome tanned leathers for both bespoke and rtw shoe uppers as well
     


  3. Teacher

    Teacher Senior member

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    Both!

    Vegetable tanned leather should be used for the sole, insole, and thin lining leathers. Veg tanned leathers are very durable and breathable. They're also very beautiful in that they allow for a very natural look to the leathers. They can, though, be stiff.

    For this reason, chrome tanned leathers are used for uppers. They are softer, and they take dyes/stains more readily. Additionally, although they aren't as wear-resistant, they are better at flexing without cracking.

    So there you have it. Veg for the soles, insoles, and linings; chrome for the uppers. That's the way it is for pretty much all shoes, except the cheapest ones, which also use chrome tanned leathers for the soles.
     


  4. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    You can always go for shell cordovan. That's a vegetal tanned leather used for uppers.
     


  5. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    Not to mention Chrome with a Veg re-tan.

    Really, who is offering you the choice? In regards to calf, I'm not aware of any on the market that a bespoke maker would want to use with his name on it.
     


  6. the.chikor

    the.chikor Senior member

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    Not to mention Chrome with a Veg re-tan.

    Really, who is offering you the choice? In regards to calf, I'm not aware of any on the market that a bespoke maker would want to use with his name on it.


    Dimitri Gomez only offers chrome tanned, because he told me his French supplier has to make them specially, so he will only order the leather if a customer is allergic to the chrome tanning. Other than that, every other bespoke maker I have been to (in Europe) has offered me the choice. It sounds as if the consensus is that I should go with chrome for the uppers?
     


  7. Bob01

    Bob01 Senior member

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    ...So Vegetable Tanned Leathers would be preferred over Chrome Tanned for Luggage and briefcases?
     


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    ...So Vegetable Tanned Leathers would be preferred over Chrome Tanned for Luggage and briefcases?
    Once upon a time every part of the shoe was made of vegetable tanned leather. As far as I know, Chromium tanages, discovered in the late 1850's, didn't really come into common usage until the first part of the 20th century. Most high end dress shoes made in the 1920's were vegetable tanned throughout. Many makers around the world still prefer vegetable tannage. If I'm not mistaken a lot shoes that are extensively antiqued are based upon veg tans. Chrome tans stretch more than veg tans, but veg will hold a shape better. Veg tans dye up perfectly well although lighter colours are not always true to tone simply because the base is often a brown-ish color derived from the used of vegetable barks and extracts. In that respect chrome tans which usually come from tanning with a light bluish-gray colour are more often used for brights--reds yellows, etc.. It used to be that veg tans never had a finish-coat applied. I am not sure why. But nowadays we are seeing some finishes on veg. and alternate tanning (compounds) barks that impart a suppleness to vegetable tannages that rival chrome tans. Most chromes are finished. This is essentially a "paint job" of varying degrees of transparency--sometimes it is nothing more than an acrylic wax; sometimes it is actually an opaque coating with a substantial amount of solids. If a chrome tanned leather is not "struck-through" the core will retain that blue-gray cast and when the finish coat is rubbed off...either through abuse, accident or simple attrition...it will show through. And if the corium (the grain surface) has been broken and the shoe is any colour except black or dark brown, achieving a match between the abraded area and the surround is nearly impossible.
     


  9. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Like Ron said, they aren't mutually exclusive, Horween Chrome tans then vegetable re-tans its chromexel leather. It is the best of both worlds.
     


  10. Bob01

    Bob01 Senior member

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    Thank you for your very detailed response! I would think Vegetable tanned, then chrome tanned would be better than vis versa? Would make more sense to have the more rigid leather inside and the more flexible tanning on the outside?

    I bumped into another one of your informative leather posts here:
    http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=148958

    To make life a little easier for those looking for leather info in the future...

    "Part II

    Upper leathers, and the way they are put together, are just as problematic as any other facet of the shoe. These leathers may be vegetable tanned or mineral tanned...usually the latter is based on chromium salts which can be toxic to some people. But each of these tannages have unique characteristics.

    Chrome tan leathers tend to stretch more than vegetable tanned leathers and they accept brighter and more durable top finishes than have been historically applied to vegetable tannages. Both of these attributes are ideal for manufacturing purposes as they cater to both somewhat less than perfect fit and somewhat less than perfect maintenance.

    Vegetable tanned leathers have been historically used in every part of the shoe since time immemorial. Although veg tanned leathers are not common in mass produced footwear, they are almost a hallmark of high end footwear. Veg tans form and take a shape much more easily than chrome tans and they do not stretch as much. Both are characteristics that are not just appropriate for high end shoes but shoes in general.

    Additionally chrome tanned leathers are often grain corrected even if such amendments are not immediately apparent. Almost all chrome tanned leathers have a top finish which is effectively a "paint job." A lot of sins can be hidden by paint. Veg tanned leathers on the other hand are most often left unfinished with the exception of burnishing. The patina that develops on a aniline dyed veg tanned calf is the definition of depth. Given the current fascination with antiquing and other after thought finishes that seek to emulate patina and depth before the shoes are ever even worn, it should come as no surprise that most of these shoes are made with veg tanned uppers.

    Veg tans are also more often "struck through" meaning that the dye penetrates through the core of the leather. Veg tans are most often used for lining especially on high end shoes (although not always) not only because of the way in which they perform mechanically (less stretch) inside the shoe but because they are generally a little better at wicking moisture away from the foot.

    There is probably no consensus or standard that dictates which brand names or which models will utilize one tannage or the other. Even among bespoke makers there is very little rigidity in this regard although a case might be reasonably be made that one tannage or the other is superior for a certain application. There simply is not enough choice to be anything other than flexible...."

    Once upon a time every part of the shoe was made of vegetable tanned leather. As far as I know, Chromium tanages, discovered in the late 1850's, didn't really come into common usage until the first part of the 20th century. Most high end dress shoes made in the 1920's were vegetable tanned throughout.

    Many makers around the world still prefer vegetable tannage. If I'm not mistaken a lot shoes that are extensively antiqued are based upon veg tans.

    Chrome tans stretch more than veg tans, but veg will hold a shape better. Veg tans dye up perfectly well although lighter colours are not always true to tone simply because the base is often a brown-ish color derived from the used of vegetable barks and extracts. In that respect chrome tans which usually come from tanning with a light bluish-gray colour are more often used for brights--reds yellows, etc..

    It used to be that veg tans never had a finish-coat applied. I am not sure why. But nowadays we are seeing some finishes on veg. and alternate tanning (compounds) barks that impart a suppleness to vegetable tannages that rival chrome tans.

    Most chromes are finished. This is essentially a "paint job" of varying degrees of transparency--sometimes it is nothing more than an acrylic wax; sometimes it is actually an opaque coating with a substantial amount of solids.

    If a chrome tanned leather is not "struck-through" the core will retain that blue-gray cast and when the finish coat is rubbed off...either through abuse, accident or simple attrition...it will show through. And if the corium (the grain surface) has been broken and the shoe is any colour except black or dark brown, achieving a match between the abraded area and the surround is nearly impossible.
     


  11. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thank you for your very detailed response! I would think Vegetable tanned, then chrome tanned would be better than vis versa? Would make more sense to have the more rigid leather inside and the more flexible tanning on the outside?
    Again, I don't think you can say definitively that veg is better or chrome is better. Certainly vegetable tannages are preferred for insoles and outsoles, welts, heel stacks, stiffeners and liners. A lot of that is tradition, some of it is the functionality of the veg tannage--the wicking of moisture, the lack of stretch, etc.--and some of it is an aversion to chrome tans being in such close proximity to the skin. Chrome tanned leathers dominate the RTW Trade and almost all commercial footwear is made with chrome uppers. But many high end makers will use chrome and veg interchangeably and some bespoke makers would choose a high quality veg over an equally a high quality chrome always. Re-tans or veg/chrome tannages can be very nice but surprisingly enough we don't see a lot of exceptional leather in re-tan. This may simply be a matter of the tannery selecting the best hides for chrome tanning and selecting marginal hides for veg/chrome. Horween does a lot of retan and I use their latigo for boots and country style shoes almost to the exclusion of other kinds of leather. I posted a pair of brown buckle chukkas on SF a little bit ago that were Horween latigo. I felt that they turned out rather well.
     


  12. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    ^DW, what leather would you recommend for a pair of venetian loafers? I have a 22 yr old pair of LL Bean camp mocs (that I was wearing in LA iirc), that I would like to replace and upgrade. So I was thinking of a pair in shell cordovan. But I'm a bit concerned that they might wrinkle too much. Someone posted some pics of an old pair of Florsheims on Ron Rider's site here that show some wrinkling. I adore shell's toughness, weather resistance, and rich shine. I wonder if there's a skin that has those characteristics and wrinkles minimally. Horween has a skin on their website called "cavalier chromexcel." I went back and forth, probably w/ Nick H., last week about it. Here are pictures and the conversation. Do you have any thoughts on or experience w/ (1) cavalier chromexcel, (2) a venetian made of shell, and/or (3) another leather you might recommend for such a shoe? I'd want to them to be very durable for all kinds of abuse (like helping my aunt with gardening when I visit) but also very presentable (for wear with a sportcoat). Thank you!
     


  13. srivats

    srivats Senior member

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    Someone posted some pics of an old pair of Florsheims on Ron Rider's site here that show some wrinkling.

    That was me.
     


  14. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    ^Neat! Thanks for posting them. And I posted after you.

    Do you wear them? What do you think about shell venetians?

    I once saw a pair with that shape in a vintage store. Black shell. A half size too big. I don't think they were made by Florsheim, but it was a US company. J&M maybe. I got them and gave them to a grad student friend. Sebago had a model in that shape as recent as 5-10 yrs ago.
     


  15. srivats

    srivats Senior member

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    ^Neat! Thanks for posting them.

    And I posted after you. Do you wear them? What do you think about shell venetians?


    Those were pics from an ebay auction. I had saved them because that was the *only* time I saw that model from florsheim. Ron's venetians look great, perfect for travel (and regular wear too if you are a not big fan of penny loafers). I like both venetians and penny loafers, but if asked to choose between the two, I'd go for pennys since I LOVE that look when you wear it with khakis.

    Shell venetians are a great idea, but for your purpose I think chromexel will be the better choice. I have a pair of chromexel PTBs
    and a pair of 403 Indys. I really, really like the leather. You should two pairs of venetians, one in chromexel and one in shell [​IMG]

    BTW, those Yukeken penny loafers look very nice -- excellent proportions.
     


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