20 September 2023

Leather Dyes - When Leather became really Colourful

Safesa writes on Linkedin that as footwear production moved into the 1800s, having colour on a shoe no longer relied heavily on a stitched fabric covering. For instance, vegetable-tanned Morocco leather using natural dyes allowed for red, green, purple and other colours – and this was particularly used on men’s dress boots. Yellow leather became popular and was often chosen to decorate women’s shoes, when it was inserted behind shapes cut out of the vamp. Women wore a greater choice of colours, including blue, bronze and pink. From 1860, aniline dyes (the first of which was used to create purple or mauve uppers) became available. This opened up the market for colourful footwear, although these dyes did tend to fade. This led to the introduction of synthetic dyes which came in brighter and more vivid colours than previously seen.

During the first decades of the 20th century, women’s shoes made with coloured suede were popular in green, grey, mauve and khaki. Gold and other metallic leathers were very desirable in the twenties and thirties for women, and a huge variety of coloured leathers had become available. Certainly by this time, the limited palette used by shoemakers in previous centuries was a thing of the past, and the tanning and colouring of leather continued to progress through the succeeding decades.


Credit: Satra Bulletin July/August 2023

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