I am wondering about dyeing leather shoes. Getting married this summer and wanted green leather shoes – not easy to find or beyond the budget ex: Tricker’s have lovely ones but the exchange rate kills it. Someone
suggested getting a cobbler to dye them. Do you have any suggestions or
information? Is it possible, can it ruin the shoes?
Dyeing leather shoes is definitely possible, but it’s a high-risk endeavor. I talked with Richard Smith from the Shoe Healer, a shoe repair business and shoe retailer in Yorkshire, England, who also deals a lot with custom Tricker’s. According to Richard,
- Dyeing shoes can be a time consuming and messy affair.
- The only way to go with dye is darker than the original.
competent shoe repairers should be able to dye shoes, although perhaps
some don’t really like to.
- On the rare occasion he dyes shoes
in his own workshop, he first uses a mild stripper to remove all existing
polishes. This helps the leather take the dye more evenly.
- He then applies at least two coats of dye, before wax polishing using a suitable colour.
- Corrected grain leather is not suitable for dyeing.
The general recommendation for leather dye is Feibing’s, and they do indeed offer green. You’ll also likely need a stripper/deglazing product, which Feibing also offers–careful with this stuff, though; it’s pretty toxic (retailers won’t ship it by air or to California).
There’s a solid tutorial at Styleforum, with photos, that I’d use as a guide were I to take this on.
- Prep a workspace. The products you’ll be using are intense, and you don’t want to risk spilling them on anything you don’t want deglazed or dyed, like rugs or children. Have all your materials handy, especially extra rags.
- Put shoe trees in your shoes so you have a good working surface and so they maintain their shape while you’re working. The Styleforum tutorial also recommends taping off the inside of your shoes to help you avoid dyeing the lining.
- Clean the shoes, then deglaze them using a rag.
- Wait awhile…
- Apply the leather dye with a dauber.
- Rub any excess dye off with a soft cloth. Allow shoes to dry.
- Wait awhile…
- Apply a second coat of dye. Again, rub any excess off.
- Wait awhile….
- Polish your shoes (Saphir offers a green polish, #20).
I would feel better if I’d done a trial dye on a pair of shoes I didn’t care about or a pair I bought at a thrift store to experiment with, but different leather grades and grains may take dye differently, so your results will not likely be consistent. Scary business.
Of course, there are green shoes out there. Richard offers some himself (the Church’s Burstock is pictured above), although many are custom order only. The soles and grain on these Church’s Leyton bluchers are maybe not wedding-appropriate, but they’re not as dear, pricewise, as most Tricker’s. Likewise these Sanders Bruno brogues, which are, to quote Paul Weller, pretty green.