Oil-tanning is a process of tanning leather using natural oils after the initial vegetable tan. Typically fish oil, cod oil to be more specific. We like to use oil-tanned leather for a number of reasons.

First off, the oil content makes the leather soft and pliable. These are important qualities not only for the look and feel of the leather, but for its workability. It is pliable when stretching and molding it into the form of a shoe like nothing else. The longest part of the process in shoe making comes from waiting for the stretched leather to dry to take a three dimensional form.  Oil-tanned leather makes this process easier.

Second, it’s highly water resistant! Let’s face it, your shoes will get wet. My shoes get wet all the time in our Houston weather. Oil-tanned leather has remarkable qualities to resist the degrading effects of water on the surface of the leather. I have been wearing my Premiere’s for three years in wet grass, mud, for extended periods walking in the rain (unplanned, of course) and they are still like new. Just as soft as the day I made them. Honestly, even I am surprised at how well oil-tanned leather holds up to moisture exposure.

The third reason we like oil-tanned leather is it’s ability to fend off scuff marks. When you get a scuff on your shoe you can literally lick your thumb and rub the area with the scuff and it will disappear.

Lastly, there is less maintenance with oil-tanned leather. While it needs upkeep from time to time, it requires far less than most leathers. The oil present in the hide stays healthy and clean without any necessary moisturizing over time.

Most of all, we like oil-tanned leather for its beauty! As it stretches and takes shape, new color tones appear and it develops a beautiful patina.  The leather has a nice, smooth and soft finish. Oil- tanned leather is some of the highest quality leather available. 

We are sure you’ll like oil-tanned leather as much as we do! Let us know if you have any questions about oil-tanned leather or about any of our products, techniques, or principles. We’d love to hear from you.

For more information about the ingredients of our shoes go here.

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  • i recently put red wing essential leather cleaner (black bottle) on my red wing copper rough and tough blacksmiths and it turned my entire boot yellow and dried out.. did I ruin them?

  • A somewhat unrelated question to the shoe industry but oil tanned related… Just wanted to ask if you thought an oil tan leather (3oz) would be suitable for a leather restaurant apron? These would be both long (butcher) and short (waist/waiter) types. I don’t work with oil tan at present. Thanks for any advice!


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