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Color Rubbing Off Leather?

Why is the color rubbing off the leather of my shoes?

Sorry if this took you by surprise! When we first got news about this, we were surprised too. But after getting our team together to analyze, we can confidently tell you that nothing is wrong with your shoes, and we're happy to share why. What's happening can be explained by 4 things:

  1. Carets are made with aniline leather.
  2. On some colorways, we apply a darker cream to finish our aniline leather, for a richer antiqued look.
  3. You might be rubbing (instead of brushing).
  4. You might be using a product that strips polish, such as Saphir Renovateur.

Our leather is aniline, which means the color is stained in, so you can still see the leather's natural grain pattern underneath. The other type of leather is pigmented, which means the color is painted over, so you see much less of the leather's natural grain pattern, if at all. Aniline leather is a higher-end product with 5 superior attributes over pigmented leather. First, aniline requires a higher grade of leather, since you're highlighting the natural variations, rather than covering them up. Second, it produces a more interesting look, with more depth and detail. Third, while pigmented leather is more consistent, it also looks unnatural, like plastic. Fourth, the layer of pigment can crack and flake off over time, whereas aniline can be conditioned to prevent that.

In this photo below, we have a finished Falcon in Cacao, on top of a sheet of unfinished Cacao straight from the tannery. Notice the huge difference in color, depth, and luster. One of the reasons why we are able to achieve this is by using a darker cream over a lighter leather. 

Our team had various reference samples from other companies, so we decided to experiment with them. We lightly rubbed all of them with a wet cloth, and sure enough, all of them had color come off. Even the pair that had a clear coat! They were all from respected brands that also use aniline leather, like us. We rubbed the unfinished sheet of cacao leather, and color came off. All from just water.

Now, about Saphir Renovateur. We carry Saphir creams because we love them. Renovateur is also a great product that doesn't have solvents (which strip color even more and can dry out and damage the leather). But the important thing to note is that Renovateur is still made to remove polish. From The Hanger Project: "When used as a base for a new polish, it helps remove any prior polish product that has built up in the pores of leather uppers."

Instead of using Renovateur, we recommend simply removing debris with a dry horsehair brush, applying a colored cream, letting it dry, then gently buffing to a shine.

At the end of the meeting, we discussed the pros and cons of using this antiquing process. We decided to ask our customers. So far, everyone prefers we continue the burnishing process. But what do you think? You can be totally honest with us.

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