A Guide To Dyeing Your Own Shoes
Have you ever been bored of a pair of shoes and wanted to do something about, for example, change the color? I know I have, with many of my older shoes. This time I actually decided to do something about partly because I was never wearing these shoes and partly to provide you all a post about how to do it in the leisure of your home. Let me start off by saying that while I am skilled in shoe-shining, I am just as amateur as all of you when it comes to shoe dyeing. I have dabbled my hand at it a few times, but would not consider myself skilled in any way. That being, I wanted to show you just how easy it is, even for a newbie like myself. I guess the first thing that you have to be able to do is swallow the fact that you just might mess up. But if you never wore the shoes anyway, then you have nothing to lose!
Now for the nitty-gritty. First things first, you have to strip down the shoe. You can either use a product like Saphir’s Renomat or something a bit harsher like white spirit or nail polish remover (acetone). The Renomat is actually a leather cleaner, but if you rub it hard enough it will help to remove some of the finish of the shoe as well as the dirt build up that might have accumulated. The Renomat would be good for medium to lighter colors, but you would most likely need to use the white spirit/nail polish removers for trying to strip darker colors. Depending on the strength of the finish, it may take several applications of stripping. You do not need to take it down to the bare color of the leather, only unless you really want to get a light color as the base for having greyish/tannish textures in your new color. Once stripped, allow the shoe to dry overnight, especially if you have done several applications.
Note: many of the pictures below will be with or without flash to show the depth of the coloring
Now it’s time for the dye itself of which I used Saphir’s Teinture Française Shoe Dye, noted as the best in the industry (according to the patina artists). Professional patina artists use small paint brushes that apply the dye, so I went out and bought myself a few. I know that they have specific ones that are good for doing a fancy patina, but for a straight dye job, I think that any one will do really. Therefore, I purchased two, one for applying a lot to a bigger area of the shoe and another for applying a little to a smaller area. As I wanted to do the brogueing in a different color, I knew that I need a finer brush than what was provided with the dye. When ready, simply apply the dye onto the shoe. Always start with a little to see how easily the leather absorbs it. From this point, you can tell whether or not adding a little or a lot is going to suffice. More likely than not, you are going to have to do a few applications if you really want a rich color. For this shoe, I did 2 applications for both the burgundy and the black. Always allow several hours between applications, if not overnight, as the dye is quite harsh on the leather and can easily over-soak it.
Once you have applied the dye, the rest of the job is quite straightforward really. Now you just need to seal it all in with a good polish (in reality it is already sealed as the dye is permanent, but shining it up will bring out the colors). As you just subject the shoe to all kinds of chemicals, first things first is to apply the mink oil renovator to ensure that the leather does not dry up. Then after doing that, use a cream polish to enhance the color that you just applied and then finish it off with a wax polish in order to give it the shine that it deserves. As I said before, this is permanent so you do not need to worry about taking the new colors away. Over time, if necessary, you can simply use the dye as a touch up tool for when the color naturally fades. So now you see that an old pair of shoes can always be revitalized and made to look new and fresh again!
And, in the celebration of this post, I have decided to stock these products on The Shoe Snob webshop for those of you whom would like to give this a go!
Justin, “The Shoe Snob”
P.S. This is the J.FitzPatrick “Northgate” model used in the post