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 it, 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 paintbrushes 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 anyone 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, the first thing 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 who would like to give this a go!
Justin, “The Shoe Snob”
P.S. This is the J.FitzPatrick “Northgate” model used in the post
Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke
The re-dyed and revitalized shoes look really, really nice!
Heinz-Ulrich von B.
Harvard J. Nasty, Esq.
Justin- I bought a pair of light colored (comparable to Allen Edmonds Walnut, if not a shade lighter) boots with what appears to be a few water spots on one of the toes. I was hoping to add a patina to the toes to hide the marks and spruce up the boot. Would you recommend fully stripping the shoe as you have done here or will several applications of dark polish do the trick?
Here’s a pic of the boots in question:
i would strip first to see if you can get any of those waters spots a bit less noticeable…
An interesting post – thanks for that. Between yourself and Ron Rider, there’s a wealth of knowledge about dyeing and re-colouring shoes.
A quick question for you – after applying a few coats of acetone to strip off the original colour, would you recommend moisturising the leather before applying the dye, or do you think it’s alright to simply apply the dye and then moisturise afterwards?
while it would be better to moisturize first, I don’t as I feel that the moisturizer on a stripped leather will naturally darken it…so I go straight to dye, then moisturize later
Great post! Exactly what I was looking for because I’ve got a pair of derby brogues I’d like to change the colour of.
glad that you enjoyed!
glad that you enjoyed it!
Hi. Would this method work on patent leather too?
no unfortunately not. Sorry
I would never have tried dyeing my shoes without this article. Justin made it sound easy and gave great instructions so I gave it a try. I started with a well worn light brow To Boot New York cap toe balmorals. I used cotton balls and Q-Tips to apply fingernail polish remover and took them down to almost the raw leather color. I them gave them a healthy application of Bick 4 leather conditioner and waited a few days. I ordered the Saphir Navy blue dye from Justin and followed the directions. It went on easy with the supplied applicator and the coverage was great without any splotchy areas. After two coats the shoes were done and there was almost half a bottle of the dye left. The shoes dried in a couple of hours. I applied more Bick 4 conditioner and followed with Justin’s recommended polish routine with a navy cream polish followed by several coats of a wax polish. The shoes took a great polish and look great except….the navy blue came out BLACK. even under direct sunlight there isn’t any blue hue. When next to my black shoes they look slightly different, but not blue. I didn’t want royal, but I expected to be able to tell they were blue and not black. Next time I will try a lighter colored dye. Still, a great result and I appreciate Justin giving me the courage to try it. Don’t be afraid to give this a try.
thanks for sharing Brent and for your kind words. I appreciate it. To dilute a color, pour the dye into another container and mix it with water, that will lighten it up and should give you a lighter blue next time. Thanks for your support
Try to mix the color to lighten up with white rubbing alcohol.
I have a pair of shoes that is almost the same red color as the finished product you have in this article. Do you think it is possible to make them light enough to dye them a light tan?
that will be tough as usually you don’t dye to a lighter color, always a darker one. You would have to really strip the leather of all its color and then find a tan dye, which might prove challenging. But like Brent said, give it a shot and see!
I have a pair of Barker Grassingtons – https://www.jonesbootmaker.com/barker-formal-shoes-classic-laced-2723425351 – which I would like to dye a true burgundy, much like the colour you dye your shoes in this post – however, I wouldn’t be concerned if they came out darker. Do you think that would be possible?
Great job. Thanks for sharing. I have a pair of brown Born that i want to dye black.
I own a pair of shoes which I’d class as currently a dark tan (Birch Leaf by Russell and Bromley) but I want to darken them to a dark brown, similar to that of your dark brown on ‘Madison’ for example. Would I need to strip them down or would a darker shoe polish work over time?
Thank you for posting this! I was curious about dyeing shoes & read all I could find, but your blog was one of the most detailed accounts I could find. I’ve done it twice now (and so far pretty happy with my results); here’s my write-up if you’d like to see (I know your write-up was several years ago & and sorry in advance if you don’t appreciate the link in my reply!): http://www.jazzlad.com/burgundy-to-purple
Any chance you did it again? I’d love to see ‘a guide to dyeing your own shoes revisited’ 🙂
Good information about dyeing shoes, just what I was looking for. Thank you.
Mr FitzPatrick your knowledge of shoes is amazing. You’ve been a great help.
Please continue sharing your knowledge and experiences with us ..!
You have a friend in Miami if you’re ever in town I would be pleased to show you around.
Thank you again my shoes look great thanks to you !
Thank you for your kind words Miguel, I do very much appreciate it. I will be sure to reach out if ever in Miami! Be well
Douglas John Beevers
I dyed a cordovan boots to brown but the dark brown had some gap that still show light – do I need to restrip again? Or just add more dark brown dye – 90% of the shoe took the dark brown.