So far in our How Leathers Age series, we’ve covered some specific leathers from specific tanneries. This time around, we’re gonna take a step back and look at a bunch of different leathers, from various tanners, that all share a common trait: an outer layer that slowly fades or chips away to reveal a rich inner layer of brown.
That’s right, we’re talking about one of the most appealing, patina-worthy kinds of leathers out there: teacore.
What Is Teacore Leather?
We’ll say it again because the question above demands it: teacore leather is essentially any leather that shows a brown undertone over time as the dyes or pigments on the surface wear off. Teacore is most commonly associated with having a black exterior, but as long as the inner layer shows a brown color, any color of leather could be considered teacore. Its name is derived from the brown inner layer’s resemblance to a strong cup of tea. (Some makers, like Sagara, play off this idea by offering “matchacore” leather—overdyed leather with a green interior.)
Teacore leathers are most commonly made using veg tan leathers, though you can also encounter chrome-tanned teacore leathers. The bark tannins used in veg tanning will typically imbue the leather with a shade of brown, making it more conducive to use for a teacore effect. Chrome tanned leather, on the other hand, typically has a grayish-blue tint, and will need to be struck through with brown dye before getting an outer coat to achieve the teacore look.
The reasons for making and utilizing teacore leather are twofold. First off, the teacore effect just looks incredible to many people, and is a sign that the article of footwear (or clothing) the leather is a part of is well-worn and well-loved. Furthermore, teacore leather harkens back to an era where clothes like leather jackets were commonly made to last with strong, durable materials (i.e. veg tan leather) and usually pigmented or otherwise not dyed through completely.
To delve more into the topic of teacore, we recommend checking out Heddels’ teacore leather explainer.
How Shinki Black Latigo Horsehide Ages
The first Stitchdown Patina Thunderdome pair that we’ll showcase here is a Viberg Service Boot made with a black latigo horsehide from Japanese tanner Shinki Hikaku. For basically any teacore leather, a great way to get a preview of what the inner layer will look like is to look at the raw edges on the leather—note the edge of the heel counter here.
At the end of the Dome, these boots showed some pretty classic teacore wear, albeit with a fairly light inner layer (tea with milk, basically).
How SB Foot Black Prairie Ages
Red Wing Heritage almost exclusively features leather from Red Wing’s own tannery, SB Foot, and these Blacksmiths are no exception. Black Prairie was designed with teacore patina in mind.
After seven months, not only is there obvious wear on the toes and parts of the heel, but you can see that some of the top coat came off the tongues from where the laces were rubbing.
How Black Overdyed Cloe Superlux Horsebutt Ages
A slightly different way of achieving a teacore look is through overdyeing, where a leatherworker takes a finished side of leather and adds another layer of dye or pigment to the surface. The Cloe horsebutt on these Sagara Valiants got a nice coat of black dye, but you can see some brown poking through where the leather was stretched in the lasting process.
The transformation is dramatic—by the end of the contest, there’s more brown than black remaining.
How Horween Black Shell Cordovan Ages
Black shell is perhaps not the most “traditional” kind of teacore…
…but you can’t argue with the results on these Viberg Service Boots, achieved through heavy wear as well as sunfading.
Teacore leather has the potential to be an absolute patina monster, especially for boot owners who often find themselves kicking around all kinds of things, or are otherwise quite active. It ages magnificently, and honestly, in a niche that’s often full of brown and red leathers, it’s a great excuse to own at least one black pair of boots.