Toscanello Horsebutt from Conceria Maryam: a damn good looking leather from the start, and even better when it’s been put through its paces. We’ve seen it pop up more and more over the past few years in some fantastic makeups from all kinds of makers, from Viberg to Oak Street Bootmakers to Rancourt & Co.
Today, we’ll be sharing some stellar examples of how Toscanello Horsebutt ages thanks to some of the participants of the first Stitchdown Patina Thunderdome (don’t forget the next one starts Oct 1, 2022; pre-register today!), along with some details behind the leather and how it’s made at Maryam.
A Quick Word On Conceria Maryam and Their Leathers
You may recall that we previously highlighted Maryam by way of Arno Shoes’ Mikhail Bliskavka, who was kind enough to provide a writeup and photos of his visit to the tannery. Definitely go back and give his post a read for an intimate and thorough look at Maryam’s facility and products.
The Italian region of Tuscany (where Conceria Maryam is based) is known as a premier source of vegetable-tanned leather—hides that have been treated without chromium salts or other minerals used to make chrome-tanned leathers. Veg tanning utilizes tannins derived from plants and trees, like powdered mimosa or quebracho (pictured below). Veg tan leather tends to be stiff, resilient, and (relevant to our interests) very accepting of patina. (Heddels put together a great explainer on veg tan leather here.)
Maryam prides itself on its veg tan leathers, and its vegetable tanning operation is robust—they produce many kinds of veg tan leathers from the hides of cows, kangaroos, and horses. Of the horse leathers, they produce horsehide (horse front), horsebutt, and also luxurious shell cordovan.
The horsebutt, of course, is the subject of interest here. Maryam has various tannages and treatments for their horsebutt leathers, but the two that Stitchdown readers are likely most familiar with are Vacchetta and TPR. Vacchetta is essentially Maryam’s base veg tannage; TPR, meanwhile, is finished with a mixture of oil, wax, and resin to give it a nice rich luster from the beginning.
As for the color of Toscanello: its name is an homage to the Toscano cigar, famously produced in Lucca, Tuscany—relatively close to Maryam’s home of Santa Croce sull’Arno. Though Toscanello tends to be described as a reddish brown, you can expect to see some slight variation in appearance from hide to hide.
How Vacchetta Toscanello Horsebutt Ages
Some sources might refer to Vacchetta as Maryam’s version of “crust” leather. Crust often refers to leather that has received no dyes or finishes. In Maryam’s case, there are aniline dyes involved in producing Toscanello’s color, but as they describe it, Vacchetta is made without any particular finish. In the beginning of its use, Vacchetta will have a more matte appearance, and it tends to have a shade of light milk chocolate. Here’s a pair of Viberg Service Boots in Vacchetta Toscanello Horsebutt on day one of the Patina Thunderdome:
Over time, the whole upper darkened substantially, and areas of heavy wear took on more of a shine. The Toscanello dyes started to disperse from where the ankle and the ball of the foot bend.
By the end of the Thunderdome, this pair started to show more of those red undertones found in Toscanello. Friction from wear combined with cleaning and conditioning add more of a luster to the entire surface of the leather.
How TPR Toscanello Horsebutt Ages
The TPR finish on Toscanello Horsebutt provides a rich glaze to the leather, and the reddish hue is a lot more prominent here from the get-go. The TPR glaze’s characteristics are a bit unique in that it can be resilient in some conditions, but a bit fragile in others—we’ve heard from some folks that conditioning TPR leather prematurely (before it’s been worn for a while) can remove the glaze. Let’s see how this played out with two different pairs of Viberg Service Boots both made with TPR Toscanello Horsebutt.
In the beginning, both pairs look fairly similar (minus some slight variations).
At the four-month mark of the Thunderdome, this pair of Vibergs still has much of its glaze intact…
…and by the end, it didn’t change too much, in spite of the owner stating that he had worn them frequently and through all sorts of weather conditions.
Meanwhile, this other pair shows a lot more visible wear after four months, and a lot of the glaze has come off in certain areas.
At the conclusion of the contest, the glaze on this pair had largely sloughed off, leaving behind a patchwork of patina. The pullup effect is much more pronounced here.
From what we’ve seen, there’s a lot of variance in how Toscanello Horsebutt will age. Generally speaking, the Vacchetta tannage is much more in line with how most veg tan leathers will evolve—it tends to darken, takes on more of a luster, and is much more willing to give up patina. TPR, on the other hand, is more of a wildcard. You might get some decent patina with a rigorous wear ‘n’ care routine…or you might not, and it’ll just stay fairly pristine!
While you can’t really go wrong with either TPR or Vacchetta, we would probably recommend picking a Vacchetta leather for more of a straightforward path to patina. TPR can be more of a challenge to predict how it’ll change over time, but if you treat it right you will be handsomely rewarded with some well-aged boots.