Today, 30th March, is world leather day… and leather is our world! But a question that comes up regularly is: Can you stop leather creasing, or can you remove the creases completely.
The answer is no you cannot. Leather creases… and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Your foot is a moving appendage that your leather shoes are required to mould to and flex in sync with. That makes leather a remarkable material!
There are factors that come into play when you start discussing the severity of leather creasing, but we all need to remember: The reasons we use leather to produce fine footwear, dates back centuries. Given that our only material of choice today is leather, we think it’s time we gave leather a break (pun intended). The technicalities of leather brake comes later…
If we take time to understand the factors that cause leather creasing, we can then look at ways to reduce it, if in fact it is a concern in the first place:
- Type of leather
- Pattern / Style of shoe
- Last & Fit
Type of Leather
All leathers crease. Some crease more than others, some crease in different ways. But, if leather creasing is something of a bugbear to you, being aware of leathers that crease badly is something to be mindful of.
Calf needs to be categorised in quality. In general, higher quality European calf (the top grade that Crockett & Jones use!) offer finer, more attractive creasing. Crockett & Jones only uses calf with a fine brake, which results in finer creasing. This comes from the skins being of a tighter fibre structure and the shoes being cut from more suitable areas of the skin (not from the belly or the neck). Our Grained leather, is embossed burnished calf, but of a slightly high substance, so this creases in a similar way to our calf.
Corrected leathers such as Cavalry Calf, Patent or Boned Calf crease far more than calf, with larger more prominent creases. This is due to the man-made coating that gives the leather its ‘shiny’ or uniformed appearance. Not our favourite leather category, although when high in quality, corrected calf can still produce some fine looking footwear, like Boston in Black Cavalry. Importantly, Cavalry is very easy to clean!
Cordovan, famously creases with larger folds as opposed to fine creases like calf, giving the material a distinctive look and making it age incredibly well. This is due to the very tight fibre structure and fairly solid substance of Cordovan. Cordovan takes some breaking in, but once broken in, it is fantastically comfortable.
Oiled leathers such as Teak Oiled Sides, Hurricane Hide and Rough-Out Suede, crease is a manner that moves the oils and waxes away from the creases. This increases the casual look of the leather, as if to make a feature of the creasing.
Suede evades creasing the most. The nap hides the surface of the leather and it is tanned to be supple and flexible. Suede has an impressive memory, holding the original shape of the last well during continual wear.
Type of Style (the pattern)
Surely creasing is just to do with the material? It isn’t. The type of pattern dictates the length of the vamp, which is where 95% of all creasing on footwear will be most noticeable.
If you take a straight or wing cap Oxford, the pattern dictates that there are seams, and a very short vamp, this confines the creasing to a smaller area.
If you take a wholecut Oxford or a Chelsea boot, the vamp is as long as it gets! There are no seams in the pattern. In the first instance, it is harder for the pattern cutter to get the leather ‘down on the wood’ and thus the leather must go somewhere during flex. During wear, the leather finds its own natural creasing pattern which can be in multiple places on the vamp according to how your foot flexes. Onto last & fit…
Last & Fit
Continuing on from the ‘last’ point, a wholecut or longer vamp is where fit really can make a big difference to reducing creasing. Those with a shallow foot or a low instep might find their shoes crease more than those with a fuller foot or high instep. This is due to the gap between the top of the foot and the leather. But similarly, depth of foot aside, if your shoes are too big for you, they will crease more.
The toe shape of the last can also make a difference. As you walk, a longer last like the 348 / 373 remains in contact with the floor for a longer time than a shorter last, flexing the toe further and therefore placing more pressure on the flex points (the creases).
So, how to reduce leather creasing?
For us, there is nothing finer than a shoe that has aged well, taken on its own character as it has accompanied you through whatever trials and tribulations life has thrown your way. A successful job interview, a marriage, a birth, all of those small wins in life that you didn’t achieve in bare feet! Like a pair of trusty old friends, your shoes really have heard and seen it all before, creases and all.
If you do want to minimise or reduce the creases in your fine shoes, here are a few rules to live by:
- Religiously use shoe trees
- Dry you shoes naturally every time they get wet
- Introduce Renovator Cream to your shoe care routine to stop the leather from drying out
Ultimately, if you want a pair of shoes without creases, the answer is: Buy a new pair… but remember, they will eventually become just as distinctively well-aged as their owners have!