Some leather goods makers will create a unique type of finished leather that comes to be associated with the brand. Quilon leather is a great example, and a favorite for Dr. Martens shoes and boots.
Quilon leather is a style of smooth leather that is finished with a “haircell”, fine, textured print that gives the surface a unique look. It was developed in 2007 based on the original Doc Marten leather from the 1970s, and is currently used in the vintage-style, Made-In-England line of footwear.
So what makes this classic-style leather wear so well over time, and a favorite of those looking for the vintage Doc Martens look and feel? Let’s explore.
What is Quilon Leather?
Quilon leather is a style of finished leather produced by the Dr. Martens footwear company. They are a company, based in England, well-known for their rugged and stylish shoes and boots. They often have a unique yellow stitching, and wear well over time; even looking great once scuffed and worn, adding character to the look.
Started in 1947, the Dr. Martens company produced various leather shoes and accessories which became increasingly popular. The first model 1460 boot (their mot popular style) was produced in 1960. By the 1970’s, the boots and shoes became widely desired within mainstream culture. The leather most commonly used was a smooth, stiff leather. In 2007, Doc Martens wanted to recreate that material experience for modern-day customers.
Quilon leather was born. Dr. Martens created a new style of leather; it took the originally-successful classic, smooth leather, and finished it with a textured surface print they refer to as “haircell”. This gave it a slightly vintage and work look, while still looking clean and stylish.
Additionally, quilon leather is often dyed on the surface with a black or oxblood color. the underlying raw leather is left in it’s original hide color after tannery processing, which is often a light tan. Over time, as the quilon leather footwear becomes scuffed, some of the underlying hide color shows through, creating a unique worn-in look that is many find quite visually appealing.
Quilon is a relatively stiff leather, taking a few weeks of daily wear to break in. It is mostly used on the Doc Martens line of Made-in-England vintage footwear as is very durable. This is a line that is still handmade. They represent the classic look from the 1970s and are often highly sought after.
Here is a look at and review of the quilon leather 1460 style boots:
Which Styles of Doc Martens Shoes and Boots Use Quilon Leather?
Here is an easy reference chart of the Made-in-England collection styles that use quilon leather; it includes links to the Doc Martens website if you are interested in getting a pair.
Doc Martens Quilon Leather Shoe and Boot Styles
|Style||Color||Model #||Doc Martens Link|
|3989 Vintage Made In England Brogue Shoes||Oxblood||22853601||Style Details|
|3989 Vintage Made In England Brogue Shoes||Black||22853001||Style Details|
|1461 Vintage Made In England Oxford Shoes||Oxblood||12877601||Style Details|
|1461 Vintage Made In England Oxford Shoes||Black||12877001||Style Details|
|2976 Vintage Made In England Chelsea Boots||Oxblood||25747601||Style Details|
|2976 Vintage Made In England Chelsea Boots||Black||25747001||Style Details|
|1460 Vintage Made In England Lace Up Boots||Oxblood||12308601||Style Details|
|1460 Vintage Made In England Lace Up Boots||Black||12308001||Style Details|
|1490 Vintage Made In England Mid Calf Boots||Oxblood||12309601||Style Details|
|1490 Vintage Made In England Mid Calf Boots||Black||12309001||Style Details|
Does Dr. Martens Use Real Leather?
Yes, the Dr. Martens company uses real leather in the manufacture and production of their shoes, boots, and footwear. It is primarily bovine leather that is sourced and used. In some styles, Doc Martens offers vegan leather options, which are made from synthetic materials, often plastic. However in most cases, the leather is real leather which helps provide for the classic Doc Martens look, comfort, feel, and durability.
What Kind of Leather Does Doc Martens Use?
Doc Martens used a variety of different leathers in their shoe and boot production. Here’s a handy chart that lays our the different kinds of leather and what each one is.
|Analine Leather||Natural leather with a clear wax finish – the original grain is visible through the wax|
|Antique Temperley Leather||Leather sourced from Argentina processed with a shiny, two-tone finish|
|Bonail Brush Leather||Hand-applied, brushed, two-tone finish in a formal, high-shine look|
|Brando Leather||This is a waxy, full-grain leather that develops a worn-in look over time|
|Burnished Servo Leather||Natural leather with a clear wax finish that can be burnished to add accent and visual depth to the finish|
|Carpathian Leather||A very oily leather, needs conditioning over time to stay hydrated|
|Crazy Horse Leather||Heavy, full-grain leather with a well-worn look and feel|
|Danio Leather||Napa leather that is very soft, thin, flexible, and comfortable|
|Hardlife Leather||A very supple and durable leather produced with waxes and greases|
|Kaya Leather||A nubuck leather where sanding has left the small, natural leather fibers visible|
|Patent Lamper||A patent leather coating that provides for s smooth, shiny, easy-to-clean surface|
|Petrol Leather||An Italian-made leather that has a visual effect similar to oil floating on the surface of water|
|Quilon Leather||Smooth leather stamped with a patterned grain and the surface dyed black or oxblood|
|Smooth Leather||A stiff and durable leather that can be polished or left matte in appearance|
|Temperley Leather||An unfinished leather sourced from Argentina|
|Tuscan Leather||An unfinished, vegetable tanned leather|
|Virginia Leather||A napa leather processed with a “milled” surface finish|
How to Identify Modern Doc Martens vs Vintage?
If you’re looking for a pair of quilon leather Doc Martens and curious about the differences between the originals made in the 1970s, and the ones made since about 2007, here’s a helpful video that walks through the details:
How To Pronounce Quilon
The pronunciation of quilon sounds like, qwhy-lin, with the accent on the first syllable.
If you’d like to hear the way it sounds, here’s a video with an audio example:
How Are Doc Martens Shoes Made?
Doc Marten shoes and boots are extremely durable, and when broken in, comfortable. They are also highly-crafted and an overall great quality type of footwear that can last for years when well cared for. so, how are they made? Let’s take a look at the manufacturing steps in Doc Marten shoes.
1. Hide Selection
The leather hides are shipped into the factory from tanneries mainly in South America, Asia, and Europe. Once received, they are generally selected and used within about a week of receipt. This helps ensure the hides are freshly tanned, workable, and help provide for a higher-quality product. This process, in much more detail, can be explored via the Dr. Martens bespoke (custom-made) options, where a customer can select their preferred styles and finishes. Here’s a link to a Dr. Martens PDF PDF with that detail.
2. Clicking, Skiving, & Stamping
Once a hide is selected, it is laid out on a table. The metal dies, in the shapes of the leather parts, are pressed into the hides via a process called “clicking”. Usually done with a heavy machine that provides enough force to push the die through the leather, it “clicks” out the cuts of leather parts, making this process efficient and accurate.
Next, the parts are skived. In this step, leather is split, and some leather removed from certain parts to help them fit more closely around curved around or where stitching will be placed.
Lastly, they are stamped with markings including manufacturing and size notations.
At this step major construction of the footwear begins. The heal, backstrap, cushioning, and soles are stitched together, as well as toe area. Most of the bottom part of the show is constructed during this phase.
Next, the “upper” part of the shoe gains the eyelets hardware that will make them functional when laced-up.
With the lower part of the shoe together, and the upper part prepared, it is now time to join them via a process called “welting”. This is process that utilizes high-heat to join the materials in a near-permanent way, helping ensure their strength and durability.
Once the shoes have cooled from the welting process, the famous Doc Marten insole, AirWair, is added into the shoe. Manufacturing is now complete and the shoe is ready to be packaged for retail sale. If want to enjoy the experience of unboxing a new pair of quilon leather boots, here’s a video:
Quilon Leather Care & Maintenance
Any type of leather will benefit from proper maintenance and care, Kangaroo leather included. A good-quality leather will perform very well, and last for years with proper cleaning, conditioning, and storage.
For any step in leather care, generally test on a small area to ensure the cleaner or finish you’re applying will not react poorly with the material. Once you know it’s safe, clean away 🙂
How to Clean Quilon Leather
Quilon leather can be cleaned by first moistening a lint-free cloth and gently rubbing it over the soiled area. Microfiber cloths work well for this. If the dirt is deeper or you want to thoroughly clean the leather, try using a dedicated leather cleaner that is intended for natural, dyed leathers such as quilon.
These types of cleaners are formulated to be gentle on leather while removing dirt, dust, and grime. In general, they usually also prepare the surface well for receiving a conditioner and later if necessary, a finish.
How to Condition Quilon Leather
Quilon leather can be conditioned like most other leathers. Once the surface has been thoroughly cleaned, the conditioner can be applied using an applicator or soft cloth. Conditioner is generally applied in small circles, allowed to soak in, then the excess wiped off with a clean cloth.
Quilon leather conditioners can be specialized blends, leather dressings, creams, or oils. Once conditioned, the leather is ready for a finish or protective coat, if desired.
How to Fix a Scratch on Quilon Leather
For small scratches, one might try rubbing a finger over it to try and buff it out. Since natural leather has many fibers in it, and originally had oils in the skin, adding oils back into it is usually a first step to try in fixing a scratch. If the scratch is deeper, try applying some leather conditioner to the scratch and surrounding area, then buff it out after a short while.
If the scratch is very large or deep, you might need to try a leather filler kit. They usually have a substance that can be squeezed into leather cracks/cuts to fill them in. The substance generally has color matching options available so it’s a close visual look to the existing leather. Follow the specific instructions on the kit, though usually once it’s dried the surface can be smoothed and conditioned.
How to Fix Tears in Quilon Leather
Tears in quilon leather are harder to fix than scratches. Depending on the size of the tear, this can be done with fabric, flexible glue, or the color-matched liquid that comes in the repair kit. Since the shoe or boot will likely be belt when used and need to flex, the material used as a filler will need to be flexible once dry too. Sewing the tear is an option too, depending on the size.
Once the tear is filled, just fix the remaining scratch that is visible above it. Pour the color-matched liquid that is poured into the crack. It might need to be evened, heat pressed, a haircell grain pattern applied, and/or allowed to dry, and then the scratch should be filled.
How to Make Quilon Leather Water Resistant
A wax protectant can be added to quilon leather to help make it water resistant. Once cleaned and conditioned, the wax can be applied to the leather thoroughly. After a few minutes, the wax is generally buffed out and leaves the leather with a surface that is smooth and has a pleasant shine. It also provides a barrier that helps repel water.
How to Store Quilon Leather
Quilon leather should be stored in a cool, dry, dust-free location. Generally, leather products benefit from low-average humidity environments. Air flow is also beneficial, as it allows the natural fibers of the leather to “breathe”.
If kept in a sealed environment, the humidity might rise and the leather start to deteriorate, and mold. In an environment with too-low humidity, the leather can start to dry and that could lead to cracking and weakening of the fibers.
A good place to store quilon leather shoes and boots is a dressing room or closet that have an average livable temperature, humidity level, and frequent airflow.
If you’re looking for a stylish shoe that is comfortable, durable, and looks great with age, a quilon leather option can be a great one. If you’re interested in other leather options, click here for my comprehensive look at leather types.
Where does Doc Martins get their leather from?
For most of their footwear, Doc Martens gets their leather from tanneries in South America and Asia. Specifically for their quilon leather, it was originally sourced locally in England, and now is sourced from European tanneries.
When Were Quilon Leather Shoes Made?
Quilon leather shoes and boots were originally made in the 1970s. In 2007, Doc Marten produced a more leather that replicates the physical look and characteristics of that material. This newer quilon leather is used in select Made-in-England styles.