Charles F. Stead – Britain’s Premier Tannery

There are very few tanneries in the UK – from what used to be 300 to now maybe 30 at a push. One of the oldest and still family run tanneries is Charles F. Stead in Leeds, who have been producing the highest quality suede and leather since the 1890’s.

Dr Martens x Charles F. Stead 1461 Suede

Unbeknown to most of us, Charles F. Stead suede leathers have been used in some of the most iconic footwear on the market. Continuing in that vain Dr. Martens have teamed up with Stead to release an updated version of their iconic 1461 model.

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The Stead tannery uses a mixture of old and new machines to achieve their desired high standards of tanning suede and leather. It all starts from a selection of leathers they acquire around the globe, depending on the products they’re producing for. Mostly using British leather, the process starts by soaking, liming and pickling the leather until they get what they call wet blue.

Storage of ‘wet blue’ leathers

Then, going through numerous processes using a combination of old and new machinery, the leather is tanned in large drums and then hung over horses before being dried. Seeing the attention to detail gone through the tanning process and the deep rich colours achieved. No wonder the top brands hold Charles F. Stead in such high regard.

The Made in England Dr. Martens range has a keen focus on craftsmanship, with the 1461 3-eye shoe built on a tapered last from English suede. The Stead suede used has a higher than usual nap level, meaning that it’s softer and allows for a fuzzier finish on the surface.

Chris Chasseaud

Chris is the Style & Features Editor at Ape to Gentleman, and one of the UK's leading style commentators. Having worked in the fashion and design world for his entire career he's well placed to deliver sartorial advice.