SPEND: Vegetable-Dyed Leather Makes $500 Shoes Worth It
Yes, the phrase “vegetable-dyed leather” sounds as if it came from a farcical business plan on Arrested Development.
But these organically treated shoes by Feit are earth conscious in a useful way—not only are chemicals eliminated from their production process, but the shoes are comfortable, and they look great. I’ve been walking around in them for months, and they keep getting better and better.
Feit was co-founded by brothers Josh Price (a former DJ) and Tull Price (the founder of cult sneaker brand Royal Elastics) in New York as a way to make high-quality, modern shoes without damaging the environment. They aim to eliminate material waste and overpackaging and try to work around the chemical industrial complex that supports most shoe production. If you visit their SoHo shop, you will feel a little closer to nature—it’s all blonde wood and natural sunlight.
So here’s what’s good about the vegetable-dying process. First of all, chemical dyes can lend leather an odor, and they don’t prepare it well for long life. The Feit shoes are made from leather that’s been steamed in the tannins and organic matter from tree bark, leaves, fruit, and roots. This makes the hide more pliable, so it will shape itself to the contours of your foot. It also keeps it breathable, as it was in nature, so you can wear the shoe without socks and not worry about creating a smell. (But really, most of you should wear socks.)
The Feit shoes also are handmade with natural rubber soles, which a single craftsman sews to the tanned hide. (Most of their shoes are made from just one piece of leather.) It’s this care and attention to detail that has drawn a large following to the company. You’ll see these shoes around more and more this year.
Prices start at $500 for each pair, ranging from slim slippers tinted the color of bourbon ($520) to stout lace-up hikers ($700). Neither logos nor grommets, nor off-neutral colors appear on any model; most are constructed with no seams, which ensures comfort and allows the shoe to form naturally to the foot. And the leather—honey buffalo, indigo suede, semi-cordovan white—remains consistent in firmness during both hot and cold days. It ages to a subtle patina with use.