Let us consider the merits of oxblood, the handsome dark red hue found on The Brando, our Italian semi-brogue and most popular product. A simple black shoe will always work and a burnished brown shoe adds warmth to your wardrobe but oxblood brings an unexpected twist, a sophisticated color to your footwear options.
The word oxblood originated around 1700 but research reveals that the color refers not to the blood of oxen but is an abbreviation for “oxygenated blood” which turns a deep dark red color when it is exposed to the air. This shoe color has long been a cobbler favorite but was particularly popular with preppies on college campuses following World War II. In his menswear book entitled Elegance, G. Bruce Boyer, who is co-curator of the upcoming exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City on the fashions of the 30s, states that, ”There was virtually not a middle-class young man or woman in the United States who did not own a pair of oxblood penny loafers in the 50s.”
Producing leather in this rich color is a complicated affair. First the skins of calves or cows are carefully cleaned. Then the raw skin is tanned which makes it water resistant, soft, durable, and imputrescible, which means it will not decay. After it is tanned in a bath of chromium salt, leather is typically a pale bluish hue. The oxblood color dye is precisely mixed and the leather is dyed in huge tubs. After it is smoothed with a heavy iron, the finished oxblood-colored leather is ready to be cut and sewn into shoes.
Oxblood shoes go well with a range of clothing, from grey and navy suits to khakis and jeans. And they offer a subtle change-up from black and brown. An outfit of a white shirt, great fitting jeans and oxblood shoes is both casual and sharp at the same time, and is a simple way for the wearer to say that he has good style and taste. Over the last couple of years, fashion magazines stated that oxblood was a trend that was “in,” but oxblood is never really “out.” It’s a timeless classic that lives above the vagaries of fashion’s shifting currents and eddies. After all, oxblood is thicker than water.