The original development of brown leather is rooted in the materials and methods that were available when tanning first developed. Vegetable tanning was the original way to preserve organic material, which required soaking animal hides in a bath of tannins to prevent decay. Those tannins mostly came from plant sources like the bark of oak, chestnut or mimosa trees (hence the “veg” in “veg tan” as it’s sometimes called). After tanning, the hides were left a light natural beige color that would darken and patina to deeper brown hues over time. Plentiful natural material also made it easy to create brown dyes, making it the default color for leather for millenia.
The earliest brown leather made its way to footwear first through sandals and moccasins, and then eventually to brown leather boots as shoemaking technology and craftsmanship improved. Eventually, brown boots achieved a sort of iconic status - Vincent Van Gogh was notably fixated with them, painting many “portraits” throughout his career - for the way each pair develops its own unique character to reflect the individual experience of its wearer. Whether it’s a paratrooper boot used by the 82nd Airborne dropping into Normandy or a pair of work boots used to fell timber in the Pacific Northwest, brown leather boots have starred in both grand historical narratives and intimate personal stories.