Thursday, May 7, 2020


I dyed these Road Champ Boots about 8 years ago while I was stationed on the island of Okinawa and have since received countless inquiries about my process.

What you’ll need:

  • Kiwi Leather Dye
  • Barbasol Shaving Cream
  • Painters Tape
  • Steele Wool (#0)
  • Black shoe polish
  • Cotton cloth (lint free)
  • Tooth Brush (soft bristle)
  • Boot Brush
Why Kiwi Leather Dye? I shipped out to Marine Corps Boot Camp in January 1995 when we were still wearing black leather boots (aka “Cadillac's”). It wasn’t until I reported to my very first duty assignment in Iwakuni, Japan that I learned the art of spit shining my boots (from my roommate, the son of Sergeant Major who taught him when he was a kid) and the process necessary to maintain an inspection-ready shine. A critical part of the process involves filling the pores with the dye in order to create a smooth surface by which to support layers and layers of black polish -- each layer of polish is carefully applied and becomes easier and shinier than the last until a mirror shine is achieved. After each work day, another layer of polish was applied followed by a quick spit shine. These efforts usually went on for about two weeks before the polish started to chip away preventing the effective application of any more. This meant it was time to “break it down” and start from scratch.

*Sometimes when I went too long without maintaining my boots (usually a different pair intended for heavy work), I noticed they would develop a patina. This was an unacceptable site for a Marine back then, but certainly a welcome characteristic in today’s rugged standard. This indicated to me that the tried and true process explained above was just what I was looking for when I set out to dye my Road Champs.

Why Barbasol? Barbasol was, and still is, very inexpensive and harmless way to clean and break down the polish to a new “blank canvas” while preserving the life of the leather.

Why Steele Wool? The #0 grit is rough, yet safe enough to remove factory-applied leather finish/protectant, thus allowing effective application of the Kiwi polish. It’s also used to safely break down the layers of polish.

Painter’s Tape: Used to protect accidental dying of the welt and other unintended leather parts.

Tooth Brush: Used in conjunction with the Barbasol to help thoroughly clean every nook and cranny.

 Step 1: Clean boots -- Using Barbasol and steel wool, follow these instructions (stopping at the point of allowing to dry over night -- DO NOT apply any Pecard products).

Step 2: Protect all areas of the boot with painter’s tape not intended to be dyed.

Step 3: Dye the leather. I applied a few layers, allowing each one to dry first. The process could end here, but the leather will be left with a dull finish.

Step 4: Apply a layer of polish with a cloth wrapped around index finger using circular motions.

Step 5: Buff with a boot brush.

Step 6: Remove tape.


Note: I don’t recommend using leathercrafting-grade leather dye as it is possible to accidentally dye too many layers, which will prevent patina to develop (think drum-dyed leather). There is no way to over-dye with Kiwi.

Follow these steps and you can achieve an incredibly satisfying patina with natural aging characteristics like i did.

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