Every once in a while I get asked how to fix the tassels that splay out on tasseled loafers.
First it is important to understand why the leather strips that make up the tassel tend to curl in the first place.
A tassel is typically made of a single piece of leather with the top twenty percent or so remaining a solid piece of leather while the remainder is cut into strips (and sometimes tapered at the end).
These are made from very thin leather, but they are still leather which means that they have a grain side and a flesh side. The grain side of your shoe upper is on the outside and the flesh side is on the inside.
Because the grain side of the leather is exposed to the world, when a shoe is made a finish is applied to protect the leather to some degree. The same thing is done to the pieces of leather used for tassels. Then the tassel pieces are rolled around and attached to a leather strand that is attached to the shoe.
Since the leather of the tassel is so thin it dries out (loses its oils) much sooner than the leather of the shoe upper. The curling is caused by two factors related to the drying out of the leather:
First, leather is denser at the flesh side than the grain side, so when the leather dries the grain side compresses faster that the flesh side. Second, the finish on the grain side remains constant so it cannot shrink, it has to curl.
So now the question becomes, how do I fix the tassels once that has happened?
In the past I have recommended applying some leather conditioner (like Lexol) to the tassels and putting a rubber band around the ends. This will add the oils back into the leather, and the rubber bands helped straighten out the curl. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it worked for the most part.
However, I recently came across a product that seems to be the perfect solution for this problem. It is called Tassel Mate. It comes with a leather conditioner and multiple wraps that cover the entire tassel.
I think it is a great idea for people with tasseled shoes that want to take good care of them.