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Friday, September 5, 2014

From The Fat Of The Land Comes James B Young's Camel Dubbin

In the 1981 classic Australian film Gallipoli which was written by Australian playwright David Williamson and film maker Peter Weir, the protagonist, Archy Hamilton, explains to a camel driver that they meet along their way to Perth (if I recall correctly) that: "if we don't stop them there {Germans} , they could end up here".

The response given by the camel driver who is holding the reins to a camel is one of the most laconic, dry and quintessentially Australian moments of cinema. The camel driver surveys the forbidding desolate desert landscape and replies "And they're welcome to it" . This same temperament is repeated years later in the relaxed world view of Crocodile Mick Dundee and has since etched itself into the national psyche.

One hundred years after Gallipoli the Australian desert has not softened and the animal that seems to still thrive in these harsh conditions is the camel which brings me to a young shoe maker in Alice Springs who has created a shoe dubbin based on the very animal that can withstand this forbidding environment.

James B Young spends most of his week working on custom made shoes for people travelling through Alice Springs or via orders taken in Sydney and Melbourne. We will write about his craft later on but in the interim we wish to discuss his camel dubbin which he says has many properties from water resistance, effective nourishment of leather and an aesthetic which improves the deepness of grains in a leather.

The Fat Of The Land product is made entirely by hand. Young sources hump camel fat from local Alice Springs abattoirs and then renders the fat into a tallow using a cauldron. Eventually the render becomes white in colour and then it is mixed with other 100% naturally occurring substances such as bees wax and some oils which James would rather keep to himself.

This is a stark contrast to most dubbins which these days are usually based on petro chemicals and where only high end European brands use seal or mink fat in their dubbins and nourishing creams for leather. This completely naturally occurring product made by hand in Alice Springs is what James feels that people will come from far and wide to experience.

I have received a tin in the post and over the coming days I intend to try it out. James has instructed me that it's best put on sparingly and in multiple layers. Too much dubbin and he says the leather will become soft and lose it's strength. The dubbin is supposed to "give the leather a drink" but not too much of a drink. He also says that when applying the dubbin you should always consider placing the shoes next to a heat source to ensure that it soaks in well. James says that a fire place or in direct sun will help this along. In Young's opinion, using the dubbin will create a deepness to the leather which will improve the depth of the grain to the eye and in the case of older leathers will bring out a style of patina. In his opinion the leather is best applied with a clean worn rag of light cotton that does not produce lint.

At the moment he is selling the camel dubbin for $30 Australian per tin with formal production commencing in late 2014 at which point he will be looking for retailers in both the domestic and overseas markets.

I will follow James' instructions regarding the use of his product and hopefully over the coming weeks you will see the results of a camel dubbin on a pair of boots. Stay tuned!

Want the dubbin? Visit James B Young's website on

James B Young "Fat Of The Land" Camel Dubbin

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