For some reason the word ‘dubbin’ came into my head; until I was married I’d never heard it, and it was my husband who introduced it when our children were playing sports and he decided they needed dubbin for their boots. Well, I had no clue, but I did guess it must be polish or waterproofing stuff… I did wonder if it was just a local dialect word he had picked up somewhere, Cornwall where he lived when he was little, Surrey where he grew up, Portsmouth where he went to Uni, or Oldham/Saddleworth where he lived for many many years.

I’m sure people have made it and used it for thousands of years in climates which need things waterproofed; basically it is made from wax product and other natural products to waterproof leather and animal skin. Apparently it also softens it which would make them more useful as clothing or footwear. I guess polish for shoes is a kind of dubbin, except that as well as weather-proofing it is also to make your footwear shiny and keep whatever colour it has been dyed.

There are various recipes using various ingredients – there is even a vegetarian version, should you worry about such things. It seems to be agreed though that wax, tallow, animal fat, suet, oil, fish oils (maybe even blubber) is used or has been used in its recipe.

The word may come from an old word ‘dub’ meaning to dress leather, originally, perhaps from a Scandinavian source. There are other senses to dub,

  • to confer knighthood, and so to call by a distinctive title, epithet, or nickname
  • to trim or remove the comb and wattles of a cock
  • to hit a golf ball or shot)poorly and thus do something badly

Should you wish to make your own dubbin, here is a nice recipe and other information:



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