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Church's "custom grade" cordovans?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I was a big beneficiary of the Prada selloff of Church inventory in 2000-- I roamed the New York and Miami area Marshalls, and bought up over 50 pair of Church's and Cheaney shoes. Among them were two pairs of chocolate brown "Custom Grade" shoes that I think are shell cordovan. The shoes are hand-numbered in the lining, with the gold Custom Grade emboss, but don't say Cordovan or Horween. They have the typical cordovan "plump with oil" look, and creases reverse to a lighter shade of leather rather than darkening. They absorb minimal polish. They are NOT a reddish tint, however-- a true warm chocolate is the shade. Styles are a Cleverly-toed oxford with minimal perfing, and an interesting mid-vamp tasselled slip-on with, of all things, a full wingtip. Any foolproof test for cordovan leather that will verify my good fortune? One of the two pairs was triple marked down to $30, by the way.
post #2 of 18
Well, the creases you describe sound exactly like cordovan leather. Calf will wrinkle, as I am sure you have seen a million times. If these shoes dont have those wrinkles, Id guess they are most certainly cordovan. Do they shine up really well? Almost like patent leather? thats another sign. If you dont polish them for a while do they have a milky white layer on them? This is more evident when the shoes are new, but still happens to my older cordovan shoes now and again. If so, they are most likely cordovan. The fact that they arent "cordovan" color is irrelevant. Cordovan is merely the kind of leather (horse), not only a color. Cordovan leather can be dyed into a number of colors - black, dark brown, mid brown, tan, etc.
post #3 of 18
You might want to try e-mailing a couple of the Church's stores and see if they can help you. Provide the style number and ask them if it was made in Crup leather. I've had good responses to questions when I've e-mailed them. Here is a list of some stores. Let me know if you need phone numbers. Also, let me know if you have anything in size 7F on the 73 last you want to sell. london.newbondstreet@church-footwear.com london.canarywharf@church-footwear.com london.cheapside@church-footwear.com london.fenchurchstreet@church-footwear.com london.jermynstreet@church-footwear.com london.knightsbridge@church-footwear.com london.regentstreet@church-footwear.com london.royalexchange@church-footwear.com
post #4 of 18
Church's produces a lot of its shoes in what they call "bookbinder", which can seem similar to cordovan at first. And this does come in at least 2 shades of brown. Of course, they also do cordovan. I'm just mentioning this other possibility FYI.
post #5 of 18
I've also got some older Church catalogs. If you would like, list the model name and model number of the shoes and I can see if they are in my older catalogs from the late 1990's.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
The interior number markings are handwritten in what looks like fine-point ballpoint ink, so I wonder if these shoes may have been true customs that were in some huge Church warehouse bin for "never picked up" customer orders. Here are the numbers: 110G67R M13912/MM109/006 2872/50 0252TCB (TCB is double bold as though it was written over twice) Thanks again for insights. I have only the size 11 1/2 and 12 shoes I bought, by the way, though for 5-6 months after, I would check local Marshalls and find the remnants in sizes like 7 and 8 slowly being liquidated.
post #7 of 18
Church's produces a lot of its shoes in what they call "bookbinder", which can seem similar to cordovan at first. And this does come in at least 2 shades of brown. Of course, they also do cordovan. I'm just mentioning this other possibility FYI.
I'm fairly certain that someone on this forum or askandy mentioned that bookbinder was a corrected grain finish, which can sort of mimick shell cordovan at the start, but doesn't really hold up as well. I have an burgundy colored and unworn Allen Edmonds (yet another pair) that was made at least before 1987 - I'm having the company check out the writings to see if its shell cordovan or corrected grain. So the two materials can look somewhat alike at the start.
post #8 of 18
I'm fairly certain that someone on this forum or askandy mentioned that bookbinder was a corrected grain finish, which can sort of mimick shell cordovan at the start, but doesn't really hold up as well.
Well, I know there is a lot of anti-Church's sentiment around, but I add this: I got a pair of the Church's custom grades in black bookbinder, in 1992. I've worn them as my main dress shoe since then, they are in *great* condition. They've held up incredibly over those 12+years, though a resoling is coming up in the next year or 2. [I'm pretty careful with my shoes though: I walk around puddles, don't wear them if I know it's giong to rain, use shoetrees, etc.] I just had this year's version of the same shoe sent to me, I returned it because I didn't like the brown bookbinder's appearance. It appears to be constructed at least as well as my 1992s are, and in some ways better (e.g. hidden grommets on the lace holes, where my 1992 version had none). As usual, your milage may vary, M
post #9 of 18
Minimal, I think there's a general appreciation of Church's pre-Prada, you could call it a nostalgia. Having never owned any of their shoes I can't comment. I can say that having been in and out of their stores frequently in the past few weeks, the leather just doesn't seem to cut it. It looks and feels no better than shoes costing about a third elsewhere, i.e. cheap and in no way justifying the cost.
post #10 of 18
I have a pair of Church's custom grade cordovan tassel loafers which I purchased at the old Madison Avenue store before it closed. Embossed on the sole is "genuine cordovan benchmade".
post #11 of 18
I can't see the specific style numbers you mentioned in the older Church catalogues, but the coding tells me something.  Here are the letter codes they used, with the corresponding leather type: BC = black calfskin or vealskin TC = brown calfskin or vealskin WC = burgundy calfskin BCB = black bookbinder TCB = brown bookbinder (one of your styles listed) WCB = burgundy bookbinder BRH = black full grain ranch oxhide TRH  = brown full grain ranch oxhide They also had some other skins as follows: RC =  brown suede calfskin (usually cape buck) WCA = dark burgundy appaloosa calfskin (a matte finish typically) The Church shoes in that time period had the lesser quality Royal Tweed, that had styles depicted with four numbers and one letter. The custom grade were higher in quality and had four numbers, followed by two or three letters. There was the Masterclass, which were supposedly of higher-grade leather.  I don't have the numbers on those, but the soles were a bit more distinctive. They also had some 125 anniversary models, made in what they called Syra calf at the time.  Those were their higher end. I might could be of further help should you list some style names. The shoes you have wouldn't necessarily be true custom shoes as church's would write their shoe style, name, last, size, etc. with pen. Let me know if there are further questions. EDIT: I don't see any cordovan/crup shoes in the catalog I have. They would have a different number. But one of the shoes you listed is definitely brown bookbinder.
post #12 of 18
I wore the Church "Kingsley" bookbinder tassel loafers through the late '80s and '90s. No problem with creasing or cracking-much better in this regard than the Crockett and Jones loafers from Polo I had during this period. No abnormal sole or heel issues. I notice that 'jerrysfriend' still has versions of this shoe. Yes, in retrospect (especially after reading the posts on this board), the leather looked more like plastic and the shape was not classic (hence, once again switched back to Aldens). Still, don't quite understand the quality issues.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well, I checked the other brown suspected cordovan, and it is also marked TCB. Both are sole-marked Custom Grade, Made in England-- no mention of Horween or Cordovan. So it appears I have two pairs of Bookbinder-finish calf Custom Grade Church's, as "Minimal" suggested. The style of one is apparently 0252, and the size is 11 UK, which makes them US 12s. Only on this Forum would the participants have the knowledge and the interest to explore this point. Thanks to all. I'll wear 'em with pride even knowing they are not shell cordovan.
post #14 of 18
I'm curious if my catalog is correct. Based on the style number of 0252TCB, that is a shoe called the Madison in brown bookbinder calf. It's a wing tip tassel slip-on, full leather lining, single sole. Price of the shoe was $395 about 7 or 8 years ago. Church's may not be the very best of shoes, but I've always find my Church's shoes to be superior to the likes of Allen Edmonds.
post #15 of 18
the writting on the inside of my (preprada) churches is also handwritten in ink, I actually thought that that was standard.
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