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Black Shell Cordovan Shoes

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Rocker, Oct 27, 2004.

  1. Rocker

    Rocker Well-Known Member

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    I have a pair of recently re-soled black calfskin wingtips. I'm not real big on full brogue style shoes, in general. In any case, I have an option to buy a pair of black Shell Cordovan wingtips for a relatively moderate price, which, if they were brown, I would have already ordered and would be in transit to me. My question is - other than being more durable, is there any advantage to black shell cordovan? I do already have a pair of black shell cordovan in another style, but have not had them for long. Does the Black cordovan develop any patina alike the Brown does, with age?
     
  2. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I've never owned black cordovan, for precisely the reason you mention.  I have seen them, however, and to my eye they don't develop quite the same patina.  So durabilty would be the main reason, in my view.
     
  3. NoVaguy

    NoVaguy Senior member

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    well, if they're a "modest" price, i.e., 25% or more below retail, i would buy them, simply for the durability and ease of care (i find that you don't have to polish shell cordovan as often). plus, shell cordovan is getting harder to find on sale, since it appears that less of it is made each year. but i guess it depends on whether you would wear the shoes - some of my worse shoe or clothing purchases have been items i've bought dramatically below retail, or even below wholesale, that i never really used... (but they were on sale. etc...)
     
  4. Rocker

    Rocker Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I ordered the damn things. $300 for new Alden black cordovan wing tips made on the plaza last for Brooks Brothers. I figured I'd turn my other wingtips into confirmed foul weather shoes. I rationalized it by using your argument, NoVaguy, cordovan leather has got to be getting more and more scarce - might as well grab them while I can.
     
  5. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    A well cared for shell cordovan shoe will last pretty much forever. Black shell cordovan shoes develop an nice patina with age, they don't require polishing as often, and they have a reflective shine that is different (and I think more handsome) than calfskin. The creasing effects that the shoes develop over time (the creases lighten slightly) also add interesting character to the shoes.

    I'm wearing black shell cordovan shoes (Alden of Carmel's Norwegian split toes) as I type this.
     
  6. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    Actually, Genuine Shell Cordovan is alive and well - saw more of it than ever at the show in Italy last month. I detailed a Borgioli shoe with it (plain toe blutcher on Norwegian construction) and just received the swatch card of available colors for custom/special order shoes. Horween is shipping Black, Burgundy (the classic), Navy, Dark Brown, Honey, and Cognac currently. Adam Knott has some real homeruns in this material in his shop.
     
  7. FCS

    FCS Senior member

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    That's really good to hear. Btw, when I spoke to an AE representative in the beginning of this year, she mentioned that AE also sourced their shell cordovan leather (about 7% or so) from a Japanese maufacturer.
     
  8. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    This was true, but now they use Horweens' tannages. For awhile, A/E felt like Horween was 'freezing' them out in favor of Alden, but this was worked out. Interesting story - apparently Alden fired their representative in Germany (which is a very large chunk of the shell cordovan business) and attempted to bring this in-house. Allen Edmonds has a dedicated German rep and he was able to take over quite alot of this business, including the largest shoe chain in Germany which is Goertz. Maybe this is why Horween quickly re-supplied A/E.

    I specifically detailed shell cordovan from Horween, as I understand from people that know more than I that they are the best.
     
  9. Leo Jay

    Leo Jay Senior member

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    Pardon my ignorance, but I only know 'cordovan' as a color... what's "black cordovan"?
     
  10. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Cordovan is a type of leather that comes from the rump of a horse.  It's not the skin per se, but a membrane (or something) under the skin but above the muscle.  I think.

    It is traditionally tanned with a formula of chrome salts and vegetable dyes, which yields a very rich and varied burgundy color.  It can also be tanned other colors, like black or brown.  Burgundy is the most popular color, I believe, because many shoe aficianados believe that burgundy calf looks cheap and phony compared with burgundy cordovan.  I know I do.
     
  11. zjpj83

    zjpj83 Senior member

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    my dad has black Alden Cordovans and they are his favorite pair of shoes
     
  12. kidkim2

    kidkim2 Senior member

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    I have always assumed that the point of shell cordovan is that it polishes to a unique gleaming sheen. The Frisco Alden store, recognizing this, exhibits its shell cordovans in a back-lit case reminiscent of jewelry displays.
     
  13. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    No, straight veg tanned, then stuffed with oils (hotstuffed). Aniline finished to provide the colors, after tannage the color of the hide is neutral...tanish. Great leather - artisan in it's production as most of the process is hand done.
     
  14. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Interesting. I read that bit about chrome salts in a book.

    Why does cordovan take to burgundy so much better than calf does?
     
  15. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    most leathers ARE tanned with chromium salts, along with many other ingredients. Just not shell cordovan. Chrome tanning is done in 1 day; vegtable tanning in 1 month.

    As for color, I think shell cordovan holds all the colors very well. Remember, it's not a hide so there is no grain, it's fiberless. This is why it's so durable and waterproof naturally.
     
  16. Leo Jay

    Leo Jay Senior member

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    Ah, well ain't I jes ignorent. Thanks.
     
  17. Horace

    Horace Senior member

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    Kai -- this will be my next pair of Alden's I think. I believe this model is exclusive to Carmel? What's the sizing like compared to other Aldens? Thanks. H.
     
  18. mcarthur

    mcarthur Senior member

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    Horace- I recommend you should go on the alden of carmel website to see the online viewing of the various alden fan shoes. You can email your questions to adam knott. This shoe you would need to order a half size larger
     
  19. rjsphd

    rjsphd Senior member

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    I own several pairs of cordovan shoes and will buy more. Virtually indestructable, which is important to a klutz like me that nicks his shoes all the time in planes and cabs. The blacks turn a greyish that I like and emphasize with some green polish mixed into the black now and then.

    But be warned: they wear hot--they are just not as breathable as leather. It goes without saying you need shoe trees. Also, I have had my corodovans stretch quite a bit in the width. I think I remember Rider telling me it was inferior materials, but I've had the problem with AEs and Lidforts, too.
     
  20. jerrysfriend

    jerrysfriend Senior member

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    The owner (now retired) of a trad shop here in Atlanta, who sold thousands of pairs of Aldens, over many years, once told me that the deep secret at Alden was that not all cordovan came from horses. He said some was mule. Has anyone else heard this?
     

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