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Creasing of shell cordovan vs. calfskin (pictures)


Distinguished Member
Jan 24, 2005
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Since the question of how to distinguish shell cordovan from calfskin recurs periodically and I just got a new digital camera, I thought I would show some pictures illustrating the difference in creasing between the two materials (cross-posted on StyleForum and AskAndy). The two pairs of shoes shown below are both made by Alden, both are approximately 20 months old, both pairs have been worn significantly, and both are treated similarly: shoe trees are always inserted after wearing, and scuffs are spot polished after each wearing. The bluchers are also given an all-over polishing every 1-2 weeks when they're in my regular rotation. So, the bluchers are black calfskin and the loafers are black shell cordovan:

Notice the broad wrinkles on the vamp of the loafers:

The bluchers have similar broad wrinkles on the vamp, but within the wrinkles they show micro-creases absent from the loafers.

The absence of these micro-creases is characteristic of shell cordovan. Although it's probably not evident from the pictures, the broad wrinkles in the shell cordovan are also a lighter color than the surrounding leather, whereas the same is not true of calfskin. Perhaps the color difference is more evident on the vamps of these brown Polo Darlton wingtips (although the entire areaimmediately forward of the lacing is lighter than the surrounding leather):

You might also be able to tell that shell cordovan does not take on the high shine of calfskin, but has a deeper, richer gloss. These are the features I look for in deciding whether shoes are made of shell cordovan or calfskin.

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