George Cleverley Russian Leather

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Maverick972, Oct 8, 2010.

  1. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    To distill it down, the real appeal of this leather is in the story. I am very honest about that. Sure, it looks good, has a great smell blah blah blah. But ultimately, I wouldn't have forked over 1,700 GBP for a pair if it weren't for the back story.

    If you find my rationale foolish, you'd do best to stick with regular calfskin. It'll probably last longer.


    Which is why the folks at Cleverley bring up the story every time you see them. Not a foolish rationale, Eustace, just looking for a reason to justify the purchase, no?
     
  2. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    Which is why the folks at Cleverley bring up the story every time you see them. Not a foolish rationale, Eustace, just looking for a reason to justify the purchase, no?


    Or maybe just me because I have yet to commission a pair.
     
  3. meister

    meister Senior member

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    Meister:

    You mean available to use or under water?


    All of the above...Prince Charles owns the hides and they have never extracted the whole cargo from what I hear....
     
  4. medwards

    medwards Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    There are a few things I don't understand about the Russian leather:

    1) The supply is limited. Whenever the topic is mentioned, George says he doesn't know how many more pairs of shoes could be made but that he knows the number is few. This was (3+) years ago. I don't doubt the limited supply, but is it really as scarce as we are made to believe?


    How much of this latter Russian calf remains is uncertain, though the supply is indeed limited. Guesses are that there are still two or three years supply remaining, but no one would be surprised if the supply lasts even longer. As has been noted, additional Russian reindeer hides remain buried in the muck and mud on the ocean floor, although the amount remains unknown. However, these are not likely to be salvaged. The divers who had been doing this reclamation from the wreck have now retired and it is unlikely that anyone else will follow suit. This is difficult, dangerous work with limited financial rewards..assuming one could get permission from the Duke of Cornwall to continue the endeavor. The market for two hundred year old Russian calf -- a somewhat thick, stiff skin, embossed with cross-hatching, bearing natural imperfections and markings, and having a slight musty aroma -- remains rather limited...despite the allure of the story and the fact that Cleverley can indeed make some these hides into beautiful shoes. The cost of salvaging the leather simply outweighs the premium that can be charged for these shoes. Keep in mind that the hides themselves are of various quality, thickness, scarring, and flexibility. They are not all suited for making fine shoes. That is why Cleverley's option on first refusal of the skins has been so valuable to them.


    The terms "Russian calf," Russia calf," or "Russian leather" have come to mean two different things. First, it has been used to denote a specific, highly regarded tanning process that died out in the early part of the twentieth century. Second, people tend to use it to refer specifically to the leather found in the wreck of the Metta Catherina. In boh cases, this leather can be made into rather fine shoes. However, in terms of the latter, those hides were indeed intended for a variety of purposes and uses, notably bookbinding but also a rather extensive range of leathergoods. In normal circumstances, it would not have been the first choice for footwear -- not because of its dryness -- but because these skins are embossed with a crosshatched design, are of animals that lived in the wild and are well marked by scarring and abrasions, have a distinct odor, and are thicker and stiffer than would be sought after in fine shoes. That said, the folks at Cleverley can indeed make some very beautiful shoes from it.

    I am not sure that one would term this leather "precious." There is a higher cost in salvaging and preparing this leather than there is for the calf that Cleverley generally uses in its other shoes and there is some limitation of its availablity...but there is also a very limited market. There are two basic reasons this leather is used for luggage and other leather goods. First, many of the hides simply are not suitable to shoemaking. They are just too thick, scarred, or otherwise limited. Second, there is a very small market for bespoke shoes generally, let alone shoes made up in this leather. Quite frankly, the market for high end luggage, cases and purses exceeds that of bespoke shoes by an exceedingly large amount.
     
  5. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    How much of this latter Russian calf remains is uncertain, though the supply is indeed limited. Guesses are that there are still two or three years supply remaining, but no one would be surprised if the supply lasts even longer. As has been noted, additional Russian reindeer hides remain buried in the muck and mud on the ocean floor, although the amount remains unknown. However, these are not likely to be salvaged. The divers who had been doing this reclamation from the wreck have now retired and it is unlikely that anyone else will follow suit. This is difficult, dangerous work with limited financial rewards..assuming one could get permission from the Duke of Cornwall to continue the endeavor. The market for two hundred year old Russian calf -- a somewhat thick, stiff skin, embossed with cross-hatching, bearing natural imperfections and markings, and having a slight musty aroma -- remains rather limited...despite the allure of the story and the fact that Cleverley can indeed make some these hides into beautiful shoes. The cost of savaging the leather simply outweighs the premium that can be charged for these shoes. Keep in mind that the hides themselves are of various quality, thickness, scarring, and flexibility. They are not all suited for making fine shoes. That is why Cleverley's option on first refusal of the skins has been so valuable to them.

    The terms "Russian calf," Russia calf," or "Russian leather" have come to mean two different things. First, it has been used to denote a specific, highly regarded tanning process that died out in the early part of the twentieth century. Second, people tend to use it to refer specifically to the leather found in the wreck of the Metta Catherina. In boh cases, this leather can be made into rather fine shoes. However, in terms of the latter, those hides were indeed intended for a variety of purposes and uses, notably bookbinding but also a rather extensive range of leathergoods. In normal circumstances, it would not have been the first choice for footwear -- not because of its dryness -- but because these skins are embossed with a crosshatched design, are of animals that lived in the wild and are well marked by scarring and abrasions, have a distinct odor, and are thicker and stiffer than would be sought after in fine shoes. That said, the folks at Cleverley can indeed make some very beautiful shoes from it.

    I am not sure that one would term this leather "precious." There is a higher cost in salvaging and preparing this leather than there is for the calf that Cleverley generally uses in its other shoes and there is some limitation of its availablity...but there is also a very limited market. There are two basic reasons this leather is used for luggage and other leather goods. First, many of the hides simply are not suitable to shoemaking. They are just too thick, scarred, or otherwise limited. Second, there is a very small market for bespoke shoes generally, let alone shoes made up in this leather. Quite frankly, the market for high end luggage, cases and purses exceeds that of bespoke shoes by an exceedingly large amount.


    Medwards:

    Thank you for the informative explanation. I know of you to be a very knowledgeable man...and your shoes! Feel free to donate to the Help-Maverick972-Own-Quality-Shoes charity!
     
  6. medwards

    medwards Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thank you. I must say that there was a time when the folks who would become Cleverley actually tried dissuading new customers from starting out with shoes made from this leather. The hallmark of bespoke footwear is its lightness, the suppleness of the hides, the comfort of the fit. As has been noted above, this Russian calf is thicker and stiffer than the leather generally used in high quality bespoke shoes. It tends to be somehat irregular in appearance, marked by scars and abrasions as well the uneven cross-hatching that has come to be associated with it. If the initial fit isn't spot on, comfort can really suffer. A new customer of bespoke -- encountering all this -- could easily find the experience less than encouraging and decide the venture not one worth pursuing. Thus they preferred that new clients start out with a more classic approach, experience the wonderful shoes that could result, get the fit properly adjusted and then move on to shoes made from this Russian calf. Whether this is still the case, I do not know. Of course, that said, the Russian calf shoes they have made for me have been quite satisfactory [​IMG]
     
  7. MarquisMagic

    MarquisMagic Senior member

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    Of course, that said, the Russian calf shoes they have made for me have been quite satisfactory [​IMG]

    Very
    satisfactory, I would think!!!! [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you. I must say that there was a time when the folks who would become Cleverley actually tried dissuading new customers from starting out with shoes made from this leather. The hallmark of bespoke footwear is its lightness, the suppleness of the hides, the comfort of the fit. As has been noted above, this Russian calf is thicker and stiffer than the leather generally used in high quality bespoke shoes. It tends to be somehat irregular in appearance, marked by scars and abrasions as well the uneven cross-hatching that has come to be associated with it. If the initial fit isn't spot on, comfort can really suffer. A new customer of bespoke -- encountering all this -- could easily find the experience less than encouraging and decide the venture not one worth pursuing. Thus they preferred that new clients start out with a more classic approach, experience the wonderful shoes that could result, get the fit properly adjusted and then move on to shoes made from this Russian calf. Whether this is still the case, I do not know. Of course, that said, the Russian calf shoes they have made for me have been quite satisfactory [​IMG]


    How many pairs did Cleverley make for you before the Russian calf? And how many pairs did it take for them to get the fit absolutely perfect? I think Manton's was a hit the first time, but his G&G had to have a second go. I could be wrong. I've read so many threads recently!
     
  9. aportnoy

    aportnoy Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I'm enjoying mine as well...

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    Andrew:

    You've got quite the collection! You and Medwards...make me very jealous. Same question -- how many pairs did Cleverley make for you before the Russian leather?
     
  11. aportnoy

    aportnoy Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Andrew:

    You've got quite the collection! You and Medwards...make me very jealous. Same question -- how many pairs did Cleverley make for you before the Russian leather?


    Thanks Maverick, much appreciated. These were a part of my initial order with Cleverley which also included a galosh in brown/burgundy leather. I knew I was going to get them so I figured why not get them first.
     
  12. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Maverick, much appreciated. These were a part of my initial order with Cleverley which also included a galosh in brown/burgundy leather. I knew I was going to get them so I figured why not get them first.


    How was the fit? Was there any noticeable difference in fit between the different leathers?
     
  13. aportnoy

    aportnoy Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    How was the fit? Was there any noticeable difference in fit between the different leathers?

    The reindeer does feel a wee bit stiff at first, but I found it loosened up nicely.
     
  14. Maverick972

    Maverick972 Well-Known Member

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    The reindeer does feel a wee bit stiff at first, but I found it loosened up nicely.


    Is that a forest green lining I see?
     
  15. medwards

    medwards Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    How many pairs did Cleverley make for you before the Russian calf? And how many pairs did it take for them to get the fit absolutely perfect? I think Manton's was a hit the first time, but his G&G had to have a second go. I could be wrong. I've read so many threads recently!

    I do not believe the folks who were to become Cleverley were yet making in Russian calf when I first began working with them. It was a very long time ago. The very first pair of shoes they made for me -- a pair of classic, black stitched toe oxfords -- were spot on in terms of fit. The first pair of Russian calf shoes I commissioned (a captoe oxford) wasn't until 1990. When they left New & Lingwood to start Cleverley in the early 1993 or so, their customers' lasts remained with N&L. Thus John Carnera made up a new last for me when I brought my trade to this new company. We continued to tweak it a bit over the years. MarquisMagic has posted a picture of the most recent Russian calf shoes they have crafted for me elsewhere in this thread.
     

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