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How to avoid.....(shell cordovan related)

lee_44106

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I've never seen true shell cordovan (tanned by Horween) crack like that.

The damage to your shoes appears to be from trauma, bumping into something or being cut.

Avoid those.

Enjoy the shoes.
 

kungapa

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lee's point was that there is not that much you can do against accidents - the damage above is according to him not systemic, it is a random accident.
 

lee_44106

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Like I said, I believe the damages seen in the picture is due to DIRECT TRAUMA to the shoe/leather, and not from wear.

I know people like to baby the hell out of their shell cordovan, including investing in high grade expensive French polish and such.

McArthur (big poster on Ask Andy, and also a poster here) has a huge number of shell shoes, and IIRC, he only brushes them, and they look great.

I personally belong to the too-lazy-to-polish group, and have never polished my shell shoes.
 
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Jackie Treehorn

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Those aren't shell cordovan shoes. They're made of corrected grain leather. To avoid cracking and flaking like that, purchase genuine shell cordovan shoes. I hate to be the bearer of this unfortunate revelation, but someone needs to be.

Be very careful when bidding on "cordovan" shoes on eBay. Let this be a (hopefully inexpensive) lesson.
 
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89826

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I'm not so sure they aint shell. Shell can crack like that and those shoes don't have any calf tiny creases.
 

MyOtherLife

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It appears to be dry rot. Those shoes are probably 30 or more years old and were probably never lotioned, or properly maintained, worn or not.
 

Jackie Treehorn

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I'm not so sure they aint shell. Shell can crack like that and those shoes don't have any calf tiny creases.
The top layer of shell isn't that thin. Looks far more like the surface layer of CG leather cracked open, rather than the surface layer of a shell cracked open. If it were shell, the crack would a lot deeper. (I've owned ancient, secondhand, shell shoes that cracked from dry rot and neglect; the cracks were pretty deep and idiosyncratic).

As for the lack of creases -- CG doesn't crease like full grain calf. It creases more like shell, but shallower. Generally, it can be mistaken for shell in photos -- but up close and personal, it's very different. It has a much more plasticky quality and texture, and it is palpably thinner.
 

The Deacon

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They are surely dry rotted shell, I bought a pair of vintage Florsheim Imperial shell Longwings for $3 at thrift just like these as an experiment to see if I could lexol them back to health. You can't when they are this far gone. I've seen many pair like these in my thrifting travels the past 12 years and they are shell cordovan.
 

rebel222

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The top layer of shell isn't that thin. Looks far more like the surface layer of CG leather cracked open, rather than the surface layer of a shell cracked open. If it were shell, the crack would a lot deeper. (I've owned ancient, secondhand, shell shoes that cracked from dry rot and neglect; the cracks were pretty deep and idiosyncratic).

As for the lack of creases -- CG doesn't crease like full grain calf. It creases more like shell, but shallower. Generally, it can be mistaken for shell in photos -- but up close and personal, it's very different. It has a much more plasticky quality and texture, and it is palpably thinner.

The shoes pictured are shell cordovan.
 

dbhdnhdbh

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To get back to the original question: I don't think the OP cares whether the shoes pictured are shell. I think that is just a photo of cracked shoes that he found, and used to illustrate his question. He wants to know how to preserve his shell shoes that are NOT cracked.

From discussions here and on AAAC, I have seen the following responses, as best I understood them. Note, I cite several individuals, but it is possible I misunderstood what they said. So don't blame them if I got it wrong:

Shell is so heavily saturated with waxes and oils when it is made that no further treatment is needed, or even possible.
Shell is so dense that nothing will soak into it, no matter what you might apply.

Shell dries out like any other leather, and must be conditioned the same way. Wide variety of favorite conditioners, but the cobbler who posts as Cobblestone and Nick Valenti of B Nelson both say they use Lexol. Nick V has also spoken highly of Saphir products. DWFII, boot and shoe maker, also says he uses Lexol, and specifically prefers LexolNF, which apparently soaks in quickly without leaving a residue. I have not seen comments on maintaining shell from Ron Rider or Calfknip, other experts who sometimes contribute their knowledge.

I think each has endorsed treating dry shell with Lexol, but it is possible any of them may have been referring only to calf, and I missed that point.

Some, not necessarily those above, have said that any shoes new to you, whether purchased used or new, should be conditioned. The argument goes that you have no idea how long the shoes may have sat without conditioning, the temperatures or humidity to which they were exposed...

Others have said that this is an issue only for old shell and that new shell will be fine for years without conditioning.

Nick Horween, whose company makes shell, has cautioned against using any conditioner with solvents. He suggests Venetian Shoe Cream. I think the only solvent in Lexol is water, which also appears to be in VSC, so I am not sure whether there are other reasons he is concerned about Lexol. For a while it sounded as if the Horween company was preparing to introduce their own conditioner, the same mix of fats and oils used in producing shell. Have not heard anything about that for a while, so I don't know where that stands.

VSC does not seem to penetrate deeply into shell in my experience (which is not that much). It gives a nice surface shine, but I don't know whether it does much conditioning.

I would love to hear from the experts about

The need for conditioning new shell
Need for conditioning old shell

What conditioner to use when necessary

How to distinguish shell that is simply dry, and can be saved by conditioning, from that that has undergone dry rot, and is beyond salvation.

I hope I have dropped enough names to attract their attention.
 

cbfn

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Great post as I'm receiving my first shell in a couple of days. I'm a bit OC over mye calf shoes, and make sure that they are always well cared for, but not oversaturated with conditioner and a like. About once a year I strip them down and apply liberal amounts of Lexol conditioner before giving them a good shine with some cream and wax, and apply some Saphir reno and wax along the way. However, even after reading a couple of hours about how to treat shell, I'm unsure how to treat my shell; the mac method, some saphir and brushing, cordovan cream, venetian shoe cream? The plan so far would be to just apply some reno and brush the hell out of them, kind of a modified mac method. However, I read great things about venetian, sad it's so hard to find retailers willing to ship internationally for less than siz times the value of the bottle.
 

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