Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.
Fickle thing, teh leather.
Yup. Traditionally saddlery is (or should be) cleaned every time its used thus mitigating this to a certain degree, but if the grot is allowed to accumulate it turns into a horrible sticky mess. Very different regime than shoes. Smart horse wear in my tack room is boot polished rather than saddle soaped
I haven't used glycerine saddle soap, but Lexol cleaner is not greasy. Does glycerine saddle soap contain too much glycerine? (For example, a pharmacist recommends 3% of glycerine and 4% of betaine for a homemade skin lotion.)
Fiebing's Glycerine Saddle Soap is 100% glycerine, so I doubt that's the problem.
Coconut oil is popular for making soap for a few reasons: It is a medium chain triglyceride, which means it absorbs better than the typical long chain triglycerides. It is very high in lauric acid, which makes for a longer lasting soap. And, it is easier to do super-fatting with.
Without going into a lot of detail, the saponification process breaks down the fatty acids when combined with a hydroxide base to produce glycerin. Think of glycerin as a thin honey, with some salt properties. The salt properties cause glycerin to act as a humectant (draws moisture to it), and the honey aspect addresses more of its physical properties. Glycerin has been used as both a preservative and a sweetener in foods.
Because of this honey like composition it does not make as good a lubricant as oil for the tight leather fibers of shoe leather, and in fact can attract and trap dirt to damage the leather (as already mentioned by others).
Any chance you are working on a cordovan formula?
Also, can you comment on the "Mac Method?" What is the best process for bringing a shine out of cordovan? Every time I was cordovan, it just flakes off after about 2 wears.
Well… There is certainly a lot of evidence that the Mac Method produces great results.
As the Mac Method suggests, you don’t want to add very much oil to cordovan because it is already stuffed with oils. But, although I would not normally put leather conditioner on cordovan, I would put a neutral cream polish on them (very thin coat).
I have used my neutral cream polish on Alden cordovan shell shoes with very good results. The trick with polishing cordovan is to use very little polish and brush a lot. For example: I would probably not try to spit shine a cordovan shoe with my high shine paste because it would defeat the whole point of shell cordovan.
I may create a cordovan shell product if I find there is a real demand for it, but it would probably be a slight modification of my current cream formula with slightly less oil and slightly more carnauba, but not quite a paste. For now my neutral cream polish seems to work fine.
I've been curious about the "Mac Method" for a while now. I fully agree that it produces great visual results, but I've been wondering about long term health of shoes maintained this way. I try to remember the context of Mac's collection, being that he has dozens of pairs (I don't think he has ever said how many pairs he has, but I think it's enough to only wear each pair less than a dozen times per year given equal rotation). At such a low wear rate, it isn't surprising that his shoes always look so pristine, and that they only require such simple care. However, for those who wear their shoes much more regularly, say once a week or so, it doesn't make sense to me that you could successfully get a couple of decades of life from shell using only his "method." According to the published method he has on his blog, "the ultimate goal is to never use wax or creme polish on shell." If you do use any product, he says to use paste wax only every 20 wears or so.
I guess I am wondering if all of the loyal followers of his "method" over in the Alden Thread are going to be in for a rude awakening when their shoes end up cracking much earlier than expected, because they wear their shoes far more frequently (and probably expose them to more weather) than Mac does. Do you think that shell really has enough oils stuffed into it to survive constant use for many years with no product being added back into it? You may have already answered this above when you mentioned that you would put neutral cream polish on it, but I thought I'd ask for some details anyway. Thoughts?
I subscribe to this treatment of cordovan with the caveat that all my cordovan shoes are Allen Edmonds. Having seen multiple pairs of Alden cordovan in person, you can definitely see a distinct difference in finishing between the two brands.
I have a pair of Allen Edmonds Walnut Cordovan and they were somewhat dry during their break-in period. I had to brush vigorously immediatly after wearing followed by a tiny amount of reno after every second wearing in order to bring some of the natural oils to a buff. Eventually, I got tired of this and felt that they were drying excessively on my shoe rack in between wears. Recently, I put the thinnest layer possible of neutral wax paste (using a glove, just tapping my fingers to the wax and spreading it across the shoe) and it seems to have fixed this problematic "drying." They now have a subtle sheen and after a couple of days it seems that the cordovan has responded well. There is no "layer" of wax build up like on calf models and the cordovan still feels raw to the touch of my bare hands.
I wouldn't say to treat cordovan like calf seeing as how the treatment of calf is highly variable among SF users, but I do believe that the Mac Method is not something that works on every pair of cordovan. In my experience, depending on the shell, the quality of the cordovan may not be as "oily" and rich as others... in that case, I think just a little bit (and I must emphasize, just the smallest amount) of wax goes a long way on cordovan.
To summarize and consolidate my opinionated post and your information, I think the mac method works for well "oiled" healthy cordovan. I would like to believe that, contrary to popular belief, not all shells contain oils that will last their entire life time. Perhaps, given the context of where and how long Mac is wearing his shoes in addition to his considerable rotation, the need for maintenance and upkeep is significantly lower compared to others. I think its important to identify when a pair of shoes needs a little more than some mac love and a little more than some reno. At which point, I'm an advocate of paste wax in the scarcest amount. I think that, depending on someone else's usage, every 20 wears of a shoe may be too late for wax and its up to the individual to identify when their shoes really need it.
Then again, I could be wrong and my cordovan may end up cracking. Time will tell.
Well, don't forget that Alden and Allen Edmonds both use Horween cordovan. They are both tanned the same way, so they will both have equal amounts of oils. Alden adds a special dye finish to it to make it uniquely theirs, and perhaps that does make it respond better to the "Mac Method", being that it is simply a surface treatment allowing the cordovan's natural properties to flourish. What I'm getting at is that eventually, cordovan's natural properties will dwindle, requiring replacement. Mac's "method" doesn't technically allow for this if you follow it strictly. I agree with a lot of what patrickBOOTH said above, and what you said about Mac's rotation being a crucial point (also as I previously stated). I do know that Mac has shoes that are decades old, but the size of his rotation and the infrequency of which he wears each pair doesn't accurately reflect the ability of his care method to appropriately make a well used shoe last for many years. You'll get the Alden Thread Gestapo on you if you say this in that thread (or question anything about Mac), but I personally doubt that Mac's "Method" is good for long term health, even though it keeps occasionally worn shoes looking pretty. However, I default to leather experts that may know better or know otherwise, hence my original question. I very well may be wrong.
All cordovan used on shoes is horween. Any respected shoemaker knows they do it the best and it is what is being used. Anything no matter how stuffed will dry out. I'm not a believer in the long term Mac method as I have stated and also as I have stated don't believe it to be great in non alden and even non Allen Edmonds shoes. Allen Edmonds applied a shellac to their shoes with a compressed air gun, mind you. I simply use wax on my cordovan on the toe and heel and I bull them like I do calf. I use Lexol on the vamp and rarely (like once a year) used colored cordovan cream over the lexoled vamp. If Lexol is good enough for veg tanned tack its good enough for cordovan where it flexes.
I think you know this isn't true PB. Trickers and Meermin don't use Horween shell to name but two
I guess I didn't know it was true. But, those brands don't really exist as options to me, so meh.
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