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Shell Cordovan


Distinguished Member
Aug 7, 2004
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Awhile back in a thread on Alden cordovans a gentleman remarked that he had been informed by an Alden salesman that Alden either got better parts of the shells or simply better shells than Allen-Edmonds. I discussed this with my pal Greg Kramer, one of the top holstermakers and a man with very close ties to Horween Tannery, the principal supplier of shell cordovan. He said that was absurd on both counts. In the first place the shells (which, as most of you know, are not properly hides but are a membrane underneath the hide on the hindquarters of horses and mules) are ovals not much bigger than 18 inches in diameter. At best, you could get one pair of shoes from a shell. The really big draft horses will give you a 3-foot shell, but these are rare these days sinces there are very few draft horses like the Budweiser Clydesdales left.. Greg said that all the shell cordovan from Horween was of uniform quality. "Shells are shells," as he put it. Horween does have a grading system for its shells, depending on holes or other flaws that there are in the shell, but this would be inconsequential from the standpoint of the consumer since obviously neither Alden or AE is going to make a shoe with a hole in the upper. He said that shell cordovan is indeed the least permeable leather in the world. Hence, it would be the most naturally waterproof, but at the same time, it would not let sweat evaporate as readily as calfskin, although he thought this was of little consequence. Anyway, I hope this is of some interest to forumites who take an interest in such matters.

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