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JFWR

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Hey guys, was looking for the shoe care thread but couldn't find it. I have been watching some shoe care cordovan videos and some recommend treating them with just a damp cloth and brushing and if they have some scuffs use the Brift H ebony stick. Others do recommend using a cream. Which one would you say works best? And where can I get the Brift H ebony stick? Can't find it anywhere.
Shell is not much different from calf care save it's much less fussy.

Cordovan cream from saphir as needed if i need some scratches cleared up that brushing won't help with.

Wax polish on toes and heels for extra shine.

Once a year or less: light coat of neetsfoot oil to nourish it.
 

JFWR

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I could only find a photo of the Brift H ebony stick, but have seen similar tools at Japanese shoe shops. I bought a whole array of horn tools on e-bay for a fraction of the price.





The horn and bone stuff is 100 percent an unsubstantiated gimmick. It does nothing to help shell.
 

Moostyle

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Shell is not much different from calf care save it's much less fussy.

Cordovan cream from saphir as needed if i need some scratches cleared up that brushing won't help with.

Wax polish on toes and heels for extra shine.

Once a year or less: light coat of neetsfoot oil to nourish it.
Do you find people are too paranoid about getting shell wet and that it recovers from water exposure pretty easily? I think I have babied mine too much and been too paranoid about getting them wet, because a good brush then a layer of Saphir Renovateur and another brush seems to always make them like new again. :)
 

JFWR

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Do you find people are too paranoid about getting shell wet and that it recovers from water exposure pretty easily? I think I have babied mine too much and been too paranoid about getting them wet, because a good brush then a layer of Saphir Renovateur and another brush seems to always make them like new again. :)
Yes. Some people have finicky cordovan but I'm not worried about mine getting wet. I worry more about the soles.
 

Moostyle

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Yes. Some people have finicky cordovan but I'm not worried about mine getting wet. I worry more about the soles.
I think I will also loosen up my attitude this winter. The only thing I would be a little more cautious of is salt which gets put all over pathways where I live in Winter, but even so I think as long as it's dealt with reasonably quickly and not just left on the shoe it should be fine.

Considering 100+ year old shell can be restored to glory I think the price of shell creates a heavy bias in how people baby them when in fact they should just be using them to their fullest potential as one of the the most durable and non-porous leathers out there.
 

JFWR

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I think I will also loosen up my attitude this winter. The only thing I would be a little more cautious of is salt which gets put all over pathways where I live in Winter, but even so I think as long as it's dealt with reasonably quickly and not just left on the shoe it should be fine.

Considering 100+ year old shell can be restored to glory I think the price of shell creates a heavy bias in how people baby them when in fact they should just be using them to their fullest potential as one of the the most durable and non-porous leathers out there.
Salt stains are bad for any leather. Your main concern with salt stains is snow melt getting on to the shoes and carrying with it the salt that has been sprinkled on top of the snow. One time, I salt stained some boots because they fell over into the water puddle that formed in my vestibule where I left the boots. That was a friggin' pain in the neck to deal with, though these were not cordovan, and I have never had a salt stain appear on cordovan.

But yes, shell cordovan is actually way hardier than calf. Calfskin is delicate. Shell is indestructible absent a huge gouging with a metal object. Scratches? Brush out! Dirt? Wipe clean! Bumps? LOL Shell laughs at your bumps.

We must recall that well before cordovan was used for fancy dress shoes, they were primarily for heavy duty work boots and for razor strops; prior to that, the Visigoths created cordovan for the purpose of ARMOUR. Yes - armour! To this end, it is still used as protection for the hands of competitive archers.

Shell is not a baby material. The price of shell is also related to the fact that horses are rarer. It should be cheaper than calfskin, as it comes from adult horses. The price of shell in the 50s, for instance, was less than calf, as evidenced by Taylor Made cordovan shoes going for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of 150 dollars today (whereas calf would go for the mid 200s). The problem is we don't have enough adult horses to accommodate the demand for shell, and we have but one tannery left in America which manufactures 90% of the shell cordovan in the world (Horween) so they can set their prices.

In terms of the common leather, in terms of hardiness it's: Shell >>>> suede > calf. I don't know enough about exotics.
 

Moostyle

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Salt stains are bad for any leather. Your main concern with salt stains is snow melt getting on to the shoes and carrying with it the salt that has been sprinkled on top of the snow. One time, I salt stained some boots because they fell over into the water puddle that formed in my vestibule where I left the boots. That was a friggin' pain in the neck to deal with, though these were not cordovan, and I have never had a salt stain appear on cordovan.

But yes, shell cordovan is actually way hardier than calf. Calfskin is delicate. Shell is indestructible absent a huge gouging with a metal object. Scratches? Brush out! Dirt? Wipe clean! Bumps? LOL Shell laughs at your bumps.

We must recall that well before cordovan was used for fancy dress shoes, they were primarily for heavy duty work boots and for razor strops; prior to that, the Visigoths created cordovan for the purpose of ARMOUR. Yes - armour! To this end, it is still used as protection for the hands of competitive archers.

Shell is not a baby material. The price of shell is also related to the fact that horses are rarer. It should be cheaper than calfskin, as it comes from adult horses. The price of shell in the 50s, for instance, was less than calf, as evidenced by Taylor Made cordovan shoes going for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of 150 dollars today (whereas calf would go for the mid 200s). The problem is we don't have enough adult horses to accommodate the demand for shell, and we have but one tannery left in America which manufactures 90% of the shell cordovan in the world (Horween) so they can set their prices.

In terms of the common leather, in terms of hardiness it's: Shell >>>> suede > calf. I don't know enough about exotics.
Great post and I agree with everything. I do wonder why only one tannery has a monopoly if there is so much demand... what is stopping anyone else doing it, other than the serious investment required to rear large amounts of horses?

Discussing this with you is helping me to make a decision to buy some Crown Northampton sneakers in black shell cordovan instead of calf leather, even though they are double the price, because I am confident that the shell will still look amazing in 3+ years whereas the calf leather will look like crap.
 

JFWR

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Great post and I agree with everything. I do wonder why only one tannery has a monopoly if there is so much demand... what is stopping anyone else doing it, other than the serious investment required to rear large amounts of horses?

Discussing this with you is helping me to make a decision to buy some Crown Northampton sneakers in black shell cordovan instead of calf leather, even though they are double the price, because I am confident that the shell will still look amazing in 3+ years whereas the calf leather will look like crap.
There isn't a large demand, that's the thing.

Cordovan is popular amongst a small segment of men's dress and boot fans. The average man on the street has no idea what cordovan is, or might even think it denotes a colour (Alden Colour 8 - the burgundy-brown mix that they're famous for).

Given the market for dress shoes is shrinking, the market for dress boots not expanding much, and most people not buying quality shoes to begin with, there is no market for high-end stuff, which is what cordovan will remain given there is simply no working horses to draw a supply of shells from.

The horse population in the US and worldwide has plummetted because they just aren't useful anymore. What used to be a necessity for many families, now is a luxury of the mega rich. Dirt farmers used to own a horse, now you probably need 500,000 yearly to maintain one for your daughter to take dressage lessons on.

The actual horses, for instance, that HOrween uses? Mostly from France and the Netherlands, where horse meat is common enough. The leather industry is a byproduct of the meat industry. We don't grind up horses (unpleasant as it might be) to feed dogs anymore, because we don't have the horses to do so.

If you wanted to make cordovan profitable, you'd have to find a place where horses are plentiful. Then you'd have to invest in the facility to process a LARGE volume, and find shoe makers and other industries that want your hides. It's going to be a capital intensive process.

I am very supportive of buying more cordovan shoes, though I wouldn't go as far as to say calf will look like crap. Calf looks beautiful when it is aged, though that is mostly a result of maintaining and caring for the less-intensively used dress shoe - whereas it would be a lot easier to maintain a shell sneaker than a calf sneaker for precisely the reasons we spoke about.

But yes, the price is worth it, as cordovan is also just so damn long lasting. If you don't let it get dried out, w hich is very easy to avoid, you can keep it for 100+ years easily.
 

TimothyF

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Don't mean to rain on the cordovan parade here, but I've seen reports of Alden shoes cracking/splitting around the 9th year mark. Some shoemakers also dislike the material because it has very little stretch. Just a balanced perspective as I tend to take superlatives with a grain of salt.
 

Blastwice

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Don't mean to rain on the cordovan parade here, but I've seen reports of Alden shoes cracking/splitting around the 9th year mark. Some shoemakers also dislike the material because it has very little stretch. Just a balanced perspective as I tend to take superlatives with a grain of salt.
There are shoes posted every day here that are older than 9 years!

I've also never heard of shell splitting and cracking over time. Certainly if this was a common problem we'd have many examples in this thread, right?
 

TimothyF

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Well I never argued that it was common, just that it happens. (FYI I had an Alden boot that **** on the handsewn seam within 1 month, but I would attribute that to the making, and less to the material)

You can try to turn this into a numbers game, but you'd need to acknowledge we are all dealing with anecdotes.

Lastly I think the reaction would be different if it happened to us: an expensive pair is ruined, cannot be fixed, and there's no recourse.
 

TimothyF

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Well I never argued that it was common, just that it happens. (FYI I had an Alden boot that **** on the handsewn seam within 1 month, but I would attribute that to the making, and less to the material)

You can try to turn this into a numbers game, but you'd need to acknowledge we are all dealing with anecdotes.

Lastly I think the reaction would be different if it happened to us: an expensive pair is ruined, cannot be fixed, and there's no recourse.
Not sure about the AI that blurred my word, but it was "split"
 

barutanseijin

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I've also never heard of shell splitting and cracking over time. Certainly if this was a common problem we'd have many examples in this thread, right?
There are many examples over on the vintage thread. Old dry shell will crack.
 

stephenaf2003

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Don't mean to rain on the cordovan parade here, but I've seen reports of Alden shoes cracking/splitting around the 9th year mark. Some shoemakers also dislike the material because it has very little stretch. Just a balanced perspective as I tend to take superlatives with a grain of salt.
???Any leather will crack if not properly cared for, shell is no different. As long as one conditions and properly cares for their shell, it will be fine. I’ve got a many pairs that are older than or approaching the age of your example and they are no signs or issues of splitting.
 

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