This may be the most extensive knowledge about shell cordovan leather you can find on internet except those written by tannery owners.
Recently I read that Meermin released many odd shell cordovan shoes, such as waxed shell cordovan, museum shell cordovan. So even I fell in and out of love with shell cordovan, I am interested in this precious leather again.
When I first knew shell cordovan I searched every piece of information available on the net. So now when it is my turn to create content, where to find new information? I turned to the factory manager of Meermin, and he was very kind to share a lot of information. I am honoured to share it to you.
Firstly, let us talk about manufacture of shell cordovan. Shell cordovan is the button of horse, but it is not the top layer of the leather as normal calf leather.
When we judge the quality of calf leather, we say the clearer the pores are, the finer the creases, we knwo it has great raw hide without any scar to grind so to remove.
How about shell cordovan? The grain layer is sanded off and further grinding is on. Why grind the leather? Because grinding can make the surface smoother, combined with the tight texture of shell cordovan achieve in tanning process, it is glowing!
The information maybe you never know comes, which side do you think we are looking at for shell cordovan, the grain side or flesh side? The answer is both can do, but flesh side can achieve high shine more easily as there are not pores.
As many articles have introduced, the shrinkage of shell cordovan in tanning process is amazing.
That is enough for theory, now let us have a look at shell cordovan tanneries, luckily there are not many.
Leader, Horween from Chicago. For many people, Shell cordovan exclusively means Horween. Does any tannery exist for shell cordovan? Absolute no.
The price of Horween shell cordovan is the highest and the leather is regarded the best. Why? Tightness and colour. Many promoting articles tell Horween shell cordovan is expensive because it takes 6 to 8 months to make. Why does it take so long? because its processes such as pressing, tanning and drying have been done several times. So the leather is quite dense and colour is aniline dyed, you can read through dyed.
The benefit is when the leather is wounded, you can grind the surface with sandpaper and apply some condtioner to bring the grease and pigment in the leather, it is as good as new!
There is a saying among shoemakers that you would waste any Horween shell cordovan due to unskillful hand because it always can be fixed.
There is not coating on Horween shell cordovan. Because if there is coating, grinded surface cannot be the same as the coating!
Next one is Shinki from Japan.
Many say Shinki’s shell cordovan is not as good as Horween’s. The price agrees. There is significant different on the product. Shinki shell cordovan has coating and the colour of the leather is from the coating not the substrate. The substrate, the real horse bottom leather is undyed. The tightness of Shinki is vern better than Horween’s, but this hardness induced easy break or crack of the coating, which cannot be fixed.
Without great repairability, Shell cordovan cannot last so long as the promotion says. Shinki shell cordovan is better for bag and belt as they have less bending.
Knowing Shinki other than Horween means this one is an enthusiast but knowing Rocado makes you almost expert.
Rocado is from Italy, although new in this field but its innovation is impressive as Museum Shell Cordovan is invented by Rocado.
But it is not as good as aforementioned two products. Firstly the tightness is the worst. Another is that it has no coating just like Horween however not through dyed. Pigment only penetrates into 0.2 to 0.3 mm of the leather. The disadvantage of this thin colour layer is if the scrathc is deep, the fixation is not easy.
And we have the fourth existing tannery focusing on shell cordovan which only supplies Meermin. Meermin does not disclose its country and name, but the exclusive waxed shell cordovan is from this tannery and its price is much less than Horween.
Hope you enjoy this extensive knowledge about shell cordovan.