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Shell Cordovan Leather from Horween®

What is Shell Cordovan?

Cordovan comes from equine hides... specifically the shell from the rump.  Each hide yields two matched ovals and the strip that connects them of the smoothest and most durable leather on the planet. Unlike its cowhide counterpart, Cordovan leather yields a much tighter grain surface resulting in very little stretch and piping. Although difficult to consistently dye, its glass like surface takes high end shoe polish and carnubas extremely well.   

Where is Shell Cordovan Made?

Presently, there are three tanneries that we know of in the world still producing this exquisite leather located in Toscana, Italy,  Kobe, Japan and Chicago, IL, USA.  

Since 1905, Chicago's Horween Leather Company has been producing exclusive Shell Cordovan Leather.  It was their original product and the one that placed them on the map.  Still today, Horween is the only North American tannery producing the beautiful Shell Cordovan, predominantly sourced to craft high end dress shoes.

At Horween, the tanning process takes a minimum of 6 months.  Hides are vegetable-tanned for at least 60 days, then hot-stuffed and hand-cured, shaved and dyed by skilled artisans.  Horween specializes in hot-stuffing, the process where a blend of waxes, oils and tallows are pounded into the leather using giant, wooden drums.  Hot-stuffing creates the look, feel and smell of leather along with preventing it from drying out. Due to the length and complexity of this process, only a few tanneries in the world have the skill, money and time required for this process.

The end result is an amazing leather that is thin, rigid and remarkably durable.  It is a self-polishing leather, meaning you don't have to do much to develop a beautiful sheen and its appearance is like no other.  Rather than the creases you see in cowhide, Shell Cordovan has a unique ripple effect, which adds to the beauty of the patina.

Cordovan Leather History

Shell Cordovan was first produced in the seventh century by the Visigoths. Named is part for the city of Cordoba, Spain where it was first produced.  I was used for armor, breastplates and shields.  In the 1800's,  cordovan leather strops or razor sharpeners were in every household as a way to keep a shaving razor sharp.  By the early 1900's Gillette had introduced the disposable razor and that was the end of that.  The tanneries started to tinker with shell cordovan for shoes. When the Horween Leather Company teamed up withThe Alden Shoes Company, shell cordovan for shoes became a huge success... and the rest is history.

How Expensive is Shell Cordovan Leather?

All three tanneries create amazing Cordovan leather with pricing at approximately $110/sq. ft. This makes Cordovan some of the most expensive leather in the world.

How Do You Clean Cordovan Leather?

1) Wipe the surface clean with a damp old t-shirt or equally soft cotton cloth and allow to dry.

2) With a soft bristled brush remove any debris from the stitching.

3) Use your favorite shoe cream, paste or leather waxing compound in one VERY LIGHT coat using a flannel wrapped tightly around your index and middle finger. Apply sparingly in a tight, circular motion.  

4) Buff to desired shine.

5) In muddy or extreme cases, use Fiebings Liquid Saddle Soap diluted 50% with distilled water to remove the dirt without harm to the leather.