Care of Shell Cordovan
Care Tips from Alden of Carmel
An Independent Shoe Store Selling Only Alden Shoes Since 1994
Since we began selling Alden Genuine Shell Cordovan shoes in 1994, we recognized a need to share with our customers what we know about the care of these special shoes. Cordovan leather is a unique material, which is tanned by the old-fashioned method of vegetable tannage, as opposed to the modern method of 'chrome' tannage. This means that cordovan leather already contains within it a large amount of oil/wax, and thus the polishing requirements of this leather are different from calfskin.
The most common mistake men make in caring for their cordovan shoes is using too much polish, and polishing the shoes too often. The excess polish creates a layer of build-up which has three negative effects: 1) it covers the natural beauty of the leather, 2) it creates a grainy texture in the creases of the shoes, 3) and the build-up of polish scuffs easily and attracts dust.
To avoid these effects, use only the thinnest film of polish when polishing your cordovan shoes. Just a very small amount, spread very thin over the shoe, is all that is needed to restore the color and luster to your cordovan shoes. You should not have to polish your cordovan shoes frequently, and often all that is needed is to brush and cloth them in order to remove scuffs and restore the shine.
After the polish is applied, let it dry. Once the polish is dry, we often wipe the excess polish off with a paper towel before brushing the shoes with our horsehair brush. Lastly, the remaining film of polish may be wiped away with a soft buffing cloth.
For shell cordovan shoes, Alden recommends using paste wax polish, and not shoe cream.
Here are the "don'ts" of shell cordovan care:
1. Do not use 'neutral' polish
For cleaning shell cordovan shoes, Alden recommends using only a damp soft cloth.
Contact with water can sometimes cause cordovan leather to form small raised areas called 'welts'. (tiny bumps) This is normal, and the welts will recede once the shoes are allowed to dry. Wipe the shoes dry as soon as convenient, and allow to dry naturally.
Often on new shell cordovan shoes, a white, waxy substance will form. This is also normal; the residue from the tanning of the leather. To remove the white wax, simply wipe off with a paper towel. To remove the wax in difficult areas, such as between stitches, use a toothbrush.
Recently, a good customer of Alden shoes offered these care tips for brand new shell cordovan shoes, in order to help protect the leather from water and other elements.
Using a fine cloth, apply a very thin layer of paste wax (not cream) on the shoes. Rub this paste wax in very carefully for about 5 minutes. Wait 1/2 hour and repeat process. Then wait another 1/2 hour, and repeat process a third time.
After this, dip the same fine cloth in water, and rub thoroughly in a cicrular motion until the shine begins to appear. (The cloth should not be really wet. The cloth should just be dipped in water for a very short time, so that the cloth is damp.) But if you rub thoroughly you should see a very thin film of water on the leather for a short time.
When dry, brush with a soft horse hair brush, then polish with a soft cloth.
For cleaning the shoes, use a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust, and a dry cloth for buffing the shoes. This is all that is necessary.
Repeat this polishing process a few times a year, only when necessary.
This process should help guard your new shell cordovan shoes from water and the elements.
Ideally, shoes should rest for two or more days with shoe trees, between wearings.
Following these simple care instructions should prolong the beauty of your cordovan shoes, and help you to avoid the consequences of some common care misconceptions.