Sunday, November 21, 2010
Every shoemaker I know dislikes shell cordovan for one or more perfectly understandable reasons (it should be obvious from that statement that I know no-one at Alden, which sells so many shell cordovan shoes that it might well perish without the stuff). Shell is very hard to sew by hand (hand-sewing being a significant part of the bespoke shoemaking value proposition), hard to color, warm to wear and does not look all that good because it does not really take a shine. By that set of criteria, the concept of a shell cordovan slipon seems silly, given that slipons are principally warm weather or indoor shoes. There is one application where the stuff shines however, dull though it may be otherwise, and that is for boots to be worn in the wet.
Shell cordovan's usefulness in the wet stems from the same characteristic that makes it warm wearing, that being that it resists moisture to a much greater extent than other leathers. Indeed, if a foot gets wet while encased in shell, it is almost certainly the fault of the shoemaker's seams rather than that of the material itself.
Which leads us to the one, now obvious, application for cordovan in shoes, that being not a shoe at all but a boot or two to wear during the rainy season and even light snow (heavy snows warrant overshoes, snow shoes, skis or, best of all in my opinion, a trip to a place with better weather). One pair on a town last and a less formal pair for slopping around is about right.
In the photo, Gaziano & Girling cordovan-colored shell cordovan boots posing as ordinary oxfords beneath a brown glen check tweed suit by Peter Harvey.