Cordovan Week – Care

Posted by: on Jun 29, 2011 | 6 Comments

Just as you don’t care for a cotton poplin shirt the same way you would care for a flannel coat, you don’t treat cordovan like other leathers. Giving them a good cleaning and polish starts relatively the same way, with a vigorous brushing, but then you can pull out your trusty deer bone. Yes a dear bone. The bone works as a hard surface that, like the leather itself, is oil-rich. A good going over will help smooth out any nicks or scuffs and restore the natural oils to the leather.  The easiest place to find a deer bone is over at the A Suitable Wardrobe online haberdashery.

Cordovan will also over time express some of its fatty oils to the surface, which looks like a light, slightly waxy residue at stress points. Using the deer bone should help smooth these oils back out, and allow them to be re-absorbed into the leather as well.  Some people like to clean/polish their shoes with trees in and others prefer to take them out.  These first steps pretty much require keeping in the trees, which should always fit snugly.  Cordovan, while resistant to creasing, will develop deep wrinkles if it doesn’t dry out properly stretched.

Now you should have a clean, smooth surface, and can move on to the conditioner. The name of the game with cordovan is moisturizing and keeping the leather well-oiled. The leather itself has enough of a shine to it that if it’s properly cared for, you really don’t need much polish to get it gleaming.

Saphir Renovateur makes a great first step, and is easily the best product on the market for keeping your leather (all leathers) in the healthiest state possible. Daub on a little Renovateur, rub it in, and then buff with either a chamois or brush. If you use a chamois and really work the conditioner in you can probably get up a high enough shine to skip the polish altogether.

But, if you’re not satisfied with the level of shine,there are two schools of thought here. Some people swear by creme and others by wax. The gents at Leffot recommend Saphir wax, since it’s thinner than most waxes and provides a subtle dash of color. Others say that the wax only covers up the natural sheen of the leather and prevents it from breathing as freely. Whether you use wax or creme though, don’t use neutral color polish. It wont really harm anything, but all it does is slowly cover the natural luster of the cordovan without really adding anything in return.

One of the joys of shoes that last twenty or thirty years is building an unbeatable patina, so go for a color that closely matches or compliments the color of your shoes. Saphir Bordo and Mahagoni are great for your standard Color #8 and #6, and then there is a full range of brown tones for the various shades Horween offers. And as with calf you can use lighter or darker colors, such as black, navy, or tan, to slowly shift the color over time.

This color stuff all sounds abstract now, but come back Friday for a veritable rainbow of lust-worthy shoes.

Next: Cordovan Colors

6 Comments

  1. Gentleman's Gazette
    June 29, 2011

    The German Shoe House Ed Meier from Munich has a good video about how to take care of Cordovan shoes. Unfortunately for most here, it is in German…

    Reply
    • Stephen
      June 29, 2011

      Thanks very much, I’ll have to check it out.

      Reply
  2. Gentleman's Gazette
    June 30, 2011

    I have a copy at home, so next time we meet, I can show it to you.

    Reply
  3. Sir
    July 3, 2011

    A deer bone used on shell is absolutely rubbish. Exactly, what “oils” are supposed to be in a deer bone, unless it’s rancid fats from the marrow? Deer bones were used (before plastics were invented) for waxed calf so that wax could be “pushed” back into the rough surface of the leather and used to smooth the grain down and give it a smooth, shiny surface. A deer bone for shell cordovan is internet nonsense and marketing gimmickry.

    Reply
    • Stephen
      July 3, 2011

      Thank you for your feedback, Sir. I’m no expert on the oil content of deer bones, but it seems like the composition of the bone itself would be helpful. It’s both hard enough to act as a good polishing surface and porous enough to absorb and redistribute any oils and fats from the cordovan. So yes, it does make sense that the bone itself wouldn’t start with much fat and oil in it, it would absorb some with regular use.

      Reply
  4. david
    February 28, 2012

    I have a suspicion that this deer bone is simply a primitive way to get neatsfoot oil into the leather .Look up neatsfoot oil and you may agree ;thus sparing yourself the bone and going srtaight to the marrow or the oil as it were.

    Reply

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