What is Shell Cordovan Leather?
You may wonder where the name comes from, its name come from the city of Cordoba in Spain.
Its origins go back a long way, back to the 7th century in fact.
It’s rich in history, but hasn’t had its problems along the way, it’s had highs and lows, even had to find new markets due to market losses due to modern inventions at the time.
Shell Cordovan Leather is not an easy leather to take dyes and colour, this is due to all the oils and fats in the skin, it’s also a very tuff dense fibre structure leather as it comes from the butt of the horse beneath the hide on the rump of the horse.
It’s past uses have been very diversified from body armour due to its strength, to one of its most famous uses razor strops, so that barbers could sharpen a razor on the leather strop. But this faced a major problem and tanneries for cordovan went into turmoil as Gillette introduced the modern safety razors causing the market major problems and suddenly having this massive market decimated by this modern invention at the time, so tanneries producing cordovan leathers had to think quick and act fast to stay in business.
This type of leather then became a staple for shoemakers around the world, due to its natural dense fibre structure and beautiful natural colours, shoemakers couldn’t get enough of this, but at first this was not acceptable for shoes as it’s a natural thick leather and very stiff which was one of the main reasons for being used for body armour.
Tanneries had to redevelop how this leather was made and then tanned so it could be used in the shoe industry with success, a different approach to processing this was made enabling the shell to be thinned and tanned in a different way.
A great deal of people involved with leather know cordovan leather as Horween, Horween Shell Cordovan Leather is a famous tannery in the USA, it wasn’t until Horween started working with the famous shoe brand Alden that they made it big time, the industry was saved and Cordovan was born again so to speak.
Shell Cordovan Leather today is often referred to as Horween Leather due to its famous connection with this tannery. It’s still a famous shoe leather and used on high end shoes.
Shell is a very expensive leather, this is due to where it’s from, how it’s made and the quality of the skin, it’s a difficult leather to colour. In some cases a reverse process has to be carried out in the shoe making industry, the leather had to be finished before it can be dyed, crazy as it sounds, but that’s sometimes the only way to colour a Cordovan skin, carry out the final finishing process of sealing in colours on a mop before you can actually colour it. This is due to the amount of oils and fats in the leather skin, stopping dyes from taking and absorbing into the hide itself. Unless you know this process and how to carry this out, you can be stuck and pointing a finger of blame to the supplying tannery as faulty skins, when in fact they are far from it. You just have to know how to handle them as they are unlike any other skin.