Exotic Leather Blog

Why Shell Cordovan Makes for a Perfect Luxury Leather Shoe Material

Posted by Abram Mendal on Apr 3, 2017 10:12:52 AM

Shell cordovan leather has several characteristics that make it a highly-exclusive and desirable leather, such as durability.What Exactly is Shell Cordovan?

First of all, this is an equine leather; one that is considered extremely durable and high quality.

All over the world, horses are used in the food industry and in our case, shell cordovan leather is typically taken from horses that died of natural causes. 


This very rare selection of leather comes from the horse's hindquarters - think mid back to the dock of the tail. Cordovan gets its name from a charming city in Spain called Cordoba. The technique of using this expensive yet difficult leather was practiced during the 7th-Century by the Visigoths and later the Moors. This non-creasing leather is remarkably durable. In fact, the sole of a shell cordovan shoe will need to be changed up to three times before the leather itself shows any true signs of wear and tear.

This leather comes in oval-shaped pieces less than 3-square feet in size, adding to its exclusive allure. While it looks like normal full grain leather, it is resistant to any type of creasing, including micro-creasing. Compared to calf leather, shell cordovan is also resistant to permanent scuff marks and is the most non-porous leather in the market.

This leather is hardwearing. So much so that it was used for razor strops in the 19th and 20th Century in barber shops. There are seven grades of shell cordovan leather. This leather is so exquisite, the grades are distinguished by the size of the shell instead of varying levels of quality (because the quality is standard for all pieces).

The natural luster has been compared to a plastic like shine with natural water repellant properties. It is easy to care for luxury leather shoes made with shell cordovan - just apply a quick buff with a specialized conditioner before or after wearing them.

The Shell Cordovan Process

The shell cordovan tanning process is arduous, to say the least, but adds to its exclusive appeal. It takes at least six months and involves seeping the irregular oval shaped shells in vegetable oils, hot stuffed and the highly skilled craftsmen hand curries and shaves the skins so that the shells are properly exposed. With no machines or automation, the dyes and glazes are rubbed on by hand, creating a stunning glossy finish. This hands-on technique elevates shell cordovan to the world's finest leathers.

Known for its "color of clothing" shell cordovan comes in most-known for rich burgundies and deep rose colors, but is offered in several other color options. The supple patina and natural luster of this leather will give your shoes a trademark for high-end quality. Compared to any and all other leathers in the market, shell cordovan rises to the top for its unmistakable wearability that gets better with time and garnering one of the highest price points for luxury leather shoes. It also  helps that just one shell should yield almost any pair of shoes.

Need help finding the perfect leather for your next project? Contact an expert today!


Topics: footwear, shell cordovan leather