What Are Cordovan Shoes? Are They Worth It?

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What Are Cordovan Shoes?

This article will answer the question that many people have when they get to the higher end of nice shoes and that is are Cordovan shoes worth it.

Because when you see Cordovan leather shoes or boots on a a shopping list, you will often see them at well over $700.

What is Cordovan?

Shell Cordovan is a premium horse leather. It comes from the rear side of the horse and it’s actually a connective tissue, it’s a membrane.

Some people think it’s not leather, they say it’s a membrane, it’s not skin, which is completely true. But that’s the beauty of it and that’s what makes it so unique and its limited availability is what makes it so expensive.

It comes from the base of the horse’s tail, so you get a very small amount from a big animal and that’s one of the things that contributes to the price. Probably the main thing that contributes to the price.

Also the fact that it comes in a limited availability and also limited colors. That’s also one of the other things that make it so unique.

That combined with its unique characteristics – it’s a very smooth, lustrous leather.

It normally takes around six months for one shell to be ready for use. To put it in a context, for a 100% chrome tanned leather, that tanning process can happen in a day or two. Vegetable tanning normally takes longer, sometimes weeks.

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But this can take six months. That’s another big part of why it costs so much money.

What Are The Benefits of Cordovan?

What are the benefits of using Cordovan over regular leather? Why would you pick it? Why would you pay the extra?

Shell Cordovan has an amazing durability. Another point worth mentioning is the fact that it does not crease with time as box calf leather would do, as basically any leather would do.

This is a big thing with Cordovan that it doesn’t crease, it looks new for a really long time, if not forever.

That’s a big part of why people pay big money for it.

But to be completely honest, it does crease a little bit, and the crease is called roll. You probably heard about Cordovan rolls. It won’t look like the big deep folds, it’s more subtle kind of rolling that happens to it as it ages.

So that’s what’s different about it – it’s durability and the ability to to maintain its shape for a long time with not very much care.

As far as the durability goes, is it more resistant to tearing and damage relative to chromexcel or regular whole grain cow leather?

The answers is yes, indeed. It’s more durable in that sense.

So shell Cordovan has big price because it takes so much more time to make, because you get so much less of it off of an animal, and the properties of the leather are that it is basically crease-proof and it’s very tough against tearing than regular leather and effectively it looks newer for longer.

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What About Aesthetic?

What about the appearance of Cordovan shoes? Aesthetically speaking, what is appealing about them?

In addition to the fact that it’s tougher and it doesn’t crease, it’s got a much more lustrous shine to it than the regular leathers you see.

It doesn’t need that much care, it’s shining on its own, and you can make it look formal or informal depending on which style and what sort of details are going into your shoe.

Some prefer to use it for some more casual scenarios. That’s something I was surprised by. I’ve always thought of Cordovan as a dressy leather (or dressy membrane if you’d rather insist it’s not leather) material. I hadn’t thought of it as something that you would wear for casual footwear.

What is the most popular style of Cordovan shoes? It is another surprise for me. People really prefer boots and they really prefer the casual styles. But also loafers and wholecuts which are more formal.

Is Cordovan Waterproof?

One of the most common questions about Cordovan that people ask is is it waterproof.

Yes, but obviously if you spill too much water, you have to be careful.

But it can be worn in cold climates or rainy weather. You just need to make sure that you wait for the shoes to dry before you brush them and then go on with your routine just as normal.

Wrapping Up

Even though it looks fancier than most cowhide leathers, and looks newer for longer, you don’t get that extended longevity as a result of putting a lot of work into maintaining it.

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What I’m trying to say is that generally when you hear something about dressy shoes, you think it takes a lot of work to maintain it, because oftentimes pricier products take more work to maintain.

The upshot of Cordovan is that it costs more, but it looks newer and you actually need less maintenance, even though it looks more formal than other footwear. It’s a really nice balance you get that from Cordovan footwear.

You definitely get more cost per wear.

That does it for my guide to Cordovan shoes, which one might call the lazy man’s dress leather because it looks nicer for longer with less work.


Are Cordovan shoes worth it?


  • Christopher

    Christopher has 9+ years of experience as a creative fashion designer who stays current with the latest trends.

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