The last post featured a picture of some old longwings that generated a fair amount of questions regarding patina, polishing, and the general care of Shell Cordovan.  Maybe I should say re-generated, as we do get a fair amount of inquiries on the subject.   In response, this will be the first in (at least) a three part series addressing these topics (and we’ll get on to something other than just shoes in the future – so if shoes aren’t your thing don’t give up on us).

Someone had recently asked if there was “a way to make shoes patina faster?

They both started as the same color...

They both started as the same color...

The short answer is, no.  The long answer is, kind of.

Patina, at least in my mind, is something that is produced by age and the level of care.  How much sun the leather receives, how often it is polished, the climate, and an array of other factors will effect how a shoe (or a piece of furniture) will wear over time.  The first picture in this post is two different shoes both made with our Color #8.  The only difference (besides style and shoemaker) is that I left the Cap Toes in the sun for a couple of months.  Both pairs have been well worn, but to the extent that the shoes on the left have lightened is very dramatic.  I could have reduced the exposure if I’d wanted them to lighten less.

Same color, different shoe, different exposure.

Same color, different shoe, different exposure.

The lightened shoes, now polished.

The lightened shoes, with the shoe on the left polished.

In the picture above of the cap toes, the shoe on the left has been conditioned and then simply polished with a burgundy paste wax – the first picture in the post is also the polished shoe next to the longwing.  You can see that the polish and conditioner have re-darkened the shoe to a degree, but it is still very light compared to the original color.  The fading and then polishing has yielded yet another color with marked highs and lows.  I find the new color appealing but it may not be for everyone.  Also, this doesn’t necessarily fit my definition of a true “patina,” but it does illustrate the effect that wear and exposure has on shoes.

The same color again, the left is #8 after about 4 months of direct sunlight.

The same color again, the left is #8 after about 4 months of direct sunlight.

As a disclaimer, I do not really recommend doing this…  As some people have heard or read, the “lighter” and “darker” colors of cordovan are that way for a reason.  The leather, being a unique medium, has highs and lows in terms of natural color.  The darker shells are many times that way because this makes for the most uniform finished product.  As our shells are stained with fully aniline stains (meaning no pigment to provide coverage of any kind), fading your darker colored shells may cause these color “differences” to become detectable, if they even exist at all.

Please, as a public service, post links to pictures of your shoes that have a patina.  I can’t think of a better way to show the differences that wear and care can have on products over time.


Filed under Products

26 responses to “Brownout

  1. Rhett

    Really looking forward to the other posts to follow. I really like the color of the sun faded shoe once it has been conditioned and polished up. I think I might try this out with a pair of AE Graysons.

  2. This is great stuff. Keep it coming…

  3. I love these posts, and those longwings!!! 😉

  4. Kurt N

    Doesn’t leaving shoes in the sun accelerate the aging of the leather, same as it would with fabric? Or does it affect only the pigments and not the fibers?

    • It will mostly effect the color and outward appearance of the leather. The leather would be effected if the sun was paired with heat and/or dryness, but the structure of the leather itself is different from the woven fibers of a fabric.

      Good Question!


  5. jason foote

    Nice article! I love learning about and appreciating shell cordovan.
    What did you use to “condition” the Ballys?

    • The cap toes were conditioned with a version of a wax blend that we use in process. It’s 98% there and hopefully we have some ready for public consumption in the very near future.

  6. Seth

    On a related issue, how do I fade out the dark streaks that appeared where the scuff marks had been when I polished my whiskey cordovan brogues? I used the Alden polish that the Alden store gave me when I bought the shoes. Should I just leave the shoes in the sun?

  7. Erik

    As you requested…here’s a pair of Brooks Bros/Aldens in Color #8, purchased circa 1998. They’ve developed a lovely patina through wear and limited polishing.

    Let’s see some more…

  8. sri


    I recently recieved a pair of vintage Keith Highlanders made with Horween shell. I don’t know what the original color was (most probably burgundy) but the shoes look a very nice ruby red now.

    I just finished restoring the shells (with mostly elbow grease 🙂 and I posted some pictures here – please take a look:

    I used a very small amount of alden paste wax for this process, however I am very glad to read that you have a special product coming as well. Any updates as to when we can actually buy it? Is it more of a cream or like wax?

  9. Very nice blog post I like your website keep up the amazing posts

  10. Great post. My friend Eli told me about this blog some weeks ago but this is the first time I’m visting. I will undoubtedly be back.

  11. Tim

    Hi Nick,
    Great report. Thanks for sharing. I have an unrelated question: what size of Alden long wings were these? Specifically, do you know the width? These look pretty wide. I probably need 3E on the Barrie last, so it’d be nice to know the size on these because they look pretty wide.

  12. Will

    Hi Nick,

    I just came across this post from awhile back and saw you mentioned a cream conditioner that was being prepared. Is this available to buy anywhere?


  13. glad to be one of many visitors on this awesome site : D.

  14. very interesting topic , great post.

  15. This is such a good resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It?s the old what goes around comes around routine. My best regards, Lacey.

  16. Thanks for a great post, will add my bookmarking account!

  17. HORNS

    Thanks for the extensive blogging, Horween! This site is going to keep me busy and educated for days.

    I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Wolverine 721 Ltd boots – my first shell cordovan footwear. Right now, I’ve got an itchy finger to spray some Lexol conditioner on them, but am holding off on a shipment of Venetian cream polish. If you have any recommendations on what else to use, or in these products stead, I would greatly appreciate it!

    • No Lexol! The Venetian is worth waiting for, and shell doesn’t need much in the way of products. A good horsehair brush and a soft, damp cloth will take care of them the majority of the time.

  18. horweenrox

    Is that cream conditioner close to primetime?

  19. Pingback: Cordovan Leather from Horween — Gentleman's Gazette

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s