Caring for Shell Cordovan


November 7, 2013 by Ville Raivio

This is my shell cordovan care guide. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is not definitive or prescriptive as only the end results matter, not the process. Shell cordovan is a tough, thick and oily membrane on the horse’s rump. Its many month long tanning process leaves the finished pieces full of oil, so there’s no need for shoe cream unless they’ve dried or gone through hell and survived. The artist currently known as McArthur uses a tiny amount of wax to bring an otherwordly shine but I’ll have none on mine. Some folks dab a bit of water on their buffing cloth to wake up the oils. The only product I use on shell is Venetian Cream, espoused and used by the men at Horween. It brings a strong shine much better than Saphir’s colourless creams from their regular and d’Or lines. I’ve experimented for several years now, below is the process and a wave of hello to Keikari’s readers across the world.


After use, stick those cedar wood shoe trees in to suck up all sweat. Brush muck off of the welt with a brush of sorts. Horsehair brushes have a strange smell that suits cordovan sessions well.

After the welt is clean, have a go on the uppers with a cotton flannel cloth to remove dust and whatnot. I’ve torn up my shoe bags specifically for this task as they’re nice and soft.

When the uppers are clean, raise the shoe below your mouth and breath out deep from the bowels on a spot of your choice. The warmth and moisture will wake up the oils below the cordovan’s surface. Brush the spot with strong pressure and round movements until The Shining has awoken. Pick a new spot and repeat until the pair can Shine like you. Do bear in mind that Jack Torrance didn’t wear shell cordovan shoes — and remember what happened to him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Only a beautiful life is worth living.

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell