Caring for Your Shell Cordovan

25 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    Awesome article, Mike!! Have been waiting for this for some time!! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Jon says:

    Great article! Found you from over on styleforum. What (if anything) do you recommend for rough/dry spots on cordovan. I have some BB Peal and Co boots that are a little rough near the top of the shank and a pair of Meermins that seem a little rough/dry in spots. Buffing/brushing doesnt seem to do much (although I havent added hydration to a session yet) I have not waxed either of them yet (but I did try some bick 4 on the meermins with not much success) I also have not tried a deer bone yet but one is on the way. Anything else to try?

    • Mike says:


      Thank you for your comment and I am glad that you found me!

      For shell that is rougher, the best bet that you have is using some paste wax to try and smooth out the surface. For dry shell, it just takes time and patience to get it re-hydrated. I have used Saphir Cordovan Cream in the past as well to try and help moisturize, but have found that simple water or saliva goes a long way.


  3. Nicholas says:

    Good afternoon,
    I really do like this article as it has given me some advice on how I should take care of my pre-owned cordovans.

    As for the hydration process, am I able to use Venetian shoe cream instead, since Horween recommends it? Thank you.

    • Mike says:


      Great question. I am glad to help out and happy that you found this useful.

      I personally recommend using either water or spit for the hydration step. You can use Venetian Shoe Cream (VSC) as an alternative to the Saphir Cordovan Cream if you have VSC already. I have found that VSC works better on Allen Edmonds Shell Cordovan and that the Saphir works better on the Alden Shell Cordovan. Alden adds an acrylic finishing on their Shell Cordovan, so that makes a tiny difference with care. Typically, I brush less on non-Alden Shell Cordovan for that reason… Thanks and happy shining!


  4. jason kadushin says:

    Mike – super helpful! two quick questions: 1) does it ‘annoy’ you that the stitching picks up color? 2) do you do the same thing for shoes with perforations? are you concerned about the water/paste/wax etc making its way into the holes and ‘globbing’ up?


    • Mike says:

      Hey Jason and good questions!

      I actually prefer the stitching to pick up the color from the paste wax, I personally think that it looks better that way. But it does come out fairly quickly with brushing. I just re-waxed these boots last week and the stitching was completely white.

      I have not had too much problems with it accumulating on designs with broguing. I generically try and go pretty light on paste wax, which helps to avoid this!


  5. M635_Guy says:

    Howdy Mike – what are your thoughts on natural shell cordovan (like your Strands, which I have also recently acquired). Do you use neutral wax on them? Do you have a deerbone that is separate (I have one already for my Color 8 shell, but it has clearly picked up some color)? Thanks in advance!

    • Mike says:

      Howdy M, good to see you over here. Those are some pretty interesting questions. I only have 2 pairs in Natty Shell that I haven’t worn enough to really merit a polishing session beyond my standard care. I will say that I generically treat Natty Shell just as I would Whiskey. So, I use the same Brush and Polishing Cloth on Natty Shell as I do my Whiskey Shells. I only own one deer bone and haven’t found that it does much in the area of transferring color between any of my shoes. So, in short, I use the same deer bone on Whiskey, Natural, Black, Color 8,… I am interested to see what your bone looks like, frankly, it makes me think that you may have a bit of excess product on your shoes if the deer bone is collecting color, since that hasn’t been my experience. For wax, I was planning to use the Neutral Saphir products to clean/hydrate my Natty along with Tan Alden Paste Wax, just as I would on Whiskey. Hope this helps!


      • M635_Guy says:


        As a follow-up: The bone I have came from a #8 home (only used a couple of times and it scared the owner, who passed it along to me inexpensively) and it was used on my 1968 vintage #8 Florsheim Imperials and the #8 Alden x BB PTB’s (which were also probably 15+ years old) I had at the time. Both probably had seen some product prior to my ownership, and the bone seems to have absorbed a bit.

        I still have the Imperials and recently picked up some #8 Alden boots, so I think I’ll keep that bone dedicated to those two and get another one for my other three pairs of light shell (the aforementioned natty shell Strands, my Grant Stone Cognac shell PTB’s and my most-recent acquisition, Alden Ravello NSTs).

  6. Tony tlobo53 says:

    Mike. I just got home from my business trip and had a few nice items waiting for me; my Color #8 LWBs and my deer bone. I need to do some work on my LHS Color #8. Have a few creases and spots. Should I apply the bone in circular or in a straight pattern. The bone feels a little oily but not excessively so. Is that normal. Bone is from Leffot. Thanks.

    • Mike says:

      Hey Tony,

      I usually end up going back and forth across the creased area. If you can manage a circular like motion, that is probably a more natural motion. The bone does have an oily vibe to it and will leave a clear-ish residue on the Shell, that is normal and comes off during brushing. Great, I got my deer bone from Leffot as well! 🙂


  7. Tlobo53 says:


    What would you recommend as the best shoe cream. I saw you had mentioned the Venetian and Saphir. Normally I would just buy the Alden from Alden of SF, however, I have an Amazon gift card to burn.

  8. Tony tlobo53 says:

    Mike. I read the rest of you post and you recommend Saphir for Alden shell. Ok, I saw the Renovator and the Pommadier. Any one better than the other. I am going to have to start paying you for advice. You get us an order on some exotics and I will buy you a pair for compensation. Hope you have a pleasant Fourth of July. Thanks again for your advice.

  9. Magaji Edwards says:

    I purchased some alden creme wax and paste wax for my alden boots but now I have seen that I want to stay away from waxes. Wondering if there is a specific product that won’t damage the boot?

    • Mike says:

      Magaji, Alden Boot Creme isn’t to bad to use as an alternative to water. I personally much prefer water personally. I do use paste wax periodically as referenced above, but I don’t typically use it. Just when I want to add some pigment or if I scuff them bad. Generically I just brush and buff them… Hope that helps!


  10. Pietro Mondelli says:

    Scusami ma in Italia non si usa l’osso di cervo( solo osso di cavallo per pelle bulgary), dove posso trovarlo IN ITALIA?

    • Mike says:

      I am unfortunately unsure where to get a Deer Bone in Italy, I would try contacting any of the following retailers and see if they can help you out!

      Bartoli Giuseppe
      Via Roma 9, Forte Dei Marmi, Italy 55042

      Via Dei mille 1, Cura di Vetralla, Italy 01019

      Via Vescovado 58, Padova, Italy 35141

      Calzoleria Borghini
      Via Mazzini, 12, 25100 Brescia, Italy

      Piazza dei Signori 10, 31100 Treviso, Italy

      Cso Trieste 136A, Roma, Italy 00198

      Liverano & Liverano
      Via dei Fossi 43/r, Firenze, Italy 50123

      M Cilento & F LLO
      Via Medina 61 a/b, 80133 Napoli, Italy

      Marangon & Giovanetti
      Via Martiri della Liberta 78, 31100 Treviso, Italy

  11. Amory Sharpe says:

    Mike, I wonder if your system / process has changed since you wrote this just over six years ago? Or are there any new products you recommend? Thanks, Amory

    • Mike says:

      A, that is actually a pretty interesting question! I actually by and large stick to this process to the T. The only and main change I have made is that I now use Alden Boot Cream instead of water to hydrate my shoes every time that I clean them!


      • manasdirge says:

        Hi Mike,
        What’s the difference between Alden boot cream and other products (VSC, Saphir cordovan cream, renovateur), I thought Alden product was just produced by some of these makers and rebranded.

        I now have Bick 4, Saphir Renovateur, saphir cordovan cream (burgundy) and saphir 1925 neutral cream, which should I use for nourishing the cordovan shoes I have? I find that the non-Alden shells tend to have dry spots (got AE brown shell, Grant Stone honey shell & C&J navy shell), and don’t know what product to use on them, should I get VSC or Alden boot cream?

        P.S. I usually just brush dust/damp cloth wipe after wear of my shell shoes, and use conditioners very sparingly.

        • Mike says:

          Good Evening and an interesting question. You will definitely see a lot of different opinions on this. I personally do not like Saphir or VSC on Alden Shells. I find they just do not go well with the acrylic finish that Alden puts on their shoes. I found it much better on my older AEs.

          I think that just some water or ABC is a better process for caring for your Alden’s. Just my experience and personal opinion. Less is more with whatever you use. Just a nice brush and buff.


      • manasdirge says:

        and I find that sometimes the residues of conditioners hard to remove by brushing/buffing (and lose the shine on these spots), anything to do to fix that?

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