Johnston & Murphy Conley Crown Aristocraft

Caring for Bookbinder/Corrected Grain Leather

Short story: wipe the shoes with a damp cloth, follow with Venetian Shoe Cream and buff with a soft, cotton cloth. I have tried a number of methods and I have found this to have the best results.

The longer story is about my search for a pair Crown Aristocraft wingtip shoes. Crown Aristocraft have been Johnston & Murphy’s top production shoe line for decades and their last “Made in USA” model. They are somewhat uncommon on eBay but not rare. They are also somewhat unloved since their average eBay resell price is only $58. But I wanted a pair in my size and finally found ones for sale.

When the shoes arrived, I noticed a couple things about the shoes when I open the box: 1) their heft and quality construction; 2) they weren’t calfskin like I was expecting but rather bookbinder which is another name for corrected grain. This is what they looked like:

Johnston & Murphy Crown Aristocraft upper

Johnston & Murphy Crown Aristocraft sole and heel

What is corrected grain? Its leather that is coated/fused with an shiny, acrylic top layer. Many of the internet shoe forums warn about corrected grain leather. The leather looks great brand new but it quickly develops noticeable creases that can’t be removed. But there is high and low quality corrected grain. Low quality corrected grain leather is made from cheaper, top grain rather than full grain leather. Some shoes are made from leather that is bonded to fabric. It’s a step lower than corrected leather. This wingtip from Florsheim’s dark period (not a Crown Aristocraft), is a low quality bonded leather pair:
Bonded leather shoe

I have had some experience with higher quality corrected grain shoes. I once owned a pair of Allen Edmonds MacNeil 9147 in “polished cobbler” burgundy. The MacNeils developed minor creases but never flaked and in general, looked good. While I had them, I learned that they were impervious to leather conditioners, polishes and waxes that you might put on calfskin. Any applied product could be rubbed off the acrylic finish of the leather. But since shoe care products could be rubbed off, so could dirt and grit with just a damp towel. They were very easy to maintain.

After some trial and errors, I found Venetian Shoe Cream (VSC) would get off the gunk that water couldn’t. VSC contains turpentine and I believe that removes non-water soluble grime from the shoe surface. It also gave the leather a higher shine.

Venetian Shoe Creme

Here are the Crown Aristocraft shoes after cleaning with VSC:

Johnston & Murphy Crown Aristocraft wingtip Conley

Another issue with corrected grain leather is that the leather surface can get abrasions that can’t be removed. The acrylic coating is tough and doesn’t scrape easily but when it does, you just need to live with it. I don’t believe heat can repair/remove the scrape although I haven’t tried that method due to worries of a shoe Chernobyl. The next photo shows some scrapes I found on the Crown Aristocraft shoes. The sun angle makes the scrapes more noticeable:

Johnston & Murphy Crown Aristocraft

Corrected grain issues aside, the shoes are well made and they fit well. I am guessing these shoes are 10 to 20 years old based on the logo. Looking online, Johnston and Murphy doesn’t make this shoe in this leather anymore.

I am still not sure I like them. They have a bit too much bling. They have been sitting in my closet for a few months. That’s not a good sign.


One more thing to note about corrected grain is that it isn’t always a smooth, shiny leather. I bought a pair of vintage Nettleton shoes years ago that have a corrected pebble grain finish. They perplexed me at first because normal calfskin polishes didn’t work on them. The color was also strangely consistent. But the shoes have been great and are sort of indestructible. The leather hasn’t creased much and they resist scrapes and water well. I wear them very regularly. See photos of them below.

Hope you found this post interesting. I am not recommending you buy corrected grain leather but in case you have pair (or two (like me)), care for them is pretty easy.

Nettleton Longwing Blucher

Nettleton LWB

Vintage Nettleton shoe

Vintage Nettleton Longwing Blucher

Vintage Nettleton LWB

17 thoughts on “Caring for Bookbinder/Corrected Grain Leather”

  1. Greetings,
    Still like the blog. It is regularly useful.
    Is this not a typo and Full and Top should be switched? “Low quality corrected grain leather is made from cheaper, full grain rather than top grain leather”

    Also, I recently purchased these vintage Florsheims 30368:
    and they turned out to be corrected grain (not as I’d hoped). But they look pretty nice and are a good color. Any idea how these would fit compared to the #8 cordovan longwings (93605 or 97626)? I’ve read that they are TTS but my CG pair feel a bit tight (and I am usually a bang on 10D with the usual lasts).
    Nick T

    1. Thank you for catching the grain typo. I have corrected the post.

      I don’t have any experience with that model so I can’t comment on sizing. I know Florsheim had different lasts but I haven’t seen any information as to which last goes with what model.

      I will publish soon a list of shell cordovan Florsheim models. With pictures. It can be hard distinguishing shell from non-shell especially with NOS shoes.

  2. Dear David,
    Love the blog.
    I own a pair of black CG MacNeils. Black, shiny, pointy toed, double-oak soled. Like a bodyguard crammed into a tux.
    Perhaps the above mentioned sentence could be amended again, because all CG starts as full grain leather before it is sanded down to top grain. The source of poor CG is poor full grain leather.

  3. This is a great balanced look at corrected grain leather. Nothing worse than getting excited about a great fined to find out when they arrive that they are CG. Do you happen to know if any of the Florsheim Imperial used corrected grain? I have my eye on a pair of NOS made in the USA but the leather looks a lot like CG to me.

  4. So, there are CG leather Royal Imperials out there from the 80’s and 90’s?? I was looking to pick up my first pair of “gunboats” but not if they’re CG.

    1. Yes, polished cobbler Royal Imperials were made. They weren’t bad shoes though. Just very shiny with pronounced creasing.

  5. I believe the reason for the pebble grain on a lot of CG shoes is to hide the creasing. I have a pair of vintage pebbled tan Dexter Longwings (USA) that are amazingly sturdy and look great.

  6. i recently purchased a used pair of burgundy colored Johnston and murphy corrected leather I tried to clean them with acetone and oh boy what a mistake it removed the entire paint and now it will not accept any die or paint. so now I have a pair pink shoes

    1. My understanding of the process to make the leather is that the plastics are bonded deep into the leather. It’s not just on the surface. Which makes it hard to remove and matches what you describe.

      1. Do you know if using 70% rubbing alcohol might help strip the finish off without creating problems?

      2. Its tough to strip bookbinder leather. You need some serious chemicals. The plastics are bonded deep into the leather.

    2. Keep scrubbing with the acetone. Keeping the rag wet with acetone is difficult but required. With enough elbow grease, the coating will begin to disappear, revealing a leather in need of dye, cream & polish. It took me an hour and lots of acetone to do a single shoe.

    3. Wow. Sympathies. Have you taken them to a professional? Do you think the plasticky coating dissolve INTO the leather? I was hoping to try what you did, and then have them dyed or re-colored with shoe cream.

  7. My name is Angela Pannizzo ,I have Murphy shoes and they are perfect from the top but the soul start ,There is a hole under the shoe I would like to Restore, you please give me a call, and address, and I much will cost ,that I will send it to you and you will replace .if I’m talking to the wrong people could you please send me in my email the guy who will be able to do that

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