Florsheim Royal Imperial 97626

Florsheim Royal Imperial 97626 Restore

While we are waiting for a North Korean nuclear attack, I have been working on shoes. Florsheim, Nettleton and Alden pairs. But that doesn’t mean I am not concerned about the North Korean nukes. I prefer not to die in an atomic fireball. In the spirit of a peaceful resolution that will work out for all parties, I promise that Kim Jong-un can have any of my vintage shoes in exchange for his weapons. That includes the ultra-rare forest green Imperial pair I have. It’s time for action. As Terri Nunn says, No More Words. I am not sure where I would store the weapons. My basement is already full of shoes. You know. And these are merely suggestions, not actual negotiations. Just so you know. I don’t want to be the third person convicted of violating the Logan Act.

With all that said, welcome to another post on vcleat.com. Long wing central. I had a start of a non-long wing post but I failed so its back to long wings. And Florsheim long wings. Predictable. I am obviously in a rut. But there are worse things, like nuclear armageddon. This pair of Florsheim shoes is the Royal Imperial model 97626 and were made in 1991. On the edge of vintage. I bought the pair on eBay and this was the listing photo:

Old Florsheim Shoes

The pair was misshapen and the edging was beaten up but otherwise were in good condition. The seller told me that the shoes were owned by her father and he wore them when he married her mother. But they later divorced and he said that the shoes outlasted the marriage. The shoes had limited wear on the soles and heels. I would guesstimate they were worn 15 to 20 times.

Here is my cheat sheet for restoring them:

I decided to try glycerin treatment on the pair. I normally don’t use it but there was some recent discussions of the process on StyleForum. The main difference between this pair and the last Shell pair I tried it on was that this pair wasn’t stripped prior to the glycerin treatment. This Florsheim pair had the factory shell finish intact.

Prior to applying the glycerin, I cleaned the shoes and inserted shoe trees.

glycerin shell cordovan

The glycerin/water mixture is applied to cloth strips which is then wrapped around the upper. Plastic wrap is applied to keep the wet cloth on the Shell surface.

glycerin shoe treatment

When I unwrapped the shoes after eight hours, the shoes appeared a bit darker but not significantly so. They had dulled in color. There were a few areas of discoloration which didn’t concern me but there were also some raised spots on the outer left shoe which did. You can see them in this photo below.

Restore shell cordovan

I gave the shoes three days to completely dry out. After the pair dried, the discoloration was gone but the spots were still there but were lessened.

The pair had some yellow paint from the lining bleed onto the tongue. Which is odd. I had never seen that before. The yellow looked like it was applied to cover some burgundy over spray. I wasn’t sure if it was something that could be cleaned but I was able to remove it using Saphir RenoMat.

Saphir RenoMat

Saphir Reno'Mat

On day four, I looked up booking a room at the Ryugyong Hotel in case I needed direct talks but Expedia wouldn’t let me reserve one. So, I cleaned and conditioned the Imperials with Venetian Shoe Cream (VSC). If you haven’t used it, VSC does a good job cleaning and smoothing older shell.

Venetian Shoe Cream Shell Cordovan

I recently bought a jar of burgundy Collonil 1909 Cream DeLuxe and decided to give it a try on the pair. In the photo below, the pair looks a bit darker after one round of polish but I didn’t notice any change in color. It might be due to a difference in the lighting.

Collonil 1909 Shell Cordovan

Another oddity about this pair is that it has seven nails in the sole instead of the distinctive five nails on every other Imperial. This is the second time I have seen that and the first time was only because it was pointed out to me in another eBay listing by a reader. (Seven nails? I know that is really shoe geeky. And sort of embarrassing to write about. But I had to. That one guy is nodding his head. Yes.). This pair had some quality control issues.

Florsheim Imperial Seven Nails

I finished the shoes with applying Allen Edmonds black polish to the brogued areas. If you look closely at the above photos, you can tell that Florsheim applied a darker finish or polish to those same areas. The black cream gives the color a deeper appearance.

Florsheim 97626

What is my verdict on glycerin treatment of this pair? I don’t believe it was needed on this pair. It did do a good job of reshaping the shoes but applying some VSC with the back of a spoon might have had the same result. The small bumps were still there after a week but I assume they will lesson over time. My theory is that the finish on the shell had some gaps and that allowed the water to get behind the finish and raise the Shell in those spots. I have seen a few pairs were the Shell darkens in a blotchy manner when conditioner is used.

Shell Cordovan bumps

Below are a few more photos of the finished shoes. The red discoloring on the foot bed is from the glue Florsheim used. Its pretty common. Its not blood. The dad is still alive. So are we. For now. The offer stands.

Florsheim Royal Imperial

Florsheim Shell Cordovan

Royal Imperial Shell

Florsheim Imperial 97626

Florsheim Horween Shell Cordovan

Vintage Florsheim Shell Cordovan


Below is a photo of the same area with the water spots about 8 months later. At that point, the spots are almost invisible but they show up slightly in the photo. And yes, the shoes need some polishing to get rid of the wear marks.

Shell Cordovan water spots

33 thoughts on “Florsheim Royal Imperial 97626 Restore”

  1. I have the same shoe, but there are only 5 nails on the sole. Your’s is an oddity for sure. Great job. This one post made me purchase the 1909 cream.

  2. Hi, I recently bought a pair of alden Shell LHS, and I can’t for the life of me restore the shell shine to them. I cleaned them with Renomat, then gave them a few rounds of renovateur, waiting 24 hours before buffing it off each time, and also used Allen Edmonds cordovan cream a few times. It looks much better than when I first got it, but I can’t seem to make it shine like shell is meant to. Do you have any advice?

    1. The Shell shine is from what is on the Shell. Renovateur doesn’t provide much shine . AE cordovan cream usually gives a good shine. The Collonil 1909 product listed above is an easier to use product and gives a high shine. Most products only require a few minutes before buffing.

  3. HI David! i’ve found a pair of Florsheim shoes in the internet that were custom made, with a name of Herbert Butler on them and above this name there is only the sign of size and serial number . There is no model sign . Also they really look like shell’s, but there no sign of that on too . they look like 97626 a lot. Have you seen something like that? Can you give me some advice? Thank you in advance. raul

    1. if i will send you a some pictures, is it possible for you to understand, whether these model shell cordovan or not? thank you

      1. Yes, those shoes are shell cordovan. A number people have emailed about them in the past few months

  4. Hey Dave.

    I’m debating getting a deer bone to smooth out my shell. You’ve said that you use a spoon w/ some shoe cream. What about a small PVC pipe and shoe cream (for lubricant)? Would it do the same thing? Or should I just plunk down for the deer bone? Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Your comment made me chuckle. It might work, as long as you use the cream. Just try it with low force first and see how it works in a small area.

      1. Hey, I’m a resourceful guy. The deer bone is a smooth, straight edge with some natural oils. I figure a PVC pipe is also a smooth straight edge. So long as I put plenty of cream I think it should work. I’ll proceed with caution though.

      2. Let me know how it works. I think of deer bone as a ultra smooth grit wet sanding of the leather.

  5. These shoes look great – and it’s surprised me to see polish, with shell, used in any way at all. I always thought that was sacrosanct – although noted it’s only been used for antiquing. Which, again, I’ve never seen done, or even mentioned, for shell.

    Can’t argue with the results though!

  6. Hi David, amazing work on restoring these shoes! Would it be okay to also apply the glycerin to the inner lining of the shoes if they are dry? Also did you notice any difference in the results by not stripping them with renomat prior to the treatment?

  7. Hi David,
    I replicated your gycerin process on a pair of 93606s. As in your case, the raised bumps were present afterwards. A few months have passed and they’ve subsided a bit. This seems to be the typical result.

  8. I just received a pair of these – not my first Florsheim long wings, but my first ever pair of shell cordovan shoes. Man, they are gorgeous! I ordered some of the referenced shoe cream, but they’re in great shape so I’ll skip the polish for now. Thanks for a great website! You’ve definitely helped inform a few purchases for me.

  9. David…

    You do amazing restoration work and it’s nice to know folks like you are preserving these footwear relics for others to enjoy. So thanks from a lot of us out here.

    The gem you produced this time, Royal Imperial 97626, was a bit of an in-house controversy for Florsheim management. What they did was just take Imperial 93605 Kenmoor, long wing Cordo pattern, added a few cosmetic changes, i.e. 7 nails, and marketed it as a more expensive Royal Imperial. Thus the management squabble.

    1. Thanks. The 93605 and 97626 do seem the same other than the lining color. In general, it seems like the outsole leather of the Royal Imperial was lower quality than the earlier Imperial line. The Royal Imperial weighed less and I believe the outsole was the reason. The old Imperials have a dense, thick outsole.

  10. Did the polishes you used have to be specifically for cordovan?
    I read that polishes meant for calfskin are detrimental to cordovan, because of the chemicals in them.

  11. Hi, David,
    I’ve recently acquired a pair of low mileage 97626. My pair is less burgundy and more caramel than yours. They did not need much restoration, just preventive maintenance. Do you believe shell would absorb or respond well to a very careful leather dye job? I am happy with the original color but, I am curious.

    1. You can definitely re-dye Shell Cordovan. If you watch Steve Bedo’s Youtube channel, he has done it. I have not.

  12. Davis hi, just love the way those shell cordovan came out !!!
    My question is , Do you know ware I can find the vcleat for the shoes ?????
    Have looked everywhere and I just cant find it,

      1. The above store stocks v-cleats, and Steve Smith in Portage, MI has restored two pairs of Florsheim Imperials for me. His work is on a par with Steve Doudaklian’s, IMHO.

  13. Hi , David, From sunny Palm Springs,ca. purchased old stock 97626 in box, shoe bags , unused. Manufacturing code CH 3/97? Just listed on Poshmark $425.00 any advise on pricing? Appreciate

  14. Hi David, I have a pair of florsheim royal imperials kenmoors 96624 made in 1991, and they have 7 nails also. I know its rare.. but surely it can’t be just a mistake. So evenly spaced and neatly done. Could it possibly be a custom order? It certainly doesn’t seem to harm the shoes in anyway. It really puzzles me.. but I’m so glad to have the pair.. as rare and confusing as they are.

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