Agent: Hello, this is the Shell Cordovan hotline
Caller: Uh hi. My shoes. They have spots. I was in the rain. Spots or bumps. I am not sure. Can you help? I haven’t been able to get rid of them. I didn’t know it was going to rain. I have been reading a lot posts online. I am confused. It was just a brief shower. Did I mention they are made of shell? The shoes.
Agent: Sir, calm yourself. The shoes are fine. You are fine. We’ll make it through this.
Caller: Are you sure? I have been deer boning the shoes all night. ALL NIGHT. Please help.
If I have learned anything from reading online forums is that Shell Cordovan care generates a lot of angst. There are a lot of Shell shoes sitting on shelves or in boxes because the owners are so worried about damaging them, that they won’t wear the shoes. Post after post in the many online forums has conflicting information on how to properly care for Shell shoes. Use Venetian Shoe Cream. Don’t use Venetian Shoe Cream. Reno’Mat is good. Reno’Mat is bad. Vigorous brushing solves all your problems.
I can understand the angst. I have had it. Shell Cordovan shoes are expensive. Shell is a fussy. It’s different than calf leather. The normal rules don’t apply to it. Like Trump.
So what is the correct advice? I don’t believe there is one right way to care for Shell. Each pair is somewhat unique. This is due to the secondary finishing of each shell done by the shoe manufacturers (it varies), and the cumulative effect of all the conditioning and polishing the consumer has done to the shoes since they left the factory. I have handled a large number of shell shoes and the condition of the leather varies greatly.
Recently I encountered a problem that I have read on many posts – water spots. The spots affected a pair of Shell Cordovan PTBs that I restored in a previous post. The weather was clear in the morning but it started raining in the evening. The shoes (and I), were in the rain for a bit while I was commuting. By the end of the evening, the shoes looked like hell.
Here are a couple photos a few days later:
What caused the spots? Was the leather spotted or the surface polish? Brushing them didn’t really do much to help. So I took a damp cloth and wiped the right shoe. Wiping removed most of the spots. Much better.
I then proceeded to clean and condition both shoes with Venetian Shoe Cream. The results were good. The spots were gone and the shoes looked great again.
I believe the spots were due to the water reacting with the Bick 4 or Allen Edmonds cream that I used in the previous article about restoring the shoes. Wiping the shoes off, basically removed the polish that reacted with the water.
To test this theory, I took another pair that was similarly treated and left them out in light rain for about 30 minutes (Yes, I have a second pair of Florsheim Imperial PTBs (Actually, I have three pairs (It’s a sickness))).
The shoes were spotted but not as badly as the first pair.
Again, I used Venetian Shoe Cream to clean and condition the shoes. Then I used Collonil 1909 neutral cream for the final shine. And again, the shoes looked great.
Shell treated with VSC or Bick 4 is going to spot if you wear them in the rain. But the spots are not permenant and can be removed easily.
I know its been awhile since I last posted. Thanks for all the great comments and emails. I was in Las Vegas for a conference last week and it made me think of the Hangover movie. You guys are my vintage shoes wolfpack.