I purchased my first pair of Horween Shell shoes a little over 2 years ago. When they showed up I was hopeful, yet noticed that they were dull in their burgundy color (#8). I’m not a burgundy shoe fan in general, yet this wasn’t a regular burgundy shoe that I bought, it’s one that has a reputation for looking exquisite over time. There are photos abound on the Internet showing the glowing luster that Shell Cordovan mellows and warps into, and I bought that first pair in anxious excitement.
I wore them around town, danced in them, took them through evil weather and then took them through even more. Over that time I was wondering when that great patina would arrive, when that dull luster would go away. These after all are made of a material that is touted as having the ability to pull off a shine without needing polish. The shoe that has been through a tanning process so rigorous, that it sweats out its long term oil wax bath liquids in order to give you a natural coating with which to buff a shine.
That first pair is still dark, still doesn’t quite have the patina I was expecting, but in the shoe’s defense, I did abuse them in a way that most wearers in the 21st century would never do. I have many many pairs of leather dress shoes, and I wear those pairs like most men wear sneakers. To be realistic about shoes and why we wear them, In the end, it all comes down to how comfortable you are (let’s ignore fashion for a minute). The sole and the footbed of the shoe have to be more important than the upper if you expect to take them to and from work for several years.
Being Men’s shoes, you want a pair that can be walked in day after day, and (yes you must rotate your shoes so you don’t soak them with sweat till they rot) take the punishment while still holding onto their stylish look when in the crowd. We live in a fast food world with fast food clothes (got that from my girlfriend), but we don’t need to give into that fast food idea of style. I bought these shoes to see if they wore better and would have that ‘special’ patina over time, and when compared to calf (the other well known leather in men’s dress shoes) I have to say yes to the wear. Yes, the uppers will get scratched and beaten and all you have to do is take a shine brush to them and go to town. You will need a little cordovan cream at times that will darken them a bit, yet when compared to the average leather you see on the foot of the man that (on rare occasion) will wear dress shoes and be next to you on the morning train, you can walk in confidence knowing that your shoes will look less cracked and beaten to a pulp as the years go by.
As for the patina… yes… time passes with Horween Shell Cordovan. Some warp like my first pair and some crease and break at the perfect point on my foot and keep the shoe looking quite elegant (when near the other guys calf shoes). The patina, over time, makes the shoe glow, yet doesn’t really come to life unless in sunlight.
You’ll get stuff that looks like crud in those creases and that can be buffed out.
You’ll see a dull luster on the shoes that you think will not go away; ad some cordovan cream and brush like mad.
Wear them in evil weather
Add cordovan cream now and again
Buff them again.
The answer is YES.
Oh, and I found that even though I love Ralph Lauren’s dark Cognac wingtips, the burgundy shell really works with… well almost anything. Gray, Navy, Brown...
P. S. They do get lighter in the creases over time, not darker… RAD!