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Is cordovan worth it, and what is the real advantage? Is it durability, shine, status, or something else?

I will be purchasing either the Alden full strap slip on, or the Allen Edmonds Randolph. The shoes look almost identical and are both available in calf and cordovan. I'd like recomendations on either of these shoes, and the pros and cons (if any) on cordovan. Links to each shoe below.

https://www.aldenshoe.com/cat_ane3_686.htm

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I sell a lot of shell cordovan shoes on here and eBay. IMHO, the main advantage of cordovan is its durability. It scracthes, but a quick brushing & polishing will take almost anything out. Also, it shines very easily. The status is an advantage to some

On a side note, the Randolph in cordovan is notorious for tearing right where the strap meets the body of the shoe. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this model torn. If you don't have an opportunity to try it on before buying, I wouldn't buy it. I think the tearing occurs when the vamp is too low for a particular person's foot.

If you are open to suggestions, the LHS is a better made loafer than the full strap by Alden. Beside the cosmetic differences (and the fact that I have a brand new pair for sale in the Trade exchange :icon_smile_wink:), I think the LHS is better constructed. I also think that it looks better after some wear & creasing. I think it is more important to look at how a shell cordovan shoe looks with creases than brand new.
 

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IMHO, the primary advantages of shell cordovan shoes are the material's innate beauty (that deed lustrous appearance), durability (the shoes never seem to wear out. my oldest have been in service for over 25 years and shoe no signs of failure!) and ease of maintenance (a quick wipe and buff before and after each wearing and the very occasional, light polishing).

I would also second rebel222's suggestion that you consider the Alden LHS in shell cord, as the best option for a penny loafer.
 

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rebel222 said:
If you are open to suggestions, the LHS is a better made loafer than the full strap by Alden. Beside the cosmetic differences (and the fact that I have a brand new pair for sale in the Trade exchange), I think the LHS is better constructed.
It's worth noting that there is a world of difference between the two lasts (i.e. the Van and Aberdeen) which is a major consideration. Also, ignoring for a moment the handsewn row of faux moccasin stitching on the toe of the LHS, I doubt there is any significant difference in the way Alden makes either shoe. In fact, I think that's one of Alden's strong points: they make all their shoes to the same construction standard.
 

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I like the dull shine of shell...it just draws some people in. I also like how it ripples instead of developing fine creases. I think fine creases are more likely to crack overtime than the shell ripples. I would pick either the full strap from Alden or the LHS over the Randolph. I have owned all 3, and the Aldens are much better aesthetically to my eye. The Randolph is clumsier and doesn't look as good after wear.
 

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I second Got Shell?'s opinion. I just purchased a pair of black shell Randolphs, and they are indeed "clunkier" than they appeared in the pictures I was looking at. That said, they are very well made,very comfortable,and while not as "fashion forward" as I originally anticipated, they are very much a classic penny loafer style that will stand the test of time. I also got them at a very good price, which helps!
 

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Cordaovan has no real grain. It's smooth. It is very durable. The leather if kept properly cleaned and polished, will last more than 10 years. I should know, I have two pairs in their 11th year, and both have been recrafted.

IMHO Alden is more Trad than AE. I have both the LHS and the Full Strap slip on; both in 11.5 B in #8 shell.

The Full Strap has a narrower toe box, than does the LHS. I like them both, yet I would not wear the Full Straps with jeans, and don't really prefer them with chinos either. I will wear the Full Strap with a suit when traveling, but I would never wear the LHS with a suit. The LHS has a 360 degree welt, and the Full Strap Alden does not. The full strap is a sleaker shoe.

I used to be an AE fan, but when I made the switch to Alden I never wanted to go back. I like the heel cushion and the steel shank in the Alden. AE does not have that.

To my eye, I think that AEs look a bit nouveaux or derivative. The Alden silhouette started it with the Tassel slip on.
 

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Alden makes full strap and tassel loafers on Aberdeen last (which is sleek by Alden standards), and also uses breast to breast welting - resulting in smaller heel.

That's why these shoes are as sleek as shell gets. AE uses a clunkier last and their 360 welt adds more bulk to the shoe.

In this case I would consider Alden's premium at MSRP worth the extra cost. (But, if you can get AE at deep discount definitely get them)

BTW stitching on all these loafers is purely decorative (LHS, tassel etc.)
 

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One difference was once illustrated to me by an AE sales rep. He took the tip of his pocket knife and scored the toe of a shell cordovan loafer and also the toe of a calf loafer. the cordovan loafer did not show the scratch like the calf did. The marks on the cordavan easily buffed out. The calf on the other hand, was practically ruined.
 

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IMHO, cordovan last longer than calf. It is a much more resilient material & is less prone to scuffing & scratches. Most importantly for me it retains its shape & will not stretch like calf shoes. Scratches & most imperfections can be buffed out.

I would however recommend that if you are not familar with cordovan & Alden shoes to go into a dealer or store to get fitted properly as the full strap is one of the hardest shoes to get a proper fit. It is not like most shoes in the Aberdeen collection. Most people who have this shoe will compromise in someway because they like the way the shoe fits in my experience. The shoe can be had in black, #8 & mahogany.
 

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Is cordovan worth it, and what is the real advantage? Is it durability, shine, status, or something else?
I will be purchasing either the Alden full strap slip on, or the Allen Edmonds Randolph. The shoes look almost identical and are both available in calf and cordovan. I'd like recomendations on either of these shoes, and the pros and cons (if any) on cordovan. Links to each shoe below.
Both AE and Alden are good options.
I own AEs Randolph in suede and burgundy shell and I like both. I don't own the Alden full strap.
I have many pairs of AEs and Alden. I don't consider one brand better than the other. Both are of the highest quality.

Allen Edmonds does use a 360 welt that adds a little more sole edge at the heel. That doesn't matter to me. I never considered it a mark of a bad or inferior shoe.
Almost all the quality brands use that 360 Goodyear welt on several models of their shoes. Allen Edmonds uses it on all of their welted shoes.

I'm not sure what is meant that the Randolph doesn't look good after being worn. All shell comes from Horween and will crease.

I wouldn't trade my shell Randolphs for a pair of Alden shell full straps.
Nor would I trade a pair of Alden full straps for a pair of Randolphs.
Both are quality brands and both look good to me.

Myself I would just pick a pair to buy now and get the others when funds permit.
Might as well have both brands in both types of leather. Why limit yourself to one pair?

Here are some photos I took awhile back of my Randolphs.
It's a very good looking shoe whether you dress up or go casual with jeans. I don't consider this model clunky, bulky or clumsy compared to Alden. It's just a different shoe.








I originally took this picture to show the different stitching on the back of the Randolph in suede or shell cordovan.
But you can see how the Goodyear welt goes around the heel.
This photo exaggerates how far the heel sole edge sticks out than it actually is.
You'll never notice what the back of your shoes look like when you wear them anyway.




With these photos you can see how much the sole edge sticks out compared to Aldens.
In the first photo an Alden shell tassel is on the left, Randolph in the middle and AEs shell Cambridge on the right.
Depending on the model of Allen Edmonds and your shoe size can determine how much the edge is noticeable.
For me it doesn't matter. Allen Edmonds has been building their shoes that way since 1922.

Hopefully that helps.

Note: If you look at the stitching lines on the back of the shoes in the last two photos, they almost look like a foreign language.

I'll interpret, "Buy more shoes".
 

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I like the dull shine of shell...it just draws some people in. I also like how it ripples instead of developing fine creases. I think fine creases are more likely to crack overtime than the shell ripples. I would pick either the full strap from Alden or the LHS over the Randolph. I have owned all 3, and the Aldens are much better aesthetically to my eye. The Randolph is clumsier and doesn't look as good after wear.
I realize I'm probably a minority of 1, but I prefer calfskin to shell. I've only had one pair of shell, and it was an Alden brogue purchased in 1979. It was one of the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I've ever owned. I vowed to never purchase another pair of shell, and have kept my vow.

I posted Got Shell's post because he makes an important point regarding shell, and that is that it forms large ripples after being worn. Calfskin can form fine creases with wear, but I've found the consistent use of trees immediately after wearing, paired with proper maintenance (Mine is saddle soap and good shoe cremes, only.) results in minimizing that to almost invisible. And I vastly prefer that to big ripples.

But shell is certainly tougher than calf. Calf can be scuffed or torn more easily than shell. But I've not found that to be a problem, and have several pair of calf shoes that are more than 20 years old.

My shoe regimen results in calf that has a soft luster rather than a mirror shine. It also doesn't require as frequent attention as the wax polish that I had used for 20 years did. Which requires less care, which looks better? That's very much a personal preference issue, but I prefer the look of calf handled in the manner I described.

The biggest problem I have with shell is that I found it to be both stiff and hot compared to calf. Perhaps I just have a higher thermostat, but those two properties of shell in the comparison to calf makes it a non-starter for me.

My purpose wasn't to bash shell, but rather to point out differences based on my experience. I do not deny the tougher nature of shell, or that it can have a fine luster. And I hope all who enjoy it will continue to do so, as I'm sure they will. But I do think it's helpful for a first time buyer to be aware that the points I raised may be issue, depending on their individual preferences.
 

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Flanderian, I agree with your post and prefer calf as well. I think the perceived upside of shell is frequently the lone focus of such threads. I don't see your post as shell-bashing at all and honestly discussing the few perceived downsides of shell keep it real for those considering a purchase and provides greater value. I'm surprised we haven't seen more disenchanted shell buyers who forked out $600 for "magic shoes" and haven't gotten taller, better looking, or started making more money. LOL :icon_smile_big:
 

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Flanderian, I agree with your post and prefer calf as well. I think the perceived upside of shell is frequently the lone focus of such threads. I don't see your post as shell-bashing at all and honestly discussing the few perceived downsides of shell keep it real for those considering a purchase and provides greater value. I'm surprised we haven't seen more disenchanted shell buyers who forked out $600 for "magic shoes" and haven't gotten taller, better looking, or started making more money. LOL :icon_smile_big:
Shell cordovan doesn't make me better looking????

Dang. I want a refund.
 

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CS, thanks for taking the time to make that well educated post, replete with excellent photos. You, mac, Tom (Leathersoul) and BC should write a "Beginners guide to shell cordovan" and get it pinned on the trad forum :)
 

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I'd like to make one more point, I'm wearing some black shell AE leeds (which I'd trade for Alden PTB's any day of the week, better aesthetically to me), and one day I noticed a scratch that I had made on the vamp from brushing against something hard. Today wearing them I'm noticing that the mark is almost impossible to see, I'm not sure calf would recover the same way, it's almost as if they've healed. The randolph is not an ugly shoe by any means and I think Crownship's pics are the best I've seen of that shoe, but having owned a pair in black shell, I just think the shape is less aesthetically proportioned than the alden, which has a small cutout in teh strap and a less bulbous toe.
 
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