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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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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.
From my experience, calf will certainly scratch more easily than shell. Depending on how deep the scratch is, an application of shoe crème to the scratch on calf, that is then buffed out, will mask it to varying degrees.
 
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