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My Russian leather shoes have some shade variation, and there are some superficial cracks throughout that I was concerned about. Mr. Glasgow just told me it was part of the leather's character though, so I've gotten used to it over time. Does anyone else have these cracks on their Russian leather shoes, or did I just get unlucky with my pieces of leather??
 

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My Russian leather does have some shade variation, and there are some superficial cracks throughout that I was concerned about. Mr. Glasgow just told me it was part of the leather's character though, so I've gotten used to it over time. Does anyone else have these cracks on their Russian leather shoes, or did I just get unlucky with my pieces of leather??
I am not sure what you mean by superficial cracks. Abrasions, irregularities etc are the norm for these hides. They do tend to dry out more than the normal calf used by bespoke makers so -- if not properly cared for -- cracks can indeed develop. Whether one considers this normal and part of the character of the shoe or not is probably a matter of personal taste -- another reason why one should carefully consider whether this leather is right for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I am not sure what you mean by superficial cracks. Abrasions, irregularities etc are the norm for these hides. They do tend to dry out more than the normal calf used by bespoke makers so -- if not properly cared for -- cracks can indeed develop. Whether one considers this normal and part of the character of the shoe or not is probably a matter of personal taste -- another reason why one should carefully consider whether this leather is right for you.
See my closeup pic's...Is this something others have seen on their Russian leather shoes as well? These cracks have been there from the beginning on my pair. They haven't gotten bigger as the years have gone by.



 

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The above three postings were originally part of the Cleverley Bespoke Shoe Picture thread. In order to assist in getting responses to the OP's inquiry -- and to generate additional comments about leather quality and care -- this question has been posed here as a separate thread.
 

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Once you have cracks in the surface I think it is too late to do much - you need to stuff/rub something like dubbin in to prevent the leather drying out in the first place.
We use a little of the same leather and have found we needed to do this before we cut it up otherwise the same thing occurred.
 

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Once you have cracks in the surface I think it is too late to do much - you need to stuff/rub something like dubbin in to prevent the leather drying out in the first place.
We use a little of the same leather and have found we needed to do this before we cut it up otherwise the same thing occurred.
 

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In this instance, there are three things of note. 1) This "Russian calf" is actually reindeer. 2) It was tanned through a notable but no longer used method using natural vegetable oils. 3) The hides themselves are over 200 years old, having been tanned in Russia in the 1780's, lost at sea when the Danish frigate that was transporting them sank in Plymouth Sound in 1786, buried in the muck and mire of the seabed until at least 1973 when they were discovered and salvaged, and then put through another process to ready them for use as shoe leather.
 

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In this instance, there are three things of note. 1) This "Russian calf" is actually reindeer. 2) It was tanned through a notable but no longer used method using natural vegetable oils. 3) The hides themselves are over 200 years old, having been tanned in Russia in the 1780's, lost at sea when the Danish frigate that was transporting them sank in Plymouth Sound in 1786, buried in the muck and mire of the seabed until at least 1973 when they were discovered and salvaged, and then put through another process to ready them for use as shoe leather.
Is this really true? That's one heck of a story if it is. One thing in here that caught my eye was 'vegetable tanning'. I think I read somewhere that most of the leather conditioners on the market today are designed for leather that was tanned with modern processes (I think it's called chrome tanning). You might do some research on this, because it may be that the modern lotions won't work on vegetable tanned leather. Of course, given the condition of the shoes it may not matter.
 

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6+ years ago I used to frequent the New & Lingwood website and drool over the Russian Calf shoes.
I thought how cool it would be to have shoes made from 200+ year old leather.
I was bummed they didn't make them in my size but I wasn't ready to drop that much for shoes.
I've read somewhere that lots of people and businesses wanted that leather.
Some was even used to make leather tile floors.

Glad that members here could share their experience with that rare leather.

I was curious when the leather was retanned or refinished did they add birch oil back into the leather that gave it the same smell when it was origianally tanned?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Were they apparent when you purchased the shoes or have they developed subsequently?
Thanks for transferring my question to a new thread, Medwards.

The cracks were there when I purchased the shoes back 3-4 years ago. I've asked George Glasgow of Cleverley about it, and he told me that it was just part of the leather, and to be expected from something buried in the ocean bed for 200 years or so. As the cracks have not spread, I've become comfortable that it's just part of the Russian reindeer leather character. But I'm just wondering how many other Russian leather shoe owners out there also have these cracks as well...

Regarding the smell of the leather...yeah, there was a pretty distinctive vegetal aroma from the shoes when I first opened the box. I'd sniff my shoes from time to time, to appreciate the uniqueness of the leather. Alas, the smell has faded with time and repeated shoe polishings. My Russian leather wallet also had the same aroma, but that faded away even sooner. My Russian leather belt also lost its aroma pretty fast...as the buckle doesn't set off airport security alarms, I really wear it quite a bit.
 

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If my skin were 200+ years old it would start to look a bit cracked by now...
I have been to visit the people in Cornwall who are getting this leather out (still - they've been at it for over 20 years) and in answer to a previous post they do not use any chrome (and the original tanner in the 1780's ago certainly did not - it was oak and birch bark tanned).
They use natural softeners (secret recipe but beeswax and tallow plus??? heaven knows what - we have a pot of it and no, you cant have it!).
Leather was on the Metta Catherina, a Danish brigantine, sank in Plymouth Sound on the 10th Dec 1786.
You can buy our silk braces with leather ends made from this material from Bromleys https://www.classicwardrobe.co.uk/P...x?query=Categories/Products/Categories/Braces
 

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I think if the cracks havent worsened with time you must put them down to the extraordinary chain of events that brought the leather to your feet. I guess some drying out after manufacture - and exposure to modern elements - must be inevitable. The story of the shipwreck and the salvage - and the fact that the leather can even be made into shoes two hundred some years later - is still a fantastic one. And im sure the shoes are great too. Its hard without being a scientist who has studied the ageing of 200 year old leather that has spent much of its time under the mud of plymouth sound (are there any? i doubt it) to know if this is normal or not. If the shoes are still wearable consider the cracks only the inevitable scars of a long and epic and wonderful voyage. Reminds me of the Tudor longbows salvaged from the wreck of the Mary Rose that could still fire an arrow in the 1980s. I was always rubbish at archery but hey.....I wish the cracks in my shoes had such provenance.....
 
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