Misconceptions in Footwear – Shining Different Leathers

Misconceptions in Footwear - Shining Different Leathers
I always get people asking me how you shine this leather or that leather, i.e. cordovan, crocodile (and all exotics) or chromexcel leather etc. The thing is, you shine them exactly as you would calf leather. I find that anyone attempting to tell you that you need some special product for them is just trying to sell you something that is not truly necessary. I have always used the exact same products and got brilliant results on all forms of leather. Polish is made for leather and whether it is horse butt, grease impregnated or some fancy exotic animal, it all takes a high quality wax/cream polish all of the same. Sure some might react different only in the sense that some leathers absorb (and thus stain easier) but that has nothing to do with needing a special product. That is just the way the leather is. So next time you are wondering what to do with your new shoes of a leather you never had before, just wax it up and don’t think too much about it!

Shoes by Saint Crispins, bottom courtesy of Skoaktiebolaget

Misconceptions in Footwear - Shining Different Leathers Misconceptions in Footwear - Shining Different Leathers

Misconceptions in Footwear - Shining Different Leathers

3 thoughts on “Misconceptions in Footwear – Shining Different Leathers”

  1. I am sure you are right overall and I have no idea how they make lizard leathers (croc, alligator etc.), but with Cordovan using standard creams and waxes will heavily deteriorate your leather and dramatically reduce their lifetime.

    The issue is that most polishes (both cream and wax) use a lot of turpentine, or another industrial solvent, as their thinner. Turpentine is a powerful solvent and will eat into the leather. The chrome tanning (used for calfskin, again no idea about other exotic leathers) process replaces natural oils and greases in the leather with synthetic ones, and turpentine (or a similar solvent) is necessary for the polish to penetrate into the leather and helps a lot with “feeding” the leather.

    Cordovan is processed using a vegetable tanning process, and the process adds to the existing oils in the horse butt (which is very porous). The process leaves the pores much more open when compared to chrome tanning. Cream polishes use a lot of turpentine and will ruin cordovan. Cordovan also needs much more oil than it does moisturiser, cream polishes are mostly moisturiser, with a very small proportion of waxes and oils, so specialised polishes are much more practical. The price differences for specialised products are also minimal for cordovan, it is foolish to take such a big risk with it.

    Wax polish is less of an issue as it has a much smaller concentration of solvent, but it is still advisable to dry them about before letting it near your cordovan.

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