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It’s always interesting (and fascinating) to see what the latest trend in the shoe industry is. The last big one was the craze of double monks and the next one that has already started showing it’s face in several places on the web is the idea of having every shade of color of leather in it’s own ‘Museum’ version. For those that might not understand what I mean when I say that, the term Museum was coined by John Lobb to describe a calf leather that had been pre-treated in order to obtain a marbled-like effect to it. In beginning, it was simply called ‘Museum calf’ and it came in this mid-dark brown shade. However, it is a whole other ball game now and I think that there aren’t many shades that soon won’t have their own museum version.

Gold Museum by Lobb
Lobb, Gold Museum by Lobb
dark brown and plum Museum calf
Lobb, dark brown and plum Museum calf
Brooksland John Lobb The Shoe Aristocrat
Lobb, courtesy of The Shoe Aristocat

Funny enough the traditional Museum calf had been around a long time before anyone else started to offer it under the same name, but what is even more amusing is how this trend just caught on now, when Italian companies like Bontoni have been doing it for years (see directly below). But I guess that is the way of the world. Not only their leather, but John Lobb as a brand has also just recently become the newest “go-to” acquisition by the men’s shoe shops of the world, particularly North America. And maybe the very idea that they are kind of the pioneers to popularizing this leather. I believe that they have made it in about 6-7 different shade, ranging from Gold, Parisian Brown, Plum, Black all the way to Grey and a few more. I am just waiting to see it in green and blue, so who will be the ones to do it?

Bontoni, one of my favorite shoes ever...
Bontoni, one of my favorite shoes ever…

After Lobb’s popularity in it, it has become a shade/style of leather sought after by many other brands, such Meermin, George Cleverley, Kent Wang and a few others. And this I believe is only the beginning. But the question is how long will it last? 1 year? 2? Maybe forever! Who knows….I personally quite enjoy the leather as it has a lot of depth and gives a very unique and aged look. When you add a polish on top, it becomes even nicer as you can sometimes manipulate it with other colors in the lighter parts of the skin. I personally think that it would be lovely in a blue shade. But maybe that is just because blue is my favorite colors. Either way, it’s nice to see popping up everywhere, although I feel that like other trends that will become it’s downfall, the fact that soon it will no longer be special. But until that time, it’s nice to see it being done on more and more models in more and more colors…..

Meermin's Plum Museum
Meermin’s Plum Museum
Cleverley Bourbon Calf, what looks like a Museum type
Cleverley Bourbon Calf, what looks like a Museum type, courtesy of Leather Soul
Kent Wang in Museum calf, courtesy of Style Forum
Kent Wang in Museum calf, courtesy of Style Forum


33 thoughts on “The New Trend = Museum Calf”

  1. Jesper Ingevaldsson

    Yeah, it’s definitely getting bigger and bigger with Museum calf. It was Italian tannery Ilcea that introduced it years ago under the name Radica, and who supplied Lobb with it in the beginning. As they got financial problems Lobb switched to French Tannery Haas. Now Ilcea is back after it’s bankruptcy offering the original Ilcea again, and besides them and Haas Italian tanneries Zonta and Bonaudo also offers museum calf leathers. And apart from JL, Meermin, Cleverley, Kent Wang and Meermin nowadays Vass offer a big range, Enzo Bonafé are making their first run of museum calf shoes at the moment, and even Loake has some plans to do a run with the leather.

    And actually blue museum calf already is out there 🙂 Here’s a Lobb Chapell in dark blue:

    And here is a lighter blue shade from Haas, at top, as well as a nice green one and a soft red:

    1. Oh No! Are double-monks now passe? I just ordered a pair… I won’t dare to show my face (or feet) in town again…:-(

      1. Nobody said they where passé now! The good thing about mans shoes is, you can always wear beautiful shoes of any times, if they are beautiful.

      2. no of course not, they are just not as popular as 1 year ago when they were all the rage. .But still nice to have a pair. They are classic enough to stick around forever though

    2. Thanks for the input Jesper, you are the true Shoe Snob, I am just an impostor 😉 I forgot to mention VASS and remembered that I had heard about Enzo, but as I had yet to see it, did not mention it….

  2. I especially like the Lobb boots and the Bontoni oxfords. Would such shoes be difficult to polish? I’m thinking about what I learned on The Shoe Snob about how to properly polish shoes and wonder if shoe cream might color over the original color variations

    1. they should not be too difficult in reality. Use a light cream polish at first and then wax with the darker shade…that should keep the effect going strong

  3. I cannot speak for Justin, but your question is good. I do wonder about your current “best” shoes, mainly for context. One could argue that (in the USA) a pair of Alden shoes are a good choice if one has never tried a good quality, Goodyear welted shoe. Justin’s own line may well be great choice to move up a little from something like Alden. Then it’s on to Edward Greene, John Lobb, G & G, and the others (like you mentioned).

    1. I got a pair of massimo dutti, quality is so-so, definitely not comfortable, I had a cobbler changed the sole to full rubber before I can use it for a full day without aching. Like I said, I have limited options of brand here and reading SF is like opening a pandora box, I’m more confused than ever about which brand is good after reading it haha (a good example would be ed et al where it’s both praised and shunned). Would like to try Justin shoes but they are a tad too expensive for me.

      I’m thinking about Meermin, I read its review here and it seems reasonable and fairly good for that price range. Tell me what you think, I hope Justin would be able to chime in soon 🙂

  4. Dear Putra, thank you for all of your kind words in regards to the blog, that is very kind of you. As per your question, Meermin would be a good option, Septieme Larguer another or maybe Ed Et Al? I would start with one of those and go from there…I hope that this helps….and I would personally go for GY, but that is just my own bias…like the feel better, more substantial and comfortable IMHO

    1. Thanks for the reply Justin. Between Meermin and Septieme Larguer, which is more comfortable? Ed et al I don’t see anything I like at the moment so maybe later on hehe

      1. my pleasure. I only ever owned one Meermin and because the last fit me (the New Ray) as it was narrow, it was more comfortable. But then again the Miro loafer by SL was very comfortable too…

  5. Hi Justin, shout out from Perth! Love your work and wishing you all the best for your business. Waiting for 50% off so I can purchase that sweet sexy burgundy Wedgwood 🙂

    Question please. My friend have been applying his John Lobb Chapel dark brown museum calf with RM Williams leather conditioner. That sort of removed the marble effect look and now it’s looking like just a plain dark brown color. Do you have any suggestion how to restore it to the original dark brown museum calf? Thanks! EB

    1. thanks for the shout out! If it is dark brown now, you can use a bit of alcohol mixed with water to lightly strip some of the finish. Do it is sort of circular motions to create the “marbled effect” and do it lightly….once you’ve stripped a bit, polish it with tan or mid brown (or whatever shade lighter than the dark bits) and you will have something close…easier said than done however

  6. Justin, if you like blue, do check out the “lapis blue” museum calf John Lobb x Paul Smith 2012 (?) edition. I liked the color a lot, but the “leaf green” appealed to me more, so that’s what I got.

    On a separate note, the shopkeeper at London JL told me they are not using Ilcea museum calf anymore (as far as he knew it is bankrupt but I have heard that it has been resurrected in some way). I don’t know if it is due to the new supplier or what, there was seeming a qc problem in JL’s and other brands’ museum calf. For the same model, some shoes have very museum-like effect while some are just “flat”! This makes ordering museum calf shoes online a HUGE risk IMHO

  7. How to achieve that kind of marble effect starting from a plain color? Creaming with different color each time?

  8. Hello everybody, my name is Francesco and I am speaking from Gruppo Vecchia Toscana S.p.A. the new ownership of Ilcea Tannery, the only real manufacturer of the original museum calf.
    Yes the old Ilcea company went bankrupt last July 2013, but our group has taken over Ilcea in january 2014.
    Naturally we have restarted the production in the original factory in Torino, with the whole Ilcea technical staff.
    We are offering the complete collection and many of the most important Ilcea customers has already restarted to buy our calf leather, with great satisfaction regarding quality.
    Unfortunately John Lobb switched from Ilcea to other suppliers some time ago, when Ilcea was in financial troubles. Unfortunately for them and for other brands the museum calf of other tanneries (not the real Ilcea museum) is a bit different and hasn’t got the same effect, since the particular production process of museum is a secret of Ilcea.

    PS FOR JUSTIN: we produce blue (and also green) shade of museum (our name of the article is Radica, museum is the name used by JL).

  9. of course you can. It is regular leather like any other and that look is permanent just like any color would be. Therefore shine it as you would other shoes, only use the lighter shade of cream polish as not to darken the light bits…but you can use the darker shade of the wax as it’s lack of pigment should not affect anything

  10. Hi This is John. You have a plum colored pair of oxfords showing on your site that I would like to have, but I don’t know how to order them or if you even sale them. If you can let me know something. Thank You John

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