The Brownout by Nick Horween
From time to time I ask guests to post an entry that’s of interest to me and hopefully to you. This is a re-post from 2009 by Nick Horween which, IMHO is a very interesting discourse on the effect of sunlight and polish on shell cordovan. I really love these Longwings…..
The last post featured a picture of some old longwings that generated a fair amount of questions regarding patina, polishing, and the general care of Shell Cordovan. Maybe I should say re-generated, as we do get a fair amount of inquiries on the subject. In response, this will be the first in (at least) a three part series addressing these topics (and we’ll get on to something other than just shoes in the future – so if shoes aren’t your thing don’t give up on us).
Someone had recently asked if there was “a way to make shoes patina faster?” The short answer is, no. The long answer is, kind of.
Patina, at least in my mind, is something that is produced by age and the level of care. How much sun the leather receives, how often it is polished, the climate, and an array of other factors will effect how a shoe (or a piece of furniture) will wear over time. The first picture in this post is two different shoes both made with our Color #8. The only difference (besides style and shoemaker) is that I left the Cap Toes in the sun for a couple of months. Both pairs have been well worn, but to the extent that the shoes on the left have lightened is very dramatic. I could have reduced the exposure if I’d wanted them to lighten less.
In the picture above of the cap toes, the shoe on the left has been conditioned and then simply polished with a burgundy paste wax – the first picture in the post is also the polished shoe next to the longwing. You can see that the polish and conditioner have re-darkened the shoe to a degree, but it is still very light compared to the original color. The fading and then polishing has yielded yet another color with marked highs and lows. I find the new color appealing but it may not be for everyone. Also, this doesn’t necessarily fit my definition of a true “patina,” but it does illustrate the effect that wear and exposure has on shoes.
As a disclaimer, I do not really recommend doing this”. As some people have heard or read, the “lighter” and “darker” colors of cordovan are that way for a reason. The leather, being a unique medium, has highs and lows in terms of natural color. The darker shells are many times that way because this makes for the most uniform finished product. As our shells are stained with fully aniline stains (meaning no pigment to provide coverage of any kind), fading your darker colored shells may cause these color “differences” to become detectable, if they even exist at all.