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Mirror Shining Shell Cordovan Using Dry Shine

Mirror Shining Shell Cordovan

Mirror Shine on Shell Cordovan Toe Cap

Shell Cordovan is an amazing material. It responds very differently to products than standard calfskin leather. In fact, we often just recommend a damp wipe-down, brushing, and some Neutral Cream Polish, to keep your shell in good shape, most of the time. This allows it to develop a natural patina or fade, and still stay protected.

However, every once in a while, we want to mirror shine our shoes, or add some additional protection. Today was one of those times.

These vintage cordovan derbies are over 60 years old, but healthily part of my current rotation. Never one to squander a good pair of shoes, I wear them in the rough-and-tumble dirt and rock paths of Bend, Oregon. This lead to some beat-up, dust, surface scratches and rubs this week, as you can see.

Dirty, Dusty, Scratched Shell Cordovan Bluchers

Dirty, Dusty, Scratched Shell Cordovan Bluchers side view

Dirty, Dusty, Scratched Shell Cordovan Bluchers Right Side View

Dirty, Dusty, Scratched Shell Cordovan Bluchers Scratched Toe Caps

However, it doesn't take much to bring them back to life.

I did a quick wipe-down with a damp cloth, a vigorous brushing with a short horsehair brush, and then a single thin layer of Black Water Resistant Cream Polish to cover the surface.

Black Water Resistant Cream on Vintage Shell Cordovan Bluchers

Dapper Looking Shell Cordovan PTB Vintage Bluchers

Dapper Looking Shell Cordovan PTB Vintage Bluchers from the side

Dapper Looking Shell Cordovan PTB Vintage Bluchers Left Side


This got them looking dapper again.

However, I also love to add a quick shine to the toes. But, since I had added a water resistant product, I knew I wouldn't want to use any water based techniques (Our Water Resistant Cream Polish repels water, as opposed to preventing its absorption). So, I wanted to show a technique I use to get a quick mirror, without any water buffing. 

High Shine to the Toes for a Mirror Shine

Mirror Shine on a Vintage Pair of Cordovan Shell Bluchers

Vintage Cordovan Shell Blucher Derbies Mirror Shined Left Side Profile

Sunset shining on a pair of Cordovan Shell Vintage Derbies

Here's a video of "Dry Mirror" shining Shell Cordovan, with your fingertips, and some thin swipes of High Shine Paste/Wax Polish.

Try the technique out yourself, and let us know what you think. It's not as good as a standard mirror, with lots of buffing. But, it's a quick fix, and good shortcut for heavily worn shoes that you still want to look good, between wears.



  • Hi Andrew – Yes, you can, but calfskin is quite porous. So, often you need to first “build up a base” few layers of soft and/or hard wax, to get it to this point. But yes, the technique is similar.

  • Can you use this same technique on calf?

    Andrew Pietrus

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