Shoe Project: Florsheim Imperial Longwings

August 20, 2012

Shoe Project: Florsheim Imperial Longwings

When I travel, I prefer to take only one pair of dress shoes – it leaves me room for a pair of sneakers for casual wear and long walks and once in a while a pair of crepe-soled chukka boots. For the past few years, my travel shoe of choice has been a pair of vintage Florsheims. The shell cordovan leather is tough to beat in all kinds of weather, the double soles are indestructible, and they’re aesthetically at home with a suit, a sportcoat or even jeans.

The pair I wore was a little dried-out when I got them (at a thrift store some years ago), and has started to crack at the stress points. It’s a problem endemic to old shell cordovan – if it wasn’t cared for, it gets dry, and when it gets dry, it cracks. Cordovan is in many ways dramatically more durable than calf, but this is the one exception. If you buy old cordovan, condition before you wear, and watch out for crazing along the flex points.

There’s not really a way to repair cracking, so I’d had a saved eBay search for a pair in my (narrow) size. A couple of weeks ago, a pair of 12Bs showed up, and I pounced, scoring them for about $75.

You can see them above, after some Venetian Shoe Cream (the best conditioner for cordovan) and a spot of Saphir polish, plus a pair of vintage rayon shoelaces and a couple of Florsheim trees I found at an estate sale. Ready for action!