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Horween Leather x Smith & Bradley: Illinois' Finest

Posted on April 14 2014

At Smith & Bradley we strive to provide the best products to our customers that blend both Form & Function.  When we sat down at the design table to develop out leather watch strap line, we knew we wanted the best for or top-shelf cordovan collection. This is why we chose to offer our custom-made Horween Leather Shell Cordovan watch straps.

Horween Leather Company has been in operation in Chicago, Illinois since 1905 and has developed a reputation the world over for supplying only the best and most durable hides.

As the Horween website describes: 

 For more than 100 years, our goal has been to make the best leather in the world. Making the best means doing lots of little things right. It means never mistaking fastest or cheapest with best. It means always using formulas that cut no corners, and components chosen strictly for their quality. In today’s market, where speed and flexibility are at a premium, we feel we offer our customers an unparalleled blend of quality, consistency, responsiveness, and innovation.

Through the years we have cultivated our experience to offer a dynamic line of leathers that include traditional old world tannages and techniques along with carefully selected updates. Our leathers are still made today, by hand, the same way they were generations ago."

Given our American roots, and our proximity to Chicago, Horween seemed like the best bet for us.  Additionally, the type of leather, shell cordovan, has a story of its own as well.  While most common leather is derived from cows (remember "cowhide" on your old baseball glove) cordovan comes from horses. The term “shell”, and let me put this as delicately as possible, is the subcutaneous layer that covers the equine posterior. Each horse provides two shells, which is just enough for a pair of shoes. A single shell isn’t long enough to form a seamless belt, so genuine shell cordovan belts will always be pieced. The most non-porous leather known, shell cordovan is distinguished by its lustrous waxy finish, superior durability, and suppleness that readily conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot. 

Cordovan is a corruption of Cordoba, the city in southern Spain where the technique of tanning this leather originated. Even today high volume production and fancy technology are powerless in its manufacture. Old school handwork is what gets the job done. The shells are put through a natural, vegetable tanning process, then hand-stained, glazed, and finished over a six-month period that demands the measured pace of craftsmanship and patience.

As for what makes Horween shell cordovan special, Horween says it best:

"Genuine Shell Cordovan is the art of tanning at its finest.  More than just a color, it is a very specific leather, from a particular part of a horsehide.  The irregular oval shaped shells are tanned, stuffed, shaved, and then polished – a process taking at least six months.  Each shell is slowly steeped in gentle vegetable liquors. The shells are genuine hot stuffed then slicked onto glass frames to dry.  Each shell is hand curried and shaved by highly skilled artisans to expose the shell. Dyes are hand rubbed on for a deep aniline finish. Finally, the shells are hand glazed to achieve the rich, glossy look and feel prized by fine craftsmen."

We worked tirelessly to make the Smith & Bradley leather strap collection a reality, and we invite all those who appreciate fine craftsmanship to treat themselves to the very best.


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