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My impression of Wildswans has always been that they're more of a "dressy"/formal style wallet with thin leather, small stitching, etc. From reading old threads on forums, they seem to have gotten a lot of discussion back about ten years ago when the only other Japanese brands anybody knew about were Redmoon and KC's. Seems like there are so many nicer options from Japan (and plenty of other places too) for a tough/denim-focused wallet, now that they've been discovered.

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Ashland Leather. Color 2 shell outside, black shell (reverse side, which comes out green, visible) inside. Ashland is run by a couple guys that tan leather at Horween and it took them over half a year to get their hands on a single shell of correct, even thickness dyed color 2 to use for this. Totally worth the wait. It's very red in person, though my pictures don't quite show it. I've used it for a week or two daily now.

 

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Very thick exterior, very thin interior. Interestingly, both are equally strong. It just makes sense to have a thick exterior and thin interior for outer stability and a not-too-thick overall product. It's also really fun to see the "outside" black popping through the cash slot and card slots.

 

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Found out some interesting stuff about shell during this process. Apparently the hides Horween gets are typically the same exact things the Japanese shell producers get. Horween's superior leather comes solely from the tanning processes, not from anything to do with the hides. I keep seeing something repeated online about Horween using retired racehorse shells, hence the shells being stronger, and it's simply not true. They're all by-products of other industries, and Horween's shells are not initially stronger at all. On another note, the shells actually frequently vary tremendously in thickness even within the same shell. A single shell will generally have enough variety to be anywhere from 1 mm to 2.5 mm thick in the same piece. It's takes Ashland a long time to make a wallet like this since color 2 is so incredibly uncommon and they have to have one that contains a large enough section that is super consistent in thickness. I'll definitely buy more goods from these guys in the future. Phenomenal work.

 

Oh, and here's Ashland's picture of the same style of wallet in color 2 (non-shell interior). I'd say this is pretty true for the color of mine:

Ashland_Leather_Johnny_the_Fox_-_Horween

Edited by cander49

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I'm not at all convinced that Horween's cordovan is better than Shinki's. The Flat Head cordovan stuff I've owned/handled has easily been as nice as any Horween I've seen, and very thick as well. 

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Among shell collectors, the general consensus is that the Japanese is very inferior, but I haven't personally handled it. As for thickness, Ashland reiterared that thickness is completely unrelated to quality or durability and that the Japanese market, in particular, is incorrectly convinced that thickness matters when it really doesn't.

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Where can I read about how japanese shell is "very inferior"? I've never heard that before, and that's a pretty big statement.

 

Shinki is the only tannery that does cordovan in japan right?

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Where can I read about how japanese shell is "very inferior"? I've never heard that before, and that's a pretty big statement.

 

Shinki is the only tannery that does cordovan in japan right?

 

I've also heard the guys at Corlection rave about japanese shell, claiming that the stuff produced at horween isn't true shell since the 'shells' they produce are so large that they incorporate parts of the horse that aren't really shell 

 

I have no idea if this is true, but thats what they claim. I've gotta say tho, my shell flat head wallet in a whiskey/natural finish is amazing and definitely feels nicer than lots of horween shell i've handled. 

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I've never bought anything from corlection, but I love how into flat head they are. I also like how in-depth they go into how the things are made, etc, you can easily tell that they are truly fans of quality japanese products.

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Their flat head event is coming up again on July 23rd, so it'll be another fun evening of having them rant and rave about flat head products

 

They are the energizer bunnies of the denim world, i love going in there. They are always stoked about whatever you are wearing 

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Would love to hear about who says horween is better than shinki as well. I thought the consensus was always the other way around.

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Ooooh, I think that statement is a very brave one.

Shinki and Horween can both produce excellent cordovan. A lot of Shinki stuff on the market is customised for the brand, so there are several variations on their shell. Some with more grain than others, others more smooth and stiff.

Horween's shells are oilier, but usually come with more colour and thickness variations in my observations.

IMO, one is not better than the other. Certainly not vastly inferior. Mind you, this is coming from someone who thinks shell is a bit over-rated :P

Edit:Forgot to mention Shinki shell is much closer to early 20th century shell. Rough backs, harder hand, little bit more 'plastic' texture, deeper and more uniform colour, etc.

Edited by mikecch

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Their flat head event is coming up again on July 23rd, so it'll be another fun evening of having them rant and rave about flat head products

 

They are the energizer bunnies of the denim world, i love going in there. They are always stoked about whatever you are wearing

Wish I could go. They stock Kurt's leather goods too, which is pretty exciting. I might visit the one in Melbourne tomorrow.

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I had an interview with Charlie at Equus - remember that forum belt project from a couple of years ago?

Anyway, lots of interesting tid bits in this one :)

Here it is!

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That black belt with blue stitching looks so nice...such a great contrast...more makers should use that

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I had an interview with Charlie at Equus - remember that forum belt project from a couple of years ago?

Anyway, lots of interesting tid bits in this one :)

Here it is!

Great interview!  Thanks for posting

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Where can I read about how japanese shell is "very inferior"? I've never heard that before, and that's a pretty big statement.

 

Shinki is the only tannery that does cordovan in japan right?

 

This seems to be the general consensus in the shell threads on shoe forums among the guys that have dozens of shell products. My understanding is Shinki does very poorly with water and can have fairly major, long-lasting discolorations when wet - Horween may be variable and while I've never had any issue with rain with 6 pairs of Horween shell shoes, I believe others have had minor issues. Also, it sounds like their creases get pretty rough and lose the finish more easily. Meermin has made a lot of pairs with Shinki shell and the reviews have been pretty bad from what I've read. I may have just lumped in Meermin production issues into my impression of Shinki, so perhaps that's tainting my view a bit.

 

I've also heard the guys at Corlection rave about japanese shell, claiming that the stuff produced at horween isn't true shell since the 'shells' they produce are so large that they incorporate parts of the horse that aren't really shell 

 

I have no idea if this is true, but thats what they claim. I've gotta say tho, my shell flat head wallet in a whiskey/natural finish is amazing and definitely feels nicer than lots of horween shell i've handled. 

 

I don't know anything about Corlection since I'm in the US, but according to people working at Horween, the pre-treated shells are actually identical across companies (same source, same cut), just finished differently. Also, the guys working at Horween that make leather goods on the side actually refuse to make shell belts because the shells are too small (but other companies are still making them). 

 

Ooooh, I think that statement is a very brave one.

Shinki and Horween can both produce excellent cordovan. A lot of Shinki stuff on the market is customised for the brand, so there are several variations on their shell. Some with more grain than others, others more smooth and stiff.

Horween's shells are oilier, but usually come with more colour and thickness variations in my observations.

IMO, one is not better than the other. Certainly not vastly inferior. Mind you, this is coming from someone who thinks shell is a bit over-rated :P

Edit:Forgot to mention Shinki shell is much closer to early 20th century shell. Rough backs, harder hand, little bit more 'plastic' texture, deeper and more uniform colour, etc.

 

Oily vs plastic finish is just that - a finish - and I personally feel that the plastic finish of Japanese shell looks artificial, although that's once again only based on seeing it in pictures. The one thing that Shinki definitely has is the ease with which different colors can be sourced. Thickness variation should definitely be the same since the sources are identical within the meat industry and every shell tends to be quite variable in general. In terms of my wallet, the thick outer layer is probably 4x the thickness of the card slot layers, just as a reference. It seems to me that a shell with grain shouldn't be called shell anymore since the shell is supposed to, at least by traditional definition, have the grainy flesh stripped away. As for brand customization, Horween is the same. Alden has some unique colors, AE has some unique colors (although they had some of Alden's current "unique" colors back in the 50s), Rancourt has some unique colors, C&J has some unique colors, Carmina has some unique colors, etc. The one thing I've never seen from Horween is a natural grain on shell, although they have imprinted a scotch grain onto shell very occasionally. Personally, I don't like it at all, so I'm glad they don't often do it. :)

 

As for shell vs other leathers, I personally love shell and find my shell to look better for longer, repel stain much more easily, require far less treatment, resist creasing better, and beat up less (granted, I probably am just a little more careful wearing shell about avoiding doing things that scratches the crap out of my shoes). The one other leather that I've been pretty over the moon about has been Horween's Dublin, somewhat between a shell and a standard veg tan cowhide, which I've carried as a briefcase for the last year. The one issue with Dublin has been that it scratches pretty easily, but Saphir Reno fixes it in seconds. The pull-up on it is insane (so, so, so much more than chromexcel). 

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Reading your post, am I right in saying you have never handled Shinki shell cordovan personally?

Have you some experience with early 20 th century shell cordovan?

Shinki sets out to produce shell cordovan as authentically as possible, which in its early days was a true worker's leather, not a fashionable or prestigious product at all. Horween makes modern shell for use on luxury goods - oilier, thus more water resistant. What I'm trying to say is that neither is much better than the other - it depends on what you intend to do with the leather.

Old school shell were drier, had a slightly plastic hand, and definitely did not have the multitude of colours now available.

Yes, we all know shell is the fibrous tissue, it should not contain the dermis or epidermis. Such a tissue still has its own surface grain. You can observe this by removing the finish on a piece of shell - can be done at home with some mineral oil and acetone.

My point is that unless you've had extensive experience with shell from different times and different makers, don't make bold negative statements in public spaces. It hurts people's livelihoods, and the folks at Shinki are working hard keeping a tradition alive - this can only be good for our hobby.

Edited by mikecch

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I'm not trying to rag on Shinki at all. I posted initially about the differences because so many things I had read on this forum were said to be flat-out incorrect by the guys who made my wallet (and who also personally make shell). I'll probably try out something made from Shinki at some point in the future, but I'm not sure that it'll be shoes, since I haven't seen any shoe companies using Shinki who have lasts that I like other than Sagara, who are so awful that I wouldn't consider taking free shoes from them in the future (will repost about that from a few years ago if anyone cares, but it's safe to say that I felt so scammed and was so turned off by their horrible quality shoes that I will do anything in my power to prevent anyone from purchasing from them).

Edited by cander49

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Public spaces are meant for discussions and opinions. I'm sure Shinki's livelihood is fine especially since it wasn't disparaging at all. I mean it's superfuture. It's not that big of a community, especially for leather, and much meaner comments have been made for various brands. Look at Ed and John Lofgren. The latter is doing fine even when the former is a business man himself. 

 

Also, even if Shinki is trying to be as authentic and old school as possible their leather is still being used on luxury goods as well e.g. wallets and fancy shoes. So if I'm reading it right then cander's comments about discoloration and poor water resistance might have merit if Shinki shell isn't supposed to be as oily as Horweens. Not necessarily as a way to put one above the other but a noted difference nonetheless (of course this very well could be because of meermin). 

 

Anyway, I agree that each company has their own unique spin on shell where it's the (shoe) manufacturer's finishing that plays more of a role as to how a particular shell is perceived. I personally be fine with shell cordovan from any place.

Edited by ALB

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27721352784_e5ab34c065_z.jpg

 

Picked up this beautiful wallet recently from Ichi as my next keeper for years to come. 

Japanese leather brushed with Kakishibu.

Really like the origami influence, how neatly it tucked in itself.

 

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When the storeperson shows me the evolved version of the leather, Iam instantly hooked!

 

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Opens up to coin case in the middle with 3 card slots. There is also space behind the coin case & the 3 card slots for 2 more cards.

The understated logo is also the definitely plus for me.

:)

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@redragon,can we have a photo in natural light? Looks cool.

Public spaces are meant for discussions and opinions. I'm sure Shinki's livelihood is fine especially since it wasn't disparaging at all. I mean it's superfuture. It's not that big of a community, especially for leather, and much meaner comments have been made for various brands.

It's no problem having a negative opinion if you don't like Shinki's shell after having used or handled it. Calling it inferior because a couple of guys at Horween told you so? There's informed opinion, and then there's hearsay. Edited by mikecch

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@redragon,can we have a photo in natural light? Looks cool.

It's no problem having a negative opinion if you don't like Shinki's shell after having used or handled it. Calling it inferior because a couple of guys at Horween told you so? There's informed opinion, and then there's hearsay.

Er, I don't think he said it was inferior because of what Horween said. Just what others have said who have handled it at other forums and via meermin.

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@mikecch

Will get to it when the sun comes out again.

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@mikecch

Will get to it when the sun comes out again.

 

Cheers mate!

 

Here's a sunny shot:

S46pQs3.jpg

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^ That's a very cool from finish. Who is the maker?

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ichi.gr.jp

I come across the brand by chance when browsing through a Lightning magazine.

They also make some pretty nice looking line of bags.

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Speaking of shell, I stopped by Tanner in LA while traveling there over the weekend. I saw that they had natural shell wallets, which were pretty cool - I don't think Portland had them last time I stopped by - and I asked the guy working there how they looked aged. Turns out he had been using one for just 10 months and it was already insane. So dark after less than a year. Wish I had taken pictures. In any case, it seems like a great wallet for the price ($130 for the small one).

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I searched for meermin cordovan shoes to see people's reviews/critique of the shinki leather... From what I remember, the price for those cordovan shoes was about $350. Am I crazy or is that insanely cheap? How can they be selling quality she'll cordovan shoes for that price?

RJB makes cordovan shoes but they're like $1000, although they are also handsewn and made in japn

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I think the shell they use isn't as nice. Also because they're doing GMTO and also because they're made in China that probably brings the costs down quite a bit.

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