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Brown Shell Cordovan Lace-Up Boots – Five Plus One

Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.


Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.


Shell Cordovan is a rare type of leather that is derived from the rumps of equines. Most leather is made from the epidermis, but shell comes from a layer that is much deeper within the animal. Only two small shells can be harvested from each horse, and they are very small — usually 1 – 3 square feet in size. Due to the lack of available shell, lighter colors will always hold a higher premium because these require “cleaner” shells to produce.

Although it has been around for a very long time, shell has risen in popularity drastically over the last decade. So what makes shell so special? It’s incredibly resilient, hard-wearing, will hold a shine very well, and rolls instead of creases. However, shell is also very difficult to work with — it has almost no stretch, which makes lasting a problem and sewing a pain.

Today we are looking at brown shell boots: not the rarest color, but certainly the most versatile.

1) Crockett & Jones: Harlech in Dark Brown Cordovan

Crockett & Jones Harlech Dark Brown Shell Cordovan Boots

Crockett & Jones are one of the most well respected English shoemakers, and their Harlech Boot in Dark Brown Shell Cordovan really exemplifies why that is the case. The material and construction are top-notch, and the pattern itself is phenomenal. It’s sleek, clean, and will go with just about anything.

Available for $1100 from Crockett & Jones.

2) MOTO: Cordovan Chukka

MOTO Shell Cordovan Chukka Boot

MOTO is not the most popular brand in the states, but their unique yet simplistic designs have earned them some loyal fans. Their Cordovan Chukka is similar to many vintage-inspired military chukka, but constructed from Japanese shell cordovan. The leather is sourced from Shinki Hikaku and then hand overdyed in house to create the matte finish of the final product.

Available for ¥67000 from MOTO Japan.

3) Enzo Bonafè: Cordovan Balmoral

Enzo Bonafè Shell Cordovan Balmoral Boot

Enzo Bonafè is another brand that doesn’t get enough attention, although they have certainly been showing up more and more over the last few years. Their Cordovan Balmoral is a bit dressier than the other boots on this list, but everyone needs to dress-up sometimes, right? It features hand welted construction and is made from a dark brown Horween shell, which offers an excellent depth of color.

Available for $1000 ($250 deposit) from Skoaktiebolaget.

4) Frye: James Lace up

Frye James Shell Cordovan Lace up Boot

Many readers may be surprised to see a pair of Frye boots on this list, but they certainly earned their slot. Generally speaking, people consider Frye’s to be a bit overpriced for the construction and material quality that they offer, but their shell boot is offered at a fairly reasonable price-point. The design is simplistic and not overly garish, and the last they chose for their James boot is quite sleek. If your goal is to pick up a pair of brown shell daily drivers, these would make an excellent pick-up.

Available for $898 from Frye.

5) Allen Edmonds: Dundee

Allen Edmonds Dundee Shell Cordovan Boot

The Allen Edmonds Dundee is many people’s first foray into the world of shell boots. The leather is beautiful, the construction is solid, and the price is stomachable for those who aren’t quite ready to drop a grand on a pair of boots. This chukka hits the sweet-spot when it comes to formality — it’s low-key enough to wear casually but formal enough to dress-up occasionally; as long as you don’t plan to wear it with suits on a daily basis, it should cover everything for you well.

Available for $650 from Allen Edmonds.

Plus One – Rider Boot Co. by Silvano Sassetti: Antelme

Rider Boot Co. by Silvano Sassetti Antelme Shell Cordovan boot

I’m a big fan of Rider Boots, and I’ll admit I was impressed when they released the Antelme in collaboration with Silvano Sassetti. It is constructed from Horween shell and has a Norwegian hand welt, which is a very labor intensive process. The styling is unique and utilizes a crepe midsole and St. Moritz outsole, a combination that firmly sets this boot apart from others on the market. This pair is definitely a bit more high-fashion inspired than others on this list, but the ridiculously low price, high-end materials, and impressive construction make it worthy of Plus One status.

Available for $625 from Rider Boot.