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Cordovan leather jackets - what do you really think?

AeroFan_07

I'll Lock Up
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4,579
Location
Iowa
This is a question I've been wrestling with for quite some time now. The color of Cordovan, which is a dark red to brick-red/brown and nearly anywhere in-between, is such a difficult color to "pin down" as to what it is and how it's perceived.

I personally love the color of cordovan, especially the "darker" and less "brown" cordovan leathers I have handled. It is not quite oxblood, not quite cherry red, but also rather distinct from any type of true brown as well. Theoretically, it's a flexible color, as it pairs well with cordovan & black boots & belts, however I do not think it pairs well with brown, at least to my view.

Now - my dilemma. I just listed my fourth cordovan Aero in the classifieds. I live this color in the wild, however I do not always think I love it on me. I think it's my perception as much as anything. Color does matter to people, especially given the types of jackets we're all discussing here. What I perceive, and seem to be somewhat overly conscious of, is that cordovan seems to suggest a "royal" or "upscale" jacket. One that a only a person of rather astute financial means would be able to afford. This is not the background I come from and I am not a wealthy person by US standards.

So -- what are your thoughts? Anyone agree, or am I miles off base here? Does it make any sense? Any why is black so much easier for me to wear anywhere - even on a jacket 2x it's price - compared to our topic color of cordovan?

A couple photos I am or have let go of for context:

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Messages
14,297
Location
Chicago
Interesting take on the color Randy. I agree with you in the sense that cordo has always felt very rich. It’s unmatched in its color depth and the right batch, with lots of pull up, is intoxicating to look at. For me Horween # 8 (cordovan) as Aero has named it, is the finest CXL one can own. It does have a regal look to it. Classic beauty, rather than flashy good looks.
FWIW, I think you should keep that jacket. One size down, I’d tell you otherwise and watch it makes it’s way east to my closet:D
 

Jin431

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2,918
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Bay Area CA
you inspired me to get one of the cordovan cxl and it's definitely a sound choice. i think it's just burgundy really and I quite enjoy how annoyingly painful it can be to photograph and how the color can change depending on lighting. i have noticed people find the leather interesting since maybe it's not a color they would normally associate with leather jackets so it's quite foreign to a lot of people.

I find black jackets are more forgiving and so much easier to pair outfits with since I mostly only wear black/grays/Blues lol
 

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El Marro

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3,069
Location
California
I really love Cordovan and I’m surprised to say that I only own one jacket in this color, an Aero Bootlegger in fqhh. Out of all the jackets I own this one has not received much wear time but it has definitely received the most compliments by far. I think that is because of the Cordovan color more than anything else, it is truly special and unusual.
@AeroFan_07 I think you are wrong about this color, meaning I think you have just as much right to wear it as anyone else does. There are some items which are obvious symbols of status and wealth, items that indicate the owner is trying to convey something by wearing them. I do not think Cordovan falls in this category and I think it is a nice change up from your black leather jackets.
 

Guppy

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Cleveland, OH
I like Aero's "Cordovan" but as they recently confirmed my suspicion that it what Horween calls "Color #8" I feel like the name is unfortunately chosen.

The name of the color is all too easily confused with actual shell cordovan leather made from the shell area in the rear quarters of a horse hide. Shell cordovan can be dyed any color, so what this color has to do with shell cordovan, I don't understand. No one who knows what shell cordovan is would confuse FQHH Horween CXL for shell cordovan, but there's an awful lot of people who would be confused about the name, and it's something that could have been avoided by using a different name.

"Color #8" is a bad name for the color as well. Internally, if that's what Horween had called it for a hundred years, well what can you do. But in the internet age, the terms are too generic to find easily in searches without catching a lot of documents that happen to use the word color and the numeral 8 somewhere on the same page. If you know how to use advanced search features that can be mitigated, but I'd contend that with a better name, that shouldn't be so necessary.

What other names might they have picked, then? "Burgundy" immediately comes to mind, and is a pretty accurate description of the color, at least much of the time. But I think Burgundy is a bad choice from a marketing perspective - - Burgundy had a heyday in the 1970s, and for many people it would have a strong association with that decade, which is often ridiculed for its fashion excesses. I'm sure that's the reason screen writers chose the name for the Will Ferrell character Ron Burgundy, from Anchorman, who hilariously is so behind the times in his thinking and so full of himself that I think branding a color as burgundy now - - even if it literally the color of burgundy - - is a bit of an uphill struggle for a business that wants to make products that people want to buy.

So I'm not sure what else you could call it. It seems that it's close in color to what Aero have called "Cherry" and I'm not confident that I can reliably distinguish between Aero Cordovan and Aero Cherry if I had to - - if indeed they are distinct and different color formulas, and not just two different labels for the same thing. But "Cherry" might have a better connotation for marketing than 'Burgundy" these days. In any case I think that "Cordovan" as a name has a mystique about it that beats both Burgundy and Cherry easily. It sounds rare, exotic, expensive, but not tacky in the same way that "burgundy" might to some.

As for the actual color, I do love the way it looks, especially when in photographs. It is a difficult color to photograph, and depending on the ambient lighting, it will take on a quite different character - - which only adds to its mystique, making a reader wish to see it in person so that they can really experience the true color for themselves.

The color does vary in reality, though, too. To me, the best Aero Cordovan is the darkest stuff, that looks like a very warm, impossibly deep brown, with undertones hinting at red or purple. To me it looks like a stained and polished mahogany, and is very beautiful. That, to me is what Aero Cordovan is, or should be. Lighter batches can be a brighter red or purple, and this is sometimes brought out in photographs depending on the lighting, use of the flash, or the properties of the color sensor, as much as by the inherent nature of the light absorbed and reflected by the leather itself. I don't care so much for bright or light Aero Cordovan. To me it looks too artificial. While I realize that the brown and black dyes Horween use for black, brown, russet, and seal are all not the natural color of the hide either, none of them looks like an "unnatural" color the way a brightly lit up or light Cordovan looks.

In the end, it is a color that, when it works, it is probably the best, most appealing and desirable and beautiful for leather. But when it's off, I do have to say that I prefer other brown colors and blacks. So I might be tempted to say that Cordovan is perhaps a bit overrated at times, but I think when it's at its best, there's really nothing better.
 
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TheDonEffect

A-List Customer
Messages
499
I think this the same struggle many, myself included, experience. While something may look great on a hanger and in others, it may not look good on you.

I considered about getting a jacket in that color, but it is a bolder color and therefore does draw attention and gives the appearance of more being fashionable, which I am not.

That said, if I actually pulled the trigger and bought one, I'd probably keep it.
 

Carlos840

I'll Lock Up
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4,619
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London
My only cordovan jacket is pretty purple, it took some time for me to get used to it.
The first few times i wore it i had this weird dissociated feeling where i couldn't recognise my own arms in that colour.
After a few wears i got used to it and i know see it as i would see a brown leather jacket, but with slightly more funk.
I agree with @El Marro though, i don't think one needs to be of a certain social status to wear cordovan, if you enjoy it, wear it!

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barnabus

Practically Family
Messages
952
Location
london
Perhaps I'm naive but I always thought "cordovan" was just a marketing name for oxblood.

When I was a boy, oxblood was always the third colour for leather shoes, after black or brown. And as a grown up, reading about cordovan here on TFL, I'd presumed it was just Aero's name for it.

I've got a motorcycle jacket that's "oxblood", and to my eyes it's very much the same difficult-to-photograph-properly colour as cordovan jackets can be:

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In regards to the perceived wealth or status of cordovan over black or brown, I think that's just in your head. It's a bolder colour choice though, and perhaps that feeds into a perception of it being "fashionable", because bolder choices are deliberate choices, and people that make deliberate choices about what they wear tend to be following a style.

Dunno.
 

RayMan

New in Town
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4
Location
Seattle, WA
I've always loved the Aero Cordovan color but never bought one for myself. I have several Aero jackets in Black and a couple in Brown. I find that I wear mostly my black jackets now and less and less my brown jackets. I'm thinking as I get older that Cordovan is no longer seriously in my future. I wouldn't wear it enough to warrant the purchase.
 

barnabus

Practically Family
Messages
952
Location
london
Oh also, re: the colour. I have these boots from Triumph Motorcycles, which I have wrestled to describe the colour of and settled on "dark oxblood" because of their deep reddish undertones.

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Others may describe them as cordovan. But I saw my dad when I was wearing them, he's 80 but was a proper stylish gent in his younger days, and he immediately proclaimed that they were "dark tan".

Not where my mind would have gone, but perhaps it's another retro term for something we think of differently today?
 

Harris HTM

One Too Many
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1,540
Location
the Netherlands
I think that the only reason they call it cordovan is because the most popular shell cordovan shoes are in no.8 colour. I wouldn't call the Horween no.8 (either shell cordovan or CXL steer or horse) as "oxblood" though.
I own 4 products made of Horween's no.8 leather: two pairs of Alden shell which are quite different than each other, the one more aubergine purple, the other more reddish brick brown; a pair of William Lennons in CXL steer which is rather burgundy/brown; and my newest jacket, an Aero Barnstormer, in CXL FQHH which, depending on the light, varies from cherry red to deep brown.
From all the jackets and shoes that I own, the Aero and these Alden's show by far the greatest depth and colour variation.
I would never associate a leather jacket colour to a social status, unless we're talking about some extravagant multi-colour fluorescent monstrosities that pop stars and "artists" tend to wear only to attract attention.
Finally I don't know if this (calling a no.8 cxl steer or horse cordovan) is an Aero invention or not. I know for a fact that a certain boots company offers a Horween cxl steer no.8 and names it "cordovan no.8" which I find extremely confusing.

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Turnip

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2,345
Location
Europe
Having worn several black, brown, ... leather jackets as a kid i decided to go for an Aero HWM some time ago. Visiting an Aero stockist to check and order type, setup and dimensions... i soon decided to go for Cordovan FQHH once i got my hands on it.
I especially liked the versatileness of that color depending on light and surrounding, oscillating between reddish brown in bright light to almost black in my office with toned glass and dark grey floor.
This is currently my only leather jacket and i still like it as on first day, grows even better the more i wear it.
Reddish tones, such as cherry red Martens, claret Harringtons… have rather been percepted as working class colors than snobbish at this end when i was a kid.
Have been widely worn by British and Scottish shipyard workers, welders...we had a lot around here that time as well as by Punx, Skins, Metalheads...

Just a few pix, all the same jacket, just different light conditins:

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MrProper

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2,402
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Europe
What I perceive, and seem to be somewhat overly conscious of, is that cordovan seems to suggest a "royal" or "upscale" jacket. One that a only a person of rather astute financial means would be able to afford.

I have never come up with this idea before. I think the color is cool, even though I don't own one myself.
But I think a jacket made of this leather will be even better if you have worn this 365 days day in and day out and not spared. Then the question of a luxury item no longer arises. lol
 

dwilson

One of the Regulars
Messages
261
Location
LA
I like the color. Not sure how it varies from tannery to tannery but I've only gotten cordovan from Horween on boots. Not a huge fan of the naming since it can be confusing for people of cordovan color vs shell cordovan leather. I even had a cobbler try and tell me I didn't have shell boots and cordovan is a color not a leather =/
 

Canuck Panda

One Too Many
Messages
1,626
@AeroFan_07 I think Black goes with everything because it technically is the sum of all other colors.
I am bias towards the cordovan color, it feels like an upgraded brown to me. Sometimes it's more red, sometimes it's more purple, but still brown.
cordo.jpg

Cordovan color, although old looking, seems to be a new thing. Everything seems to be the russet browns up until the second war when it got darker and painted into seal browns, and ultimately became full on black after the war. And leather jacket for the most part has stayed mostly black since then. I doubt the cordovan color can knock it out of its top spot for color choice but it's nice to have options.
FWIW, every color can get turned into black with either dye or pigment. So there is no loss trying out new colors, that's just my two cents.
 

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