Sam The Shoe Doctor, has always kept up on all aspects of leather repair. We send our staff to seminars on a regular basis, so they are educated on all the latest developments.
We visited the Horween Leather Company in Chicago (see the video below). Horween is the foremost tanner of horsehide in the country and has been an operating tanner since 1903. Horsehide is tanned to make cordovan leather, which is used in shoes, boots , cases and accessories. Horween imports horsehide from France, Italy and Canada, as horses are not slaughtered in the US.
We went through the entire 260,000, sq ft., of the tannery, from the delivery of the raw hide to the finished product. This gave us a better understanding of how we can better repair and dye cordovan leather.
There is usually a shortage of horsehide, due to the limited slaughter of horses. The tanning process takes over six months as the leather goes through many processes. The leather will last for decades, especially if the hide is cut from the 20% that makes shell cordovan, which is mostly used in men's shoes.(See picture).
Horween tans horsehide, not steer which is used to make calf skins and shoe leather. Allen Edmonds, Aldens, Barneys, Brooks Bros., use shell cordovan in their high end men's shoes.
To our surprise, we saw cordovan leather being processed to make footballs. Horween tans the leather that Wilson uses to make NFL footballs and major league baseball gloves.