Crockett & Jones

The Legend of Horween - Part 2

An interview with Arnold "Skip" Horween III, President of Horween Leather Company.

The Legend of Horween - Part 2
Our business has had its fair share of peaks and troughs since it was founded in 1879, is that a similar story for Horween?

Crockett & Jones is actually 25 years older than we are, so you will have seen a little bit more! But the short answer is, yes. We’ve seen ups and downs as style and tastes have changed, as economies go through good periods and bad, really, none of us are totally immune. Also, it should be noted that being a part of a top quality product such as Crockett & Jones shoes helps, they last a long time, which spans time and is great value for a consumer.

Having Nick (your son for those who don’t know) involved at Horween, to learn from yourself and your management team is a great start, but what else are you doing today to make sure you are still in business tomorrow? Investment, Training, Machinery, Development etc…

I’d start by saying that Nick and my daughter Natalie are both involved. They will carry on the vision that began with Isidore’s dream. It’s a funny answer, but being in business tomorrow means evolving without changing too much. Changing just enough where we hang on to the old ways unless we find something else, and this is the important part that our customers feel is actually better – manufacturers don’t want tanneries to change a successful recipe! We always look to invest in equipment that is better (not just newer and faster). And we hope to continually develop new products that customers will want, by listening to what they feel are unmet needs.

Over time, Crockett & Jones have become a world-renowned, well-respected producer of high quality Genuine Horween Cordovan shoes and boots. Why do you think the demand for Cordovan footwear has increased so much?

Crockett & Jones are renowned and respected because the product speaks for itself. As far as increased demand for Shell Cordovan, people truly appreciate the artisanal aspect of both the tanning and the shoemaking in a product that looks fantastic, feels good, and lasts a very long time. It is also a very special and niche material for the connoisseur.

The digital age has had a huge bearing on how brands such as ours communicate and interact with our customers. What kind of impact do you think the digital world has had on Horween?

This digital world has given us a broad forum we could not have imagined a generation ago. We still firmly believe that customers will buy the best they can afford as long as they can tell the difference. This enhanced level of educational communication has helped people make even more informed choices. This can only help companies like Horween and Crockett & Jones whom have great and genuine stories to tell.

You produce leather for the sports industry in a big way and aside from getting tickets to some major games, it must make you proud to see you products on the big (BIG) stage. What other leathers do you produce and what are their applications?

We do produce lots of sport leathers - but for the record I’ve bought all the tickets I’ve gotten (they like me but not THAT much). Seriously, it makes us very proud. To think that we have a small part in a product that gets used at the very highest levels of their sports (NFL American Footballs, NBA Basketballs, MBL Baseball gloves), is very gratifying for all of us in the Horween firm. In terms of other leathers, we make for some garment, bags, belts, electronics cases, wallets, and a bunch of watch straps to name a few.

What is next on the horizon for Horween?

Wow. Huge question. More of the same we hope. We want to stay “GREAT” at the top of the list. Great leather should go to great customers, making great products, and these should end up with a consumer that enjoys using it as much as we love making it.

Outside of leather tanning, what other vices do you have?

Outside of leather tanning I have an inordinate weakness for old boats… yes, boats!

How long have you worked at Horween?

40 years, this November.

How long has your longest standing member of staff work for you?

Close to 50 years.

How many staff work for Horween?

Roughly 150.

How many processes go into producing Cordovan?

I’m afraid to count… a lot!

How long are the Shells tanned?

Total process is 6 months.

Why do you call Cordovan, Shell Cordovan?

Cordovan has come to represent the famous Burgundy colour. Shell cordovan refers to the Shell, or tight fibre layer in the hindquarters of a horse that we tan, shave, oil, stain and polish.

What’s the oldest machine in the factory?

A splitting machine that run every day since 1898. Incredible.

How many Shells does Horween use a year?

A lot. But fortunately for us, never enough…

Shell Cordovan Collection