In honor of Shoe Shine Sunday, I have decided to redo my post on shining your shoes. This article will hopefully be a bit more detailed, and not as rushed as I think the last one was; so, here it is.
Shoes make the man. It is physically impossible to look good in a pair of cheap, dull, and scuffed shoes; and if you’ve spent more than $300 on a pair of shoes, why would you want to try. A good pair of shoes, properly cared for, can last decades, so a good shoe care routine is a must for someone who understands the value of things, and doesn’t just buy a new pair of shoes every time their current ones start to look old. With that in mind, take a look at this video; ignoring the horrible background music, it provides a great basic overview of the process.
Basic Shoe Care
As important as shining your shoes is, there are other thing that are vital to extending their life. First, use shoe trees.
There is often some debate as to the necessity of shoe trees, but I find them invaluable, and really, if you are going be spending $200+ on a pair of shoes, you are going to do everything you can to make them last. Take a look at this article over on The Shoe Snob for some more information on shoe trees. To use them, take your shoes off, and put the trees in. It’s as simple as that. Leave the trees in until the shoes are completely dry, usually a day or so. If you have a pair of trees for each pair of shoes, then you can leave them in as long as you like, but once the shoes are dry, they really don’t do much; if you only have one pair of shoe trees, leave them in until your shoes dry, usually about a day or so, and rotate them into the next pair. This leads into the next tip, never wear the same pair of shoes on consecutive days.
Your shoes will last much longer if you don’t wear the same pair every day (that’s just simple maths, if you wear the shoes half as much, they will last twice as long). This gives you shoes time to rest and dry between wearings. Next, always use a shoehorn when putting on your shoe.
Your shoehorn doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and in a pinch, you can use the end of your belt; just make sure you use one, otherwise you will damage the heel of your shoe. Stick your toes into the shoe, and put the shoehorn into the shoe behind your heel. This will guide your foot into the shoe, and stop you from damaging the back of the shoe. Next, make sure you brush the shoe when you put it on, to remove any dust that may have built up, and give it a quick buff. Do the same when you take the shoes off and put them away. Store the shoes in cloth bags to keep away any dust. If you do these things, you have automatically greatly increased the lifespan of your shoes, before you even polish them.
Shining Your Shoes
Step 1: Gather your materials
You will need:
This one is pretty obvious
Leather is a skin, and like your skin, it needs a good conditioner. Do a bit of research and find one you like. I have heard a lot of good things about Saphir Renovateur; it is rather expensive, but a little goes a long way, and it is apparently quite good.
The polish you use is mostly matter of personal preference. Kiwi is a decent brand, and probably one of the most common, and the one I currently use, but I am awaiting a shipment of Saphir Medaille D’Or, which I am quite looking forward to using, having heard nothing but good things about it. Take a look around, and find one that suits your needs best. Try to match the colour of the polish to your shoes as closely as you can, or use a neutral polish, otherwise you will end up changing the colour of the shoe. If you are polishing black shoes however, you can give them a coat of dark blue polish towards the end, for the same reason that midnight blue is an acceptable alternative to a black dinner suit; under most lighting, dark blue can look blacker than black. This will take the shine on your black shoes to another level.
A decent horsehair buffing brush is essential. Ideally, you will have one for each colour of polish you use, so there is no cross contamination of colours. You will also need brushes for applying the polish.
You will need cloths for applying polish, and for buffing the shoe. An old t-shirt is perfect for cutting up into polish rags.
Water is used to bring out a mirror finish in the shine
Optional, but highly recommended. Use the dressing on the shoe edge to maintain and repair the leather.
Step 2: Clean your shoes
Use you cleaning brush to remove any dust and dirt from the shoe. It’s also a good idea to remove the old layers of polish. I recommend something like Saphir Renovateur, which is a cleaner and conditioner.
Step 3: Condition the shoes
Leather is skin, and like your skin, it needs a good conditioner. Use something like a saddle soap, Mink Oil Renovator by The Shoe Snob, or Saphir Renovateur. Rub the conditioner into the leather, and let it dry for 10-20 minutes.
Step 4: First Coat
Using your applicator brush, liberally apply a coat of polish to the entire shoe. If you have it, I recommend a cream polish for this first coat, and a wax polish for the rest. Cream nourishes the leather better than wax, white wax provides a much greater shine.
Let this coat dry for 10-15 minutes, then brush off the excess with you horsehair brush.
Step 5: More Polish
Wrap you polish cloth around your first two fingers, and apply a small amount of polish to the shoe, using small circles. Focus on the areas of the shoe that don’t bend i.e. the heel and toe. Polish on areas that bend will dry and crack easily. Repeat this with a drop of water, and continue until a shine develops. Repeat this step until you are satisfied with the shine. I like to put a movie on in the background while I work, sometimes two, depending on the shine I am trying to build.
Video by The Shoe Snob
This took about 30-40 minutes for the one shoe. It looks better in person, but a bad camera and poor lighting reduce the quality.
Step 6: Clean
Take a cloth (nylon hosiery works very well), and rub the shoe to remove any dust and excess polish that may otherwise end up on your trousers. Heat and moisture help bring out the shine best, so I like to breathe hot air onto the shoe as I do this.
Video by Mr Porter
Most of the links in this article take you to Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project, a company that I wholeheartedly support. They are a bit on the pricy side, but from what I have heard they are excellent quality. I haven’t had a chance to buy anything from them yet, but all the products look fantastic, and I definitely agree with what they are doing. I also link to A Fine Pair of Shoes, who I am awaiting an order from (should be here in the next couple of days). I don’t have much to say about them yet, but they do have a good range of reasonably priced shoe care items, and their shipping to Australia is relatively cheap.