“Shoes are the first thing people notice.”
This cliché is arguably the most overused fashion advice when it comes to men. Despite this, men often neglect the choice and care of their footwear. The longevity and beauty of a man’s shoes is first determined by the quality of the shoe itself. However, once a quality shoe is acquired, proper care must be administered to ensure not only that the beauty of the shoe is enhanced, but the life of the shoe is extended.
Choosing a quality shoe:
Contrary to popular belief it does not take 400 dollars plus to purchase a quality bench-crafted Italian made shoe. At rare times these shoes are discounted anywhere for 20-50% allowing you, the consumer, to build an impressive collection at a fraction of the cost. Develop a relationship with your local shoe salesman and you’ll never pay full price again. Choose a shoe from a reputable brand with a leather sole and attractive shape (never square toe or thick rubber soled) and you’ll be on your way to starting your shoe collection. Additionally a leather sole molds to your foot, and becomes increasingly glove like over time. Install toe taps in your shoes approximately six-twelve months after purchasing to help further reduce wear on your shoes.
Caring for the Shoe:
Congratulations! You’ve just made a substantial step in improving your wardrobe. One of the simplest but often most unappreciated step is using full cedar shoe trees. Inserting them while your shoes are still sweaty is crucial to removing excess perspiration from the leather before it gets absorbed. Sweat is acidic which breaks down the leather thus making it softer and more susceptible to wrinkling. If you wear oxfords often, make sure you have a selection to cycle through to avoid wearing the same pair two days in a row. Shoe trees require a day to fully cure the leather and wearing a shoe the following day can shorten the life of a shoe drastically and create additional premature wrinkles in the leather. When the shoe tree gets old and loses its aromatic properties just rub it down with smooth grit sandpaper to rejuvenate its properties. This step alone will improve the life and beauty of the shoe by several years.
Shining Your Shoes:
Nothing is more impressive than a freshly shined pair of shoes. Shined shoes not only look great but they repel scuffs better. For this reason I always recommend to shine a brand new pair of shoes before you even wear them. This way if you scrape the shoe, you only scuff the polish and not the leather.
This is the first step in shining your new shoes. This removes any old dust, wax, polish, and residue from the leather giving you a clean slate to work with. Applying polish over polish diminishes the shine and clogs the leather. Use a small horse hair applicator; lather the soap using a circular motion and water. Be very generous and get the leather extremely soapy. Avoid using on light colored shoes as this is a harsh product and will strip some colors. As with all products, apply on one shoe then apply on the other shoe before wiping the soap off both shoes with an old t-shirt or cloth in the same order.
Wax-less Leather Care or Leather Lotion is one of the most beneficial products to leather on the market today. It moisturizes and rejuvenates the color of leather shoes. People often forget that leather is a skin and needs moisture to retain its vigor. Use this product generously and often, even in-between shines, to help prolong the life of your upper shoe. Apply this product with an old t-shirt or even your fingers and allow it to air dry into the leather.
Now that the leather is clean and primed it is ready to accept the shoe polish. Always test the color on the tongue or another inconspicuous spot to ensure a match of color. Apply in a circular motion with an old t-shirt, applicator, or finger to the shoe starting from the front and working your way completely around the shoe. Remove the laces if necessary and ensure you coat the entire shoe in a light film of polish. Allow the polish to dry to a haze while you polish the other shoe. Use a large horse hair brush to remove the haze from the first shoe, and work your way from the front to the back. Pay close attention to the toe and heel as this is the most noticed parts of a shoe. The longer your brush the shoe, the shinier it will get so brush until you get the desired effect.
If you want to achieve an even more impressive shine, using a solid wax polish is the best way to achieve a mirror shine. Never use liquid wax as this dries out leather and causes it to crack. Ignite the wax block on fire, or use the heat from your finger to soften the paste and apply with your finger in a circular motion. Use sparingly as wax polish dries quick. Apply in a circular motion in the same manner as the shoe polish and buff away. Once again the longer you brush the shinier the shoe will get. Some leathers will marbleize if you use a rag to wipe down the leather after your finished buffing it. Then again sometimes the shine smears if you try to use a rag. It comes with experience and you can truly enhance the shine by using a shine rag to buff the leather after your finished brushing it.
The icing on the cake, edge dressing, colors in the sides of your leather soles to make them look brand new. Truly a step that should not be missed, edge dressing, makes a shoe look better than brand new. Edge dressing can also be used to color in deep scuff marks that polish or wax can’t cover up. Edge dressing is completely optional however, and does not affect the longevity of the shoe. Regardless of the steps you take, by now the shine should be mirror bright and impressive enough for any corporate meeting.
If there is one category in your wardrobe worth investing in, it’s your footwear. If you take care of your feet, they will take care of you. Both in terms of comfort and in corporate clout. Your friends will never understand-or even notice the quality footwear completing your outfit, but your boss’ boss will.