The problem with mirror shines is that when they get a bit worn down i.e. cracked, they can make you feel like your shoe is ruined but its never the case and is nearly always a quick fix if you know the tricks to doing so and have good quality products backing you up in your efforts. I am a peesonal fan of the French made shoe care industry and Saphir is at the top of that supply chain.
First off, a quick fact is that a true mirror shine is simply a hardended layer of dried wax polish on top of the surface of the leather. You get a mirror shine by filling up the pores of the leather and thus creating a smooth surface for the wax to create its own “mirror like” glass look. A lot of times when you see what looks like cracking on a shoe’s toe it is simply the polish and not actually the leather.
When your mirror shine has cracked it is pretty much toast at that point. You can try to keep the rest in tact and build upon it to fix the cracked bit but you will almost never get that clean look again as you will have this other part that was built separately to the rest of the shine and it is pretty much always noticeable. So the reality of it is that you should start again (there are tricks to not having to do this but this will be a bit more difficult to write out and explain and also risky to the average person as it involves heating the leather).
Assuming you have to start over and remove the old mirror shine in order to get a new one, here is my recommendation of the process:
1. Removing the old mirror shine.
Never start this with renomat or any kind of “finish removing” product. You will most likely damage your shoes. Polish was applied with a cloth and can be removed with a cloth. The majority of the mirror shine should be removed by a rag/cloth of some sort and brute force of your arm strength to “wipe away” the shine. This can also be done with a horsehair brush and brushing with some elbow strength to take off the shine.
Once you have about 90% of it removed this is when you can grab your renomat and try and get off the stubborn bits leftover. Remember that renomat and any other stripping agents are concentrate and can have adverse affects when using too much. So be careful with it and apply as little as possible.
If you use a stripping agent its important that you then allow your shoes to dry overnight.
2. Adding back the color and shine.
What was missing from this picture but I am sure was used is some sort of leather conditioner, in this case the Renovateur by Saphir Medaille D’or. And that will be the first thing that you need to use after stripping the leather as you will need to replenish the nutrients that you took away from not only the excessive polish but the stripping. Leather needs its lotion like our skin does especially when in arid environments.
Renavoteur is a concentrated product so use it sparingly and allow the shoe to dry at least 20 minutes before moving onto the next stage.
When using high quality products you never need a ton and always best to start small and work your way up, using more as necessary.
In the picture you see the two types of Saphir polishes needed to give back the luster of the leather and the shine:
1. A cream polish for the color rejuvenation. You can see that they used one called ‘Cordovan’ but this is NOT just for cordovan leather. It can also be applied to calfskin. Apply using a welt brush. Using a rag will ensure you get more on the rag than on the shoe. Let dry for 20 minutes and then brush the shoe/boot with a horsehair brush.
2. A wax polish, Pate de Luxe in this case which works wonders, is what is you use to quickly build up a shine to your liking. This can be quick 10 minute shine or a longer mirror shine depending on how much effort you want to put in. Once your shoe has older polish residue in the pores it is easier to build back the shine. So the more you do this the quicker the results become.
There are many high quality products on the marker these days. Again, I have always been a fan of the French made shoe care products as they worked wonders for me. Saphirs range is among the best in the world. You can find this at The Hanger Project in the US or online via many sellers around the world.
Pictures courtesy of @wrekd_lucy on Instagram who is the regional manager of A Shine & Co of NYC.
Boots by Tom Ford