You say, “Why does it matter so much?” I say, “Because it makes a big difference in your shoes’ attempt to persevere!” You say, “But I will need to buy another pair in two years anyway!” I then say, “Yeah so will I but my old pair will still be on rotation while yours are sitting in the garbage!!”
Shoes aren’t free, right? Unfortunately not! So, why not maximize our investment and treat our shoes nicely as they should be? If you have nice leather shoes you should be investing in the little things that can double their lifespan. They are not many and they are easy to use and store. A shoe must never be taken off and thrown in the closet unless you really want your shoes to stink, your leather to wrinkle and break down and your shoes to look like shit. That being said, here is the list of things you need:
1. Shoe trees
2. Shoe bags for storage
3. Leather lotion/saddle soap
4. Shoe Wax
5. Old T-Shirt (for polishing)
6. Black nylons (try-on footies for shining/cleaning)
7. Horse-hair brush
8. Edge dressing (Black & Brown)
I have put these in order of importance, in the sense of what will keep your shoes lasting longer. If there is only one thing that a person much purchase when getting a pair of leather shoes, it should be shoe trees. Shoe trees alone will help add time to your shoes’ lifespan. For each one I will explain why they are needed and how you use them to your advantage.
-There are so many things that shoe trees do but in my opinion the most important is the fact that they will absorb moisture (water & sweat) from your leather. This is important because moisture left in your leather will not only stiffen your leather, increasing the chances of cracking but will also slowly deteriorate the integrity of your leather (decay it). Shoe trees will also aid in maintaining the form of your shoes, keeping creases from setting into your leather and will also fight odor. Always have your shoe trees in your shoes when you are not wearing them. If you happen to get your shoes quite wet the most important way to dry them is to insert your trees and lay each shoe on its side. Let them sit for 1-2 hours and then rotate the shoes to lay on their opposite sides. That way there is not any uneven drying which will leave dried wet spots. There are several types of shoe tree shapes and woods used for them. Depending on who you ask, many people recommend cedar shoe trees especially because they fight odor the best. Since I don’t have this problem I don’t really care what type of wood they are but more in the shape of the shoe tree. There are really two main types of trees and those are one’s that fit exactly the last of the shoe and those that are generic in shape and sizing. Obviously the one’s that fit the last are much better but they are harder to find, expensive and heavier (in case of travel). Here are pictures:
–These will help shade the shoes from light that can harm your leather and will also keep your shoes free from dust. They will also lessen the chances of you scratching the leather of your shoes from other objects in your closet.
LEATHER LOTION/SADDLE SOAP
-Leather is like your skin, it needs to be treated to maintain it’s soft looks, shape and feel. Leather lotion (saddle soap is a leather lotion) is the moisturizer that you need to use to maintain these qualities in your leather. Ideally you should apply leather lotion to your shoes anytime that they might be looking a little scuffed. However, if this is too much for you to do just make sure that you apply it before every polish and let it dry 10 minutes before applying the wax. Use an old t-shirt or soft rag to apply and do so evenly. This will buff the scuffs out and clean unseen dirt.
-This is for polishing your shoes. I prefer this over a paste or a cream. In my opinion, it absorbs into the leather better and gives your more a shine as well as protects your leather from water. There are many brands of wax, Lincoln is a famous one and you can find it at any shoe repair store.
-I use these to apply the leather lotion and the wax. It is preferable to have one for each but is not absolutely necessary.
-These are the trick to keeping your shoes clean and shiny. Working in retail, I always carried a footie (try-on size nylons) in my pocket to wipe down my shoes to clean the dust that would collect on them. You will be amazed at how fast they will clean and shine at the same time. They are also used at the end of the polishing process. Once you have applied the wax and think that your shoes are ready to go, let them sit for 10-15 minutes and then wipe them down with a black nylon to really bring out extra shine.
HORSE HAIR BRUSH
-These can be used for several different reasons. The most knowledgeable use is to bring out the shine after applying wax, however if you know how to give a real shine you would not use it for that, just the wax, t-shirt and nylon. I will explain that in another post when I show how to shine a shoe properly. Instead what I use these for is to clean the shoe and get in the cracks between the welt and the upper leather, to get that dust and dirt out. If you use these for shining make sure that you have one for black, one for dark brown and one for lighter colors. They will collect the wax on the bristles and will stain your lighter shoes if you were to use the same brush that you used on your dark shoes. They come in different color bristles to keep it simple.
-Edge dressing is the product that you use to apply to the sides of your soles to give them their color back. Now this is not completely necessary because you can also use the wax so long as you have the right color. The thing about edge dressing is that it is chemically based and will stain your leather if it hits it so you have to be careful. Even a black edge dressing will stain your black leather and leave a little spot that looks like a gasoline leak.
Obviously none of these things will make a difference if you treat your shoes like shit, so be aware of puddles and rocks. Don’t be clumsy and accidentally scrape the sides of your shoes or your toe part on the concrete. Be aware, especially if you spent a hefty amount on your shoes. And if you do screw them up take some ownership in it and buy yourself a new pair and don’t try to return them saying that the leather just broke, salespeople in shoe departments are not that stupid and trust me, they think you are when you do such things.
If you ever have a question on what to do, leave a comment or email me directly.