LIKE AN EXPENSIVE WATCH OR WEEKENDER BAG, high-quality leather shoes are an investment piece. Sure, at the time they hit the wallet a bit… hard. But the initial price is paid back tenfold from the years of use you’re going to get from them, and there’s no stronger case for that claim than a pair of well-crafted leather shoes. Keep scrolling to learn how to properly protect your investment and make those light brown monk straps last for a decade.
1. Water clogged? If your shoes are wet, stuff ‘em with newspaper ASAP and keep them away from direct heat (which can dry the leather too fast, causing it to crack and loosen adhesives).
2. Throw out the shoe box. Storing leather shoes in its original packaging for long periods of time will do harm to the materials (thanks to humidity). Keep them on a shoe rack instead.
3. Put trees in your shoes. After conditioning and cleaning, cedar shoe trees are the best thing you can do for your footwear. They retain the shape of the shoe, reduce creases, and naturally absorb moisture/odors. Look for one with a full heel made out of unfinished cedar.
4. Give ’em the day off. Wearing your chestnut brown wingtips three weeks straight is definitely not going to prolong their life. Every few days give the shoes a chance to “breathe”.
5. Use a shoe horn. That foot wiggle dance you do when trying to get your shoes on destroys the heels.
6. Add taps to the shoe. Much like the leather on the top, the material on the bottom of the shoe also needs to be protected. Shoe taps cost about $4 for a set, and act like buffers between your heel and the ground. They absorb the shock and damage of constant usage. However, don’t add taps until you’ve worn the shoes for 12-18 months — this gives their soles the proper amount of time to conform to your foot.
Three notes: Whenever working on your shoes with a cream, polish etc. you should a) lay down newspaper or old t-shirts on your work surface, b) do pre-test in an inconspicuous area on the shoe before applying it to the entire surface area, and c) put in a shoe tree.
How often you should do it: This will protect your shoes for about six months. Once the water stops beading up on the surface, you need a new coat.
Wipe your shoes down with a warm sponge and add the product of your choosing. There are spray repellents, but your best bet is a beeswax-based paste. The initial “wash down” will warm the leather, making it more porous and improving its ability to absorb the product. You also use a hairdryer on a low heat setting to achieve the same effect (heat the shoes before and after you add the paste/spray).
How often you should do it: This depends on how regularly you wear them and in what conditions. Do you live in the Northeast and generally spend most of your day in an office? Hit ‘em with conditioner once a month. Are you a door-to-door salesman in Texas? You probably need to up that to once every two weeks since humidity and high temps will dry out the leather faster.
Conditioning is not the same as polishing. Leather is skin, and skin needs nutrients. Those essential supplements come from you conditioning it on a regular basis. Sooooo, liberally apply a cream conditioner into the shoe with a cotton cloth (use different rags for different shoe colors). Work it into the leather in circular motions. Let them sit for 20 minutes, and then vigorously rub with a shoe brush to remove any excess cream.
How often you should do it: This is all based on personal preference. Some guys like to have mirrors on their feet, while others just want a slight buff.
First off, this is how to polish leather shoes.
Secondly, there are two types of product you’ll encounter. One is a cream polish which will penetrate the leather and is good for color rejuvenation (you should you use a welt brush to apply this type). The other is a wax polish (look for a lanoline-based beeswax one) that’s ideal if you’re looking for a surface shine because it creates a coating over the leather allowing you to buff it to your hearts content.
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