Not only will a well maintained pair of shoes look smart and give you that polished appearance (no apologies for the pun) but their lifespan will be greatly improved. I heard that HRH The Prince Of Wales wears a pair of John Lobb Oxfords that he’s had since the early 70’s – something that is only achievable by good shoe maintenance.
So, how should we go about maintaining our shoes?
I have an old pair of Loake Oban leather demi-brogues that are in desperate need of a little bit of love. Fantastic shoes they are and have posed excellent value. However this pair have, I hate to admit it, been slightly abused. They are approaching a decade old and have been resoled once or twice and the uppers have seen better days. But not to worry, that makes them the ideal pair of shoes to demonstrate how we can polish some life back into a pair of slightly neglected shoes.
The process does take some time but the results are worth every bit of time spent and the whole process is both relaxing and rewarding.
First of all the shoes are dry which is essential before a clean and polish. In order to maintain a happy household it is essential to lay out newspaper on the surface that you are polishing your shoes on. My mother was never impressed when I’d polish my shoes on the dining table as a small boy, so learn from my experience and lay out a newspaper. My recommendation is to use the Financial Times but the Telegraph will do.
The first thing to do is to get a good shoe brush and brush all the dirt off the shoe. If they needed more than just a brush to remove the dirt I would wipe them with a moistened cloth to remove the dirt and then leave them to fully dry before moving to the next stage.
Next, I want to remove all of the old polish. Now, this might seem a little scary, but bare with me… I remove the old polish with some acetone (nail polish remover) soaked on some cotton wool pads. You can find this easily in the medicine cabinet of your girlfriend, wife or mistress.
Disclaimer – at this point I point out that these shoes are leather so the acetone will not harm the shoes (acetone is a solvent and can dissolve some polymers). If in doubt then test a part of the shoe that is not very visible to make sure that no damage will be done by the use of acetone (testing the tongue of the shoe is a good idea as that is mostly hidden so if it did have an affect on the finish then it would not matter so much). You could also use rubbing alcohol to remove the old polish instead of acetone.
You can see the old polish on the cotton wool.
Next we need to get the shoes looking shiny and want to bring out the colour of the shoes. This is done by the application of a wax polish. First of all get a welt brush and dab some wax on the brush and really work it into the welts of the shoes (the bit where the uppers meet the soles) to get all the stitching and welts coated with wax.
You will notice that i have taken the laces out of the shoes. To be fair I should have done this earlier on in the process (right at the beginning) as it allows you to clean the shoes easier and get at the leather under the laces. It also prevents you getting polish all over your laces.
Once the wax has been applied to the whole shoe you must now do something really important. You must leave the shoes for a good 10 minutes so allow the wax time to soak into the shoe and for the volatile components in the wax polish to evaporate.
Once your 10 minutes is up give the shoes a good buff with a shoe brush and make sure to brush the welts well to remove all excess wax. After brushing the shoes should have some shine to them and will start to look better. I like at this stage to buff the shoes with a soft cloth.
Now, the man on the street would probably be happy with this shine. However, you are not the average man on the street! You are not happy with just a shoe shine, you want a proper polish.
A proper polish will take things a step further and differentiates the men from the boys. A good polish will transform the shoes by filling the pores of the leather with wax and will make the leather smooth like glass and with a glossy polished finish that cannot be rivalled.
So, how do we do it? Well, it is not difficult, but does take a little time. First of all gather your materials. You will need your wax shoe polish, a soft cloth and some water. I find that hot water works best and also find that putting it in your mother’s best china teacup is preferred (although not obligatory by any means).
First apply a smallish amount of polish to the cloth on your finger tips and start rubbing the shoes in small circular motions to apply a thin layer of polish to the surface. Keep rubbing then apply some of the warm water to the surface (only a single drop at a time applied with one of the fingers of your free hand – in my case my left) then keep rubbing in small circular motions. This will start to give a deep glossy shine as it lubricates the wax and allows for a very smooth wax layer to start being built up. Apply more wax, remembering to rub in small circular motions, to build up the wax layer applying droplets of water as needed (you don’t need much water, so drop by drop is best – if you do apply too much water the leather will start to get wet and you will have to wait for it to dry out before continuing).
You might, if you have brogued shoes, see a build up of wax in the punched holes and this can be cleared out with the point of a wooden cocktail stick.
Enjoy wearing your shoes and don’t let them get into that state again!!