In a previous post on Developing a Shoe Fetish I asked how many pairs of shoes a man needs to have. I’ve been building up my shoe collection now for the last two years, discovering a previously unknown appreciation for fine shoes. Along the way, I have been learning a great deal about shoe care. I may say more about this in a later post.
For example, I had long discovered that using a shoe horn is a simple way to prolong the life of your shoe. However, I was not aware until quite recently that shoemakers recommend that the same shoes not be worn on two successive days. This was news to me. When I first read this advice from an expensive shoemakers I thought to myself, ‘This is stupid. My work shoes by definition are those that I wear daily. If your shoes can’t handle daily wear then they are not sufficiently robust. Get a life.’
However, there is method to the madness. Feet sweat and shoe leather absorbs the moisture. So the longevity of shoe leather is extended if shoes are allowed at least 24 hours to dry out fully before the next wearing. So men ideally need at least two pairs of shoes for work to allow for alternation. The up side of this is that your shoes will last much longer
Shoemakers also recommend using wooden shoe trees when the shoes are not being worn to draw out moisture and to help shoes keep their shape.
I bought my first shoe trees just over 2 years ago, in year 3 of my 5-year project. I had long been an admirer of shoe trees, which I had often seen used in high street shops like Clarks to display their more expensive shoes. I discovered that cedar is the wood of choice because of its natural deodorising properties and its propensity for absorbing moisture. However, I had no idea where one might go to purchase shoe trees. I did some internet research and discovered that cedar shoe trees aren’t cheap, but developed a better idea of what type of shoe tree I was interested in.
By chance, I was walking past Jones Bootmaker, a store that I did not normally shop in, and noticed that they had exactly the shoe trees I was interested in at half price, £17.50. I went in to enquire and the shop assistant, who had a silver tongue, pointed out that they only had 2 left in my size so I might wish to take them both. I agreed.
I still haven’t quite worked out whether that was a good or bad decision. On the plus side shoe trees have made a great difference to the way in which I store and care for my shoes. Polishing a shoe with a shoe tree in it is a very different proposition from one without. Moreover, there is no doubt that my shoes are in better shape since I have started using shoe trees. And while it is a minor thing I do get a little kick out of seeing my shoes neatly lined up in the closet, with the shoe trees inserted.
On the minus side, since that first purchase I have gone on to buy, shall we say, ‘a few more pairs’ of shoe trees. I now consider them an essential purchase if you care about your shoes. So each time I purchase a shoe I have started to factor in the extra cost of a shoe tree. Obviously, shoe trees will outlast the shoe so I will have them for many, many years to come, long after the shoes have worn out. Nonetheless, they do increase the cost of building a shoe collection, though they pay for themselves by enabling shoes to last much longer. Initially, I intended to use trees only for special, more expensive shoes, and to alternate between shoes. Eventually, I have come to the view that it is simpler, though more expensive, to have shoe trees for each pair of formal shoes. This has led to some interesting dilemmas.
For example, I have been feeling very pleased with myself recently because over the last year or so I managed to buy three pairs of shoes without actually spending any money. I had been keeping an eye out for a pair of tan brogues. I had a clear idea in my mind what I wanted and had looked round a few shoe shops including Barratts, Clarks and the online shoemakers, Samuel Windsor but hadn’t found quite what I was looking for, certainly not at a price I was looking for. However, I stumbled across some beautiful tan brogues in Tesco of all places! And they looked to me a more attractive design than brogues I had seen elsewhere.
Problem was, I had never bought shoes from Tesco before, wasn’t a guy who generally shopped for clothes at Tesco and was not entirely persuaded that shoes from Tesco could be good quality. I figure £20–25 is enough to get a decent pair of shoes if one shops carefully and have never spent more than £45 per pair. These shoes, however, were £28 and didn’t seem cheap enough to justify buying them from Tesco. Then it occurred to me that I had enough club card vouchers to buy them! So I took the risk and was very happy with my purchase. So pleased, in fact, that some months later I bought an identical pair in black. The price had fallen by now from £28 to £12. Some months after that I found an even lovelier pair of boots, also in black, which had fallen from £30 to £10. The great thing was that I was able to buy these with Tesco vouchers also. So three pairs of shoes, over a year or so, for £50 in total, quite an achievement in itself. That they had not reduced my bank balance by a single penny was the icing on the cake. No wonder I felt pleased with myself.
But then came the question, do I purchase shoe trees to go with these shoes or not? To do so would wipe out the savings I had made. I confess that I didn’t agonise too long over that decision. The money saved by using Tesco vouchers was spent on shoe trees…. On balance I think it was probably a good call. However, it means that I now have shoe trees which cost more than the shoe they are in! Didn’t see that coming….
So if you’ve never purchased shoe trees give it some thought when you purchase your next pair of shoes. You won’t regret it. Then again you might, if like me you come to struggle to buy a pair of shoes without also looking for a pair of shoe trees to go with them. They can easily become an expensive habit….
Jones Bootmaker currently has shoe trees on sale from £15. However, these will only be useful for shoes shaped on a narrow last. Ideally shoe trees should have a similar shape to the shoe in which you intend to use them. Jones’ better quality and more versatile shoe tree is the Diplomat double tube cedar tree at £38. Over winter they were on sale for £18 so I expect a similar price to return later in the year. Cathcart Elliott sell essentially the same tree via their eBay store at two for £57.50 with free postage. They also have seconds with minor imperfections for around £20. Shoe makers like Loake or outfitters like Charles Tyrwhitt have shoes trees for around £30.
If like me you are developing a deepening appreciation for shoes, you might want to look into some shoe trees.