Care For Your Shoes Like a Pro (part 3)

Having already written two previous posts on polishing your shoes I find myself in an interesting situation, because I have discovered that I did not know as much as I thought I did about shoe polishing.

Last weekend I went on a shoe polishing blitz. One of the upsides of a growing shoe collection is that you don’t have to polish shoes all that regularly. You have plenty shoes from which to choose so the frequency of polishing is reduced. However, when you do get round to polishing there is a large number of shoes which need attention. That’s the downside of a growing shoe collection.

I’ve polished my shoes many times over the years, following my own advice as I did so. However, I’ve always been conscious that the shoe polishing aficionados out there always recommend that shoes are polished using a cloth, rather than a shoe brush, which I have always tended to use. So I decided on a whim to give it a go.

Shoe closet full of shiny shoes. The way it should be….

Initially, I couldn’t see much of a difference. But I persisted, following the basic code, a dab of polish and a few spots of water rubbed into the leather. Repeatedly. Eventually, however,a deep gloss emerged, and the leather felt and looked a bit like glass.

I’ve always been inclined to polish my shoes over the years and done a decent job of them. However, the level of shine that I was able to achieve on that occasion was beyond anything I have ever managed. I have clearly been missing a trick. I was so taken the results I was achieving I went on over the weekend to polish pretty much every pair of shoes in my collection, including a number that were already polished. It took a while…. However the results have been worth it.

So far this week I’ve been struggling to take my eyes off my shoes because they are far more highly polished than they have ever been. Some pairs of shoes that I have owned for years now look better than they did when they were brand new. I kid you not.

If there is a downside to what will surely become my new approach to shoe polishing is that it takes longer than simply applying polish with one brush and then brushing it off with another and repeating these stages until you achieve a shine. Applying tiny amounts of polish with a cloth alternating with dabs of water may require a large number of coats to get to the point of a mirror finish.

A sample of the results

So what do you do? Follow the instructions in the Crocket & Jones video. It’s a really helpful way forward. If you prefer step by step directions see below. The first 6 steps are lifted from my previous post Care for Your shoes like a Pro (part 2)

1. Spread some newspaper on the floor so that you don’t get polish into the carpet. It’s much more comfortable than the alternative; cleaning your shoes in the garden shed.

2. With shoe tree inserted clean the shoes, either with a brush to remove dust, or with a damp cloth if it’s a little muddy. There is nothing to be gained by putting polish on top of dirt. Let the shoe dry.

3. If the shoe needs it apply some moisturising cream with a lint free cloth to nourish the leather. Timpsons cobblers cream is a good one. An old sock would be a fine applicator. Bear in mind that leather is a living material; it once kept a cow warm. So it will need maintenance to keep it from becoming brittle. If you prefer your shoes to have a matt rather than shiny finish then simply buff the shoes and job done. If you prefer a shiny finish you will need to apply steps 4-7.

4. Use an applicator brush to apply a good quality polish to the leather. There are special applicator brushes you can buy but any small shoe brush will do. If you prefer to use a cloth that’s also fine. Don’t use lots of polish. Small amounts worked into the leather are precisely what you need. Kiwi produces some fine polishes. Some polishes include silicone and debate rages over whether this is damaging to shoe leather or not. My own preference is to avoid silicone based polish. Non-silicone polishes have less potent fumes. Unless your shoe is dark brown or black try to make sure that the polish is a slightly lighter shade than your shoe so that you don’t change the colour of your shoe by polishing it.

Fruits and tools of my labour…

5. Leave the first shoe to dry while you apply polish to the second shoe. If you are polishing more than one pair of shoes at a time go on to apply polish to those allowing more time for the polish to be absorbed by the leather. If you are extremely keen you could leave the polish to dry overnight. I wouldn’t recommend this though. Shoe polishing takes long enough as it is!

6. Spray a small amount of water in a fine mist on the shoe and buff to a shine with a different brush from the one used to apply the polish. You will need a different buffing brush for black, brown and tan shoes, ideally made from horse hair.

7. For a deeper shine take a cotton cloth (an old T shirt would do, or you can buy shoe shine cloths), wrap around the index finger and rub tiny amounts of polish into the shoe. Make sure you keep the cloth moist. It is a finely judged thing, this. Too much water and you soak the leather. Not good. It is difficult to use too little though. Keep adding further coats of polish and buffing with the cloth. The more you repeat these steps the deeper the shine you will create. Professional shoe shiners speak of applying at least four coats of polish to get a really exceptional shine. Some shoes might require a dozen coats. However, you will at some stage arrive at a point where the leather suddenly feels as smooth as glass, with a gloss to match and then you are there.

I was not exaggerating about the mirror finish

By the way, the quality of the leathers matter. If your shoes are made from poor quality leather, or indeed are constructed from man made materials this may not work. Equally, on leathers that have been treated with some kind of finish to makes them shiny, this also works less well. The leather is less absorbent as a result of whatever has been used to treat it. On good quality leathers, however, this should work a treat.

This, my friends, is what you might call a conversion experience. Like Paul on the Damascus road I have seen the light. And now I can’t go back to life as it was before. So proceed with caution…. Trying this out might change your shoe care habits. Permanently.

For more on shoe care have a look at Crockett & Jones’ excellent videoclip on How to Care for Your Shoes. Alternatively  TheShoeSnob‘s Justin Kirkpatrick has a great video produced by Mr Porter here


2 thoughts on “Care For Your Shoes Like a Pro (part 3)

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