Ever notice that when you’re trying to lock eyes with a girl on the street, she’s all too often staring down at the ground? It’s because she’s checking out your shoes. Seriously.
A pair of fresh, clean shoes can make or break an outfit, and will give that cute girl a reason to check out the rest of you.
We here at EveryGuyed understand that people tend to look at even the finest shoes as utilitarian; a workhorse to protect your feet on the longest of days, and because of this proper shoe maintenance tends to fall by the wayside.
With that in mind, EveryGuyed has put together this guide to help you help yourselves when it comes to shoe care, shoe maintenance and everything else you need to know when cleaning up every little scuff, stain, and spot you might encounter.
Black Leather Lace-Ups
A basic pair of black lace-ups sits in every man’s closet, and requires regular maintenance to prolong life and stay looking their best.
A great man once said that ‘don’t nothing get the hype on first sight like white on white’, but he also wisely added that ‘once you scuff ‘em you fuck up your whole night’. While he might have been talking Air Force Ones, the same can be said for any pair of shoes.
A bit of soap and polish will make your night right again.
Firstly, never, ever polish your shoes without cleaning them first – you’d really just be rubbing dirt and stains into the polish, and into the shoes. Buy some saddle soap, and gently scrub your shoes clean with a brush or cloth. Saddle soap is specially designed to clean leather without damaging its sensitive surface, and will bring a nice, clean shine to your shoes.
This is the real meat and potatoes of men’s shoe care.
Polishing has this undeserved mystique around it, as if it were some lost secret of Victorian gentlemen.
It’s really quite simple. Get a good cream or wax-based polish, which will produce a really brilliant shine. Apply a liberal amount to a freshly cleaned shoe, and let it sit for a few minutes.
After that, you can begin buffing the shoe with a damp, clean cloth, until you start to get a nice shine. Put a good amount of effort into it, adding small amounts of polish as you go.
This will allow for a few layers of polish to build up, meaning the shine will have depth and last.
A wide variety of other materials and variations on leather exist. The cleaning rules for these vary, but here are some quick rules for most common materials you’ll encounter:
Brown Leather & Other Colors
You should avoid using neutral-colored polish if possible, as it produces a lower quality, less lustrous shine than colored polishes. Try and match the color of your shoe to the polish to the best of you’re ability, and follow the same rules as above.
When in doubt, a cobbler (or shoe repairman) will have a wider selection of polishes and be better equipped to assist you with color-matching.
Artificial leather shoes are a good stop-gap solution if you’ve got a formal event coming up and need some shoes now.
An inexpensive substitution for the real deal (leather), they’re going to wear out more quickly, a fact that’s compensated for by the lower cost.
The difficulty is that once they’ve been scuffed, a simple polish job won’t do much good. As the artificial leather won’t absorb the polish the same way as the real thing will, so your best bet is likely to take them to a cobbler to see if they can do anything for you.
Just know that investing more money by having a cobbler look at them probably isn’t since the shoes don’t cost much in the first place.
Suede & Nubuck
Suede is a kind of finished leather with a finely brushed appearance, whereas Nubuck is the more rugged, raw leather often used on boots like Timberlands.
With these textured surfaces, it can sometimes become difficult to dislodge embedded stains in shoes made of these materials.
A special type of ‘stain eraser’ can be purchased at most shoe stores, and it works by crumbling as you scrub, getting into the grains and cleaning the material.
Needless to say, polishing won’t be necessary here. Just give them a gentle cleaning and let them air-dry before wearing them again.
Patent leather is treated and finished differently than regular leather, and as such requires its own special treatment.
Hit them with a soft, clean shoe brush to clear off any dirt. Stiff hands or bristles will scuff the patent leather even more, so use a gentle touch, like a nervous prom date.
Some mild soap and lukewarm water on a soft cloth will get the job done where brushing couldn’t. Any further stains can be removed with a bit of saddle soap, and scuffs can be covered with a very minor bit of polish.
Patent leather is generally more sensitive to scuffs, soaps, and polishes, so go easy here.
Buy Multiple Pairs
All shoes get worn out through daily use.
While this might not be so bad for your Nike runners, your Prada lace-ups aren’t made to take a daily beating. As you can afford it, build a collection of two or three pairs of quality shoes that are appropriate for your daily use.
This will allow you to have a rotation where you never wear one pair two days in a row, and you’ll extend the lifespan of your shoes dramatically.
This is one of the most underrated pieces of shoe care advice because it can seem costly and unnecessary, but if you consider the price of wearing out pair after pair of moderately priced shoes against the fact that a quality pair can last decades, it’s pretty sensible.
Keep Your Feet Clean and Your Shoes Treed
Leather is an organic material, and despite it being bleached, tanned and chemically treated in the process of styling, it’s still a sensitive surface that needs your attention.
Your foot is a cesspool of bacteria, moisture, and stank.
With that in mind, take care of your shoes even when they’re not being worn.
Shoe trees helps your shoes keep their shape and are a low cost solution for the appearance of creases and warping. Get one made from cedar or a similar wood, and it’ll also absorb some of the moisture that builds when you wear them, helping them last longer.
When All Else Fails – Visit a Cobbler
Repairs can be undertaken by a cobbler, so what you think is an insurmountable injury to your Paul Smith cap-toes might actually just be a simple repair for a trained professional.
In the same vein, these men are craftsmen, not miracle workers.
Don’t expect them to be able to make your shoes as good as new again; but if you’ve invested in a quality pair, a cobbler is an essential resource in getting the most out of them.
Got some advice about shoes you’d like to share? How about follow up questions, or some sole-ful story? Hit the comment box below and share with the EveryGuyed community…