How To Shine And Polish Shoes
There is nothing that can ruin a good suit more than scuffed up shoes. It is imperative that we pay attention to our shoes when dressing formal. After all, this does contribute to one of our core manliness traits: A Man’s Appearance Matters. It is something often overlooked until we at the point of putting the shoe on and realize their shoes look like they have been run over by a truck several times.
Men have several options to keep their shoes in good working order and in spit shine readiness. If you travel often, you will do as I do and actually wear the shoes that need a good shine to the airport. There is always an old-timer there that has done about 2,937,819,374,092,843 pairs of shoes. You want this person if can get him/her.
He (or she) will whip out their tools with the speed and accuracy of Clint Eastwood hawking his 45 in a Dirty Harry flick. Also, when I see them wearing the rubber gloves to keep their hands from being ripped apart, I get excited. I know I am in for a heck of a shine…an experience to say the least. The entire process for both shoes should be roughly 5-10 minutes. A little trick some will play is to add flare and mystique to their presentation. It is an art form for certain and the experience is what they want you to have. You walk away happier and most likely tip better. BTW, you should always be generous with your tips for the good ones. They earn it.
When you get your shoes done at the airport or other public place, it is like going to your favorite barbershop – you will have tons of small talk and chat about just about anything under the sun with the shiner and other patrons. This is part of the experience.
However, if cash is tight, you don’t travel much, or if you simply don’t want the experience, you will have to learn to do this for yourself. This can not only save you the $5-10 being done by a pro, but you will also have the satisfaction that comes along with taking care of your professional gear yourself.
- Shoe trees for shoe care
- Shoehorn for ease of on/off (if needed)
- Cream polish and/or shoe wax
- Application cloth or toothbrush or on brush
- Off brush (usually longer than on brush and softer bristles
- Shammy or sheepskin cloth for final polish
- Finishing polish (optional)
There are some really good shoe shine kits on the market. Take a look at these all inclusive solutions to take all the guess work out of what is needed.
Here are the general steps to the shining your own shoes:
- Take out the shoe tree if you use one (the shoe tree is used to keep the form of the shoe while not in use)
- Take out the laces. This is often overlooked, but it is best for long term care of the shoe. This allows you to make sure tongue is polished fully. If not done, the tongue will fade over time.
- Select your cream polish or shoe wax – cream polish is better for subtle shine and shoe wax is better for waterproofing and a harder shine
- Remove all dust and dirt with on brush or off brush.
- Apply polish with cloth or toothbrush (toothbrush is better if you are traveling). You can also use an on-brush (has stiffer bristle than the off-brush and is about half the size). Also, when you have serious scuff marks, apply two coats of polish. Apply all polish in a round motion
- Don’t forget the bottom of the shoe. Yup, if your shoe has a leather bottom (not the dirty part but the one right before the heal) don’t forget to polish this part. It will be seen if you cross your legs.
- Set the first shoe down and start work on the second shoe. This will allow the polish to soak into the leather for a better shine
- Polish shoe with off-brush. Use a light flick of the brush with the rist. Don’t use the elbow as this takes much more work and time.
- Do a final polish using the shammy or sheepskin cloth
TIP: Remember to remove all shoe polish on the top ridges of the shoe. This is often overlooked and ends up on your trousers.
Polishing your shoes on a regular basis increases the life of your shoe and makes the entire ensemble look much better. There should not be any question IF you can afford the 5-10 minutes it takes to perform this task, it is just a matter of how ofter you really need to do it. That is, of course, personal preference, but the more you do it, the longer you shoes will last and the better you will look.
Finally, the International Institute of Modern Butlers put out this VERY educational video on the topic. It is not the best quality video to ever hit the net, but this gentleman really knows his stuff. Take a look…