Footwear Maintenance

How To Shine Your Shoes

man having his shoes shined

Have you ever worn a pair of tired old shoes on a date or for an important meeting? No matter how comfortable a particular set of footwear is, if they’re past their best, they’ll impress nobody.

Every man should have at least one pair of quality shoes in his wardrobe – but maintaining them is crucial. Shining your shoes does more than make them look good; the polish moisturises the leather, keeping them at their best for longer, ensuring better value for your hard-earned money.

So how does a man shine his shoes?

shoe shine with polish

In years past, professional shoeshiners offered fast, effective treatments on the streets of cities across the world. Unlike today, when most supermarkets stock a variety of shoe polishes, gentlemen of the 19th century relied more on paid shines than doing it themselves.

Thankfully, every modern man aspiring to the height of dapperness can grab a polish from the shelves and treat their own shoes at home. As tricky and time-consuming as it might seem, you can actually get professional results with surprisingly little effort.

A well-treated pair of shoes can last decades, particularly when alternated with others; wearing the same footwear every day, for all occasions, will wear them out faster. Experiment with a variety of styles and colours to keep your look from becoming stale.

Regardless of the design, though, all leather shoes need more than a basic spit-and-polish.

So, just how does a gentleman shine his shoes?

london shoe shine


The Initial Clean-up

Cleaning your shoes before applying polish is key to remove dirt and grime, even if they already look spotless.

Here’s the dapper guide for best results:

  • Insert wooden shoe trees – these help to retain your shoes’ form, and ensure a smoother, easier shine.
  • Remove the laces.
  • Using a horsehair brush, remove dust and/or sediment from the shoes, taking care to be thorough but gentle.
  • Shoes looking cleaner? Good – apply dabs of leather conditioner in a circular motion, using a cotton rag. Fill cracks and creases formed during normal wear, as this softens the leather enough to help it absorb the polish, resulting in a shinier finish.


Applying the Polish, Making them Shine

 Okay – here’s where it gets real.

  • After allowing the leather conditioner to dry, you should apply a wax or cream polish to restore the shoes’ colour. Be sure to pick a colour slightly lighter than the leather itself, to avoid darkening the tone – try it on the heel to make sure you’ve made the right choice.
  • Satisfied? Great. Now, start applying the polish to the shoes with a fresh rag (or a clean part of the one you used earlier) in circular motions. Again, be thorough but gentle.
  • Grab your horsehair brush and vigorously remove the excess polish, ensuring just a small film covers the shoe.
  • Now, focus on the heel and toe-area, creating a stronger shine: use a slightly dampened cotton ball to apply a dab of additional polish. Do this until you feel satisfied.


Leave your shoes to settle before wearing them. Whether for a meeting, presentation, wedding, date, or a romantic meal, donning a pair of well-shined shoes tells the world that you’re a truly dapper gent who cares about the way he looks.

Repeat this process whenever needed – a regular polish will preserve your shoes for longer.

Even if you feel pushed for time, make an effort to treat your footwear. A compliment or two from the right person, and a spring in your step, will be reward enough.

Sam Brady is a menswear expert, having worked in or around the field for the past 14 years. He has built up a keen eye for detail when it comes to the production of clothing, and is happy showcasing the craftsmanship of Savile Row and Jermyn St. But he understands the need for an interchangeable modern man’s wardrobe that mixes high street and luxury clothing.

Related Articles

  • wooden clothing hangers

    Should I Use Wooden Hangers

    You open your wardrobe and are faced with the prospect of a rainbow of plastic hangers mixed in with some wired versions you received from the dry cleaners. How do...
  • desert and chukka boots side by side

    The Difference Between A Chukka And A Desert Boot

    When it comes to spring footwear a man can do well to look no further than a good pair of desert boots when putting together a casual ensemble. But are your desert...
  • selfridges mens shoe department

    What To Look For When Buying New Shoes

    For some men, shoes (I don’t mean trainers) are an obsession. Understanding the craftsmanship of well-made shoes, and the time that can go into building bespoke styles for example can easily...
  • man in starched collar

    Should You Starch Your Dress Shirts

    Putting starch on your dress shirts might stir up images of 1930’s formality with unforgiving collars, but it is still common practice among men. Clothing starch comes in liquid form, made by...

Leave a Comment

Follow AGR

Recent Men’s Articles