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?
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?
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.