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Questions About Shoe Care for a Newbie

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    Questions About Shoe Care for a Newbie

    Hi Guys - first real post after lurking for a while. I just bought my first pair of nice-ish shoes (Cole Haan Air Colton's, not much by #menswear standards, but good for a broke college kid) and just got handed down a pair of lightly worn Donald J Pliner shoes, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to practice good shoe care for when I upgrade one day. I've read a bunch of threads about shoe trees, polish, etc. but I guess I have some really specific questions, since I haven't seen any of this stuff in person.

    For example, I was going to pick up some horsehair brushes from AE that were listed on the site a few days ago. But once I shine the shoes, what do I do with the brushes that (presumably?) have dirt and polish on them? Is it OK to wash them? How about the cloth I use?

    Do I really need a shoe tree for each pair of nice shoes I own? I've read they're only important the first few hours after wearing. If that's the case, since one pair of shoes is an 11 and the other an 11.5, and these are size L and XL trees respectively, can I just buy the big one and stretch the smaller shoe out a bit? Or will it absolutely not fit?

    And does anyone have a good step-by-step resource for polishing a wingtipped shoe? From what I've been reading, it seems that people apply lotion, conditioner, wax, polish, or cream in all sorts of orders and combinations. Is there a sort of very basic How-To available that is maybe a step above kiwi military spit shine videos on eHow? Something that maybe shows how much polish to put on (I've read that too much is bad)?

    Thanks for the help, and sorry for the questions about minutia. It's just that I don't want to mess these shoes up, and hopefully keep them for a few years. Thanks!


    I have a little compartmentalized bag that I keep all my brushes/polish/conditioner/etc. in that I believe was made as a travel toiletries bag. I don't wash brushes or anything like that, but I do have separate brushes for brushing off dirt than for polishing. I use torn up old white t-shirts for applying polish/creme/conditioner, and throw out the piece when I'm done. Usually cut them up in to approximately 8"x 4" strips.

    Most shoe trees are at least a little adjustable or have a spring in them. You can get one pair and use them for both, just make sure you put them in the shoes you got done wearing. I'd try the smaller size, although if both the shoes fit you but are different sizes, it might be just because brands size differently. See which ones fit.

    Shoe polishing ends up being more complicated than it really is, and everyone has their own way of doing things depending on how obsessed they are or how much they care. Everyone has their own way and will tell you it's right and that's the only way to do it. What you need to do is sort through all the BS that we will tell you and figure out what works for yourself.

    Personally I brush all the dirt/whatever off my shoes, then apply a conditioner if the shoes need it. Let that dry, brush it off. Apply a coat of polish/creme, let dry, brush off, repeat x2 or 3. If dressier shoes I do more coats on the toebox to get a nice shine. Once you get to more layers (do light layers of applying polish) I shine with another clean cloth (t-shirt) instead of brushing.

    There are a lot of ways to do this, and I'm sure I left some things out which I do, but look around the internet and give it a try yourself, it's not as hard as it seems, and really relaxing if you're like me\



      This includes a good introduction to shoe care:

      I got this on the after Christmas sale, but you don't need anything this fancy (although it does make it more fun):



        I got this kit but I haven't actually tried to use it yet



          I'm guessing your shoes are calf skin leather? If so this is a good way to do it:

          As far as shoe trees go, I recommend shoe trees for all the shoes your care about. that 13 dollars will make the leather looking almost new for the majority of the shoe's life.



            Finally got started polishing my shoes recently, and after a couple of tries I noticed I couldn't get much of a shine, just a sort of waxy matte finish. Is this a sign I'm doing something wrong? I buffed with a horsehair brush for several minutes. Do I need to do a couple of coatings or something?

            And a side question: what do you guys do to get conditioner/wax out of the perforations on brogues, as well as under any seams on the upper of the shoe? I used the rounded end of a pin to scrape it out but that was pretty tedious and I was worried I might be damaging the leather.



              @trash, it sounds like you're putting it on too thick. I use a dauber to put it on which has the advantage of being able to dig into the perforations. Also, what polish are you using?

              I'd say put it on very lightly and rub it in until it's starting to shine before you put on the next coat. Also, put it on wet (i.e. wet your dauber or cloth before putting on a little polish).

              Here's a post about starting over if you've built up too much polish on your shoes:




                Here's a good how to.


                Shining cordovan is a very different process, FYI.



                  Wow thanks guys! You're putting a lot of this into perspective for me so far. From what I'm gathering, conditioner and shoe cream would be the most important things to use? How often should shoes be shined? Monthly? More? Less?

                  One last question about the trees - someone mentioned getting them for $13. Any idea where I can find them for this price? The cheapest I've found are at Nordstrom Rack for $20. And do shoe trees ever "go bad?" Or do they last forever?



                    My dad has 40 year old cedar shoe trees. =)



                      Hey BrownCow,

                      I think the $13 price people are referring to is at the Rack. Thats how much they are at my local Rack, so maybe they are just more at your location. I know Jos. A Bank has some buy 2 get one free (plus two suits a shirt and 9 ties) deal that people like as well.

                      I have heard of people lightly sanding their shoe trees after awhile to sort of release fresh cedar. Mine are all pretty new so I haven't but it makes sense to me.



                        You can get decent ones at DSW for $15. New shoe trees are also available on eBay for around $15, some of them very nice Woodlore ones.



                          I recently saw shoe trees at Nordstrom Rack for $12. I think they were store brand. They came in S (6-7), M(8-9), L(10-11), XL(12-13), and XXL(14+)... Or something like that.



                            Brown Cow, the 13 dollar shoe trees I mentioned are from Nordstrom rack. They are $9.99 during sales. It's weird that your nordstrom rack is charging 20 for them...perhaps you can ask the manager if they mislabel the prices since, as other people have mentioned, 13 bucks is the national price. And your cedar shoe trees will last forever. Again, use shoe trees, they will decrease creases and maintain the shoes shape to leave them looking new for most of the shoes life. You can barely see the creases or signs on my shoes cause of them:

                            How often to shine? That depends entirely on you. I usually shine once a month or whenever I get a bad scuff.



                              The Nordstrom Rack near me sells Woodlore shoe trees for $12.98. I've been buying them there for a few years.

                              I have noticed that they recently changed the shape of the tree itself to fill out shoes with a higher instep, so they're thicker vertically. Which can be a good thing, but something to be aware of if you're used to the old shape. I had to go one size down to fit them into some of my shoes.