Even though you might remember the last time you slipped into a pair of leather lace-up shoes, there’s no doubt it was a few months ago. For most of us, this is an unprecedented situation, where our formal leather shoes lie on our shelves. Either way, maybe now is the time to take them out and groom them well.
Legendary shoe designer Christian Louboutin once joked to me: âMen treat their shoes like lovers. They pamper them and spend a lot of time caring for them, while women usually don’t spend as much time grooming or caring for their shoes. With his words in mind, here is a quick guide to sprucing up your formal shoes. (Remember, right now the focus is on their care, shape, and preventing the leather from cracking)
How to take care of your leather shoes
Now that you have the luxury of time, you might want to do a big cleaning of your shoe closet. Get out all your shoes, ventilate your closet, dust it well, and clean your shoe boxes / containers and bags. Some of my shoe collector friends tell me that they sprinkle a little baking soda in their shoes or in their shoe closet, to soak up any excess moisture or odor.
The good old shoe tree
Most of us fast-paced gentlemen underestimate (or ignore) the power of a shoe tree (a shoe-like device made of wood or metal). Many shoe collectors I have spoken to recently admitted to not owning shoe trees. Not only do they perform the obvious function of keeping your precious leathers in good condition, but the wood of the shoe tree absorbs moisture and odors and keeps the shoes in better condition. Shoe specialists tell us that cedar wood shoe trees are the best to have in your shoe closet. Granted, these require a bit more effort to store, use, and maintain, but it’s definitely worth it if you want to keep your expensive shoes for longer.
Dust them off
Clean your shoes well with a soft cloth or brush to remove any excess dust and dirt that might be stuck in tiny areas. Then use a damp cloth to wipe off. If you have a hair dryer, you can even use it, without the heating function, to remove extra dust. You can use your fingers to press down on the folds and smooth out the leather, if necessary. Try to do this once every two weeks to make sure the leather doesn’t crack.
Mumbai-based Nirali Ruparel, founder of Achilles’ Heel, a high-end shoe store, gives an interesting analogy: she likens leather shoes to the skin on your face that requires regular hydration. âFor this purpose, it is recommended to use a good quality shoe polish every fortnight on your leather shoes to keep them supple and prevent them from cracking. Apply it with a soft shoe brush or an old T-shirt. Cream varnishes are readily available in the market. If you are looking for a good quality cream polish, discover Saphir, a French brand specializing in shoe care products. They may burn a small hole in your pocket but are worth it.
It is purely to preserve appearances. Glossy shoe polish is best used when wearing your shoes somewhere. For now, since your kicks are probably not being used, it would be better to focus on hydration with a cream polish rather than a shoe polish product. Save the shoe polish for later. If you intend to shine your shoes, apply a little shoe polish or shoe conditioner and let it absorb for an hour before adding the shoe polish.
Like your skin, think of your favorite leather shoes as living things that need to breathe. To this end, avoid storing them in airtight containers. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It would be best to store them in fabric shoe bags.
How to care for suede
These suede boots and moccasins are perhaps the most beautiful pieces in your wardrobe for you. And with that, they also require the most maintenance.
Ruparel gives us some simple tips on caring for deer. âYou can use a steam iron, move it around the shoe a distance of 10cm to rejuvenate the color. Brush the pair with a suede brush (yes there is such a thing, look for it or ask your shoe guy) to even it out, then use a small shoe or toothbrush to clean the sides and the sole.
In order to maintain the look and feel of your suede shoes, which require the most maintenance, keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent fading. Store them in a cool, dry place, away from excess moisture and dust. Suede shoes need to breathe, so avoid storing them in an airtight container. If you have old t-shirts, pillow cases, or feathered clothes lying around the house, you can use them to wrap your suede shoes for storage.
Suede brushes and cleaners are readily available on most major websites. Saphir offers a good quality suede product as well as the Cole Haan Suede Cleaning Bar, which gently removes stubborn stains.
All images: Courtesy of Getty