Shoe Care: Looking good starts from the shoes up; A comprehensive guide to shoe care
Footwear, arguably the most important aspect of men's style, is also the dirtiest. The problem though is that whether because it’s a hassle, neglect, or simple forgetfulness, shoe care gets overlooked. This is a shame since shoes are most often the first thing we notice when meeting someone and they can leave a lasting impression. Still, it’s understandable. Shoes are the last thing we put on before heading out, so sometimes they can simply get passed over.
That’s why paying attention and taking good care of your footwear can be essential in presenting yourself as a serious individual. After all, there is no point in buying new and expensive stylish shoes for men if they are just going to be left to go to waste from the first few steps out the store. Here are a couple of tips, tricks, as well as age-proven methods to help you always look your best, shoe-wise. Be sure to check out our other fashion blog, such as the guide to the gentlemen's suit, different types of knots, and how to dress to get noticed.
Watch where you walk
Something that should come natural to most, being careful where you step, is not something that everyone does. Ask any New Yorker, they'll tell you they've mistakenly stepped into those awful brown puddles in the crosswalks of Manhattan. Do your best to avoid puddles, as well as mud, dirt, and especially gravel. Always remember, pavement suits shoes best, even more so when men’s business shoes are concerned. You don't want to get to work with cold, wet feet. Take your eyes off your phone! Look where you're going. The simplest form of shoe care is to avoid damage in the first place.
Prevent damage to shoe and foot
The easiest way to fix damaged shoes is to not damage them in the first place. For that exact reason, here are a few things that should be common practice, if they are not already:
- Store them correctly. What that means is keep them off the floor, whether a shelf, shoe cupboard or even a box, anything is fine except the hallway. This way nobody trips over them tramples them, and most importantly, pets can’t play with them.
- Use a shoe horn. Take a few extra seconds and put your shoes on with a shoe horn. This is not because they might be too tight or for your own comfort, but a necessary step in order to keep the shape and structure of the back of the shoe. This is doubly important when you're putting on that expensive pair of leather oxfords.
- Replace insoles, laces and even heel caps, provided your shoes have them. The insoles and heel-caps are pretty self-explanatory, they take the full force of every step and become misshapen with time and need regular changing. Replacing the laces, on the other hand, is not something too many people practice, however, since they get embedded with grime and dirt from everyday wear the easy solution is to simply get new ones. Laces can add style, and make that old pair of shoes feel new.
- Rotate between shoes. Wearing the same shoes for prolonged periods of time can be tiring and even damaging to your foot. That’s why a couple-day rotation between shoes can provide both the foot and the footwear with a chance to rest. Make sure you take care of your feet! Be sure to check out a walnut hand & foot scrub.
Keep them clean
All in all, there are three main types of shoes that differ in their methods of cleaning. Those are leather shoes, suede shoes, and sneakers. Everything else is either too rare to be worth mentioning or too easy to require a how-to guide.
First, leather shoes. As something that every professional person needs to own, knowing how to take care of them is just as important. To do that, for the most part, you need three things, a towel, a horsehair brush, and polish. Just like with cleaning any other shoe, the first step is removing grime and caked dirt off the leather with the horsehair brush. This might be the hardest step, especially with not well-maintained shoes, however, patient light brushing until the dirt loosens and falls off is necessary in order not to do any damage while cleaning it.
The next step is to clean the leather with a towel. First, rub the entire surface of the shoe with a dry towel, after which you should wet it and give it another pass over. Now the leather needs to completely dry in preparation for leather conditioning and polish. Leather conditioning is not something everyone practices, although it does help the shoe survive much longer than it would otherwise. After the leather conditioning comes the shoe polish, applied with a dry towel or brush, after which a good buffing with the horsehair brush is recommended in order to even everything out.
The best way to clean suede shoes is with a suede brush. In addition, an eraser and an appropriate suede protector spray are necessary as well. The first step is to make certain that the suede is dry. If, or when it is dry, take the suede brush and use it gently to remove any visible dirt. Keep brushing in only one direction for best effect. Now that the suede can be more clearly seen, vigorously brush off any scuff marks you see. Anything that doesn’t come off even with hardy brushing, needs to be removed with an eraser. By then, most suede shoes will be looking like new and ready to be sprayed with a suede protector as a finishing touch.
Sneakers are by far the most convenient shoes to clean since most of them have little to no issue with going into the washing machine. Although its best to make absolutely certain of that, with information that can be easily found on the website of the manufacturer. Also, it’s best to never dry shoes in a dryer. Even throwing them in the washer too often can degrade their structure and jeopardize the integrity of the glue holding them together, so whenever that can be avoided, it should be.
There is an even simpler way to give your sneakers a quick shine. First, remove the laces and stuff the shoes with old paper. Then, give them a quick turnover with a clean, dry toothbrush in order to loosen and remove all the dirt. After they look as grime free as possible, dip the toothbrush in laundry detergent and scrub out any stain you see. After that step, all you need to do is remove the soap off with a wet towel or sponge, let them dry for a second and re-lace them with a clean pair of laces.
Step by step cleaning instructions:
Leather shoe care:
Step 1: Remove laces and insert shoe trees.
Step 2: Remove any residue with a horsehair brush and clean thoroughly with a wet towel.
Step 3: Condition the leather.
Step 4: Buff with horsehair brush to even everything out.
Step 5: Use polish if necessary.
Step 6: Buff again with horsehair brush to even everything out.
Step 7: Let them dry.
Suede shoe care:
Step 1: Brush off dirt and grime.
Step 2: Use spot eraser.
Step 3: Shake the eraser bits away.
Step 4: Put shoe-trees in them or old newspapers and let them dry.
Step 5: Apply suede protecting spray.
Step 1: Remove laces and stuff them with old paper.
Step 2: Scrub dirt off with toothbrush.
Step 3: Clean toothbrush and use again to scrub, paired up with laundry detergent this time.
Step 4: Use a wet sponge or a wet towel to remove suds.
Step 5: Let the sneakers dry.
Step 6: Wash laces in a washing machine, dry them and re-lace.
I often like to pick out my outfits from the shoes up. I choose the right shoes for the occasion, and build the rest of my outfit around them. Shoe care is important, you take your suits in for dry cleaning, and it's important to mind your shoes. If you don't have time to do this, at least take them to a cobbler (shoe maker). Here are some additional style tips for men concerning shoes:
- Always match your shoe color to your belt color.
- Though it is becoming more acceptable, wear proper shoes with a suit. Leave the sneakers behind for once.
- Don't be scared to wear colored laces. A brightly colored pair of laces can transform any shoe or outfit.
- Wear the right type of socks. Always have a clean pair of no-shows. White gym socks should be worn only at the gym.
For more on what clothing items are Fall essentials, look at another recent blog post.