Think military perfection, and a glossy shine on your brogues, that'll make you stand out from others. Your dress shoes are an investment shoe – and you need to take care of the leather. Shoe leather is animal hide that, left uncared for, will crack and dry out over time.
Treat the leather with respect, and you'll be rewarded tenfold. You can't beat the impression of wearing your favorite outfit paired with well polished dress shoes.
Dress Shoe Care
Your dress shoes will, through regular use, develop scuff marks, and the polish and color will fade. Leather is a natural product and will degrade over time if you don’t maintain it. For example, if you left your leather dress shoes in a damp place, there may be mold starting to form.
Do I have to clean them first? Before polishing? Can’t I just quickly wipe them with a cloth, and get on it with it? No, you can't.
Your Shoe Shine Kit
There are several leather shoe shine kits on the market. Prices vary greatly. Be sure to see exactly what you're getting for your money -packages range from $25 to $100.
It's worth investing in a quality kit, as you'll use it for a lifetime. The more expensive shoe shine valet kits come with both cleaning materials and polishing equipment, inside a travel case. These can be monogrammed with your initials, and are useful to have when you travel.
Generally, your shoe shine kit needs to contain: cream shoe polish, wax polish, applicators, a horsehair brush, and a buffing cloth.
Extra Cleaning and Conditioning Materials
It's a good idea to buy a leather shoe conditioner of some kind, such as saddle soap, leather conditioner or leather oil. Keep an old t-shirt, or some soft clothes in this kit too.
Hot water and soap can be used to clean your dress shoes, or you may need to use something a little stronger. Depending on the climate that you live in, you can develop a salt build up on your leather shoes (snow).
The second problem you may have is that you may have too much waxy polish on your dress shoes. If you have a buildup of wax polish, it can be removed by soaking several cotton balls in nail polish remover and gently wiping over the layers.
Salt Vinegar Cleaning Solution
Dilute two parts water, with one part of vinegar, to make an acidic solution to remove salts that have built up on the shoe. Make sure that the shoes are completely dry before applying any polish. Leave them to dry for at least 20 minutes.
Where Should I Shine My Shoes?
Polish Will Stain Your Carpet
You will need to use ample space to clean your shoes. You need to work in a well-lit area so that you can see precisely how much polish you're putting on, etc.
The area that you're working on needs to be protected too. Put down newspapers or an old towel.
Wear Old Clothes To Protect Your Good Clothes
Be sure to protect your good clothes. Polish will stain! Remember to wear old clothes to do this job.
Shoe Shine Process – What Do I Do First?
Remove The Laces
You don’t want to get polish on your shoelaces. Remember that polish will also stain the stitching of your shoes. Don't use a color cream polish if your stitching is a contrasting color to your dress shoe. If this is the case, preferably use a neutral polish.
Your dress shoes need to be clean before you can polish them. Remove dust and surface grime that has built up. You can use your shoe cleaning brush to brush off the dirt, or you can use a damp cloth. (Hot soapy water).
Don't apply too much water to leather. Simply wipe dirt off, and assess your shoes. Are there tough stains? Or blotches of polish?
If this is the case, then make either the vinegar solution or soak balls of cotton wool with nail polish remover and clean off those marks. Be gentle.
Leave to dry for at least 20 minutes.
‘’Feed Me, Seymour.”
Before you can apply polish to your shoes, the leather needs reviving. Leather can crack and dry out, and by feeding the leather, you're extending the life of your dress shoes.
You can apply saddle soap to your dress shoes with a damp cloth. Saddle soap contains lanolin and beeswax, which will moisturize and protect the leather.
You can apply a leather conditioning product, or you can use an oil specially made for leather. These will help your shoes to retain their flexibility. Leave for at least 20 minutes to soak into the leather.
Two-Stage Polishing For Your Dress Shoes
First Polish Is For Color
Apply either a colored cream polish that's the same shade as your shoes or a neutral polish. Allow to dry and buff off with your horsehair brush. Be sure to work over your newspapers, and to use firm strokes.
Second Polish “ Wax on, Wax Off”
Once the color has settled on your dress shoes, you can apply either one or two layers of the wax polish. Wax polish has beeswax and turpentine, and will also help to protect the leather.
Use an old t-shirt, or soft cloth, to ‘wax on, wax off,’ and rub with small circular movements. Buff your dress shoes with your horsehair shoe brush. They're now on their way to greatness. However, there's one more stage.
Precision Mirror Shoe Shine Finish
This is known as the ‘spit shine’ military method that will give you the winning edge. Apply small drops of water to your dress shoes, with your finger.
Just sprinkle a few drops, and use your polish cloth to shine your shoes. Let them dry for 20 minutes. Now repeat this three times. Yes, three times. Leave them overnight.
Final Buff Mirror Shine
You're nearly there. Take a soft cloth and give your dress shoes a final buff. The shine should look spectacular. Congratulations, you've now mastered how to polish dress shoes. Enjoy.