How to polish your turds
On Friday night, ambling away from the farewell event to Bar Century (gone but not forgotten), George Street presented me with puddles of oil, sewerage, and bodily fluids and being too goddamn inebriated to do anything about it, I stepped in about every single one of them. Taking the night rider home I could only imagine the damage I had done to my soul by going out after work and smashing 5 and a half standard drinks in the first few minutes of hitting the bar. But it wasn’t until the next morning when I slipped into my kicks that I realised I had damaged another type of “soul”.
I’m not sure whether it’s the smell of shoe care products or the actual act of polishing shoes that I enjoy more. Others tell me that ironing, washing the dishes, or folding clothes gives them that Zen moment in their lives to slow down. Sure, I enjoy the hours going by as I draw the small waxy circles into the leather while listening to a lecture about personality disorders. But I think it’s the end product which I enjoy most. It’s like through all the irreversible tendon damage and time mismanagement I’ve created something wonderful.
To a nutter like me, shoe care means a few things. It means showing that you care about how your shoes look for one. But it also means that you’re an easy going lad or lass and you can take a slow day to preserve a good shoe and give it life again – just to beat it up again the next day at the pub. If you’ve got no patience maybe shoe care isn’t for you, but at least you ain’t spending your time alone rubbing your junk vigourously.
The first step is to buy good quality shoes that will stand the test of time. From there, most shoe care is direct and simple: use shoe trees when they’re off and a shoe horn to get them on. The wood is not extremely important, but raw timber trees will absorb moisture the best, but many are made in cedar for the nice aroma. Sometimes, it’s better to leave shoes trees out of the shoe overnight if the leather hasn’t broken in yet or needs to stretch out in unnatural ways that are beyond the last of the shoes and trees. But shoe trees are a must after they’ve been broken in.
Switching shoes from day to day will also help to extend their life, so go for that 2 for 1 deal and explain to your mother that good quality shoes are an investment (and tell her I said “hi”).
But what sort of shoe wants to live a life of mere stretch and wear? I don’t really know the answer to that, but with even just a bit of polishing, people could stop using their camera phones to check their teeth.
Start off by unlacing it like a girl out of her corset – I haven’t done it before but I imagine it’s the same sort of thing – and brushing away all the dust and dirt on the shoe with a horsehair brush. It’s sort of like cleaning the house – there’s no point in mopping if you don’t vacuum the floors. From there applying a Mink Oil Renovator into your shoes is the first step to putting your shoes back in good order. Leather, being a skin, absorbs moisture and oils and thus the renovator requires about 15-20 minutes to work its way through. After every step, in order to remove any excess and give it a good clean, buff with a horsehair brush with rapid back and forth motions (like a ShakeWeight… am I right?).
2. Shoe Cream
Coloured shoe cream reinvigorates the tones in the leather, and can be used to create beautiful patinas. But for those who just need nice looking shoes (and less decisions to think about) the leather’s original tones can be maintained by using a cream of the same colour. Apply the cream with an applicator brush or dauber in every crevasse (including the welt) in a general circular motion and repeat for the other shoe as the cream settles in for the next 15-20 minutes. Once again, buff away after all is done.
3. Wax Shine
The final step, and perhaps the most frustrating step for first timers and owners of punch-toe shoes, is the wax shine. The steps seem simple on paper: Apply the wax polish sparingly, massage into the leather with small circular motions, and repeat indefinitely with a drop of water added in every application until the desired shine is achieved. But having polished a lot of different shoes, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind.
Firstly, the water is added to the wax with the intention to mix them together in an emulsification, but it requires a catalyst in order to create a hard waxy film. Therefore, the wax needs to be applied quickly in small circles to generate heat. The emulsification will be very distinctive as the wax will follow the circular massaging pattern and be quite sticky. For shoes out of the box about fifty decent applications of the water-wax mixture are required but it’s probably better to wear them in a few times before waxing them.
Another thing to note is that in order to create a mirror shine the leather requires to be completely smoothed over. Therefore, pebbled leather requires about twice the amount of work. With this being said, pressing a little harder into the cap-toe to smooth out any type of leather and to fill up the pores will fasten the process, though it isn’t wholly recommended as it may damage the finish, but I don’t really give a shit.
Punch toes are also difficult to work with due to the openings in the exterior layer of leather, which can soak up water too quickly causing stains. If there is staining from excess water, more wax won’t salvage it. Drying it and stripping it of all the waxy layers with a rag dabbed in some nail polish remover (or vodka) and starting again is the only real way of fixing your shoes. Yes, I can hear you scream silently (I’m available for your next event as a mind reader) which is why polishing away from the medallion toe and broguing, and then brushing over them after the mixture has dried a little is generally more expedient than having to cancel next weekend’s outing to redo your shoes. But when life gives you lemons, squeeze the citric acid into your eyes and soldier on.
Wool Flannel Flat Cap — Borsalino
Blue Linen Shirt — M.J. Bale
Commuter Selvedge Jeans — Levi’s
Medallion Print Braces — Albert Thurston
Yeezy Boost 350 — Adidas Originals
Beaded Bracelet — Viola Milano
Renovator — Saphir Renovateur
Shoe Cream — Saphir Pommadier Creme
Wax Polish — Saphir Pate de Lux Wax
Budget Horse Hair Brush — BIG W
Big Ass Polishing Cloth — Alden
Swan-Neck Deformed Bare Hands — Mr and Mrs. Nguyen