THERE’S no point in splashing out on an expensive suit if the shoes you wear with it don’t look the business. In fact, while you can get away with an inexpensive suit and still look smart, accessories like your watch, cufflinks and shoes are the things you just can’t fake. Once you have your elegant pair of Oxfords, though, you need keep them looking sharp even as you put them through the punishment of city life and English weather. Here’s what you need to do.
1. The starting point of shoe maintenance is having multiple pairs. If you wear the same shoes to the office every day, they haven’t a hope of remaining in good condition for long. “Feet sweat a lot, and city life takes its toll on the leather,” says Andreas Kuschel, store manager of Jermyn Street’s John Lobb. “You need to give them at least 24 hours to breathe between wearing them.”
2.“Using shoe trees will keep your shoes looking better for longer than if you polish them regularly,” says Nathan Brown, managing director of Mayfair shoemaker Lodger. If you don’t have shoe trees or you’re travelling, Kuschel says scrunched up newspaper can do an excellent replacement job, and will also soak up moisture.
3.Check the weather forecast, and be prepared if the day’s looking nasty. “If it’s a cold, rainy day, apply a protector before heading out,” says Richard Randall of long-established English shoeshine producer Cherry Blossom. “The more water that goes through the leather, the more it’ll crease it, stretch it and dry it out, so you need to coat it with a non-absorbent surface.” And if it’s really grim, stick to wellies and carry your shoes – there’s nothing heroic about ruining £400 shoes in the name of struggling to work.
4.You don’t have to polish and treat your shoes too religiously – our experts say that every couple of weeks or so is fine. Regularity is important though – don’t just wait until the shoes look like they need it. Then it’s too late.
5.Before you polish the shoes, make sure they’re clean. “Putting polish on top of dirt is a bad idea, so use a water-based foam cleaner first,” says Richard Randall. If you don’t have cleaner, at least use a brush to remove the dirt.
6.Leather is a skin, and maintaining it isn’t so different from looking after your face – you need to moisturise. Use a cloth to apply some leather cream which moisturises and nourishes the leather, then add the wax on top. “Wrap a cloth around two fingers, dip it in the tin of wax and then in a tiny bit of water,” says Kuschel. “Don’t use too much pressure, let the cloth glide over the leather as though polishing a mirror. Take your time and do it properly.”
7.If you can, leave the wax on over night before you use a cloth or a soft brush to buff it to a shine. “Slather on the polish and let it sit over night,” says Brown. “By leaving it a few hours the shoes will suck up as much of the moisture as they need, and the next morning you can brush off the extra polish and bring it to a good shine.”
8.Avoid bog standard polish of the kind that comes with a sponge and a squeezy tube – those products are full of petrochemicals that’ll do lasting damage to the leather. “You want to use polish that’s mostly bees wax and canauba wax,” says Brown.
9.A classic English shine focuses on the toe of the shoe, leaving the rest a little bit more matte. “If the toe stands out it looks even crisper, it’s the first thing people notice” says Brown. “It takes 30 seconds to buff the toe, and you look like a confident, well-dressed man.”
10.To look after the soles, Kuschel recommends applying a neutral wax (so that it doesn’t stain the carpet) around the edge and on the underside. “You can even use a block of bee’s wax, rubbing it on and then using a hard brush to polish it off.”