How to Shine Your Shoes

Shining shoes
Finishing Touches: Shining Your Shoes
It always surprises me when I see a man who has obviously made a significant investment and put a considerable amount of effort into dressing nicely for an event, and then I look down and see dull, scuffed shoes. All too often, men think that the shoes aren’t a notable part of the look.
Yet, when the rest of your ensemble is stylish and well-fitted, it draws the eye all the way up and down the length of the body. The two features at the ends of this up and down sweep have to keep pace with the rest of the look. You’d never consider dressing up and not making sure your hair looks perfect, why would you do less for your feet?
Of course, it is also surprising when I realize how many men don’t know how to properly shine their shoes. Shining shoes is a useful skill to have and can make even inexpensive shoes look better and last longer than they might otherwise. So let’s take the bull by the horns and look at the basics of shining shoes.
What Shoes Will Shine
Obviously, you can only shine shoes with a leather or vinyl finish – in other words, shoes designed to have a shiny finish. And be aware that different types and grains of leather will only polish to specific levels of shine. Leather shoes with a grain pattern that is designed to be ‘matte’ in finish, only shine to a satiny glow at best. However, patent leather shoes that have a smooth glossy finish can be polished to literally have a glass-like shine.
Of course, the glossier the finish, the more likely it will show scuffs and abrasions, which makes shoe shining more important, so that you can cover and hide these marring incidents.
What You Need
There are some basic supplies for shining and polishing the shoes that require a small investment, but pay off big in the long run. Here’s what you need:
• A shoe brush (with semi-firm, natural bristles) to remove dust and dried-on dirt.
• A few soft, lint-free cloths (old tee-shirts work wonderfully)
• Wax-based polish in a paste or cream form (the color to match your shoes)
• Polish applicator swab or brush.
• Leather conditioners and protective oils.
The shoe brush is your universal cleaning tool for your leather shoes. It lets you get into the creases, crevices and seams to remove dirt and dust from the shoes. It will generally have a wooden handle and should be made of semi-firm, natural-fiber bristles. Do not use a brush with hard or plastic bristles as these can actually scratch the surface of the leather (especially patent leather) or snag on the fiber in the seams and weaken them and ruin the look of your shoes.
Soft cloths used for shoe shining need to be lint free, since the polishes and other products generally used on leather shoes generally make them a magnet to little loose fibers. Old tee-shirts are great for this purpose, since they are generally lint-free and are generally found readily in your closet or dresser.
The shoe polish you choose should be your personal preference. Just remember that the wax-based paste polishes are generally longer lasting and give a better finish with a REAL shoe polishing process. You want the color to be as close to the shade of leather your shoes are made of as possible. Black is basic for black leather, but when choosing a polish for brown, if you are unsure, always err on the lighter shade of brown.
Many polishes are available with their own applicator brush, but if yours doesn’t come with one, look for a swab or brush that is meant specifically to be used to apply polish. Whether it’s a brush or sponge tip, it should be designed to allow you to apply polish in all the nooks and crannies on the shoe.
Leather conditioners and protective products (like waterproofing) are always great to have. Generally these have their own specific instructions for use and will say whether they are intended to be used before or after polishing the shoes. They are mentioned here because they are a great addition to a shoe care routine and need to be a part of your shoe care kit. Proper use of leather conditioners and protective products can dramatically increase the lifespan of your shoes.
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