Should You shine shoes?
YES! Here's why:
You're heading out to a date.
She's a beauty, so you double check your outfit closely.
Button down, chinos, sports coat, check.
You even put in a pocket square 😉
But then you look down and see your shoes….
Cracked, scuffed, and torn.
To be honest they're horrible.
The style is great but they're dull and the scuffs are more noticeable than the shoe!
Terribly maintained shoes are the arch enemy to a great outfit.
Conversely, shoes that are kept in great condition will turn a mediocre outfit into a thing of beauty.
So how is this corrected?
The spit shine, gentleman.
So let’s discuss how to shine your shoes like a marine.
The first thing you must do is:
Shine Shoes Step 1: Purchase A Shoe Shine Kit
Shoe shine kits are not all created equal and can vary in cost tremendously. You can find them at your local shoe hospital or at a high-end retailer. The kit should include:
- Shoe polish – Make sure to get wax shoe polish
- Applicator brushes – Used to apply the polish
- Horse Hair Brush – Used For Cleaning & Buffing The Shoe
- Buffing cloth – You can use a plain white handkerchief if the kit doesn’t have a buffing cloth.
- Carrying case – This is personal preference. A shoe shine kit has a few different pieces and a carrying case keeps them all together and organized. They are also very convenient when it traveling.
Shoe brands make shoe shine kits as well. Trusted companies such as Allen Edmonds, Johnston and Murphy, and Florsheim have full shoeshine kits.
There is no substantial difference between the lower priced (as low as $9.99) shoe shine kits and the ones that are well over $100. The products listed above are generally the same. Some differences are seen in the craftsmanship of the materials. For example, in higher priced kits valet boxes with embossed leather and suede lining might be offered instead of a carrying case.
Other differences are seen in product offerings. Many times the higher priced shoe shine kits have protectants and cleaners included in them. As a consumer and style aficionado, it's important that you do your research to make sure that the higher priced kits are worth the money and that you're not paying for the name or because it's found in a high-end store.
Shine Shoes Step 2: Have A Designated Shoe Shine Area
This area is extremely important as it is a laboratory of sorts. With that, it should be extremely well lit. Also, make sure to choose an open area that’s free from clutter as shoe shine will stain. It’s best not to use a carpeted space. There’s an increased risk of soiling the rug in the event of a spill or dropped brush.
Make sure that you have a container or a tarp/cover of some kind to lay down your brushes and cloths that are soiled with wax and other products. Additionally, be sure to wear clothing that you don't mind getting dirty. An apron is an option as well. The goal is to prevent staining.
Shine Shoes Step 3: Remove Laces
Shine Shoes Step 4: Clean The Dirt And Grime Off First
This process is integral and should always be done regardless of the level of shoe shine that you are trying to do! When shining a shoe, it's imperative that you rid it of all dirt, grime, and old polish. This will ensure that the polish will fill all the imperfections of the leather from wear and tear.
There are a number of different ways to clean a shoe.
- Use a horsehair brush to buff and clean – These types of brushes are needed because it can clean, apply polish, and buff your shoe to the desired shine.
- Soap and water – Take a cloth or sponge and wipe with some warm soap and water. Be sure that the cloth/sponge is damp and not overly saturated. Use this step for to help remove stains or film that the horse hair brush could not take care of.
- Nail Polish remover – If your shoe has been polished a few times before, you may need to remove excess polish from you shoe. This can be done using nail polish remover. Lightly wet a cotton ball or soft cloth with the nail polish remover and gently rub away the old polish Removing old polish from the shoe will minimize uneven spots when applying the polish.
- Water and White vinegar – The ratio should be 2 parts water and 1 part vinegar. This method is especially helpful if you live in an are with heavy winters. The mixture is great for removing salts and tough stains that my occur during such extreme weather.
**Always let the shoe dry completely when cleaning with a solution or water.
I can't stress enough the importance of this step. It's vitally important as you want to ensure that you are polishing the leather itself instead of just rubbing polish over dirt and debris.
The goal of spit shining is to have the mirror shine. Mirror shine is a high gloss shine that you can see your reflection in.
Shine Shoes Step 5: Rejuvenate the leather (Wash & Condition)
For Spit shining, this is the next step after cleaning the shoe. So, how to condition leather shoes? To understand how we first need to understand that leather once was skin on a live animal. Just like our skin, cleaning and scrubbing with a brush and soap can dry it out and cause cracking. Thus, there is a product that is specifically designed to prevent this from happening. Three different types of products are available that will rejuvenate the leather. They are saddle soap, leather conditioner, or an oil renovator.
Saddle Soap – This product is used for cleaning, conditioning, and protecting the leather. It typically contains mild soap, softening ingredients such as lanolin, and preservatives such as beeswax. Specifically, saddle soap does the following:
- Cleans, softens, and preserves smooth leather
- Conditions leather to make it soft and supple
- Preserves the appearance of smooth leather
- Includes a quality wax for added protection
Use a damp cloth or a sponge to apply the saddle soap. Rub it lightly over to soap. This will produce a lather on the applicator. Next, apply the saddle soap to the surface of the shoe and let it dry for 10-15 minutes
Leather Conditioner – this preps the leather by softening and getting it ready to absorb the polish. Leather becomes less flexible and durable when it loses moisture. Cracking is a result of this process. This breakdown and loss of moisture are prevented and treated by leather conditioner. Additionally, it removes any dirt and dust deposits that the brush may have missed. Work the conditioner evenly over the entire shoe with a cloth and let it dry (15-20 minutes).
Oil Renovator – This is not a cleaner but it is necessary for the preservation of the leather. An oil renovator is essential to nourish the leather much like lotion does for skin. It helps to replenish the moisture that is taken out of the shoe from constant cleaning and polishing. When applying an oil renovator, be sure to allow at least 10 minutes for the oil to set in and absorb.
Another benefit of the rejuvenation process is the protective elements. The products above also help to protect the leather.
Choose one of the above products depending on the condition of the shoe and your preference. The end goal is to make sure that the leather is supple, nourished, and ready for the polish to be applied.
Shine Shoes Step 6: Apply the Cream Polish
This is the first round of polish, which should be cream based and the same color as the shoe.
Use a cream based polish as it is best for color rejuvenation. There are many different colors of shoe polish but occasionally there are times where the exact color match may not be an option. If you run into this problem you want to use a colorless (neutral) cream polish. Neutral shoe polish doesn’t have color pigment added. Neutral can be used on shoes that do not need to have color put back into them or shoes that you just can’t seem to match the color with a polish.
It’s also convenient if you don’t want to buy a polish for every pair of shoes. For example, your may have a pair of oxblood whole cut oxfords. It would be difficult finding shoe polish in that color so a neutral, colorless polish would work best. Neutral polish is also good to use if you don’t want the stitching in your shoes to change colors.
Generously spread the shoe polish with a moist cloth or polish brush. Apply thinly yet evenly over the whole shoe. Buff with a horsehair brush. Allow shoe to sit and dry (15-20 mins).
Shine Shoes Step 7: Add Wax Polish
Use a bee’s wax with turpentine polish as this provides the best luster. Do this by hand with a soft cloth or an old t-shirt. Evenly apply in firm, circular motions. You know, “wax on, wax off”! Apply 1-2 layers of the wax polish. This will completely fill in the pores of the leather. The wax also acts as a leather protectant from the elements. Buff it out with the horse hair brush afterward. Let the shoe sit (10-20 mins).
Note: Only apply polish to the leather of the shoe. Polish is not meant to go on the heels as they are not leather.
Shine Shoes Step 8: Lightly Sprinkle Water on the Shoe and Buff (Spit Shine)
Use small drops or dabs of water from your finger. Don’t sprinkle water all over the shoe at once. This will oversaturate the leather. Once you dab the shoe with the water, take the cloth with wax polish and buff the shoe lightly.
Repeat this step 3 times allowing 20 minutes to dry after each step. This is necessary for the perfect Mirror Shine. After the 3rd application, allow drying overnight for best results.
Shine Shoes Step 9: Final Buff With Soft Cloth
This buffs out the toe to give it the final mirror shine.
Shine Shoes Step 10: Final Product
As you see this process takes time but it’s important that you are really detailed and meticulous as you don’t want any clumps, dull spots, or uneven coloration in the shoe.