When buying shoes, it’s important to focus on quality, not price. Shoes made from full-grain leather uppers, rather than corrected grain, will look better with time, and if the soles have been stitched on rather than glued, they can withstand up to twenty years of semi-regular use (with occasional resolings, of course). Compare this to most shoes on the market, which have to be discarded after two or three years, and you can see which provides more value.
This is only true, however, if you take care of shoes, and to do so, you’ll need the right tools.
- Leather conditioner: Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. Lexol, Allen Edmonds, and Saphir make good conditioners for dress shoes, while Obneauf’s Heavy Duty LP and Montana Pitch Blend can be relied on for rugged work boots.
Polishes: There are two types of polishes - creams and waxes. Creams are your most basic, and can be used alone. If you want a higher shine and some added protection, however, you can apply a layer of wax. Good polishes can be bought from Saphir, Meltonian, and Lincoln.
- Shoe trees: Insert these into your shoes whenever you’re not wearing them. They’ll help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can get these for pretty cheap at Sierra Trading Post, Jos A. Bank, and Nordstrom Rack.
- Shoe horn: Shoe horns ensure that you won’t crush your heel counter whenever you put on your shoes. Once crushed, the heel counter can’t be easily repaired. A basic metal shoe horn can be had for less than $3, but for more money, you can get nicer oxhorn varieties made by Abbeyhorn.
- Brushes: You’ll need three types of brushes. The first are daubers, which are used to apply your polishes; the second are big horsehair brushes, which are used for buffing; and the third are stiff pig bristle brushes, which are used for cleaning out the welt. You can buy these from Abbeyhorn, Allen Edmonds, and The Hanger Project. A stiff toothbrush can also be used for just the welt, if you’re looking to save money.
- Cleaners: If you use wax polishes, you’ll want to wipe your shoes down every once in a while with a good leather conditioner to help remove build-up. Lexol and Saphir make good cleaners. Just put a sparing amount on a soft cloth and wipe gently.
- Edge dressing: For a man who really pays attention to detail, the scuffed edges of soles can be touched up with a bit of edge dressing. Get these from Allen Edmonds.
- Shoe bags: Put your footwear in soft shoe bags to keep them dust free when they’re not in use. You may have gotten a free set when you bought your shoes, but if you need extras, you can buy them from Amazon.
- Soft cotton cloth: If you don’t use shoe bags, it’s nice to have a soft cotton cloth, such as a chamois, to wipe your shoes down before you leave the house. Some quick swipes will help bring out your shoes’ shine.
- Suede care products: Finally, suede shoes will demand their own products. A waterproofing spray will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any errant food drippings. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, while a suede brush will be useful for rebuilding the nap.
These shouldn’t cost you more than $75 or so, all in. It’s a worthwhile investment to make sure your top-quality shoes are getting the treatment they need. With a minimal amount of care, you can get decades of use out of quality footwear.