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There are some things that men should know how to do even if they can afford to pay someone else to do it for them – whether that's mending an item of clothing, simply sewing on a button or polishing their shoes to a mirror shine.
The first two are important sartorial skills to have, but no-one is going to be judging you on them quite the way they'll notice your shoes. Admittedly, in a sea of black, fake leather square-toed monstrosities, the daily choice you've made to wear nice, real leather shoes puts you one step ahead of the pack. Taking it to the next level with an old-fashioned mirror shine really shows everyone you mean business.
The shoe shine tools you'll need
Felt shoe polishing cloths
These cloths are usually made from cotton chamois, and they're perfect for not only applying polish, but are essential for helping you bring out a mirror shine on your cherished leather shoes. Any cobbler worth your time will have a good range for you to choose from, otherwise head online to the Hanger Project to pick one up.
Horsehair shoeshine brush
This one's a no-brainer – you deserve 100 per cent natural horsehair bristles to bring a natural, glowing sheen to your shoes. They come in a range of sizes, and some have black bristles and others have neutral ones. It's good to have options to use on different coloured shoes. Get a smaller, travel-sized brush to use when you're on the go – those hotel shine kits are nasty and shouldn't come anywhere near your prized shoes.
You don't have to splurge, but for shoes that will last you a lifetime or until your tastes change, Saphir is some of the best available. Their 'Renovateur' is a cleaner and conditioner that will help keep leather supple and nourished. If you prefer buying in person, pick up some Collonil or Waproo conditioner from your cobbler.
Cream-based shoe polish
Cream-based polish contains more pigment than wax-based polish, so it's good for covering up blemishes and serious scuffs in the leather. Be careful when using it, though, because the extra pigment means extra big stains on the sofa and your better half will kill you.
Wax-based shoe polish
Along with your other tools, this is where you want to buy the best stuff you can afford. Menswear aficionados are enamoured with Saphir, and for good reason. The stuff brings out the best mirror shine. Also worth checking out is GlenKaren, with an all-natural range of products that actually smells good enough to eat. If you can't source these, Kiwi's “Parade Gloss” will do for your black shoes, but with better polish and a bit of practice, your shoes will have the high-shine effect you're striving for.
Let's get started.
How to prepare your shoes
Before you start applying polish to the shoes, you need to get them ready. Start by using one of your cloths to wipe away any visible dirt and debris. Use a small amount of water on the cloth if you need to, but at the end of this process you want a shoe that looks “clean”. Wait for them to be fully dry before proceeding to the next step.
Condition and polish
Now that your shoes are ready to be polished, use the other cloth to apply a small amount of conditioner over the shoe and then follow up immediately with either wax or cream-based polish applied sparingly over the whole shoe. If the edges are looking a little worse for wear, now is a good time to also apply a dab of conditioner and polish to these areas so they don't end up looking drab.
Once the polish is applied to one shoe, let it rest while you follow the same process for the other shoe. Then, using your horsehair brush, go over the whole shoe to bring out a natural shine in the leather. Sound easy? That's because it is, and as a minimum you should be doing this regularly so your shoes always look in good nick.
Getting that mirror shine
Take things up a notch by giving the toe caps and heel counters of your shoes a mirror shine. Wrap one of your polishing clothes tightly around your finger and very gently apply a thin film of wax polish on the area you want to bring a high shine to.
Dampen the end of the cloth you're polishing with in water and using a tiny bit more polish, work it gently into the leather in circular motions using only your finger. The more circles you make over the leather, the more of a shine you'll begin to see. Keep polishing in this way until you reach your desired level of shine.
It takes a bit of time to get the perfect shine, but once you have it down it's something you can include in your sartorial kit so you're always looking polished, whether it's for a mate's wedding, a work interview or just kicking it on the weekend in your new brogues.
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