Throughout the late 19th century, shoeshine boys plied their trade on the streets of the Australia, the United Kingdom and America | Source: Fortis

The Proper Way to Polish and Protect: A Guide to High-end Shoe Care

No matter how hard you try, your fine leather boots or brogues will inevitably accumulate scuffs and scratches over time. And while some may choose to invest in a regular trip to the cobbler, there are plenty of steps you can take to revitalise your expensive pair of shoes.

Back in Victorian England, when a gentleman could find a shoe shiner on every street corner, shoes were believed to have been polished with the likes of honey, grease and even soot. Fortunately, shoe care has evolved since Victorian times and now you can get your hands on high-quality shoe soaps, polishes, conditioners and protectants that will maximise the life of your fine footwear.

Stain and rainproof

They say prevention is better than cure, and this principle absolutely applies to your shoes.

If you have the opportunity to protect your new shoes from stains and water damage, be sure to take it. While some shoes have a waterproof membrane, most don’t, and so, the rainy winter months can pose a threat to your expensive boots, sneakers and brogues.

Of course, if you’re wading through puddles in anything other than rain boots you can reasonably expect to have saturated shoes and particularly chilly feet. But, if you’re looking to add a thin layer of liquid protection from stains and light water damage, these quick drying sprays from Crep Protect and Jason Markk should do the trick. But note, you’ll need to give your shoes another spray after a few weeks.

Clean your shoes with mild soap

Before you can polish and glaze your prized pair of shoes, you must give them a proper clean. But before you go in with regular soap or, heaven forbid, liquid detergent, keep in mind that materials like quality leather require gentle cleaning solutions. The general rule here is that you shouldn’t use a cleaning product on your high-end leather shoes that you wouldn’t use on your skin.

Along with gentle soap, you’ll need a flat brush to remove dirt and dust before cleaning your leather shoes. To restore your Docs back to their former glory, be sure to go in with this flat brush from Dr. Martens which will help dislodge difficult to remove dirt. Made with soft horsehair, this brush from Saphir works well on both leather and suede.

As for sneakers and other footwear, this premium shoe cleaning kit from Jason Markk comes with a brush and gentle foaming cleaning solution that cleans and conditions leather, suede, nubuck, canvas, vinyl, nylon and more.

Condition and polish

To prevent cracks and add some suppleness and shine to your leather shoes, you’ll need to work in some nourishing conditioner. This two-in-one from Saphir Medaille d’Or offers a non-greasy finish that can be used alone or in conjunction with the brand’s wax polish or cream.

Saphir Medaille d'Or Renovator shoe cleaner/conditioner
Saphir Medaille d’Or Renovator shoe cleaner/conditioner, A$35 | Source: Bootblack

You can also opt for R.M. Williams’ Leather Conditioner which contains beeswax and lanolin that works to soften and condition your leather. Or, try out Aquila’s premium neutral shoe cream which conditions and polishes. Simply apply a small amount to a polishing or microfiber cloth and work into your shoes in circular motions.

If you’re looking for a polishing kit with all the essentials, consider picking up this shoe shine cigar box which comes with a buff-up black polish, neutral cream, traditional dauber brush, soft brush and hard buffing brush, and polishing cloth.

Gentlemen's Hardware Shoe Shine Cigar Box
Gentlemen’s Hardware Shoe Shine Cigar Box, A$59.95 | Source: Gallantoro

Need to brush up on those suede shoes? Read up on Stylish in Every Season: How to Brush Your Suede Shoes Clean.

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