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Polishing shoes: it’s a form of art.
Published by: Hugo Mechelse
Published on: 04-01-2015 11:06 AM
Pageviews: 3660

Come to think of it, how may ways of polishing shoes are there in the first place? To be honest, I don’t know. But the objective of polishing shoes I think is universal: long life! Second, for sure the presentation of the owner, as shoes tend to tell a story in themselves. Not only the type of shoes, the brand, the colour, but surely also whether they are well taken care of.

And that is our concern; to take good care of the shoes. The owner must be able to enjoy his shoes for life and feel proud of the way they look. We, as butlers, secure this by our magic art of shoe polishing. Due we use spit, ice water, Vaseline? Nivea or Kiwi? A potato? Do we use our fingers, a cotton cloth or a brush? We all have our own techniques we cherish, and for good reasons.

Every leather is different and needs different techniques. I would say though that there are some universal ‘rules’, but even these might be at jeopardy when we start discussing the different options.

So, let’s start by stating that we have two kinds of basic ingredients we use on the shoes: the cream and the polish. Where the first is to rejuvenate the leather, as after all leather is a living material that needs to be soft and humid, the second is to make the leather shine, to show off the brilliance of colour and texture. The right colour to match the colour of the shoes is important as well. But you can also opt for the neutral white. Some people combine colours to create a more lively presentation of the leather, but you can never do this without the consent of the owner.

Personally I prefer to work with my fingers as much as possible, with or without the use of a cotton cloth. For me the disadvantage of using brushes is that it might leave scratches and secondly that I do not have direct contact with the leather. When talking about brogues though, I must confess I need the brush to get into all the holes.

Also do not forget to take out the laces as it allows you to get into also the inner parts of the shoes.

Only after cleaning shoes from top to bottom, and yes I do use a knife to get out all the grid from the bottom as well, I can start taking care of the leather.

In my opinion there is nothing wrong with putting shoes under the tap when they are really dirty. Leather hiking boots for example get muddy all over after a few days in the field. After all, leather needs 40% humidity anyway. A toothbrush I use to get into the areas between the body of the shoe and the sole. Let the shoe dry and use a cloth to get the remaining dust and dirt from the shoe.

Using round movements I now apply the cream first. With the cloth I push the cream into the leather till it starts shining again. If I do have the time I will leave the shoes for as long as I have the time to do so. A couple of hours is no problem for the shoes. After this I can finish the shoes by using a cotton cloth, making circular movements again, to give the shoes its brilliancy again.

As a second step you can now do the same using polish. Using a cotton cloth I keep on polishing in small circular movements until I get the result I need. I’m not convinced that you always have to take both steps. So, for me when the shoes are well taken care of on a regular basis anyway, I usually interchange the polish and the cream.

Before I put back the laces, I clean the lace-holes by running a match through them, in order to avoid any remains of the cream or polish will get into the laces and as such will make the hands of the order dirty when tying up his shoes.

Finally, the shoes are always stored away with the correct shoe trees in them.

Question now is: what is your method of creating that piece of art of a well taken care of shoe?


Comments on this article - Note: comments will be reviewd by a moderator before publishing!

11:31 PM Lawrence McKenna gmail
Being a former Batman to The Commanding Officer 2nd Light Infantry,i always start with two brushes,a putter onner a taker offer.
So i apply the polish,i only on black shoes use Kiwi Parade,then i buff it before repeating the process two more times per shoe. I then take another tin of the Parade polish and taking a cotton wool ball which i run under a tap,i squeeze the excess water out of the ball and rub some polish onto the ball and apply it to the shoe in circular motion,repeating the process untill a desired finish is achieved.

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