Over the past few years, I’ve slowly gleaned information from people better than I on how to properly polish a pair of shoes. It took me a while to figure out the best methods for myself and it was interesting to see that my technique was very similar to the one above.
I wish I had this a few years ago. Open the link in a new window to view the High Def version. This is, admittedly, nerdy and takes a few hours so make sure you’re really bored if you want to start down this road.
I spent yesterday’s afternoon cleaning and preparing my field boots for use this fall. Rugged boots, such as those designed for hiking, hunting, and outdoor work, need special leather care beyond what you’d use for dress shoes. There are many products on the market for this. I use Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP.
Obenauf’s LP was invented about twenty-five years ago by a firefighter named Marv Obeanauf. He sought to make something that would preserve and protect boots that were subject to heavy wear. The waxy cream he came up with nourishes leathers, restores lost oils, and protects boots from almost every element you can think of - water, heat, snow, salt, some chemicals, mildew, and even manure acid.
To apply this stuff properly, you’ll need to first clean off your boots. You can use saddle soap or Obenauf’s leather cleaner if your pair are particularly dirty. If they’re not, I find that regular Allen Edmonds’ Cleaner & Conditioner works just fine. Remove the laces, apply the cleaner, and hit the shoes with a stiff brush to get out any dirt or water stains. Then stuff your boots with newspaper and let them dry overnight.
The next day, find a way to warm your boots so that the leather’s pores will open up. Some people stick them in the oven or place them near a heater for just a short period of time. I’m uncomfortable recommending that because of the high-risk of someone ruining their shoes, so I suggest just sticking them in a black plastic bag and leaving them in the hot sun for a bit. This should be enough to get the results you want. Once the boots are warmed, dig into the LP paste with your fingers and apply the stuff directly to your boots. The warmth from your hands will help melt the wax and let it be absorbed into the leather. You can get the dressing into the welt (the part that connects the uppers to the sole) by brushing it in with an old toothbrush. Once you’re done, insert some boot trees and let them dry overnight. If you’d like, you can buff them to a light shine the next day with a horsehair brush.
The effects of this stuff are amazing. Just look at the change here on a pair of Clark’s Wallabees. As soon as your boots look like they’re drying out, getting too scuffed, or becoming lighter in color, I recommend going through the process again.
There are other good products on the market besides Obenauf’s. A combination of Saphir’s Dubbin and mink oil lotion, for example, can achieve the same effect. So can Montana Pitch Blend, which differs from Obenauf’s LP in that it contains mink oil and amber pine pitch. I haven’t used any of these, but Leffot tells me that Montana Pitch Blend leaves less of a waxy feel and is less likely to darken leather. I personally like the beeswax coating that Obenauf gives, but it’s a matter of personal preference. Figure out the ratio of nourishing oils and protective wax you find optimal.
Note that all these products should only be really applied to shoes made from softer leathers such as Horween’s Chromexcel and other pull-ups. They shouldn’t be applied to dress shoes; otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting them to properly shine.
i often find myself trying to sort out the best products for different types of leather and usage and giving up in the mess of products and conflicting recommendations. this is very helpful, as per usual from PTO. the link to the video about “pull-up” leather is short and super informative - i just didn’t know that about the tanning process!
i handwash everything i possibly can, including shirts (excluding t-shirts) and wool trousers, as well as summer/cotton blazers. ‘dry cleaners’ aren’t dry at all - they use a boatload of chemicals, and there are no standards for ‘green’ cleaners, so there are no true guarantees you’re getting a better deal for your clothes or the shop workers even if you go that route.
i’ll second basically everything cucinelli says, though i do agitate a bit once they’ve soaked for a while, especially with heavier wool sweaters. and consider getting a mesh sweater drying rack to speed the drying process and protect against any ‘sour’ smells that can come with slow-drying fibers. also, if you (gently) roll your sweater in a towel before laying it to dry you’ll gain about a day in drying time.
as he says, never twist! and as i’d add, never hang! i’ve been using this method for years with great success. i have sweaters that i bought in 1996 that look like new.
Q and Answer: How Should You Protect Your Suede Shoes?
Brett writes to ask: I have a pair of suede plain-toe bluchers coming from Alden. What do you do, if anything, for protection or treatment?
Some people think suede shoes are too delicate and need babying, but in actuality, if you know how to take care of them, they’re easier to maintain than regular calf. You don’t have to condition, polish, or wax them every couple of weeks, after all. Here are some basic maintenance tips:
Apply a waterproofing spray to protect them from stains and water. Brush with a suede brush before and after the spray. I use Allen Edmonds’ spray protectors and brushes.
If you get mud on them, let the mud dry overnight and brush it off with a stiff brush (eg a nail brush). If there is some remainder dirt left, wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth or use the suede eraser.
In most cases, if your shoes get wet, they should be fine. In some cases, however, they can be left with water stains. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in those situations, I recommend you wash your shoes, like this.
If your stains are more serious, such as those from oil or grease, you may be in trouble. Try brushing it off with a stiff brush and applying the suede eraser. If those don’t work, hand wash them. A last ditch attempt could be to just take them to a cobbler for a professional cleaning. If all those fail, you’ll have to either tell yourself the stain is a “patina” or resign your shoes.
If your suede shoes are old, hold them over a pot of boiling water and let the steam hit it. After that, brush them with a suede brush. This should restore the material’s nap and luminescence.
The above should be done in addition to all the other things you should be doing for your shoes: Insert unvarnished cedar shoe trees whenever you’re not wearing your shoes; let them have at least a day of rest in between each wearing; and use shoe horns when you can.
Don’t be afraid to wear them in more inclement weather, either. I personally wouldn’t recommend wearing them at the end of winter, when there is a bunch of half-melted, dirty, slushy snow outside, but almost any other time is fine. I wear mine more or less year round.
In the end, remember: shoes are meant to be worn. There’s a difference between aging well and aging poorly, but your shoes are always going to age. If you invest in quality shoes and do the above, they’ll age well and actually look better than they did when they were brand new.
Autumn has caught us in our summer wear. - Philip Larkin, British poet
Fall officially begins on Friday. Before you know it, the landscape will silently explode with burgundy, golden yellow, and burnt orange. Baseball season will give way to football. Crispy leaves will fall and drift to the ground, then be raked into piles for children to jump into. Temperatures will drop, the air will turn sharper, and we’ll use these as excuses to enjoy our favorite woolen sweaters.
Before this arrives, it may be time to start planning for your seasonal storage of clothes. Storing your summer clothes away will help make room for your fall/ winter wardrobe, and help protect your clothes when they’re not in use for six months. To do this, however, you’ll want to make sure of a few things.
Wash or dry clean your clothes before you store them. This ensures that insects aren’t packed away with your clothes and that any food bits, which can attract insects, will be gone as well. I even give my clean clothes a good shake before they’re actually stored.
Check the pockets to make sure they’re empty. I also zip up the zippers and button the buttons, just to make sure things are in good order.
Get muslin or canvas garment bags for your trousers, jackets, and suits. I’ve found that these work better than plastic since they allow your clothes to breathe while keeping the bugs at bay. It’s also recommended that you use hangers with molded shoulders for your jackets and suits. Many people believe that this helps your garments keep their shape, though I’ve read credible sources cast doubt on this claim. Still, I’m not testing the matter with my clothes, so I play it safe.
For sweaters and shirts, store them in plastic bins with lids. Drill a few holes into the lid so that air can circulate. Failing to do so can create moisture, which in turn can cause mildew. Pack them away with the heaviest items on the bottom, and be sure not to over stuff things, otherwise you’ll ruin the fibers. I also wrap my favorite pieces in acid free tissue paper, but this isn’t terribly necessary.
Put cedar balls or lavender in along with your clothes to deter bugs.
Choose a storage space that is cool and dry. If you don’t, your clothes may develop mold, and if they do, they will have a smell that will be very, very difficult to get out. I’ve had clothes permanently ruined from being stored in damp areas, so be careful. Once you’ve chosen a place, vacuum and clean it out before your store your clothes there.
If you have silverfish in your home, and you’ve put holes in the lids of your storage bins, put those bins off the floor. This will lower the likelihood of having silverfish snack on your garments.
Of course, fall arrives in different areas at different times. I hear it’s already raining in New York, while in the Bay Area (where I’m from), September and October are just when things start to get warm. Pack your things away when it makes the most sense for you.
great advice. a weekend project is doing the full switcharoo, as well as culling stuff i don’t wear/need. it’s going to be good.