Wardrobe Care Tip: Maintaining Your Shoes

Law of Style #13 from the book The Laws of Style: Sartorial Excellence for the Professional Gentleman by Douglas A. Hand

Given the upfront investment you will make to purchase these vessels for your feet, there is a Law here worth heeding:

Law #13
“The Professional Gentleman shall properly maintain his shoes.”

When you first purchase a pair of shoes, you typically will want to go to a cobbler and have the tips and covered. This is not essential, but it will allow your shoes to last longer and show anyone who is looking that you are a man to whom the details matter. Also, you should have new shoes polished as this will properly seal the leather, which might not come out of the box this way. Unsealed shoes will get damaged to the point of ruin in rain or snow if unsealed, so it is wise to do this.

Shoe trees allow your recently worn shoes the contract and dry out to their correct architecture. You should purchase unvarnished cedar shoe trees as they properly draw moisture (rain or sweat or the tears of your defeated opponents) out of the leather. You do not need to own a pair of trees for each pair of shoes. The proper time for using trees is pretty much right after you have removed the shoes from your feet. After a couple of hours, the shoes will have returned to their natural shape and the trees can be taken out.

A word on soaking-wet shoes: dry them away from direct heat. Direct heat can dry the leather way too fast, resulting in the leather cracking. This wrecks your shoes. Like, bankruptcy Chapter 7 ruins them (there is no Chapter 11 restructuring process for cracked leather). Stuff drenched shoes with newspaper and let them dry away from direct hit. Then insert shoe trees for a couple of hours.

Do not hesitate to take your shoes in for repairs when they show signs of wear. Heels, like M&A associates, are typically the first to be ground down, but they can be replaced. Any loosening of stitching should be addressed upon him first notice. Scuffs and abrasions are usually solved with a longer than usual polish, or if on the inside of the shoes, by replacing the insoles or other affected areas. Also please remember to give your shoes a regular shine. The regular professional application of shoe polish not only makes the shoes look more attractive and cleaner, it also helps to keep the leather supple, moist, and flexible. This is essential to the longevity of the shoe.

Laces should be replaced every three years and more often if you were one of those dandies who likes to change up colored laces on occasion. I’m not in favor of this practice, as it evinces a touch deliberation and fussiness. But if you fall within the Laws, and coloraded laces is your thing, God bless. It is just a lot of work on the regular basis to properly swap out laces. And matching your laces with, say, your tie looks very calculated, in potential violation of the Law of Insouciance.

A well-made pair of shoes should last your lifetime. Ita vero. If you repair them regularly, they will serve. This reality will also help you to make the proper investment in your shoes. Given that they can last forever, why not keep truly beautiful examples healthy and on your feet rather than invariably spending more overtime to replace one pair of mediocre shoes with another pair of mediocre shoes? Run the numbers on this. It’s not like calculating the value of a municipal bond portfolio or a complex DCF analysis. It’s simple math. Good shoes are worth the upfront investment.