If you have spent time reading articles on KadeleProducts, it should come as no surprise that we advocate for buying high quality items, made by those with a passion for what they do. In short: buy better quality items. Acquiring items of quality is only half the battle, however. After all, one of the arguments for owning quality items is being able to enjoy them for a long time to come. It also may give you the opportunity to pass them on to a future generation of gentleman, for their enjoyment as well. It’s from that perspective, that this series of articles is based. Over the coming weeks and months, we will look at how to care for, and prolong the life of the items in your wardrobe. We start with footwear, and specifically calfskin leather shoes. In a future article, we will share tips for caring for other types of leather footwear, including shell cordovan and suede.
Part 1: Calfskin Shoes
Here at Kadeleproducts.com, we believe in and endorse the positive effect that the addition of high-quality shoes will have on you and your wardrobe. We are talking about a shoe that is (1) designed and constructed/lasted with the human foot in mind, (2) made with high-quality full grain leather, and (3) constructed in a traditional method (hand welted, Goodyear welted, Blake stitched, etc.) that allows for future re-soling/re-construction of the shoes.
If you’ve made the jump to a pair of high quality footwear, first of all, enjoy wearing them! Please don’t leave them in the closet to look at, afraid of what might happen if you wear them outside the house… High quality shoes are tough, and are made to last with some simple care.
The best and most simple advice I can share when it comes to caring for your footwear, is to use shoe trees. Shoe trees come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I recommend having a pair of shoe trees that is made from wood (most commonly cedar or beech), and properly sized for your shoes. Often, high quality shoe makers will sell lasted shoe trees, which are made to fit snugly inside shoes made on one of their specific lasts. There are also plenty of generic options that work just fine.
Buy a pair of shoe trees, and insert them in your shoes as soon as you take them off your feet. The trees will help keep the leather uppers stretched (helping the leather resist developing deep creases), and absorb moisture and odor from the insides of the shoes, preserving the life of the leather.
Once you insert shoe trees, I recommend giving your calfskin shoes a thorough brushing with a horse-hair shoe brush. Brushing the uppers will remove dirt and grime that accumulates over the course of the day, and will buff out surface scuffs. Shoe brushes are also used in the polishing process, which is described below. Simply put, these are the workhorses in your shoe conditioning/cleaning/shining regimen. In addition, some companies make small, stiff-bristled brushes meant for brushing the welt. If you don’t want to purchase a specialty brush, a toothbrush with stiff bristles will do the trick.
If you are taking care of your high quality footwear, you are going to want to maintain that beautiful shine on the leather upper. One way to prolong that shine in between wearings, is to store your shoes within shoe bags. Shoe bags, made from a soft fabric that won’t scratch the shoes uppers, can be found sold by most high quality shoe makers. They are often provided by the shoe maker when a pair of high quality shoes is purchased.
Using a shoe horn to put your shoes on each day will help prolong the life of your shoes. Specifically, it will keep your heel counter from being crushed as you press your heel down while putting the shoe on your foot. Keep in mind there are many options, and plastic shoe horns can be acquired for cheap, if you do not like the idea of using natural horn. A nice shoe horn is a splurge, but is an item that a gentleman can look forward to passing on to someone else, later in life.
Fight the Elements
Caring for your high-quality shoes has to include consideration for the outside conditions (weather, setting you will be walking in, etc.). Having sole protectors (Topy and Vibram are two brands to consider) installed by a cobbler on your leather soled shoes is one option to prolong the life of your outsoles. Sole protectors will not only provide protection for your leather soles from water and salt, but also provides improved traction on slick surfaces. Sole protectors can be easily replaced when they are worn through, and can help extend the time between re-soling.
Having a pair of rubber overshoes or galoshes will also come in handy if you face the potential to be caught out in the rain. Two sharp looking options for overshoes are made by Swims and Covy. If you do happen to get caught in the rain or snow, remember to let your shoes dry out naturally. Do not place them next to a heater, air conditioner, etc. The air will dry the leather out and cause damage that is difficult to repair. You can also ball up newspaper, paper towels, etc., and place them within the shoes to help absorb the excess moisture.