A lot of men don’t pay much attention to their shoes but I am here to tell you that they reveal whether he takes pride in the little things. If he throws on a nice suit and pairs it with cheap, clunky lace-ups, he’s not what you’d call a detail man. And if he leaves his pricey wingtips scuffed and unpolished then these are clear signs his personal life is probably just as messy.
There are numerous styles of shoes out there, but what’s great about being a man is that you can do perfectly well by sticking with just a few. You don’t need to maintain some Carrie Bradshaw–esque obsession about the latest and coolest. If you invest in a handful of sensible (and stylish) pairs and take care of them, you’ll be set for years. You just need to take that first step.
As I was growing up my two male role models, my Father and Grandfather were obsessive about their shoes. My Father would polish his shoes every morning for about ten minutes, his shoes were always placed carefully on a rack in his closet and not just thrown into the corner. My Grandfather was much the same. Open his closet and you could smell the leather and shoe polish. Neither men would throw out a pair of shoes until they were completely warn out. Very often the shoes would be taken to a cobbler and come back refurbished and repaired.
I have carried this knowledge with me into adulthood and here are a few things I would like to share with you about the all important shoe.
1) A man needs only a few pairs of shoes.
I choose to have three pairs of black shoes.One pair is for everyday wear, another for dressing up and going out and the third pair is patent leather to be worn with a tux. I have one pair of brown shoes for casual wear with lightly colored trousers and Aloha shirts.
2) Regularly Polish Your Shoes.
You’ll make them look great and you will help preserve your expensive shoes.
I love the ritual: the careful laying out of newspaper, and the round tin of Kiwi polish with the built-in wing-nut-shaped turn-key opener—a damned near perfect piece of industrial design. After enough applications, the old T-shirt that I use becomes a work of art in its own right, a poor man’s Matisse. And my dad’s horsehair brush (with the Good Housekeeping Seal branded into its hardwood handle) is the very same one he taught me with. First, I brush the shoe well, cleaning it of any dust or dirt. With the rag wrapped tightly around my first two fingers, I apply the polish in small, tight swirls. By the time I’m through applying wax to the second shoe, the first will be dry and ready to brush, and that’s all I do.
3) What you’ll need to care for your shoes
A. One tin of black wax polish and one tin of neutral. The black for your black leather dress shoes (obviously). And the neutral for your brown—because you essentially want to moisturize the leather, not color it.
B. An old T-shirt or towel will do the trick for applying wax. But if you buff your shoes post-brushing, invest in a nice soft chamois.
C. Don’t skimp on the brush—you want a wood handle and horsehair bristles. And for when you’re running out the door and just don’t have time for a full polish, keep an instant-wax sponge in your kit for a quick touch-up.
4) Kill a Tree, Save Your Shoes
Yes, if you want your shoes to last, you need shoe trees. Ones made from cedar. They’ll preserve the shape of your shoes, prevent them from developing deep creases, absorb moisture, and even make them smell better. They’re a no-brainer.