so fresh and so clean

It has been said more than once that I am often incapable of the most basic tasks of self-care (see: my ineptitude at cleaning up broken glass from my floor, leading to the frequent discovery of glass shards in my feet for weeks after the glass was originally broken), and that I lack the girl-skills that others take for granted (I am, at age 29, learning to blowdry my hair for the first time in my life).

However, I do have a few very useful competencies that help me look vaguely put-together despite the odds against me. Among these: shoe care. As I have a large and moderately impressive collection of footwear (it has filled out considerably in the year and a half since that photos was taken, of course), I take the care of these shoes quite seriously. Doesn't matter that relatively few of these shoes are actually expensive/fancy: they all get treated well.

If you're wearing any of your shoes sans socks, put in absorbent, odor-minimizing insoles. They'll cut down on the ick factor of wearing ballet flats, and also are lovely for people like me who very, very rarely wear hosiery with our heels. If you've got a bit of wiggle room in the toe box, I also recommend putting in ball-of-foot cushions for any of your more vertiginous heels. This won't do if the shoes are a touch tight already, but if you can squeeze them in, oh man that extra cushioning is fantastic. If you do this for heels, put in the cushion first, then put the absorbent insole over that.

Now that your shoes are comfortable and nonstinky, it's time to keep them looking pretty.

A cobbler is your best friend. It's worth the trial and error to find a good one (ask me about the horrible and negligent cobbler in Minneapolis who nearly drove me to murder, and also about the best cobbler in Minneapolis who I nearly kissed with gratitude on several occasions): Yelp it, get recommendations, etc. Take in your heels to be re-tipped when they wear down (we over at Vicious Trollops will explode with rage otherwise), have the soles repaired before they wear through, get taps put on the toes of your boots, and have your suede waterproofed. Things like this will mean that the life of your shoes is nearly endless. The perfect black leather boots I bought in 2002 have been endlessly re-heeled, re-soled, and re-tapped, and can pass for nearly new due to all the maintenance.
(FYI, I go to Clybourn Cobbler in Chicago.)*

You can have a cobbler clean and shine your shoes for you, too, but I do it at home to 1) save money and 2) give myself a feeling of domestic accomplishment.

Suede is its own animal: you want to clean suede at home by brushing it. Put This On swears you can clean them with water, but I am wary. I haven't had any trouble cleaning suede by brushing it. Step one: buy a suede shoe-care brush. Step two: brush the suede gently until the shoe looks nice. Fin.

Cleaning leather shoes is fun. For me, anyway. You can use saddle soap or a bottle of leather-cleaning lotion, which you can get at the cobbler or at Target (it's generally by the shoelaces): put a smallish dab onto a soft cloth and go to town. For anything but the worst salt stains on leather, a few dollops of leather-cleaning lotion or saddle soap will do the job for tall boots; heels generally only need one blob of cleaning product. Use old t-shirts, dishrags, and socks for this: anything soft and somewhat absorbent.

Don't stop there! After your leather shoes are cleaned, you want to polish them. Use a cream polish with mink oil in it. Wax polish is very very shiny, but it can dry out the leather, and eventually that will make the shoe look like crap, undoing all the good care you tried to give them.

Now, polish! I use Kiwi polish, basically because you can find it everywhere, and it comes in a helpfully diverse array of colors. I'm sure there's better, more luxe polish out there to be had, of course, but meh.

Dab on the shoe polish (match the polish color to the shoe! Yes, very bad things will happen if you don't do this.) with a clean soft cloth onto the shoe and work it across the shoe in a thin, thin layer. Leave it sit for a moment until it gets sort of cloudy and filmy and you're thinking, if you haven't polished shoes before, "oh my god I think I ruined my shoes, that is the very opposite of shiny". Don't fret. Get another clean soft cloth and start shimmying it across the film. Back-and-forth, circular motion: whatever. Just buff them until they look velvety or shiny, and you're done!

If you want a super-duper-shiny finish, though, you're not done. After the first polish, apply another film of polish on the shoe, start buffing, and then put a few drips of water onto the shoe as you're polishing. You think "oh man this is going to be bad, you're supposed to avoid getting water onto leather", but it will be ok. Think drops of water, not splashes. Keep buffing and shining, and your shoes will get ever so much shinier. You can repeat this several times if you want a mirror-like finish, but I think once or maybe twice is totally sufficient.

I just wrote nearly 1,000 words on shoe care. You're welcome.

*other cobblers I will recommend heartily:
the basement cobbler in the Macy's downtown, Minneapolis- I frown at calling this stand "Macy's Cobbler", since he's been there since the days of Dayton's, but regardless of name, he's excellent


chels said...

This is why we're friends.

Also, this advice also works on purses.

Caroline said...

Thumbs up for some good advice! While nothing beats personal experience, relying on another person's can work just as well ^_^