Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

What skills to learn, what tools to get
Post Reply
ertyu
Posts: 1510
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by ertyu »

I have acquired 3 pairs of cheap but (seemingly at east) good quality autumn and winter boots from my local second hand store. I would like to take good care of them but most youtube videos or how-tos on the topic are essentially product placement ads for at least 14 different kinds of sprays, leather conditioners, and creams. What are the actually necessary shoe care products? When I was young, even at the height of poverty, we would own a tin of bog-standard shoe polish in black and brown, and a shoe polish brush. Is this sufficient or is there a better ERE consistent way to care for one's shoes? I hear the true old wives' method is rubbing pork grease into the leather, though that's not sumething I own now. Butter? Coconut oil? Or just stick to shoe polish and forget about it

Interesting addition: most "normal" american friends of mine on another forum whom i also asked have universally never owned and used shoe polish. It seemed very strange to them that i wanted to polish my shoes, and that i would buy second hand leather versus new pleather. Amazing. The difference between europe and the us around this is real. As I said above, even growing up in poverty it was understood that you do not buy pleather and you polish your shoes regularly. Even now, I prefer to buy good second hand leather to crap new, and this is not ERE's influence, this is simply how I think. Interesting.
Last edited by ertyu on Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

Kriegsspiel
Posts: 924
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:05 pm

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Kriegsspiel »

I have a pair of leather Sperry boat shoes that are 12 years old that I wear quite a bit. I rub them down with mink oil a few times a year and they haven't fallen apart yet. With dress shoes/boots I just used polish and I still have some pretty old ones that are in excellent condition.

shemp
Posts: 137
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:17 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by shemp »

Leather is just dead skin, so treat it the same as you would your live skin. Don't let it dry out, or it will crack. Don't let it get too wet/oily/greasy or it will become soft and tear (as with blisters on your feet). Beeswax is the perfect treatment for most smooth leather, including most leather footwear, since beeswax provides just enough lubrication to stop cracking, but not so much as to make leather soft.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Hristo Botev »

I can't tell you the science behind it, but I bought a pair of cap-toe Aldens when I started my legal career over 10 years ago, and I've worn them 4-5x/week for work ever since, and sometimes for Mass on Sunday, and they are still going strong. I polish them about 6-8x/year, and I use leather conditioner about 4-6x/year. Other than polish, I think using cedar shoe inserts help with moisture; and on days I get stuck in the rain I'll stuff them with newspaper to dry them out. Lately I've stopped wearing them for my commute to/from work, so that I don't have to replace the soles so frequently, as that can get expensive. Instead I just keep the shoes at work and then wear tennis shoes to/from work. That's grandpa-level not-giving-a-f*#@, especially given how many acquaintances I see on my walks into work, but I hate going to the cobbler. Perhaps shoe repair will be next on my list of DIY skills to learn.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Tue Oct 13, 2020 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Sclass »

The secret of Alden’s is their materials. I have a pair and they’re made of the best shell cordovan I’ve ever seen. Amazing material. Just gets better with age. Mine are twenty years old but I rotate between ten other pairs of oxfords. Supposedly Alden’s come from Horween leather just like Allen Edmonds but they must be a better grade. My AE cordovans are not the same level as the Aldens. I use AE cordovan care cream on them. It has carnauba wax and lanolin I believe.

I have a great pair of Redwing work boots that are twenty five years old now. I’ve had them resoled once but the uppers are original. For those I use the same bottle of “boot oil” sold to me with the shoes. Mostly Neats oil. Works well. They’re ugly but still functional.

I got a tip off a friend while in college to buy quality shoe polish. It makes a big difference. I used to use kiwi and other cheap brands. She introduced me to these less waxy gels and I gravitate over the years to Allen Edmonds products because they look the same and they’re easy to get.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Hristo Botev »

ertyu wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 5:48 am
Interesting addition: most "normal" american friends of mine on another forum whom i also asked have universally never owned and used shoe polish. It seemed very strange to them that i wanted to polish my shoes, and that i would buy second hand leather versus new pleather. Amazing. The difference between europe and the us around this is real. As I said above, even growing up in poverty it was understood that you do not buy pleather and you polish your shoes regularly. Even now, I prefer to buy good second hand leather to crap new, and this is not ERE's influence, this is simply how I think. Interesting.
That is interesting; I'd bet that if I asked my two primary groups of friends (my salarymen neighbors vs. my more blue collar church friends), I'd get a similar response--most if not all of the salarymen don't own polish or shoe oil, whereas I'd bet ALL of my church friends not only own polish and/or oils, but they'd engage you in an hours-long back-and-forth about the merits of using this product or process for shoe care over another. I've overheard a number of arguments already as to who has the "best" work boots, and the winner is universally agreed to be the oldest boots with the most mileage that are still going strong.

It's interesting that, viewed through a certain consumerism lens, there is a pride of ownership I find with my blue collar/renaissance friends that just isn't there with my salarymen friends, even though at a more basic level the salarymen are much more likely to look to consumption first to solve a problem. This pride of ownership among the church/blue collar friends extends to everything from tools, to boots and other apparel items, to pocketknives, to cast iron skillets, to vehicles, to firearms, and so on. And the pride comes from how long they've owned the product and how many problems it solves, with extra props if the product was inherited from a grandparent.

ETA: I think a big part of my church/blue collar friends' reluctance to buy stuff impulsively (unlike the salarymen friends, who often have mountains of Amazon crap piled outside their front doors when they get home) is because (a) they know they'll have to spend a lot of time researching WHAT to buy, which will involve some online research but will also involve a lot of just asking people who they respect and they know have some experience, AND (b) they know they'll have to store and maintain whatever they buy. Hence the pride of ownership--they've put a lot of time into choosing which work boots to buy, and they've put a lot of time into taking care of those boots.

That's one knock against buying second hand (or new and on sale). Yes there are bargains out there; and yes those bargains are likely for high quality stuff that you are helping to keep out of the landfill. BUT, although I have some second hand stuff I like and wear quite a bit (including my own pair of Billy Reid autumn/winter leather boots!), that stuff never seems to be exactly what I'm looking for. E.g., the boots are about a half size too big, but I don't mind too much because they are otherwise perfect. And I've got a wool herringbone winter blazer that's wonderful, but if I was buying it new I'd probably have gone with more of a grey as opposed to a brown weave. IF you are going to buy just one pair of something, and then take care of it and wear it for the rest of your life, I think it makes sense to spend the extra money to get EXACTLY what you need/want.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

ertyu
Posts: 1510
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by ertyu »

The time one puts into care also contributes to the pride of ownership, in addition to all other factors you mentioned. In addition to valuing items that I have been quality second hand finds (time put into sourcing), I find myself attached to, and less likely to throw away, items that I have either made myself or performed repairs on. Ditto maintenance.

A bit off-topic to the thread, but this is an idea I find missing in most "minimalism": stressing the value of maintenance, repair, and taking care of your items is essential to being satisfied with one instead of drowning under 10.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Hristo Botev »

@ertyu: I think that's one thing that is so appealing about STF jeans, which applies to leather goods as well. You've got to break in the jeans, to make them your own. Just like you have to break in leather. There's just something a bit more permanent about a thing when you had to do some work (or put up with a minimum level of pain or discomfort) to get the thing ready to wear. (Perhaps add that as another knock against second hand goods, at least for things like STF jeans, leather shoes, and tailored jackets--they're never going to fit you the way they fit the original owner; this doesn't hold true for things like sweaters, which I exclusively buy second hand).

User avatar
fiby41
Posts: 1362
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:09 am
Location: India
Contact:

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by fiby41 »

I use banana peel for polish.

Newspaper inside out and back inside the box and bag they came in for storage.

aptruncata
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:14 pm

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by aptruncata »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 8:31 am
That is interesting; I'd bet that if I asked my two primary groups of friends (my salarymen neighbors vs. my more blue collar church friends), I'd get a similar response--most if not all of the salarymen don't own polish or shoe oil, whereas I'd bet ALL of my church friends not only own polish and/or oils, but they'd engage you in an hours-long back-and-forth......
Enjoyed your detailed analysis btw the two groups that is often accepted as a norm yet difficult to put in words. If i may, perhaps its the difference between cost sensitive salarymen vs the value seeking church friends where the first group will penny pinch to reduce cost per need over the second group who feel they're collecting dividends overtime with a superior product.

Btw... have about 6 pairs of leather boots plus shoes and mink oil seems to get it done.

User avatar
Ego
Posts: 4992
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:42 am

Re: Best way to care for leather shoes and boots?

Post by Ego »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 8:31 am
It's interesting that, viewed through a certain consumerism lens, there is a pride of ownership I find with my blue collar/renaissance friends that just isn't there with my salarymen friends, even though at a more basic level the salarymen are much more likely to look to consumption first to solve a problem. This pride of ownership among the church/blue collar friends extends to everything from tools, to boots and other apparel items, to pocketknives, to cast iron skillets, to vehicles, to firearms, and so on. And the pride comes from how long they've owned the product and how many problems it solves, with extra props if the product was inherited from a grandparent.
This is a good point. It is one I have been pondering lately as I now spending a lot of time with a few friends who are like your church/blue collar friends.

They all have pocket knives that have been inherited from parents or grandparents. Those knives are great at solving the same problems they solved for their original owners. But the world has changed and there are now a wider variety of problems that need specialty solutions that they are unable to solve with the knife.

Last week I used my Leatherman's with a torx tip to help a friend tighten up the screws on a computer he reluctantly bought as he doesn't like computers in general and uses a flip phone (no texting!). He helped me with an old lock a few weeks before. He was absolutely gobsmacked when I pointed the camera of my phone at his pocket knife, pressed the google lens button and had a hundred different photos of it appear with information on where, when and how it was made.

I've been pondering the chicken/egg aspect of this. If I carry grandpa's knife out of a certain pride of ownership and I refuse to adopt the newfangled out of respect for grandpa, I am limiting my ability to solve modern problems. But! Grampa cultivated relationships with others who could solve problems for him and he for them, like my friend and I.

I can't stand the Amazon churn but I also don't want to become helpless like my anti-computer friend.

My imperfect solution is second-hand. Do both?

Post Reply