How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?
One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking.  
It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).
The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns
There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.
In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.
After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.
The Emergence of a More Competitive Market
The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.
The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.
(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?

One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking. 

It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).

The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns

There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.

In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.

After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.

The Emergence of a More Competitive Market

The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.

The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.

(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

Improvements at John Doe

John Doe recently loaned me a pair of their latest oxfords so I could check out the improvements they made since my last review. The shoes arrived last month, and they’re indeed much better. The new leathers are sourced from a different tannery, and feel much more supple and natural than their previous materials. The linings are also better attached, so there’s no more bubbling from an uneven application of glue. Additionally, the stitching is straighter, and without the punched brogue decorations, there are fewer places for something to go wrong. All in all, it seems they’ve upgraded their materials, tightened up their quality control, and are better at working with their factories.

I think readers will find there’s still a significant jump in quality as you go from these to brands such as Allen EdmondsLoake, and Meermin, but those will range anywhere from $200 to $350 at full retail. There are, of course, things such as Allen Edmonds’ factory seconds and the companies that Loake privately produces for (such as Charles Tyrwhitt), and those will sometimes go on sale, but none will match the very competitive price of John Doe at ~$150. For people with a hard budget of ~$150 or less, there are really only a few options.

The first, of course, is to go second hand, which you can get through thrift stores (using Jesse’s very useful thrifting guide) or our eBay roundups. I really like Ralph Lauren and Jesse likes Florsheim, but Allen Edmonds, Loake, and Brooks Brothers are also good names to search for. Just be discerning, as not all shoes from these companies are worth buying.

If you’re not comfortable with buying used shoes, then there’s suede, where you can “by-pass” the manufacturer’s need to cut back on quality materials. In comparison to “regular” leathers, the difference between low- and high-quality suede will be much smaller. Whereas corrected grain leathers can develop unsightly “cracks” over time, low-quality suede can stay pretty consistent if you know how to take care of it.

Outside of that, there are a number of shoe companies who sell products very similar to John Doe. The difference? John Doe uses a Goodyear welting method to attach their soles, instead of gluing them on like other manufacturers. This allows you to more easily resole your shoes over and over again, which can extend the life of your shoes considerably (assuming you take care of the uppers). That translates to better value for your money and less junk in landfills. I think everyone can applaud that.

In a strange bit of news, Men’s Wearhouse is apparently putting in a bid for the purchase of dress-shoe retailer Allen Edmonds. At the same time, they’re also preparing themselves against a possible hostile takeover from Jos. A. Bank. The purchase of Allen Edmonds is rumored to be in the low hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s unclear whether this will affect Jos. A. Bank’s bid for Men’s Wearhouse.

Full story at the New York Times

It’s On Sale: Allen Edmonds’ Amok
I’m told that Allen Edmonds is discontinuing their Amok boot, which is a shame because I think it’s a nice, affordable alternative to Alden’s suede unlined chukka. Like Alden’s, the Amok is unlined, so the suede uppers are very soft and wear like slippers. The single leather soles are also oil-soaked and very flexible. The only real difference between the two is that Allen Edmonds’ is slightly sleeker in shape, whereas Alden’s look a bit more casual. Which one you prefer is all up to taste.
On the upside, they’re on pretty heavy discount right now. They’ve gone from $250 to a clearance price of $147, and with an extra 25% taken off at checkout, that puts them at ~$110 before taxes. You can get them in chocolate, tan, and snuff suede. They also have their Malvern chukkas on sale, but at a more expensive $185 price tag (again, the additional discount will be given at checkout). 
Promotion ends Tuesday.
Update: Looks like the shoes all sold out! Congrats to folks who got in on a great deal.  

It’s On Sale: Allen Edmonds’ Amok

I’m told that Allen Edmonds is discontinuing their Amok boot, which is a shame because I think it’s a nice, affordable alternative to Alden’s suede unlined chukka. Like Alden’s, the Amok is unlined, so the suede uppers are very soft and wear like slippers. The single leather soles are also oil-soaked and very flexible. The only real difference between the two is that Allen Edmonds’ is slightly sleeker in shape, whereas Alden’s look a bit more casual. Which one you prefer is all up to taste.

On the upside, they’re on pretty heavy discount right now. They’ve gone from $250 to a clearance price of $147, and with an extra 25% taken off at checkout, that puts them at ~$110 before taxes. You can get them in chocolate, tan, and snuff suede. They also have their Malvern chukkas on sale, but at a more expensive $185 price tag (again, the additional discount will be given at checkout). 

Promotion ends Tuesday.

Update: Looks like the shoes all sold out! Congrats to folks who got in on a great deal.  

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes
I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.
Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 
There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.
1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.
2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.
3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.
4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 
5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.
(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes

I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.

Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 

There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.

1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.

2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.

3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.

4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 

5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.

(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

It’s On Sale: Allen Edmonds Factory Seconds

I know we blog about Allen Edmond’s factory second sales often, but that’s because they offer good deals. Factory seconds, as many readers know, are shoes that didn’t pass the quality control test, so they’ve been discounted from their regular retail price. The damage is usually incredibly minor (if detectable at all), and when there’s a sale on them, the compounded discounts make for a pretty attractive buy.

At the moment, Allen Edmonds is having a 15-50% sale on all factory second shoes and belts. That puts their Park Avenue oxfords and Strands wingtips between $199 and $228, depending on the color. The Clifton in walnut is available for $179, Dalton boot in walnut for $199, and shell cordovans start at $318. 

There are other deals, of course, but you’ll have to call one of their outlet stores to enquire. We usually refer people to their Brookfield, Wisconsin location, which you can reach by calling (262) 785-6666. You can also track down other outlets by using Allen Edmonds’ store locator

When calling, ask to have them email you a list of what shoes are available in your size, and then look up those models on their website. Try to stick to their stuff made in the US though. They have shoes produced in the Dominican Republic, which are cheaper, but not nearly as good. 

This sale ends September 2nd. 

"First off, the women all had incomes between $50,000-$200,000, and while there were only about 500 of them, Allen Edmonds reports that the survey was completed in half the time alotted to it, suggesting that men’s shoe choices may be a pet peeve for many women, and that they were eager to chime in.

Among the finidings:

  • 65 percent of women admit to insisting their man change shoes before going out
  • 59 percent have bought shoes for their man
  • 12 percent have thrown his shoes out”

(Source: Ivy Style)

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)
Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 
1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 
Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer. 
2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 
3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.
4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 
5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 
6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth. 
7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 
8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 
9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)

Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 

1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 

Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer

2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 

3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.

4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 

5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 

6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth

7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 

8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 

9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)
Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?
It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.
1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream. 
For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan. 
2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue. 
I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish. 
Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes. 
3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds. 
4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50
5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore. 
And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.
Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)

Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?

It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.

1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream.

For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan.

2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue.

I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish.

Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes.

3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds

4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50

5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore.

And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.

Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.