Giving Shoes A New Life

Parisian leather care expert Talon Rogue show what a little TLC and elbow grease can do for beat-up, uncared for shoes. Their blog shows hundreds of restorations like these. Shoes coming in looking like garbage, then leaving the shop looking brand new. Imagine how much better these photos would be if Mr. Pierre-Paul-Marie Hofflin didn’t use a camera phone. 

What I like about these photos is that they demonstrate how well-made things can be made to look new again if you know where to send them. Obviously, in Paris, there’s Talon Rogue, but for our readers in the United States, you can try B. Nelson or Cobblestone. You can also search the Shoe Service Institute of America for someone local, or try contacting the original manufacturer. Depending on the maker, they may have the capacity to do a full restoration service, beyond just a standard resoling. 

To prevent your shoes from ever looking this bad, make sure you give them the proper care. Jesse goes through how in our first season’s episode on shoes. If you’re too busy (or too lazy) to do things like polish your shoes, I strongly recommend you at least do the bare minimum: Rotate your shoes (that is, wear each pair no more than every other day). Insert cedar shoe trees when your shoes are not in use. Always use a shoe horn when inserting your foot, so that you don’t damage the heel counter. And apply leather lotion every couple of weeks (or just whenever your shoes look dry). Your shoes might not gleam like they would if they had a little polish, but at least they won’t ever look as bad as the neglected pairs you see above. 

A Tale of Two Shoes

StyleForum has a great thread titled "A Tale of Two Shoes." In it, a member named Demeter shows a pair of Bruno Maglis that he picked up at a thrift store. The things look like garbage. The outsole is peeling away from the shoe, there are salt stains on the leather, and the uppers look like they haven’t been cared for even once in their entire life. 

Demeter brought these to a local cobbler to have them repaired, and the results are nothing short of magnificent. Through a series of steps that Demeter documents in the thread, the cobbler turned the pair you see in the top picture to the pair you see on the bottom. It’s as though he made them brand new again. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you can use the same trick to score a pair of decent, workhorse shoes. Pairs as beat up as those Maglis can be had for as little as $5 at your local Goodwill store or thrift shop. Depending on who you go to for the repair, and what kind of work needs to be done, the recrafting service should run you anywhere between $90 and $150. The key is to just make sure the uppers, liners, and insole are still intact when you buy your shoes. They don’t have to be beautiful (as Demeter has demonstrated); they just have to be intact. The shoes should of course also be Goodyear welted or Blake stitched

If you happen to pick up a pair of Allen Edmonds of Aldens, the original manufacturer can recraft the shoes for you, as well as reshape the uppers on the original last. You can also take your shoes to B. Nelson or Cobblestone, two of the most frequently recommended shoe repair shops on sites such as Ask Andy and StyleForum. If you’d like to use someone local, try looking up your city on the Shoe Service Institute of America’s website. Finding someone shouldn’t be difficult, though you may get more expert service from some of the previously mentioned operations. 

To read more about recrafting shoes, check out this thread at Ask Andy