Conditioning Leather Jackets
Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.
For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”
Which Leather Conditioner to Buy
Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.
To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.
For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.
Tip for Vintage Shoppers
Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

Conditioning Leather Jackets

Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.

For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”

Which Leather Conditioner to Buy

Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.

To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.

For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.

Tip for Vintage Shoppers

Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

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)

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.

The Single Most Important Shoe Care Tip
I accepted some time ago that few people – including the people I know who are as interested in men’s style as I am – take the time to polish their shoes. Which is a shame because much of the value in good leather shoes is tied into how well you take care of them. The richness and depth of the leather, and the patina that builds over time, are all really brought out with routine polishing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a well-taken pair of mid-quality, full-grain leather shoes will always look better than a neglected pair made by some world-class cordwainer.
If you’re not going to polish your shoes, however, then I encourage you to at least take one step: every once in a while, when your shoes start to look a little dry, apply a coat of leather conditioner. Routine application will do more for the health and appearance of your shoes than anything else. It will help bring out the suppleness and richness in the leather, give the color some depth, and most importantly, prevent your uppers from drying out and cracking.
Many shoe enthusiasts prefer to condition their shoes with Saphir Renovateur. Indeed, it’s pretty nice stuff, but also a bit expensive. You’d be perfectly fine, in my opinion, with many of the cheaper options on the market. I prefer Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner, though Lexol is also pretty good (they have it broken up into separate conditioner and cleaner bottles). I’ve used all three brands, and they all perform well. The real advantage of Saphir, from what I can tell, is that it smells a bit nicer and comes in a prettier container. Not a totally trivial thing, since it’s nice to make the activity as enjoyable as possible, but if you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it. The most important thing is that you put some conditioner on once every month or two, even if you can’t be bothered to polish.  
(Photo via The William Brown Project)

The Single Most Important Shoe Care Tip

I accepted some time ago that few people – including the people I know who are as interested in men’s style as I am – take the time to polish their shoes. Which is a shame because much of the value in good leather shoes is tied into how well you take care of them. The richness and depth of the leather, and the patina that builds over time, are all really brought out with routine polishing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a well-taken pair of mid-quality, full-grain leather shoes will always look better than a neglected pair made by some world-class cordwainer.

If you’re not going to polish your shoes, however, then I encourage you to at least take one step: every once in a while, when your shoes start to look a little dry, apply a coat of leather conditioner. Routine application will do more for the health and appearance of your shoes than anything else. It will help bring out the suppleness and richness in the leather, give the color some depth, and most importantly, prevent your uppers from drying out and cracking.

Many shoe enthusiasts prefer to condition their shoes with Saphir Renovateur. Indeed, it’s pretty nice stuff, but also a bit expensive. You’d be perfectly fine, in my opinion, with many of the cheaper options on the market. I prefer Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner, though Lexol is also pretty good (they have it broken up into separate conditioner and cleaner bottles). I’ve used all three brands, and they all perform well. The real advantage of Saphir, from what I can tell, is that it smells a bit nicer and comes in a prettier container. Not a totally trivial thing, since it’s nice to make the activity as enjoyable as possible, but if you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it. The most important thing is that you put some conditioner on once every month or two, even if you can’t be bothered to polish.  

(Photo via The William Brown Project)

Bulling Shoes

Every once in a while, I like to bull my shoes. Bulling refers to a shoe polishing technique that results in a high, glossy shine. In the States, they call it spit shining.

To bull shoes, start by stripping down the leather with Lexol leather cleaner. This will give you a clean, new surface to work on. Next, go through the regular routines for any polishing technique - apply leather conditioner, buff them out, let them sit for thirty minutes, and then apply cream polish before buffing them out again.

Now, to get the high shine, you need to use a bit of wax and water. I find Saphir Pate de Luxe Wax to be the most effective. Wrap a soft cotton cloth around your fingers, swipe it in the wax, and then dab it in some water (or, if you’re an old-school American, lightly spit on it). Lightly rub this on your shoes using small, circular motions. Keep doing this until you feel the paste starting to get dry, and then add a minimal amount of water again. After a while, you’ll find that a mirror shine will start to appear, and the leather will feel very glassy and smooth. The key here is to only use a minimum amount of polish and water. You don’t want too much of either. Do this to the toe caps, heel cup, and back quarters, but not to any areas where the leather bends. If you do, you’ll get unsightly cracks in the wax. 

The whole process takes a long time. Three to five hours, depending on how well you work and how finely grained the leather is. This isn’t something you want to do if you just want smart looking shoes; you have to enjoy the process. I recommend putting on some music, sitting back, and just enjoying yourself. 

Above are three photos. I shot the top one at night, right after I finished bulling my left shoe and before I started on my right. You can see the effect it has when these two are placed side by side. The other two photos I took in the morning, after I was done polishing both of them. 

Go Easy on the Wax
I recently bought a new pair of Crockett and Jones Belgraves from a seller I found online. I was able to get them at a nice discount, but when they arrived, they had thin white creases in certain parts of the leather. I figured the leather must have been just dry, so I treated it with some conditioner. Even after a few treatments, however, they didn’t go away. In fact, when I worn them around a bit, awful white lines would appear wherever the leather would bend. 
Then it occurred to me - the seller must have caked on a bunch of neutral shoe polish wax. He didn’t know how to properly shine shoes. The result is something like the picture you see above, even though the shoes were new. 
The best way to get rid of heavy wax build-up is to use Lexol leather cleaner. “Mixed” solutions such as Allen Edmonds conditioner and cleaner won’t be enough (though they’re still good for regular maintenance). If the build-up is especially bad, you might even have to run your fingernail over the stitches and around the pinking (the zig zag detailing). That’s what I found myself doing last night for about an hour.
The problem with having so much wax build-up is that it not only creates ugly creases (particularly if you use a neutral wax), but it also prevents the leather from absorbing any conditioner, which means it will eventually dry out. To avoid this, go easy on the wax, and every once in a while, use some Lexol leather cleaner to wipe away any build-up. Remember that a little wax goes a long, long way.
Or, if you prefer, just stick to cream polish. You won’t get as much protection from the elements, or perhaps even as high of a shine, but at least your shoes will never look like the ones above. 

Go Easy on the Wax

I recently bought a new pair of Crockett and Jones Belgraves from a seller I found online. I was able to get them at a nice discount, but when they arrived, they had thin white creases in certain parts of the leather. I figured the leather must have been just dry, so I treated it with some conditioner. Even after a few treatments, however, they didn’t go away. In fact, when I worn them around a bit, awful white lines would appear wherever the leather would bend. 

Then it occurred to me - the seller must have caked on a bunch of neutral shoe polish wax. He didn’t know how to properly shine shoes. The result is something like the picture you see above, even though the shoes were new. 

The best way to get rid of heavy wax build-up is to use Lexol leather cleaner. “Mixed” solutions such as Allen Edmonds conditioner and cleaner won’t be enough (though they’re still good for regular maintenance). If the build-up is especially bad, you might even have to run your fingernail over the stitches and around the pinking (the zig zag detailing). That’s what I found myself doing last night for about an hour.

The problem with having so much wax build-up is that it not only creates ugly creases (particularly if you use a neutral wax), but it also prevents the leather from absorbing any conditioner, which means it will eventually dry out. To avoid this, go easy on the wax, and every once in a while, use some Lexol leather cleaner to wipe away any build-up. Remember that a little wax goes a long, long way.

Or, if you prefer, just stick to cream polish. You won’t get as much protection from the elements, or perhaps even as high of a shine, but at least your shoes will never look like the ones above.