If you want to score a pair of good dress shoes for less than $150, your best bet is to scour eBay for brands such as Allen Edmonds, Loake 1880, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren (we have a guide on how to get through some of the chaff, if you need). The problem is that many of the cheaper pairs will be in less-than-great condition, which is what scares off many people. The good news is that shoe can be easily restored – you just need to have faith when looking at photos online and know how to restore your shoes once you receive them.
Our sponsor The Hanger Project recently put together a full A-to-Z tutorial on proper shoe care. Kirby Allison, the company’s founder, bought a pair of cheap Allen Edmonds off eBay for $50. The shoes came a bit scuffed and beat-up, but he restored them to a beautiful condition. Some highlights:
- Since the heels were a bit worn down, Kirby had them replaced by a local cobbler. Our friend Raul at Willie’s Shoe Service says rubber is a cheaper and more economical way to go, although combination leather-and-rubber heels look nicer. “The rubber we use actually lasts longer than leather,” he says. “But we can also replace any kind of heels, even to the manufacturer’s original specs.” Willie’s Shoe Service charges between $50 and $75 for the job, and they’ll take mail-ins. (I send my shoe repair work there these days).
- Long time readers will know the basics of shoe care – the importance of cleaning and conditioning the leather, as well as how to shine your shoes. One small note: where Kirby uses a cotton rag to apply shoe polish, I like to use daubers. Either is fine, although I find daubers are a bit better at keeping shoe polish off your fingers. You can clean them afterwards in the sink using hot water and a bit of liquid hand soap.
- Kirby then goes through some often neglected steps: how to fill in deep scratches with resin, as well as touch up the edges of the sole. There’s also a bit about how to antique the toe cap and heel counters, which is a nice way to add a bit of depth in the color (so long as you don’t overdo it).
To be sure, the video was made to market Kirby’s shoe care products, which he sells through his shop. That said, the technique is generally applicable using any number of similar shoe care products, and The Hanger Project’s Saphir line is commonly considered the best in the market. You may be able to find alternatives for cheaper, but sometimes they’re not as good (although none I’ve tried have outright done harm).
Some other worthwhile videos: The Hanger Project has some useful tutorials on how to take care of suede shoes. They also recently made a video on how to bar lace, which is really the only lacing system you should use for oxfords. Derbies and more casual styles can have various criss-crossing lace systems, but bar lacing has a clean look that matches the dressiness of oxfords.
Note: The Hanger Project is a sponsor on this site, but this isn’t a sponsored post. We don’t do that stuff.