“I don’t know when you write about evils of consumerism and when you write about which shoes to buy”, I get teased by my family. Sadly, its true. I am interested in fashion and see lots of aspects that have more to do with the craft than shopping. I think I am failing putting it in words and blog posts. End of the day, this blog is more a collection of my field notes than advice to internet strangers on what to do. Will keep doing what I am doing and hope for the best.
I made a few posts on oxfords and flats. They are my staple shoes. I don’t know anything about heels or sandals. I have a pair each stowed away for emergencies. That concludes my notes about shoes. Next aspect I have been researching is quality and maintenance. As of today, I take all my purchases to my cobbler to get him to comment on the quality and durability. I have returned shoes when he didn’t approve. Maybe someday I will make a post when I figure out how to assess it myself. But for now, I do know a thing or two about shoe maintenance. I don’t have a lifestyle where i step out of a car and go into an indoor space. I walk/bike to everyplace I need to go. And my shoes have been holding up due to this wisdom. So here we go :
ANATOMY OF A SHOE :
Pick the right shoe: I am not adept at this but my cobbler gave me a quick check-list that i produce here:
Pick high quality leather upper and insoles. Sole can be leather or rubber. Look for demarcations in leather. They could dry up and ruin the shoe faster. Look at the thickness of the leather. See how it varies near the shoe cap and near the heel. Look for the stitches that attach the upper to the sole. If it’s cemented or glued in, the shoe can not be re-soled.
FIRST THINGS FIRST :
After buying a pair of high quality shoes, make sure you have a shoe tree for it. Keep its dust bag. They are meant to protect the leather from weather conditions like humidity or direct sunlight that age the leather faster. And then, head to your cobbler. He can put a protective rubber sole for leather soles and spray the shoes with water/stain protection. I was told going to the cobbler for the protective sole is optimum after a little wear.
BREAK-IN PERIOD :
Wear them around in the house for a week. If they are too tight, wear them with socks. If a little loose, gel inserts or cushion pads can be put in to give it more stability.
Give your shoes some rest. Do not wear the same shoe everyday. Let the sweat dry out. And the shoe breathe. Put a shoe tree to absorb moisture and help the shoe retain shape. Clean and shine your shoes every day. Use a DIY solution like lemon+water or vinegar+water to remove small stains.
Minimalism is great. But having the right shoe for the activity works out well in the long run. I reduced the lifespan of my oxfords in half by hiking the Alps in them. My flats have aged really fast because of one evening walk that ended up with us going off the road and into the woods. I am sure similar rules apply to sandals and heels. I can see them giving up faster since they are look structurally more susceptible to wear and tear, when compared to laceup shoes.
Application of weather protectants is not a one time thing but needs consistant application. Once every two weeks maybe ? And it is recommended to spray water repellant before wearing leather out in the rain or snow. If shoes are visibly dirty, it’s a good idea to clean them before spraying. Galoshes are an option if you live in places like Seattle where it rains all the time. Dry your shoes properly if they get wet. But do not put them in contact with direct heat sources as it may dry out the leather and crack it. I dont have first hand experience with these problems since it never rains or snows in Arizona ( 10 year drought and counting ).
In my book, suede shoes should be taken off the market. I give up on trying to keep them clean. I was told to use rubber to erase stains. It’s not easy at all. Buy special products ( brush + cleaner ) designed for suede == too many products I need to own. I have one pair and why buy additional stuff for that one pair ? Runs to the cobbler every time they get dirty is too much work. I wish someone told me this before i bought my loafers.
PACKING FOR TRAVEL :
Use the dustbags. Stuff the inside of the shoes so that they don’t loose shape when the luggage is rough handled. Place the shoes between your clothes. Unpack as soon as you get to the destination.
LEAVE IT TO THE PROS :
Internet has lots of advice on how to do everything. I sat with my hairdryer and my husbands snug shoes to stretch them out myself. Apparently, its a good way to dry out the leather while stretching the shoe. I saw slow stretch equipment in a cobbler shop that does not damage the shoe like i can at home. Smaller stains can be cleaned at home. But mud, water and oil stains are harder to cure at home. Treating suede, is much better left to the experts.
REPAIR VS TOSS :
Yohji would say wear your worn in shoes till they are really really unusable. I agree ! Worn in shoes look beautiful. They have lots of stories to tell. Soles can be repaired and resoled. But if the upper leather gives out, it gets hard to repair. It it’s taken a beating or is seriously weathered, there is still hope if attended to, quickly. But if the leather is cracked, it’s going to get worse over time.
RECYCLING / PROPER DISPOSAL :
Shoes made with a variety of materials makes it harder to recycle. They need to be physically separated into leather, rubber, foam and other materials before they can be disposed. I know athletic companies like Nike have shoe recycling programs. But i am still looking into how one can dispose a shoe so that its not sitting in the landfill for a long time. To be updated as I learn more. Please do comment if you can contribute to this. Its rather sad thinking of my not having opinions in spite of my being conscious of the whole cycle. Makes me not want to buy more than necessary.
ALLEGED FACTS :
- Black & brown shoes are the easiest to take care of.
- Expensive shoes doesn’t mean proportionally great quality.
- A good pair of shoes taken care of, can last up to 20 years ( what ? ).
- If a repair costs less than half the price of new shoes, repair the old ones.
- A shoe repair job can last longer than a factory assembled shoe, if the cobbler uses high quality materials.
- A shoe can be re-soled as long as the upper material holds up.
- Try not buying shoes in order to fix them.
- Hand stitched shoes vary from pair to pair. Try as many in the store before you walk home with one.
< … to be updated >
I haven’t recommended any care products to buy because they are rather easy to find on Amazon/Shoe shops/Cobbler shops. I like Otterwax products because they are eco friendly and made in Oregon, USA ( almost local ! ).
Shining shoes can strangely be a zen activity. I put aside 10 minutes a week for the upkeep of my wooden cooking utensils/boards and shoe shining. It neither a frivolous activity or waste of time. The act of seeing something become beautiful with a small amount of time and effort is quite a pleasure.