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Shoe & Leather Care with Nigel

Posted by Edward Eaton on

Everyone’s wardrobe is unique. You may have items in there that only a few others share. A Kilt for example, or a set of Morning or Evening Tails that only come out once or twice a year. These items aren’t used so often so require less care. Your shirts and undergarments get washed regularly (we hope!) as do cotton trousers and jeans. Suits, Sports Jackets and such may go down to the drycleaners every now and then for a touch-up. But what often get overlooked are the items that take the most punishment from us and quite often suffer the most neglect. We are referring of course to your footwear side of the wardrobe. These day to day foot soldiers (pardon the pun) are put through the most arduous tests and we often expect the most from them without giving them anything in return. 

We have put together a short Q & A with the Manager of Sergios, Nigel, who has been with the company for over 25 years to give us a few pointers and tips for looking after your quality footwear. According to him there are a few simple guide lines that can greatly extend the life of your shoes and also your enjoyment wearing them!

Q: What should you do once you have invested in a new pair of shoes?

Firstly, get the size right. A lot of guys actually make the mistake of buying a pair of shoes too big thinking the more room in the shoe the better. A shoe should be firm to begin with. There is admittedly a fine line between ‘Firm’ and ‘Tight’. We are more than happy to give you the right advice regarding fit in-store. A leather shoe will mould itself around your foot which begins to occur from the moment you put it on. Having bought a new pair of shoes, remember your feet and these shoes haven’t met before and may need some time to get to know each other.
With this in mind we would recommend initially wearing your shoes for no more than 2-3 hours at a time. Once they are acquainted during this period and your toes and heels have adjusted to their new habitat, then you can wear them for a full day. Even if a shoe feels comfortable initially, there are often a few rub points which need to be broken in.

Q.  Are Shoe Horns a good idea?

Yes, if possible always use a Shoe Horn. These small overlooked accessories make it a lot easier to get your foot into any type of footwear, be it Boot, Slip-On or Lace-Up. If you continuously force your foot into the shoe by crushing the heel counter down, you can end up seriously weakening the heel of your shoe and potentially splitting the leather. On canvas shoes you can even split the base of the heel where it joins the sole. If you don’t have a shoe horn, pop in and see our team and we can give you one! Always remember to unlace and re-lace your lace up shoes and boots. 

Q.  So we’ve got our new dress shoes, broken them in, used a shoe horn – we’re good to go, right?

Almost! With rubber soled shoes you’re pretty much set, however it is important with leather soled shoes you avoid wet conditions where possible the first few times they are worn. This gives the sole unit more time to compact under foot and not soak up as much moisture from the ground. If you own leather soled shoes and often find yourself in wet conditions we recommend the addition of a rubber SOS (Stick-On-Sole). Any capable cobbler can provide these for you. Leather soles are great in the sense they allow your foot to breathe and can absorb perspiration, but they tend to be less durable than a rubber sole long term.
If your leather shoes become very wet, always let them dry naturally. Never use direct heat as this can dry the leather causing it to weaken and dry into an uncomfortable shape. Where possible use wooden Shoe Trees to absorb moisture from the inside and retain the shoes shape. If you don’t have Shoe Trees use dried newspaper to stuff into the toes. An old trick, but a good one!

Q: Can I wear good quality shoes day after day, 5 days a week?

I really wouldn’t advise it! No matter the quality of the shoe you really should alternate them. During the course of the day our feet produce a lot of moisture. A full leather shoe can absorb a lot of this and still allow your foot to breath, but ideally a shoe should be left for 24 hours once removed to allow it to dry out. Continued wear of the same pair of footwear can lead to premature deterioration of the stitching and inner workings of your shoe as well as causing any bonding agents to become weakened. Alternating your footwear will greatly increase their life span.

Q.  How do you keep your shoes looking sharp? Do you have to polish them every day?

Not every day, no! However I do recommend to regularly polish your shoes. Once every 3-4 wears is fine. Not only will this keep them looking sharp, it will also nourish and protect the leather. Most dress shoes we sell at Sergios are constructed of calf leather which is supple yet strong. Using the correct type of leather or suede care product will also help prevent the leather cracking and/or discolouring. Sergios provide a wide range of footwear care supplies including our own Shoe Care and Suede Care kits. 

Q. So how do you recommend cleaning them?

To polish your smooth leather shoes follow these simple steps.

* Remove surface dirt and dust with a bristle brush. The removal of any small granules will prevent them being rubbed into the leather during the next step.

* Next apply the applicable shoe cream/wax onto a soft cloth and rub in to the leather well using a circular motion. Note the leather will generally darken when this is done as the leather moistens but provided the colour applied isn’t darker than the original shoe colour, this will lighten up as the leather dries.

* Like waxing a car, it does not take long for the polish to dry – generally a couple of minutes. Once this occurs brush off any excess polish with a bristle brush.

* Finally, if you like your shoes to shine polish again with a soft dry clean cloth. Done.

With suede footwear, the use of a suede cleaner or ‘shampoo’ is used instead of polish and a specialised suede brush used instead of a bristle one. We can provide you with these instore.

If your shoes could, they would be smiling at you now!

Q.  You mentioned shoe trees before – care to elaborate?

Yes, where possible on quality leather footwear use wooden Shoe Trees. These unusual sounding devices are a great accessory for maintaining your shoes when they are off your feet. It is like inserting another pair of feet when you remove yours. The benefits of these inserts are threefold. Here at Sergios we sell Florsheim Red Cedar Shoe Trees. Firstly the Red Cedar is very aromatic and goes a long way to keeping your shoes smelling fresh. Secondly, as mentioned previously, wooden shoe trees remove moisture from your shoes to help prevent the leather and overall construction deteriating. Thirdly they help keep the shape of the shoes and prevent creasing in the upper as the leather dries. It is important, for these benefits to occur that you purchase the correct size for your shoes. We can certainly help with that!

Q: If my shoes are wearing out or have some sort of issue, what then?

It is important to take your quality shoes to a reputable repairer who knows what they are doing. The first thing to go on most shoes is the sole unit. A good repairer should be able to replace or repair the sole or recommend a solution. Often the uppers still have a lot of life left in them. A good quality shoe can often have the entire sole unit replaced if necessary for a lot less cost than buying a new pair.  You don’t buy a new car when your tyres just need replacing!

Q.  Great stuff. Any other tips?

Well I guess it’s worth mentioning some of your other leather pieces often overlooked and under-cared for in your wardrobe. Leather belts for example are no different from your shoes as far as general maintenance goes. Using a Leather Nourishing Cream or Coloured Polish can greatly regenerate a tired leather belt. It is however very important to remove any excess coloured polish once it has dried so as not to stain any other clothing item. 

Also leather jackets can be prone to fading and staining if not treated with a little TLC now and then. Again a coloured or neutral nourishing cream or leather protector can be applied to these no differently than to your favourite pair of shoes for extending the life of the garment and to keep you looking sharp!




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