After eight years of too-frequent wearing and basic-care neglect from not oiling, polishing or using shoe trees, I was about to kiss an old pair of boots goodbye. Instead, I took my kickers to the shoe repair to see if they could be resuscitated with new soles. Two days later, I’m happy to report that my boots have brand new leather soles, new heels and a new life, which will be prolonged even further now that I know how to care for them properly.
Having recently purchased two new pairs of Levi’s 501® Shrink-to-fit jeans ($66 for both of them, btw), I have finished the first step in Levi’s suggested care steps: “Wear them as long as possible before you wash them.” I’ve worn a pair for six straight days. Now it’s time for the second step: “On the first watch, soak in a capful of Dr. Bronner’s soap for 20 minutes,” which I’m going to do in the bathtub. The hotter the water, the more they shrink.
Levi’s mentioned that it’s normal for the dye to color the water. What they didn’t tell me was that my tub would look like a Smurf was murdered in the tub in Cabin No. 1 at the Bates Motel…
Shoe care is easy to take for granted. But well cared-for leather shoes last a lifetime. The craftsmen at fine American shoemaker Johnston & Murphy have offered some simple steps for taking care of our leather footwear that will keep them looking good and wearing well for a very long time:
- Always store leather shoes with moisture-absorbing cedar shoe trees, to prevent leather cracking and permanent creasing where the toe bends.
- Always use a shoe horn when putting on shoes to prevent the back of the shoe from breaking down. Never force feet into the shoes.
- Always keep shoes away from direct heat to prevent the leather from drying out. Leather should always dry naturally.
- Give shoes a rest between wearings. Leather shoes should have one full day to dry out from natural foot perspiration and should not be worn on two consecutive days.
- When polishing shoes, use only a high quality paste or cream that will help moisturize leather and keep it from drying out. Never use a liquid polish on leather shoes.
- Never use any type of cleaner that contains an acid or a detergent. Both are damaging to fine leather, and will age the shoe.
- If shoes become heavily soiled, use a mild application of Ivory soap on a damp cloth, wipe off, and allow to dry. Then apply shoe cream. This treatment should restore the original lustre without any damaging effects to the leather.