Caring For Dress Shoes
A good pair of shoes is essential to a good formal or semi-formal outfit. But as is the case with many things in life, quality often doesn't come cheap. In most cases, you're looking at a minimum of $100 for a good pair of men's leather dress shoes; higher-end models can run $300 to $500.
If you're investing in fancy footwear, then you want it to be fancy for more than a few months. At the same time, you don't want to spend more time taking care of dress shoes than you do wearing them. Our expert tips for dress shoe care, along with a few dollars on care products, will help you keep your formal shoes elegant and sophisticated for as long as you own them.
Waterproofing Your Shoes
Whether from rain, puddles or spills, water will eventually get on your dress shoes. Excessive water exposure can lead to dry, cracked leather and permanent stains. Water is even worse on suede, as this material stains easily. Therefore, you should apply a waterproofing spray or polish on a regular basis. This could mean anywhere from once a month to once a week depending on the climate where you live - the more often it rains, the more often you need to waterproof shoes. You can tell your shoes need a new coat of repellent if water is no longer beading on the surface.
Wash & Brush Your Shoes
Just like with hair and teeth, a lot of long-term wear can be prevented by routine shoe maintenance. Everyone who owns dress shoes should also own a horsehair brush. Use this tool to gently brush off dirt and debris or to remove the dust if they've been in the closet for a few months. (The brush can also be used to apply polish and conditioner.) What to use for a more thorough cleaning depends on the shoe material. Use saddle soap on full-grain and top-grain leather shoes; if you have suede or faux suede dress shoes, mix two parts water with one part vinegar to spot-clean stains.
Condition & Polish Regularly
Even if you wash leather regularly, it can still end up stiff and dull from prolonged use. Keep some leather conditioner and shoe polish on hand to renew your shoes. Conditioner creams will restore softness and flexibility to the leather. A color-matched conditioner will also cover up small scratches and scuffs. Polishing your shoes regularly with either a neutral or color-matched cream also helps fix light damage while shining them up like a silver dollar. Try buffing the polish off with some pantyhose if you really want them to shine! Another good tip is to buy these products when you first purchase the shoes, as it makes it easier to color-match when you're looking at footwear in its original condition.
Storing Dress Shoes
There's nothing worse than pulling your shoes out of the closet for an event only to discover they've become dirty, cracked and misshapen. Storing your leather shoes properly will keep them in great shape between uses. So it's time to sound the horn and climb a tree! No, we're not talking about some new kid's game. Shoe horns and shoe trees can prolong the life of leather footwear. Using a shoe horn to put your shoes on retains the heel's form - especially when they're new and stiff - and reduces wear in this high-friction area.
In between uses, put a shoe tree inside of your shoe; this holds its form, preventing creasing and shrinking. Wood shoe trees, particularly cedar, are best because they also absorb excess moisture and odor (and they smell very nice). If you go long periods without wearing a pair of shoes or leave them out in the open, you might also keep your shoes in a dust bag. This will prevent debris build-up and save you from having to polish and condition them before every use.
Look Out For Your Mortal Soles
Much of shoe care focuses on the uppers - but every house needs a good foundation to stand on. So take care of your dress shoe soles as well. For shoes with leather soles, you can follow many of the care tips above. Rubber soles can be cleaned by soaking them in water and mild dish soap; use a toothbrush and toothpaste for tough stains. Even so, the soles will usually wear out after an average of five years - and the heels can wear out even faster. When this happens, cobblers and shoe manufacturers can replace soles for anywhere from $30 to $80 if the uppers are still in good shape. This is usually much cheaper than buying a new pair.