Everything you need to know about looking after leather shoes

You’ve heard it countless times, probably one too many. It’s the wardrobe cliché to end all wardrobe clichés, but footwear genuinely is where that crucial first impression is often made. We spend so much time looking down at screens and so forth, or avoiding eye-to-eye contact on public transport, that what’s on your feet is the first and possibly only thing that anyone sees of you.

With that in mind, it pays sartorial dividends to invest in a pair of shoes that come courtesy of a trained cordwainer; a point of artisanal craftsmanship, as opposed to another speck amongst a sea of fast-fashion. It’s also important you know how to maintain them. Looked after and cared for, shoes can last years, decades, if not generations. I know of more than a few pairs of Northampton made shoes that are still in great shape near 30 years after first purchased, bar a resoling or two.

We enlisted the expert advice of footwear’s finest for a masterclass primer on caring for both leather and suede shoes.

Looking after leather

Tim Little, creative director and owner of Grenson’s top tips for making leather last are:

– Don’t wear them two days running, the leather needs time to dry out.

– Polish them at least once a week, leaving the polish on the shoe overnight before buffing them.

– If they get wet in the rain, put in shoe trees, or failing that, newspaper, and leave them somewhere at room temperature to dry; don’t ever dry them by a radiator or boiler.

Preserving suede

Jason Simmonds, operations manager at Herring, notes that suede is simply reversed leather so the same basic rules apply:

– Do not wear it in the wet if you can avoid it, brush dirt off regularly and treat with a suitable product.

– The only special items you need are a suede brush to clean off dirt effectively, a suede rubber if you want to get rid of more stubborn marks and a good quality weather proofing spray.

– Contrary to popular belief you can wear suede in showery weather, but you do need to look after them by preparing them with spray and by allowing them to naturally dry afterwards.

Further Reading