Shoes are often some of the most prized—and most mistreated—parts of our wardrobes. Whether you have a huge shoe collection or like to keep your closet tightly edited, chances are your favorite pair of shoes have taken a beating from constant wear. With this in mind, we tapped Steven Taffel, owner of Leffot—a Manhattan- and Chicago-based boutique that stocks shoes from designers like John Lobb, Saint Crispin’s, and Edward Green—to share his top tips for keeping your favorite pair of shoes looking like new.
Q: Does shoe care always need to be done by a professional?
A: I always recommend doing them at home. I enjoy it! I think it is a nice thing to do, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. [Some men] like to do it quickly, but others like to spend more time and really work on [their shoes] while they are relaxing. I think [doing it yourself] gives you a sense of satisfaction and a little bit of pride in knowing that you keep them looking nice.
Q: What shoe-care products should every man have in his arsenal?
A: A wooden shoe tree that fits well in the shoe is a very good thing to have. You want [the shoe tree] to make contact with the leather and sort of hold the shoe in shape. Then, it will also absorb the moisture that is in there. The manufacturer’s shoe trees always fit best, but if you are not in a place where you can get them, Woodlore makes a lot of different shoe trees. They are made out of cedar, so they are very absorbent and smell nice too. You should also have something to moisturize and condition the leather of your shoes, just like you’d put moisturizer on your hands.
Q: What is the difference between a shoe wax and a shoe cream? Do you need both?
A: Cream has more color in it, and wax generally has less. We have a brand called Saphir [at Leffot]. It’s a very good leather cleaner, and if your shoes are faded, dirty, or you’ve scuffed them, you probably want to start with Saphir’s cream to get their color back. After that, if you want a higher-gloss shine, go in with the wax.
Q: How often should you be conditioning leather shoes?
A: It really depends on how often a particular shoe is worn, and it depends on the weather. Everybody has their own habits, and some guys do it almost all the time. In general, I think you should probably do it twice a month if you are wearing the shoe pretty regularly.
Q: What is the best way to re-sole your shoes?
A: With re-soling, it is always best if you can have it done by the manufacturer. If you have a Rolex watch, you want Rolex to service it…it’s the same concept with shoes. What we generally recommend with customers who buy shoes from us is to bring them back when the time comes to re-sole them, and we will send them back to the factory. The advantage to doing [it this way] is that once they take the sole off, they put the shoe back on the original last it was made on. Then, they put on a new factory sole [for that shoe] so the fit is not changed.
Q: What part of shoe care is often overlooked?
A: You have to rotate your shoes in order to keep them looking good. If you have one good pair of shoes and you wear them every day for a year, you are going to wear them out very quickly. But if you have two or three shoes and you rotate them, the shoes will look, wear, and feel better over time.
Q: What is a common shoe-care mistake you see being made?
A: It is a mistake to polish [your shoes] too much and too often. What happens is you start to get a build-up of polish on the leather. Sometimes you’ll see shoes that look like they are cracking, and it could just be too many layers of polish and wax on top of the shoe. I always go little by little [with polish]. Too much polish can actually be a little bit counter-productive. (leffot.com)