Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Art Of Shoe Polishing

This has nothing to do to suck up on your boss at work though i admit i totally fail in this department.
But what i am good at is literally polishing a leather shoe to brilliant mirror finish - a skill all RMC boys would have.
I recently bought some leather shoes in Bangkok and i am in the process of breaking into them. New shoes are usually harder and stiffer, especially those that are made to be worn formally. I am not a fan of square cut front or a fan or sharp end shoes. They looked too clumsy and looked ugly respectively, apart from making your feet looked broader or bigger. I am old fashioned as i stick to the usual predictable evergreen normally cut/made shoes.
Here is an almost step by step approach to giving that lacklustre pair a shine of its lifetime. Most important item would be a leather shoe that has stiff surface. Think of the toe cap of a policeman or a military man's shoe.
Next you need to prepare the surface. This include brushing the side "veranda" as we boys call it. Its a must as a nicely polished shoe with dirty and chaffed off sides is as ugly as a Ferrari with a brake-dust covered wheels.

Next you need to get yourself a good polish/wax (Kiwi for me). Most important is that the shoe polish/wax paste has oil and not dried up. The oil is what nourishes the leather and protects them apart from lending a certain degree of protection from wetness or rain.

You use your finger (index) by dabbing it lightly on the wax and "layer" the leather in circular motion (pic above). You layer the surface until the paste dries or fully absorbed by the leather. You continues to do that perhaps for the next 30minutes on the whole shoe surface to layer them up. The paste will fill up all pores on the leather, giving and lending it an even smoother surface to obtain that mirror glaze.

The photo above shows what layering does. You already can see the deeper gloss on the right shoe that is nicely layered. Left shoe is not layered. Right with at least 4 layer. This is important and perhaps even more important than the next step.
A badly layered surface will rub off like dirt on your body. Its the lazy man short cut layering with intention to just thicken the surface. It also happens as the bottom layer has no time to dry before the next layer. Think of it as painting your wall with gloss paint. A hastily layered paint job will peel while a dedicated done layer will hold well and gives a good finish.
Rules of (index) finger (pun intended, as we don't use thumb!) is to rub/layer until you hear a squeak on the surface. Kapish?
So, don't be a lazy bum and spend time on those surface!
Next you need to find an old piece of cotton cloth. Microfiber don't work no matter how expensive. You need a piece of cotton that you can stretch over your index finger without forming any creases. An old T can work, which includes those expensive Pagoda singlet (if your shoe is already a couple of thousand ringgit). For me, i took an old brief (clean one of course) that already has a hole (i am Ironman, i have balls of steel) and uses it.
Next you fill up the cover of the shoe paste with water. It will be essential and not many know of this trick. Unless you have saliva more than tea (as the Chinese would say of someone talkative - like me), you can use your saliva. I will stick to the more hygienic option:).
Then you wrap a corner of the cloth (i am referring it as such though you already know what it is) and ensure no creases or bumps. You roll the excess up and around your hand and grab it. That done, the task to polish it starts.
Now hold the shoe in your palm, with the top cap facing you. Dip the stretched up cloth into the cap of water.
Once done, bring the wet cloth (but not soaked or drenched ya) to the layered surface and start with the same circular motion as the layering. What is happening is the cloth surface, lubricated by water is removing any excess paste and polishing the surface as you twirl your finger!
You will slowly see the shine coming out and it will become deeper and deeper as you constantly hydrate the cloth and move in circular motion.
For every two or three polishing with the wet finger covered cloth, dip the cloth lightly on the shoe paste.
Now continue and keep moving alternating between water and wax on the surface. What this does is it will continue to add more layers as you polish. You will start seeing the shoe polish to grow deeper and deeper and darker.

Hard to believe the image above?
Its easy to do and it comes with experience. I am already starting Ryan to help out. He spent 5mins helping and the photo above shows the shoe with his reflection and his finger.
I shined two pair of shoes today. It was satisfying to see the shoe i will wear to work next week nicely polished to a mirror shine. I believe that a man's pride and dignity will be reflected on the shoe he wears and especially how he will take care of the shoe.

Don't forget to give the shine on all surface. It gives a complete story. Don't just show others your good front, but your good back as well!
I hope this article inspire you to polish your shoes too!
Shoe shown before complete polishing was done.
After...MIRROR FINISH and its not Patent Leather!

Like a senior Old Putera said "make sure you can comb your hair and see your teeth when you smile on those shoe!"


  1. Never knew about the layering. But the water on cloth dabbing bit I know ;) Thanks for the info bro!

  2. the layering is what differentiate a deep gloss or a deep shit :)