How to revive old leather shoes

restored shoes

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All’s not lost!

A man’s shoes are a reflection of who he is. So what do your shoes say about you? You don’t have to spend a fortune to get footwear that tells the world you’ve made it.  If you have an old leather pair, a little effort and insider knowledge is all you need to go from scruffy to sorted.

Hot on the heels of our recent shoe care infographic, here’s how you can take your shoes from ‘tired’ to ‘tremendous’!

Scrub up

shoe polish and brushes

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The tools for success!

If your old leather shoes haven’t seen a proper clean since England last won the World Cup, you’re not alone. Over the years, even the best quality shoes can become a little tired-looking. Careful cleaning can transform your shoes, and allow you to see where repairs need to be made.

A brush with soft bristles is ideal for removing surface dirt. A paint brush is perfect, and should be used all over the shoes to dislodge dust, mud or other debris. Then, wash your shoes with saddle soap. This is good for the leather because it’ll remove dirt and excess wax from previous polishes and helps get some moisture back into the leather.

Allow your shoes to dry, and you’re now ready for the next step in the rejuvenating process.

Polish like a pro

the perfect shoe shine

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Get the perfect shine…

An Army-style spit and polish gives your shoes a gleam that tells everyone you’re a man to be reckoned with. Check out the British Legion’s military-grade guide to ensuring you ‘stand out from the crowd’. Some cheap materials and a bit of elbow grease get great results that any soldier would be proud of.

All you need is a tin of good quality polish, a little moisture and a soft cloth. Wrap part of the cloth around your index finger and use that digit to apply polish to the shoe. Then get rubbing! Cover a small patch at a time, and go over each area several times.

When you feel the area becoming a bit rough, that’s the time to add a little water – you can use a small bowl of water to dab from, or use the old-fashioned forces method! Keep layering polish you start to get a lustrous sheen.

Persevere until you have a smooth, even shine. To achieve a really impressive finish, you should make yourself comfortable. It can take a couple of hours to get to an inspection-standard burnish!

Dyeing for results

patina dyed shoes

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Patina – advanced shoe dyeing for experts!

If the colour of your leather shoes has faded over time, use dye to restore them to their former glory. As the chaps at mensofficial say:

“You do not need to go through the pain of breaking in new shoes. It is also nice to touch up a favourite pair that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away.”

It’s vital to make sure that your shoes are completely free from polish, soap, wax or oil before you start, otherwise the dye will not be properly absorbed by the leather.

Remember that if you’re dyeing shoes, always go darker. Brown or burgundy to black is fine, but it’s harder to dye black shoes a lighter colour – the black will always show through the dye.

How to dye your shoes

  • Chose your shoe dye with care – it’s good to read reviews before you buy!
  • Use a small, fine brush to apply the dye.
  • Apply the dye to small areas of the shoe at a time, until the whole shoe is evenly covered.
  • Allow to shoe to dry for at least twenty four hours.
  • Carefully re-touch small areas or apply another coat of dye if the coverage isn’t even.
  • Lock the colour in with a good polish.

With a bit of care and attention, you can achieve a rich, vibrant colour for a really smart look.

Resoling for the refined gent

shoe re-soling

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A professional job – work in progress

Resoling and re-heeling generally costs around £50 – £60 at the average shoe repair shop, but isn’t an option for every shoe. The good news is that the Goodyear welted variety at Samuel Windsor can be resoled. This work can involve re-stitching, so it’s best left to the professionals.

If your shoes don’t have a stitched sole, you can do the job yourself! Here’s how to restore the soles of your old leather shoes to pavement worthy badges of honour:

How to resole your shoe

  • Clean the soles of your shoes, then use sandpaper to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Use a kitchen sponge to evenly apply a specialised shoe glue all over.
  • Repeat the process with the new sole you’ll be affixing.
  • Leave both the shoe and the sole for approximately five minutes.
  • Once the glue is tacky, press the new soles onto the shoes.
  • Secure tightly with elastic bands.
  • Give your shoes a few hours to dry.
  • Use a small hammer to apply nails to keep the soles permanently in place.

For the man who wants to send his reputation soaring, taking time to make sure that shoes are clean, in good repair and polished to perfection is essential. As James Field of men’s guide Collar to Cuff says

‘Our feet are so important and we are so often judged by what we put on them’

Make sure your footwear sends the right message about who you are. And if you’ve already done a rescue job you’re proud of, share the results on our Facebook page!

Posted in How To - Care, Men's shoes.