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SPY Guide: How to Keep Your Dress Shoes Looking Like New

* Keep your dress shoes in good condition with regular polishing
* Extend the life of your shoes while preventing odors and discoloration
* Skip the shoe cleaners and do it yourself at home

One of the most important–yet overlooked–aspects of professional style is to always have great-looking shoes. That doesn’t just mean keeping with trends or spending money on labels. It means protecting your investment so that your calfskin dress shoes (or pumps, ladies) look as good a year later as they did the day you bought them.

From finding the correct shade of polish to choosing the right tools and hardware to protect your professional kicks, proper care will help your shoes withstand weather damage, scuffs, spills and everyday tread. With that in mind, we’ve put together an essential list of what you need to properly maintain leather shoes.

1. Heel Guards

They may seem like the pocket protectors of shoe life, but unlike their nerdy shirt counterparts, heel guards are completely unnoticeable. No one can see the bottom of your shoes. What they will see after a few months of consistent wear is that the heels of your dress shoes are taking a beating.

You can always have shoes resoled, but most people just end up buying new ones. Rather than shelling out cash on new dress shoes because your heels are worn out, apply these inexpensive bits of hardware before the first wear. With the money you save on replacing dress shoes, you can splurge on something exciting. Did someone say Yeezy?

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2. Shoe Polish

The benefits of keeping a fresh coat of polish on your dress shoes go beyond looking good for the day. Regular care conditions the leather so that as your shoes break in, they continue to look better over time. This is especially true for people who live in climates that get a lot of rain or snow–you may have already experienced the destructive effects of salted sidewalks. Even if you don’t see much inclement weather, regular polishing will protect the leather against dirt and sun damage.

Always match the polish to the color of your shoes. Since most dress shoes are black or brown, a good place to start is with a three-pack containing black, brown and neutral polish (for unique colors or burnished details). To be sure, you can also find polish in blue, yellow, red and more.


3. Polish Applicator

Some folks like to use worn out socks and undershirts for applying polish. While there’s nothing wrong with re-purposing that which would otherwise go in the wastebin, you probably want to avoid getting shoe polish on your hands and under your fingernails. A horsehair polish applicator is the ideal tool.

To use it, first remove the laces and gently wipe away any dirt using a damp cloth. Once the leather is dry, dab polish onto the bristle tips and massage it into the leather in a circular motion. Cover the entire surface of each shoe, then allow the polish to settle for a few minutes.


4. Horsehair Buffing Brush

Once you’ve applied the polish, it’s time to bring your shoes to a nice, bright shine. Slide your hand inside the shoe so as to avoid getting polish on your fingers or leaving a print on the surface, then vigorously buff the leather until all of the dull, matte polish is brought to a consistent shine.


5.  Polishing Cloth

An alternative to the horsehair buff, a good polishing cloth is also smart to keep on hand for when your shoes need a touch up between polishings. Keep it with your kit so that you give give your kicks some mid-week magic.


6. Travel Kit

Rather than buy all the individual pieces, get everything you need in this handy travel kit from MARZ. It comes with a genuine horsehair brush, two applicator sponges, one tin black polish, one tin neutral polish, one shoehorn/suit brush and a buffing/shining cloth. It’s ideal for people who travel for business, and makes a great last minute gift.

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