Brogue-lovers prick up your ears! Investing in a proper pair of shoes is the done thing when you’re a Grown Up, shoes that will last you 30-40 years make more sense once the mists of youth have cleared.
Although I probably don’t act like one, I am pretty much a Grown Up, and I do own a fair few pairs of ‘proper shoes’, so I asked Helen Botterill, Grenson’s Design & Development Coordinator for some shoecare advice to make sure my shoes last at least until I start acting like a Grown Up.
What’s the best way to look after and prolong the life of a pair of shoes?
Try to rotate wearing your shoes, it is not a good idea to wear the same pair day in day out, natural perspiration can take 24 hours to dry out. Store your shoes upright, in a dry place away from direct heat sources. If you have shoe trees you should insert them into your shoes when they are not worn to retain their shape. If your shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper and let them dry out slowly and naturally – do not be tempted to place them on a radiator. Clean and nourish your shoes regularly and especially after they have become wet and then allowed to dry. Leather is a natural material – to prolong it’s life expectancy and maintain appearance and flexibility leather shoes need regular care. See specific cleaning instructions below.
I have a pair of vintage Grensons, the leather is really stiff. What do you recommend to soften up stiff shoes?
Old shoes that feel stiff have basically dried out. The leather needs to be nourished by applying a conditioning shoe cream or wax to the upper and sole. Firstly brush off any surface dust and dirt then apply the conditioning wax using a cloth and making small circular movements with your finger. The heat from your finger will assist the wax to penetrate the leather. Ensure that you pay particular attention to any creases in the leather. Leave the wax to penetrate for a while then buff off with a cloth. You may need to repeat this process several times to restore moisture to the leather and thus its softness.
You don’t recommend adding rubber soles, why is this?
The addition of a stuck on rubber sole to “add wear” to a finished leather sole can upset the balance and look of a shoe by making the forepart heavier and altering the pitch. Additionally leather is a natural absorbent material that will bend differently to the attached rubber piece with the possibility of unnatural stresses to the sole stitching.. We are normally able to re-sole our Goodyear welted shoes but cannot guarantee that this will be successful if changes have been made to the shoes outside of our manufacturing process.
Is there a process for breaking in shoes?
Grenson shoes should be comfortable from the off. All of our shoes are Goodyear welted, a construction which produces a strong shoe that retains its shape and does not stretch untowardly so make sure that you are comfortable that your shoes are a good fit when you try them on. We don’t use any synthetic leather soles (traditionally these are stiff and do require breaking in) we only use 100% leather soles, or lightweight or solid rubber soles which are naturally cushioned. Additionally the Goodyear welted construction has a layer of cork between the insole and outsole which flexes and cushions and moulds to the foot of the wearer over time. If you do experience any discomfort with your new Grenson’s then it is advisable to wear your new shoes around the home and build up the time of wear over a few days before pounding the pavements. Also try to wear your leather soled shoes in dry weather the first few times you wear them.
What is the best way to care for suede and leather?
For leather shoes, firstly clean any dust or dirt from your shoes with a stiff brush. Then apply shoe cream using a soft brush or cotton cloth. Massage it into the leather using small circles, don’t forget to apply to your leather welts and soles they too need nourishing. Leave the shoes for about half an hour then buff off any excess cream with a cloth or brush. Next apply polish, again apply with a cloth in small circles. Leave your shoes for a few hours if possible then buff to a shine using a soft cotton cloth or soft brush.
With suede shoes you need to invest in a suede protector spray to keep the worst marks off your shoes. To lift the nap of the suede and remove dust and dirt give the shoes a light brush – avoid using wire brushes, they are too harsh.
You don’t need a pair of shoe trees for every pair of shoes – choose cedar shoe trees over varnished ones as the wood absorbs perspiration and odours. Varnished wooden trees look nice but don’t function as well, plastic ones are a no no. Shoe trees also very handy to put in when you are cleaning your shoes.
There’s the creams and brushes in our shoe kits, an old toothbrush is also really good for cleaning up around welts and pushing creams and polishes into tight areas. We have been road-testing some Woly sprays in the Hanbury street shop – they seem to be going down well. Saddle soap is good for cleaning, conditioning and softening leather and Vaseline is great for cleaning patent leather. Leather Cream moisturises your leather, polishes are wax based and seal the leather to protect from the elements as well as buffing to a shine – you need both. Masking tape is good for cleaning suede, also a white pencil eraser will remove a lot of dirt spots from suede and nubuck. Stubborn surface marks on nubuck can be removed by gently rubbing with very fine sand paper or an emery board. Chuck your shoe laces in the washing machine periodically – ours are cotton so they can go in with regular laundry.