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Rescuing shoes

9 August 2010

A lesson today in the damage caused by not treating your shoes right; but how they can be repaired if you don’t.

My friend John is very fond of shoes. But he can be a little bit careless when it comes to their maintenance. My three golden rules for shoe care are to only wear them every other day (at the most), to put shoe trees in them at the end of every use, and to polish them regularly. Not following the first one will make the shoes wear out far quicker than needed; ignoring the second will lead to shoes wrinkling and losing their shape; and not polishing will lead to the leather drying out as well as losing protection. (From an aesthetic point of view, polishing will make your shoes look a lot better too – and to maintain that look I recommend brushing down at the end of every day (to remove scuffs) and wiping down at the beginning (to remove brush marks and dust)).

John followed few of these with the pair of shoes pictured here (from Polo Ralph Lauren). Certainly they were worn on sequential days and rarely saw a shoe tree.

You can see the effects – wrinkled, scuffed and, most importantly, worn down severely on the heel and sole. The biggest danger with this wearing down is that both the full heel and the welt need to be replaced. Both are expensive; but the second can also only be done a few times on a pair of shoes – so by letting the damage get that far you are needlessly shortening their life.

I gave the job of rescuing this pair to Stephen Haughton, maintenance master and owner of Burford Valet Service. While most of Stephen’s work involves looking after the wardrobes of the rich and famous – spot cleaning and hand pressing their suits while they’re away in a second or third residence – he also takes on some general cleaning and refurbishment work for us plebs.

Stephen replaced the welts on John’s shoes, replaced the heel and added a new, full leather sole. Because of the excessive wear and lack of care, there were also a few places in which the leather had been worn down or lost its colouration. So it was cleaned, creamed and then antiqued to blend the new colour with the existing wear. The service cost £160. Without the excessive wear, and therefore need to replace the welt or the whole heel, it would have been nearer £100.

As John said, receiving the rescued pair delightedly, they felt like an entirely new shoes. Let’s hope he’s learnt his lesson.