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Pierre Corthay, London glaçage evening

27 February 2012

I had a lovely evening last week at the first of Corthay’s glaçage events – that’s a high polish to you and me. Myself and three Frenchmen, quietly polishing our Corthays and getting tips on technique from maitre patineur, Thomas Kalflo.

ThomasFrancoisMathieuOddly enough, it turned out that myself, customer Mathieu Pinson and store manager Francois Pourcher were all wearing Wilfrids, in the same colour. All very different ages – mine were bought three years ago at Leffot, Mathieu’s were bought three weeks ago in London – but equally in need of a polish.


Thomas’s glaçage tips were very helpful. I’ve always thought my polishing technique was pretty good, but it’s definitely improved since that evening. His tips, therefore:

- Begin with a layer of cream. Don’t overapply, and wipe off any excess before applying wax. Can be applied with a brush or cloth, but don’t use the same cloth for cream and polish. You want to retain the latter, and cream will slowly destroy a cloth.

- Ideally leave the cream to dry for an hour, even overnight. This is not so it soaks into the leather, but rather that if that layer is not dry, you will work some of it away with the wax.

Mathieu’s Wilfrids with cream drying- Work one layer of wax all round the shoe. Just one. Then apply multiple layers to just the toe and heel (which will not crease and so break the glaçage).

- Don’t be afraid to apply too much polish. And add a touch of water each time you do. One way to make sure you don’t add too much water is to dip your finger in it and tap onto the shoe. That way you just add a single drop, whereas with a cloth it can soak in and be hard to control the volume.

- Glaçage is about polishing lightly and fast. The speed is necessary to work up heat. The lightness is important because otherwise you break into layers underneath, removing their effect.

- The role of water is really just to make sure you skim over the surface, not pressing too hard. You can achieve the same effect without water, but it takes much longer.

- You can feel when a layer is complete: the surface becomes ultra smooth. At that point swap to the other shoe, so the first one has time to dry, then swap back again.

- Work on your knees. It is the shoemaker’s table.

- Hold the shoe in your left (or non-polishing) hand, between thumb and forefinger. Perhaps more than one finger. But hold it like that so you can move easily all round the shoe.

- Glaçage wasn’t originally an aesthetic practice, but intended to make the shoe’s toe splash-proof.

My Wilfrids at the end of the processFrancois’s ArcasI’m aware this would be better with video. Next time, I promise.

In the meantime, congratulations to Francois, Thomas and Pierre for a beautiful shop and I’m glad it’s going so well.

Grey croc Arca (bespoke)