Thursday, February 18, 2016

How to spit shine dress shoes

As I predicted, readers really were not interested in Originalism, or Scalia, or the Supremes, though they should be.  Actually, what got the most hits of any post in recent times was the one on polishing shoes.


In that post I covered basic brush shining, which if done on a regular basis, should help to protect your shoes, which in turn, protect your feet.  Additionally, having well polished shoes projects a positive image of the wearer.  I can't tell you how often I encounter men these days who are wearing nice looking suits, but scuffed and broken down shoes.

Today, I want to cover what is referred to as spit shining which gives your shoes that extra bit of luster and sparkle, and, on the right leather, can impart a mirror like finish to your shoes.  Unless you are in the military, I don't recommend you go to those extremes, but if you are going to an interview, some spit and polish on a pair of cap-toed oxfords will give a good first impression.

I mentioned before that I had used Kiwi shoe polish because it is generally available at any drug store or super market you go into.  Kiwi is a decent brand, and will do a decent job, but it does tend to dry out.  It can be revived, but it is not generally worth it.  Griffin does a slightly better job, is softer in the can, but can be hard to find.  However, I recently bought a can of black and one of brown Angelus shoe polish.  Angelus seems to provide a brighter luster to the shoes, and as an added bonus, is made right here in the USA  (Note, I did not receive anything either in kind, or monetary value for this endorsement.  I am just a satisfied customer.  The same goes for  Shoe Shine Express, from which company I purchased Angelus shoe polish.)  Now, shoe polish is made from various hard and soft waxes (carnauba, bees wax, and parafin), oils (such as lanolin), and solvents (often naptha).  But Angelus claims to not include anything that will harm your shoes.  On the other hand, I have never had any other brand harm my shoes either, so take it for what it is worth.

So, let's get down to how to spit shine.  If you have an old and neglected pair of shoes, the first thing is to put several thin coats of brush shine on.  If your shoes are scuffed, you will need to get that repaired as well.  With a new pair, I put a brush shine on, then wear then for a day.  Follow this up with another coat of brush shine, and another wearing.  You want to build a good base of brush coats, though how many depends on the smoothness of the leather.  In between wearings, store the shoes with shoe trees in them to keep them in shape.  Don't neglect to get polish into the seam between the welt and the upper, and don't neglect the sides of the outer sole and heal,

Assuming all of this has been done, take a soft rag like a tee shirt, wrap it tightly around your index finger, and just touch the surface of the polish in the can.  Dip your little finger in water, transfer the water to the shoe, just a drop, and then begin swirling the polish and water on in a small area of the shoe in an ever widening pattern.  You want to feel as if you are pushing the polish around.  Keep the polish and water moving,  You want to create a very thin layer of polish.  Eventually, you have pushed the polish as far as it will go, and you will have a very thin coat spread over an area of the shoe.  You will notice that it is shinier that the adjacent areas.  You can, of course, pursue this by adding more coats until you achieve the mirror like finish of military parade shoes, but I don't recommend it.  One or two coats is usually sufficient.  Note that the less polish you use, the better the results.  A tiny dab of polish will do for the entire toe box, and a similar amount for the heel counter areas.

A coat of spit shine using neutral over your black or brown spit shine will add a bit of luster to the to the shoe, kind of like a clear coat on a car finish.  Unless a shoe is fairly substantial, and made of smooth leather, I generally only apply spit shine to the toe box and hee
l counter of the shoe.  These parts of the shoe are reinforced and do not flex with walking.  I definitely would not apply a spit shine in the area of the crease that forms just behind the toe box over the ball of the foot. The constant working of this area of the shoe would tend to crack a spit shine.

All this sounds like a lot of work, and it is when the shoes are new.  But if you polish after each one or two wearings, and keep up with it, you can do a brush shine, followed by spit shining the heel and toe in about 15 minutes, with the bonus that your shoes are ready to wear whenever you are.

I had the experience last night of being at someone's house, moving a piece of furniture, and scraping to toe of a pair of wing tip shoes.  This morning I looked at the scrap, and despite the fact that it looked bad, a quick brushing brushed right out.  I then proceeded to shine the shoes as normal.  If I had not been doing the routine above, I might have scraped through the finish into the leather.  As it was, I just removed some of the wax, and the damage was easily repaired.

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