Guide: How to Care for Leather Shoes

Fine leather shoes will pep up any ensemble, and will, with luck, last you a lifetime. Follow these five simple steps to ensure you get extra mileage out of your designer kicks


You will no doubt have heard of the time-worn aphorism that the measure of a man or woman can be found in his or her shoes. That expression, however cliché, may just hold true. After all, premium dress shoes are quite literally the foundation of an outfit, and are, like bags, among the savviest style investments a discerning sartorialist can make for his or her wardrobe.

Whatever their nomenclature—loafers, pumps, brogues or wedges—all shoes require a spot of tender loving care. Leather shoes are organic objects, and need tending to if they are to remain as gloriously lustrous as when you first locked eyes upon them at the boutique.

Shoes are one of those rare "essential" luxuries; choose the right pair, treat them well, and they will become reassuringly familiar companions for a long time. Here's how, starting with the basics: getting acquainted with the heart and sole of your shoe.

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Know your shoe

Shoe-making savoir-faire is an esoteric art form that only reams of devoted documents could possibly do justice to. Suffice to say, one reason why you should treat your bespoke shoe with respect is the respect it was accorded while being crafted in its bottier of origin.

-  Like a sandwich, a shoe consists of an upper and lower, with the welt being the sturdy layer holding the two sections together.
-  The shoe upper, or body, is further divided into the front portion (the vamp) and back (the quarter), and is traditionally wrought from leather.
-  Different leather types and other materials such as coated canvas or even neoprene may be mixed and matched on the upper to offer textural interest and aesthetic flair.
-  The lower—commonly thought of as the heel—is in fact composed of the outsole (the bit that makes contact with the ground); the shank (a rigid intermediary which prevents the shoe from buckling with use); and the heel proper, a raised platform that cushions your feet from impact.
-  The outsole of the plushest of dress shoes and stilettos may be swathed in leather.

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Berluti Démesures Collection. The Parisian artisanal label's leather shoes are famous for their lacquered, wood grain-like appearance. Always ask the boutique assistant for care advice when purchasing pieces with extraordinary finishings.

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Bottega Veneta sneakers in suede with signature intrecciato detailing. Waterproof your suede and nubuck shoes with a spray-on, and use a suede eraser to smooth off smudges. Next, use a soft bristled brush to restore the nap and lift off dirt particles.

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The Vero Cuoio stamp on this Louboutin sole is Italian for “genuine leather”, and is an assurance of quality from Consorzio Vero Cuoio Italiano, the trade organization for fine Italian tanneries.

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Mulberry patent wedge sandals. Patent leather is surprisingly easy to care for: just keep out of water, and occasionally smooth some petroleum jelly into the shoe to preserve its glamorous gloss.

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