Written by Ethan Newton 


A little skill, with perseverance, can make the most humble of things better, and truly great things in to art. It is a beautiful thing, to be able to create something with your own hands from very little. 

So it is with polishing shoes. A tin of wax, a cotton ball, a little water - even an ordinary pair of shoes will benefit, while a great shoe will be transformed. I learnt the method I use from a dear friend, using Saphir Wax, a touch of water, to lay fine coat upon fine coat of wax in the parts of a shoe supported by a firm counter - the toe box, the heel, the waist of the sole, the sole edges.

The finished result can range from a deep lustre to a mirror shine, and when colour is played with, can create patina and variation.

My method starts with the Creme Surfine from Saphir, applied to a worn shoe in a fine coat all over. The creme is to restore and nourish, and when applied to a brushed shoe it will restore some colour and richness.

I leave the creme on for a few hours, and use a soft brush to buff the excess creme out. I brush it vigorously, and find after just this step the shoe will have a nice richness. Remember to do the sole edges, and in the welt, as it will all improve upon the look of the shoe.

Using a deer bone, I rub down the sole edges, smoothing them out and restoring some of the inevitable wear that gets to the sole. The smoothed out sole better takes wax and can more quickly shine.

Applying wax is the same regardless of the position on the shoe, just varying amounts of pressure. I use a cotton ball, folded in half to give a flat surface, with a drop of water to smooth down the stray fibres.

Using a very small amount of wax - the pate de luxe and medaille d'or wok best for me - apply fine coats of wax in small circles, buffing and buffing lightly with the cotton ball until you get a light shine. The goal here is to fill the pores of the leather, fine coat after fine coat until you get a high shine.

The best areas to shine are where the leather doesn’t crease - the heel counter, toe box, sole and heel edges, but for every five coats there, give a coat to the body of the shoe so that the variation is subtle, and the whole shoe gleams.

Colour is something to experiment with - with black I mix in a coat of neutral for every 5 or so coats of black. With dark brown I add a coat of black, and with mid to light browns and tans I mix in darker colours and burgundies to add some patina. Experiment is key, and if you are applying wax lightly, you aren’t going to go to wrong.

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