One of the rules we live by at Aquila is that every man should have a shoe care kit. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, or ridiculously expensive, or stocked with 1001 ingenious products. In fact there are only five things you really need: a shoe brush, some shoe cream, a cleaning cloth, a shoe tree, and some protective shoe spray. With those five products, you can keep your shoes looking (almost) brand new for years. Look after your shoes and they’ll look after you – that’s our motto.
Think of your shoe cleansing kit as an investment. A good pair of leather shoes isn’t cheap, but with just a little effort, they’ll last longer than 10 pairs of regular shoes. Shoe polishing kits are about changing your footwear mindset: from basic utility to long-term asset.
Let’s break down your basic shoe brush. First of all, no, not just any brush will do (please, please, please don’t buff your loafers with a toothbrush). You want 100% horsehair and a solid wooden handle. Horsehair works best because the bristles are tough enough to polish the leather, but soft enough to preserve it. The only exception are suede or Nubuck shoes, which are too delicate for horsehair – you need a good quality rubber shoe brush for those. Shoe brushes can be used for scrubbing off dirt and other particles before applying polish, and for working the polish into the leather (just remember to clean your brush between these two steps). After each use, rinse your shoe brush with some warm soapy water to remove any old polish.
Shoe cream and shoe polish are basically the same thing, and it should always match the colour of your shoes. We make black, tan, dark brown and neutral shoe creams for your shoe polishing kit. These creams cover and repair the nicks and scratches of daily wear, but even more importantly, they nourish the leather. They keep it subtle and smooth. If your leather shoes are turning dry, dull and brittle, it’s because you haven’t been using shoe cream. All you have to do is take a small (emphasis on small) amount of shoe cream, and work it into the leather using either a brush or a soft, clean cloth. Finish by wiping away any excess cream with a buffing cloth. And just remember, less is more with shoe cream: excess cream creates a grainy texture, which attracts dust and grime.
Honestly, you don’t need a specialist cleaning cloth (any soft, clean cotton will do) – but it does help. We often recommend keeping a couple of cloths handy. Maybe an old cotton t-shirt for working shoe polish into leather (just make sure it’s clean), and then a dedicated buffing cloth for polishing. The buffing cloth is arguably more important. It should be brushed, tightly woven cotton, and the softer the better. Once you’ve removed excess shoe cream from the leather, just take your buffing cloth and rub firmly all over the shoe. You’ll get a mirror-like shine quite quickly. Once you can see your face in your Brogues, you know they’re ready to go.
Every shoe care kit should include a few shoe trees. Believe it or not, these simple cedarwood moulds do more for the longevity of your shoes than almost anything else. We sell shoe trees in three sizes, depending on the size of your feet: small (sizes 40-41), medium (sizes 42-43) and large (sizes 44-45). Shoe trees should be made from cedarwood, rather than pine, because it helps the leather breathe and removes any excess moisture (cedarwood also keeps creepy crawlies out of your shoes, which is an added bonus). After each wear, simply put the shoe trees inside your shoes, making sure they fill the shape of the shoe completely (without stretching the leather). With proper care, your shoes will hold their silhouette for years.
Last, but definitely not least, we have shoe spray. A vital ingredient in any man’s shoe care kit. We make our own eco shoe spray at Aquila, which offers lasting protection for all kinds of leather – you can even use it on bags and wallets. A good shoe spray does two things at once: it seals the leather and repels water, but it also lets the leather breathe. Both of these are hugely important for the long-term health of your shoes. When it comes to using shoe spray, here are some tips. Spray your shoes before their first wear, and generally after every polish. Before spraying, give your shoes a quick scrub with a shoe brush, just to remove any dirt or other particles (you don’t want these getting trapped between the leather and the repellent). Lastly, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They’ll be on the back of the bottle if you’re not sure.