There are a lot of guides on how to care for your shoes out there but it’s rare to hear tips from someone who actually makes shoes. Yesterday, we got to talk to one of the master craftsmen of Salvatore Ferragamo. In the interest of protecting the secrets of the classic brand, I have been asked not to reveal his name. I can tell you, however, that he is a native of Florence, works where the factory of Ferragamo is located and has been making shoes since he was 11 years old. He spoke no English but we managed to get through with the help of a translator and got some pro advice on shoe care.
#1 Don’t throw away the stuffing
It’s pretty obvious that you have to wipe your shoes as soon as you can after they get wet. But the water that enters seams of your shoes is what really causes damage. According to the master cobbler, the paper stuffing you get with a new pair of shoes helps in absorbing the water. After wiping off your shoes, place the paper back in your pair so that it can absorb the water before it settles in your shoes. This is necessary to keep the water from softening the glue and corroding the nails that hold the shoe together. When your shoes are dry, change the paper so they don’t smell. This time, the paper will help your shoes retain their shape while in storage. As an alternative, you can also use a shoe horn.
#2 Store them properly
It’s important to find a perfect spot to place your shoes in while they are drying or as you’re airing them out after use. Putting them in a dark, clammy place will encourage the development of molds. On the other hand, exposing them to sunlight will make the leather hard and flaky, he says. It’s then crucial to find a place where they will get proper ventilation, away from extreme temperature and temperature changes so that they will retain their quality.
#3 Wax on, wax off
Another crucial step in shoe care is regularly waxing them. It’s even more important than shining or polishing them. The master craftsman expresses, however, that it’s important to use the right kind of wax. Liquid formulations will just enter your seams and harden. A cream formulation blended with beeswax is ideal as it locks in the natural oils of the leather to help them stay shiny and smooth.
#4 If all else fails, go to a specialist
If you fail to care for your shoes properly and the leather hardens, all is not lost. You can still salvage them by gently massaging in some wax and storing them in an upright position for a few days to let the wax sink in. If they are still hard after a few applications and days, you can go to your shoe repair shop and they are bound to find a cure to be able to restore it back to original form. (If it’s a genuine pair from Ferragamo, however, you can go to their store for a recommendation on good shoe repair shops!)
#5 Box it up
If you won’t be using your shoes for a long time, keep them in the box. The master craftsman says that it’s important to keep them dry but still in a condition where they can “breathe.” Leather shines as it is used so when you are storing them up, it’s important to keep them in a place where moisture won’t be compromised or dried up.
Photo by Paolo Tabuena