Though shoes can be among the most expensive components in a wardrobe, they generally do not get the kind of HTC attention and care such an investment deserves.
Dress shoes probably endure more abuse than a favorite business suit, but shoes usually are left to gather dust in the closet while the suit gets sent out to the cleaners.
People tend to care for shoes only when they appear shabby or scuffed. But they should be treated properly to extend their longevity even before they are worn for the first time. Here are a few guidelines to help keep your best foot forward.
* INVEST IN SHOE TREES. Storing shoes in their original box after use does nothing to preserve their shape. They must be stored in a well ventilated area and shoe trees should be inserted into leather shoes and boots to retain their shape. They fill the shoe when feet are absent and prevent cracking and unsightly creasing behind the toe area. Cedar shoe trees are highly recommended, because they also absorb odors. The shoe tree effect can be simulated by stuffing newspaper inside the shoe.
* USE A SHOE HORN. The quickest way to ruin a pair of shoes is by forceable entry. Loosen the laces sufficiently or undo buckles to eliminate any strain to the upper part and eyelets before inserting the shoe horn. Anything less will result in breaking down the mouth of the shoe.
* GIVE SHOES A REST. Consecutive days of wear is not ideal for any pair of shoes. If you must wear a certain style every day, then buy more than one pair. Leather shoes require at least a day or two between use. This waiting period allows perspiration odors to dry out. Also, keep leather shoes away from direct heat to prevent the skin from drying out.
* CLEAN AND POLISH SHOES REGULARLY. Some shoe experts recommend shoe shining and washing leathers before and after wear. Dust and grime are best combated with a sponge and saddle soap at least once a month. Polish should be applied only when the shoe is completely dry. Never use a liquid polish on leather shoes. It's well worth investing in a top-quality paste or cream, which lends moisture to the skin.
Suede shoes need only a stiff-bristled brushing once a week to remove dirt. Gum erasers can be used to remove light stains, and heavier stains should be cleaned professsionally. An application of 3-M Scotch Guard should be put on suede shoes after cleaning and brushing.
* REFURBISH WORN PARTS. The heel is usually the first to go and should be replaced when one-fourth of the heel is missing.
Raymond Robinson, Johnston & Murphy shoemaker, offers the following tips for the best shoeshine:
* Polish shoes once a week.
* Regular polishing protects the shoe and preserves the luster.
* Always use saddle soap for cleansing before polishing leather shoes.
* Clean brushes and shine cloths in the washing machine once every six months to ensure a consistent shine.
* Strip off polish build-up after every eight shines. Excess wax and polish often contribute to perforations and cracking. Build-up can be removed easily with a leather balm.
* Shine new shoes to protect them. New shoes usually are sprayed with a gloss that does not provide the protection of a polishing.
* Dress the edge of the heel and sole with a black dressing product to lock out moisture, which leads to cracks.