Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best Foot Forward

Though the temps are hovering in the 70's and low 80's, it's officially Autumn. Time to start thinking about trading in the summer shoes and flip flops for suede and leather shoes and boots!

In the kitchen, I condition my Boos cutting board, bread bowls and wood-handled cutlery with mineral oil a few times a year, and in the Fall, I condition my shoes and boots.

Having shiny shoes makes a person stand out as someone who cares about appearance. As a child, I was taught to put Vaseline on my patent leather shoes and buff them up before church or a party. One of my chores was to shine my dad's shoes. I didn't mind the job, because he wore good leather shoes, and they smelled like leather, not like feet! I mean, size 10 1/2's went half way up my arm, so I was definitely earning my 75 cents a pair. I liked the ritual. Spread out newspapers on the kitchen floor, line up the shoes by color, choose the polish, turn the little metal lever to pop the top off, release the waxy scent, and begin. Hey, what would happen if I were to use Oxblood or Cordovan on brown shoes?! Nope, I knew this was not the arena for rebellion.

Certain scents are triggers, and I have always liked the smell of shoe polish, gasoline and the dry cleaners's naphtha. I love, love love cooking aromas, flowers and cut grass...but, there's something I like about chemicals.

With this change in season, perhaps you'll join me in updating the shoe shine kit, or maybe you'll be inspired to create one! I've often said that I like to have the right stuff "on hand."

My shoe shine kit is a fabric box that's in my closet. It's easy to reach, with everything in one place.
Fabric boxes are also great for storing flip flops, small purses, and golf caps.

What's in the shoe shine kit?

Kiwi and Esquire brand shoe polishes in black, brown, neutral and mink oil. Rags made from cut up tee shirts, shoe mitts, sponges and shoehorns from various hotel stays, horsehair buffing brushes, horsehair polish applicators, heel savers and a suede brush.

Old, dried Meltonian shoe cream in Navy Blue. I only have one pair of blue shoes. Time to toss; it's seen better days!

Express liquid polish with a sponge is great for your office drawer, car, or in your golf bag.

Solid polish is ok if it's cracked, as long as it's still wet!

Now that your kit is complete, it's time to start polishing. Set aside an hour or so on a rainy or quiet day to get all your shoes and boots conditioned. You'll be ready to grab a pair and go, rather than having to deal with last season's scrapes, dings and leftover mud.

I'm not from a "military family" per se. 2-3 year stints were completed. Officer Candidate School, Navy, Coast Guard and Army...and it ended with my father's and uncle's generations. No siblings or cousins served. We didn't grow up with 'The Great Santini" bouncing a quarter off our just made beds, or having to spit shine our shoes. But, the discipline of some military service was handed down. Neatness, for one.

Anyway, what exactly is a spit shine? It's a few-hour long process of layering polish then wax, mixed with water, or better yet with spit, and buffing with a cloth or cotton balls to get a 'parade shine' or mirror finish on the toes of military boots. Admirable, but too lofty a goal for this civilian.

For general shoe polishing....

First, clean off the dirt. Remove laces, if any. Apply leather conditioner (neatsfoot or mink oil), work it into the seams for waterproofing (right boot in picture below), wipe it off and and let boots dry.

I've had the old pair of slides below for years and I still use the conditioning oil that came with them.

Lined up to dry after conditioning. Colored polish can now be applied, buffed off with a rag or chamois cloth and shined with a horsehair brush.

Suede can get crushed and marred, too.

Use a metal suede brush to lightly brush and restore the nap.

You can extend the life of your shoes, and prevent cracking by conditioning at least once a year, and by using shoe and boot trees to maintain the shape. The trees are available in cedar or plastic.

Nothing beats a new pair of golf shoes!

But, for a rainy or muddy round, we all have a less than stellar-looking pair.

I keep liquid polish with my golf stuff, and if I have the time, I give my shoes a quick once over. It's a quick fix and it'll do.

Dab it on, let it dry and then buff the shoes.

Paint the edges with black polish, and you're good to go~~best foot forward.

Life is good. Level & Plumb!

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