No man should need to endure a derelict pair of shoes. Not only do your shoes define the type of man you are, they can also determine whether or not you’ll get lucky with that cute bird at the bar.
This brings us to the lost art of shoe polishing. The practice traces its modern origins to the military as part of a soldier’s dress standards.
In The Beginning
The production of shoe polish was at its peak during World War I when soldiers were required to keep their boots in good nick. Following the wars, shoe polish entered the mainstream and was adopted by the wider public. These days a polished shoe is considered a fashion statement, with a high gloss finish being the desired look amongst the most discerning gents. Shoe polishes come primarily in wax, paste or cream forms and are designed to protect leather, promote shine and improve colour.
Many brands from the war era still exist today, producing products with original ingredients steeped in tradition. These brands dominate the market and are often considered the finest in their field, but they aren’t the only brands worth knowing to keep you on your shiniest feet. Click through the slideshow for our best polish picks and read below learn how to shine like a pro.
How To Polish Your Shoes Like A Magnificent Bastard
- Tag a clean rag or towel and dab it in the shoe polish so you have an adequate amount to work with.
- Next, place a mat or newspaper down on the floor so the polish doesn’t stain the floor.
- Ensure the shoe is clean and dry, then take the polish-soaked section of the rag and rub it into the leather of the dress shoe.
- Once complete, continue to work the polish into the shoe over its entirety, working across all areas of the shoes evenly. When you’re pleased with the shine, allow to dry for several minutes before wearing.
Voila. Shine bright like a diamond, you magnificent bastard.
Read on for the best shoe polish brands…
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In addition to inspiring the phrase, "You don't know shit from Shinola", The Shinola Company has been producing a wax shoe polish since 1907. The brand became popular during the World Wars for army personnel and has been handmade by experienced craftspeople ever since. Their signature shoe polish delivers excellent shine, waterproofing and protection. Shinola has seen a modern resurgence in popularity, particularly amongst the hipster set, since it began producing covetable accessories like leather goods and watches.
Though perhaps less well-known than its main rival, Kiwi, Cherry Blossom is a historic and enduring company that has been improving men's feet since the early 1900s. Brothers Dan and Charles Mason founded the company after discovering a mutual desire to invent a polish that would not rub off on and stain clothing as many other products did at the time. More than a century later, Cherry Blossom is an award-winning brand that has enjoyed double digit growth year-on-year for the last four years.
A 212-step process goes into making each pair of Allen Edmonds Goodyear welted shoes. It’s no surprise, then, that the company prizes scrupulous attention to detail in all things related to footwear, including proper shoe care. Allen Edmonds’ luxurious shoe polishes come in a range of colors and formulations to preserve even the most delicate smooth leather. Try the premium version with a sponge tip for easy application with no mess.
When we say that the best shoe polish brands stick to tradition, nowhere is that more true than with Angelus. Angelus shoe polish was created by Paul T Angelos in 1907 in his kitchen. The brand is still going strong today with his grandson at the helm. The polish contains carnauba and bee's wax to ease application and provide shine. Angelus shoe polish brings life to old shoes while restoring the colour and preserving the leather.
Meltonian is a classic producer of cream-based shoe polish in a dizzying array of colours. More than 30 shades are available to revive dulled hues, from light bone and brown sugar, to bordeaux and imperial blue. Meltonian utilises essential oils and waxes in its polish to prevent leather from drying and cracking over time. Not only will your shoes get a brighter shine, they'll remain protected from the elements to prolong the life of your favourite footwear.
Since 1925, Lincoln has been trusted to deliver the classic military "spit shine" to shoes and boots around the world. John Lincoln first developed his innovative shoe polish in his San Francisco kitchen, where he blended colours and melted waxes according to a formula still used today. The company continues to call California home and to produce small-batch products with no cheap solvents, aerosols, silicon chemistry or plastic sponges.
Boot Black Japan
We stumbled across this little beauty of a brand in Pitti Uomo. Made in Japan, Boot Black offer a range of oils, polishes, creams and accessories to ensure your shoes remain in top shape and condition. The ambitious company was founded in 2007 by Japan’s largest shoe care producer, Columbus, which has been around since 1911.
For true footwear aficionados, no shoe polish brand can outshine Saphir. The French company is an old-school icon beloved for its all-natural formula and venerable pedigree. Saphir continues to use the same ingredients that won it the Gold Medal in Paris in 1925, including pine-based turpentine, mink oils, and vegetable, animal and mineral waxes. You’ll find no harmful silicones, resins or petroleum in Saphir products. Purchasing the pinnacle of shoe polishes can be a comparatively pricey prospect, but its legions of loyal fans wouldn’t deign to use anything else.