Don’t give up on good shoes.
While attending a friend’s wedding in the lovely city of York, England, I stumbled upon a pair of bespoke John Lobb shoes in a local thrift shop. They were my size. They were my style. I knew that they were far nicer than any shoes I’d ever owned. Or had been, in their original state. And even though new, bespoke Lobbs sell for $4,300—these are, after all, some of the finest handcrafted foot coverings on earth—they were only $50. Unfortunately, they weren’t really in office-ready condition, but I bought them anyway, hoping I could find a way to restore them.
I did, as you can see from the before and after photographs above.
Through Styleforum, a shoe aficionado named Nate offered to work on the uppers, and, being a rookie in these matters (and wanting to learn from a master), I took him up on it. His process consisted of a) buffing with the inside of a sock, which removed “virtually all of the buildup on the surface”; b) applying a layer of Crema Alpina “to clean up anything [he] missed,” at which point they looked “100% better,” with “almost all the creasing… flattened out”; c) giving them a go with Saphir Renovateur to “cut through some of the stubborn old polish”; and d) applying a little Saphir Medaille d’Or brown wax to the microcreases to further try to dissolve any remaining black gunk.
He did a remarkable job. As you can see, the Lobbs do indeed look 100% better, or more. The leather is remarkably resilient; in most places, it could pass as brand-new. There’s still some slight creasing near the front of the shoes, and the black polish that was ground into those creases hasn’t completely vanished. But these are much, much better than presentable, which was my original goal. I think they look fantastic.
Next time I plan to do the job myself. All it took was some quality products, a little know-how, and a lot of elbow grease. As I said: don’t give up on good shoes.