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Elevating the shining of shoes to an art form

Portrait of Steven Skippen

Elevating the shining of shoes to an art form

Shoeshine UK have polished most leather items

Shoeshine UK have polished most leather items and use creams and polishes sourced mainly from abroad. The most unique thing is the whole process is done by hand, an art that has long been forgotten.

Steven states: “This gives more control and you can feel the leather and what it needs and when it has had enough, it allows you to become one with the shoe, plus [he laughs] the client also gets a foot massage”.

The whole process is done by hand

His hands are hardly dirty as he applies small amounts of wax and gradually builds layers with his light touch. A main attribute of Stevens technique is combining colours to give different effects such as burnishing or two tone. This is something you don’t see at a standard shoeshine.

These days there are shoeshiners at the airport and train stations who don’t take the full time needed to take real care to nourish the shoe giving an extremely high gloss.

We are quite amused at using brushes to apply polish.

“It just doesn’t work because all you are doing is adding to the surface of the leather but by using your hands you are penetrating the leather and nourishing the shoe, plus not making any mess. I don’t feel that everybody should use there hands. A cloth will be good if you don’t feel comfortable using your hands”.

Not only shine your shoes but make them last a lot longer

What is a real shoeshine? Steven from Shoeshine UK has been the resident shoeshine for the past thirteen years and has a massive amount of knowledge regarding leather and shoes of all kinds.

My tips on shoecare are below and obviously dont contain my whole process but will still enable you to care and shine your shoes better than before.

After a few goes you will get your own style and knack and at the same time of discovered a new way to not only shine your shoes but make them last alot longer.

Stevens tips for caring for your shoes are:

  • Don’t be scared of a shoe no matter the colour or fabric
  • Try to moisturize the shoe aswell as polishing, don’t moisturize with a brush as you need to penetrate the leather and will only achieve this by rubbing the cream into the leather.
  • Use a leather cream that doesn’t contain silicone and is preferably Beeswax or mink oil based. I use a combination of Creme Surfine and Renovateur from Saphir which act as cleansers aswell as conditioners and Artist Palette from Bootblack in Japan.
  • Buff off the cream after leaving a couple of mins to dry.
  • Avoid the off the shelf quick shine sponges because they dry the leather and leave a skin which slowly suffocates the leather
  • Concentrate on the side of the soles and back of heels as much as the uppers
  • Use a toothbrush to clean the welts as this removes all hidden dust and dirt
  • Add your polish, preferably a wax and oil based polish with low chemical content, build up one layer at a time, let it dry then add another and try to get a smooth application.I use Saphir Medaille d’or.
  • Build up the layers from the toe in a circular motion and blend into the welt and sides of the shoe.
  • For every three layers that you add on the toe and heel add one layer on the rest of the shoe to avoid cracking etc.
  • Certain shoes can take more polish than others and all shoes take more polish on the toe cap and heels so remember the 3 to 1 rule.
  • On very soft leather do the same process but lower the amount of layers or use a creme based polish the best being from Saphir and Bootblack in many varying colours.
  • Once you see a gloss under the wax finish with a pair of stockings
  • I use 60 denier but anything above 40 will produce a wonderful finish.

Check out our YouTube tutorial for a more in-depth explanation on getting that perfect shine.

Steven polishing a customer's shoes by hand

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