It’s no secret here at Mountain Air that we love our boots. We currently have 15+ styles in stock, from fashionable fall Mjus to heavy-duty winter Bogs, and everything in between. But good boots can be pricey, so not only you do you have to love them (I know, we say that a lot) but you have to SHOW them that you love them from time to time. While some people are of the school that their boots should keep up with your lifestyle, I’m a firm believer that a little TLC goes a long way in making good footwear live up to its full potential.
I bought my first pair of real leather “fancy” boots when I was eighteen. I was on a gap year before University trying to pick up French in Haute-Savoie so I could come back and work for Parks Canada in Jasper for the summer (which never worked out). If there’s one thing that Europeans have always understood that Canada (or Alberta, anyway) was slow to catch onto, it was that nice footwear can make your look. Instead of Boxing Day/Week, Europe does its mega-sale in the month of January. If you’re planning a European shopping trip, January is the best time of year to go. I got my first boots half-priced for 99 Euros. It was a lot of money to spend for a teenager, even if it was a great deal, so naturally I babied my boots the same way middle-aged men baby sports-cars.
The first thing I did was buy a magazine that had an article about leather care. This was in part so I could learn how to care for my beloved new boots, and in part so I could learn the word for shoe polish in French in order to go ask for some in the shoe store where I’d bought my boots. Here’s what I learned:
1. Cleaning: Leather is tough and leather is long-lasting, but you should still be kind when cleaning it. Use a soft, damp cloth and warm-not hot-water to gently wipe away salt and dirt. Be gentle, just like you would be with your own skin. You can invest in a special leather cleaning cloth, but I use an old sock of the non-knobbly variety. Cotton is best. If you clean your boots regularly, you won’t have to worry about deep stains and damage, so just plain water should work, but it’s okay to use dish detergent or other cleaning products, so long as you make sure to use a clean sponge or cloth afterward to get rid of the residue.
2. Conditioning: For black boots, a good black leather polish like our Walter’s shoe cream help keep black boots from going gray. I personally love the shoe creams that come with the sponge applicator, because then you can just buff on the polish and walk away, no fussing with a shoe brush to buff them up. Walters also makes neutral-coloured leather polish so you can protect boots of all colours, which is great for this year’s wide variety of hues of leather boots. I’ve also spoken to a lot of people who use various types of nut oil polishes, and those sound
Most boots will have a layer of weather guard on them when they’re new, but after a season it’s good to reapply. There are many types of waterproofers, from sprays to oils, but I’m a fan of the oils and the two in one conditioner/waterproofers like Walters, which soak into the boot, so they not only look shiny but repel water. Waterproofing is important because it will both help protect your feet from water, and help protect your boots from day-to-day water damage. Don’t leave your boots to fend for themselves. You’d wash your salt-encrusted car more than once a year, right?
3. Polish: Once your polish has had time to sink in, buff lovingly until shiny with a cotton cloth. Even if you do use a buff-in polish and this step is built-in to step 2, it’s a good idea to do a once-over with a soft cloth will help remove excess polish and reduce the risk of it transferring onto your clothing later (which has never happened to me, but better safe than sorry) as well as shine up the surface.
Cleaning your shoes, just like cold washing jeans with a bit of vinegar and salt (to lock in the dye), or watering a houseplant, is a good habit to get into to make possessions you love last a little longer. Buying quality over quantity is the way of the future, and if you love your boots when you buy them, it’s only fair to show them a little love further down the line. After all, they’ve supported you so far. Don’t forget, you can re-heel your boots as well, so long as you take them in to a cobbler (the person who fixes shoes) before the heel base gets worn down (better too soon than too late, I’ve been turned away before). This usually only costs ten to twenty dollars, depending on the replacement heel needed, and if you’re a heel-walker like I am, you might have to get this done annually. Hopefully not.
Unlike the shoe polish I first bought for these boots, the Walters tube is metallic plastic, but not straight aluminum, so a tiny crack in the metal won’t give you black hands every time you polish your boots. Years of being polished with the sponge buff-in polish have dried out my boots more than three-step polish would have, but I’m happy with how long they’ve lasted, and they still look much better than had I never polished them at all.
Happy Holidays, and happy polishing!