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How to Polish Shoes

The Hilton Park Lane is one place in central London were you can get a real shoeshine. Sadly these days this is a thing of the past with shoe care seemingly not relevant and speed of the essence. 

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

Once courted by Berluti, Steven treats the shoe like an individual piece of art and not another quick polish like others in his field. Each pair of shoes is unique and must be treated that way whether it takes 10 minutes or 45 minutes. His goal is to make the shoe as good as new no matter what the condition. 

Shoes are at their best when they have been worn for a while and immaculately maintained. Stevens toolkit is really impressive, he uses the right colours (thirteen in total) as well as the best kind of food for the leather. He also makes many of his own products. 

He has polished most leather items and uses 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"

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

Steven feels that all shoeshiners are painting with the same brush which is the complete opposite to hairdressers and barbers who are seen as two separate fields. People need to see that there are the shiners who take two minutes and the others like himself who take as long as the shoe needs. "Maybe we should be called by a different name". 

He aims to change the way people perceive shoeshine and hopes they will see what he does is an art.  He is 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". 

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
  • Use a leather cream that doesn't contain silicone
  • 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 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.
  • Once you see a gloss under the wax buff with a large horsehair brush.
  • Finish with a pair of stockings
  • I use 80 denier but anything above 40 will produce a wonderful finish.
  • Shoeshine UK are available at the London Hilton On Park Lane from 11am to 8pm Monday to Friday. You can even phone Steven in advance (07941045275) or if you are really short of time drop the shoes over and pick them up later. Steven says early next year there will also be a website


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