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A shoe newbie and his thrift-store J&Ms: Should I salvage them and how?

PunctualAlex

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I was perusing the local Salvation Army the other day and these jumped out at me. I mean they literally fell off the shelf and hit me in the head. They're brown Johnston & Murphy wingtips and that is all that I know about them. This is what they look like:



Oh Lord, they're hideous! That's probably what you're thinking right now, and for the most part I agree, but for $5 I couldn't pass up the opportunity to maybe do some learning. I have nothing to lose on this one, gentlemen. I'd like to fix these shoes up a bit, to the point that they're wearable in polite company, without spending too much money. Basically, I'm wondering if this is even possible and if so, how I should go about it!



As you can see, they're very scratched up on the medallion and the inside of the toe, as well as the heel. They have goodyear rubber soles on the front and the heel which has started to wear through in places, so I assume that will need to be replaced. The medallion is filthy and will need to be cleaned, and there are some gouges in the leather. Other than that, they're in great shape.





So how should I go about fixing these, and restoring some sort of shine to them? From perusing these forums, I've gathered that an awl can make quick work cleaning the medallion, the rubber soles will probably need to be replaced by a cobbler (at what cost, do you think?) and that no matter how much work I put in, these are still never going to look incredible. But I'm young and stupid and I have a little too much time on my hands, so I'd like to try anyway.

Thanks for your help!
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by PunctualAlex
I was perusing the local Salvation Army the other day and these jumped out at me. I mean they literally fell off the shelf and hit me in the head. They're brown Johnston & Murphy wingtips and that is all that I know about them. This is what they look like:



Oh Lord, they're hideous! That's probably what you're thinking right now, and for the most part I agree, but for $5 I couldn't pass up the opportunity to maybe do some learning. I have nothing to lose on this one, gentlemen. I'd like to fix these shoes up a bit, to the point that they're wearable in polite company, without spending too much money. Basically, I'm wondering if this is even possible and if so, how I should go about it!



As you can see, they're very scratched up on the medallion and the inside of the toe, as well as the heel. They have goodyear rubber soles on the front and the heel which has started to wear through in places, so I assume that will need to be replaced. The medallion is filthy and will need to be cleaned, and there are some gouges in the leather. Other than that, they're in great shape.





So how should I go about fixing these, and restoring some sort of shine to them? From perusing these forums, I've gathered that an awl can make quick work cleaning the medallion, the rubber soles will probably need to be replaced by a cobbler (at what cost, do you think?) and that no matter how much work I put in, these are still never going to look incredible. But I'm young and stupid and I have a little too much time on my hands, so I'd like to try anyway.

Thanks for your help!

Sounds like a fun project, and at $5 you don't have much downside. I'd start by cleaning up the uppers. If the medallion needs to be cleaned out with an awl, you can do that. Then I'd hit them with a good cream polish to supple them (I'm not sure "supple" can properly be used as a verb, but nm). I'd err on the side of going a bit darker than their current color, since I think that'll help mute some of the scratching, etc. If that looks like it's helping, then move on to a wax polish, and perhaps try applying a mirror shine on the toes to brighten them up. (Were it me, I'd probably go with a dark brown on both the cream and the wax polish.)
I'd hold off on the re-soling for now. It'll cost you a fair bit more than you paid for the shoes, and there's not much point unless you can get the uppers into a condition where you're happy with them.
If you're happy with the results, please post some pics. Have fun.
 
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where's Dimitri when you need him?
 

designprofessor

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Good find!. Some elbow grease and I bet these will look good. Perhaps a locol shoe repair might have some alternatives for less than a whole reconstruction and it would add life to your vintage find.
 

Teacher

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For five bucks you probably got some very well made, already-antiqued shoes that, once cleaned up and resoled (if needed), could last you many a year. High five yourself right now...nobody's looking.
 

josepidal

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I purchased a used pair of Edward Greens once, one not very well maintained by the previous owner. I was pleasantly surprised to see how great they looked, despite their evident age, once cleaned and polished. You should have fun with your bargain shoes.

Incidentally, Hilary Freeman explained to me once that the full resole of one of their shoes is almost the cost of a new shoe. However, this gives you your old, beloved uppers which are more beautiful than a new shoe.
 

PunctualAlex

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Originally Posted by DocHolliday
After you clean them, I'd suggest inserting shoe trees and hitting them hard with leather conditioner. Apply it generously and let it sink in, then repeat. Then let them dry thoroughly. This can make a big difference.

Originally Posted by kitonbrioni
Looks like you got real antiquing for $5. Just pub plenty of leather lotion---Lexol is a good one. Then wax them well and keep them in shoe trees.

Are leather conditioner and leather loton the same thing? Also, what steps should I take to "clean" them, before I apply the conditioner/lotion? Just a damp wipe and some elbow grease? Also, what's the best thing to use to apply conditioner and lotion?

Originally Posted by Nantucket Red
Johnston & Murphy will completely rebuild their shoes on the original last for about $100, but going that route would be cheating yourself of a good learning experience.

Right, I may have used the wrong term above. The leather soles of the shoes are in almost perfect condition (a little bit of wear on the toe and some scuffs on the side) and the only thing that's worn down is the rubber that was put on the heel and front of the shoe (the black part in the second picture above). I assumed a cobbler could remove that and replace it rather easily since it is just rubber. As far as I can tell, it adds about a quarter inch to the heel and provides some traction, but other than that is there any benefit of having the rubber on there, or could I use it with just the original sole?
Anyone have any recommendation for some (this is probably sacrilege) relatively inexpensive shoe trees?

Thanks to everyone who's replied!
 

josepidal

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Originally Posted by PunctualAlex
The leather soles of the shoes are in almost perfect condition (a little bit of wear on the toe and some scuffs on the side) and the only thing that's worn down is the rubber that was put on the heel and front of the shoe (the black part in the second picture above).

Anyone have any recommendation for some (this is probably sacrilege) relatively inexpensive shoe trees?

That's great. Incidentally, I wonder if some dark brown colored shoe cream would help. The used pair I got also had a one-inch scratch on top of the big toe, but it was more the discoloration and not the size of the scratch that made it pronounced. After some cream and then several polishes with later use, it's now invisible unless you look really, really hard close up.

I think inexpensive Woodlore trees are found at every Marshall's, etc. Men's Wearhouse also rebrands Rochester trees.
 

PunctualAlex

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Originally Posted by josepidal
That's great. Incidentally, I wonder if some dark brown colored shoe cream would help. The used pair I got also had a one-inch scratch on top of the big toe, but it was more the discoloration and not the size of the scratch that made it pronounced. After some cream and then several polishes with later use, it's now invisible unless you look really, really hard close up.

I think inexpensive Woodlore trees are found at every Marshall's, etc. Men's Wearhouse also rebrands Rochester trees.


Thanks for the info, that's rather heartening. I will do some work on these and post again when they're finished.
Anyone else have any ideas, or stories?
 

fpo

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I recently saw what I believe to be a pair of Johnston & Murphy shoes at a thrift store, but most of the printing has been rubbed off.

They looked well made with no real damage. I was hoping that I could recover them, but they're huge. Too big for me, so probably a sz 12.

I don't know if pictures do them justice, they were quite nice.



 

Gixxer603

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Originally Posted by fpo
I recently saw what I believe to be a pair of Johnston & Murphy shoes at a thrift store, but most of the printing has been rubbed off.

They looked well made with no real damage. I was hoping that I could recover them, but they're huge. Too big for me, so probably a sz 12.

I don't know if pictures do them justice, they were quite nice.




The price tag on the heal just doesnt do it for me
 

mrchapel

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What an excellent find! A great learning project. They sure don't make those shoes like they used to...be sure to post the after pictures!
 

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