• Hi, I'm the owner and main administrator of Styleforum. If you find the forum useful and fun, please help support it by buying through the posted links on the forum. Our main, very popular sales thread, where the latest and best sales are listed, are posted HERE

    Purchases made through some of our links earns a commission for the forum and allows us to do the work of maintaining and improving it. Finally, thanks for being a part of this community. We realize that there are many choices today on the internet, and we have all of you to thank for making Styleforum the foremost destination for discussions of menswear.

    Bored of counting likes on social networks? At Styleforum, you’ll find rousing discussions that go beyond strings of emojis.

    Click Here to join Styleforum's thousands of style enthusiasts today!

    Styleforum is supported in part by commission earning affiliate links sitewide. Please support us by using them. You may learn more here.

Mr. Moo

Boxercise Toughguy
Nov 25, 2008
Reaction score
In this thread we talk about shoe care, post our favorite products, before and after photos of our shoes, etc. There seem to be a few opinions on whether to use wax, paste, polish, cream? On what kinds of shoes? How often? Which products? What to avoid? Etc. Perhaps we can all contribute words or photos or both.

I'll post what I've already posted in other threads here to get us started.

The shoe on the right was never polished or cleaned with anything. The shoe on the left has one application of Saphir Renovateur.


Tonight, I actually applied Kiwi Polish to them (in brown color), and they look even better. Almost as if they've patinated instantly, much moreso than before. I will try to get a photo in natural light.


These shoes are made of shell cordovan, and they were quite dusty/a bit dry looking prior to using Saphir Renovateur (a trending theme...). They were worn about 8 months without any care other than brushing.


Top after, bottom before:

Before in foreground:


Both after:

My technique for both of these pairs of shoes is very simple. I wipe with a just every so slightly moist cotton cloth, and follow by applying the Renovateur with a horse hair dauber. The product goes everywhere on the upper. I let it dry for 3-5 minutes or so, and then brush it out with a horse hair brush. To achieve slightly more shine, I use a polishing cloth (the $3 ones from Allen Edmonds work great) for 20-25 seconds all around the shoe.


Stylish Dinosaur
Nov 15, 2010
Reaction score
My technique for both of these pairs of shoes is very simple. I wipe with a just every so slightly moist cotton cloth, and follow by applying the Renovateur with a horse hair dauber. The product goes everywhere on the upper. I let it dry for 3-5 minutes or so, and then brush it out with a horse hair brush. To achieve slightly more shine, I use a polishing cloth (the $3 ones from Allen Edmonds work great) for 20-25 seconds all around the shoe.[/quote]



Distinguished Member
Mar 17, 2008
Reaction score
This is going to be a great thread. Sunday is my polishing day and I will share some pictures and thoughts.


Stylish Dinosaur
Dubiously Honored
Oct 16, 2006
Reaction score
There are similar posts all over this forum. It would be hard to consolidate them all here.


Senior Member
Mar 12, 2009
Reaction score
Great start to this thread. I'm afraid I don't have any pictures handy.

Calf leather - I use a big old horse hair brush to clean off any dust or debris. Then a moistened cloth to get anything else that maybe on the shoe. Lightly dab a dime size worth of Saphir Renovateur and using circular movements - work it into the leather all around. Then I let dry and work on the other pair. When I'm finished with the other pair - I'm ready to brush off and then wipe down the shoe. Then I'll go through one more round with a neutral cream.
I really don't need a high gloss shine except on my black captoes. For the black captoes, I use the Saphir Medaille Dor wax. That's some great stuff.
Shell C - I'll use Crema Alpina/Nubina instead of the Saphir Renovateur. And then use paste wax to finish it off.

The Saphir products smells great. The Crema Nubina smells like Pine Sol to me


Senior Member
Jan 10, 2011
Reaction score
Amazing thread, I'll be following. I'm just learning some of these things from my local cobbler but still don't feel comfortable enough (or have nice enough shoes - yet) to do this on my own without screwing one of my shoes up, hopefully this thread will help raise that confidence.


Senior Member
Feb 10, 2011
Reaction score
Originally Posted by Mr. Moo
The shoe on the left has one application of Saphir Renovateur.

Ohhhhhhhh...Saphir Renovateur smell...second only to new Benz smell...


Senior Member
Mar 17, 2007
Reaction score
Mr Moo

Although there's PLENTY of shoe care advice spread around SF, I think it's a great idea to have a single dedicated thread for this subject.

Best thread idea for a long time



Senior Member
Mar 17, 2007
Reaction score
I've had quite a few PM's regarding my mirror shine. Until joining SF, I had absolutely no idea how to shine any shoe, let alone generate a mirror! Below has been my standard reply. It works for me (with absolutely no flaking, cracking or damage), but might not for you.

Mirror Shine
The problem is that each dab, swirl, brush and polish is open to so many variables and interpretations. A spot of polish to me, could be twice that amount to you. Waiting until you feel friction and drag can mean totally different things to different people... the list goes on. I now believe that it can only be learned through self-experimentation. This takes time and patience. Don't get bogged down in endless 'how-to shine' posts.

The RM boots you see are all standard yearling. The RMW Saddle Dressing I found too goopy (it remained sticky). I will use Saphir Renovateur occasionally. It seems to even out and blend previous layers; especially a rain splattered boot. But I always leave this stuff to dry overnight and then buff. Then a single coat of Saphir MdO coloured cream. I never leave this stuff to dry for more than 15 mins -20 mins, otherwise it sets solid and resists any attempts to blend it in. Lastly comes the solid MdO wax. Apply a 'normal', medium thick coat (that's it). Buff this, and consider everything after this as going for the mirror
. The secret from here is very thin layers... and lots of them.

Common mistakes:
  • Too much water: I'll put a couple of millimeters in a flat container, then take a single drop with a felt cloth. The felt is bought from a haberdasher. The cheap stuff (like the stuff your shoe bags are made of). Each single water drop is matched by a single, tiny dab of solid wax.
  • Too much pressure: As the shine appears, you'll need less and less pressure.

  • Not enough coats: The RMW yearling has a fairly pitted surface. The shine will not appear until all those micro-bumps have been leveled out. This can take fifty plus coats. My black ones took less; the claret ones more than a hundred! It takes time. Simply do 10 coats a night (not the entire shoe, just the toes and rears).
  • Use your lips: I think some on SF thought I was joking - run your lips over the toe. You'll feel how coarse and warm the leather is. Fingers aren't sensitive enough for this. As you add more coats, keep on running the soft part of your lips over the toe. The more coats, the smoother and colder it should feel. This way you KNOW your making progress. Sounds silly, but it works for me. Once your lips know what a true mirror feels like, there'll be no more guessing.
  • Area too dark: Until you can generate a true mirror, try to do all polishing under natural clear light. In the beginning I'd over polish, convinced there was no shine present.
  • Use your warm breath: As you come to the end of each dab of wax, breathe warmly onto the leather, then swirl some more. Remember, all wax is applied with tiny swirls. You move your tightly wrapped finger over the toe, while still swirling (think tornado).

  • At the end of every swirl, you'll find a tiny smidgen of wax polish left on the felt. Adjust the felt by a millimetre to access it. This micro dot of polish is perfect for finishing off that single swirling session, BEFORE you go for another dab of water. In fact, this wax micro dot + warm breath is usually the moment of truth.

One thing you'll find is how strangers constantly stop and comment on your shoes. I get it about four times a week. Last was the Ritz Hotel VIP chauffeur. He ambushed me for twenty minutes to discuss shoe shine techniques; wanting to know how I did it and what I used. I'm not a VIP, nor do I stay at the Ritz.

I cannot find Saphir products anywhere in London (mail order from abroad is possible though). Got a stash when in France. The Paris shops have it on every street corner. Most on SF reckon that the Lobb stuff is in fact the inferior Saphir range, not the MdO. Having said that, many do a splendid job using Kiwi. It's more about the technique than the product. Most people never seem to generate a proper mirror. Without being witness to what they're actually doing, I have no idea why this is. The failure rate (unless you're in the forces) appears to be high.

Remember: everything I've stated above can easily be contradicted. It seems that shoe polishing is more black art than anything else.

Hope that helps


Northampton Novice

Senior Member
Oct 19, 2010
Reaction score
A great thread choice Mr Moo. Notably once we have got our precious shoes, the next logical step is to ensure they are well looked after, and if you can bare it, to actually wear the damn beauties!

I have picked out some wise words from Ron Rider on this very subject, posted here some years back, they help to define some of the key products we'll utilise:

"True shoe aficionados can argue for hours over whether wax or cream is the most effective polish for their prized footwear. Both are effective, and the use of one or the other is certainly necessary for the proper upkeep of your shoes.

Paste (Wax) Polish

Finding the "˜recipe' that manufacturers use for their paste, or wax, polish is as difficult as prying a BBQ sauce recipe from a Texan - can't seem to be done. Nevertheless, in examining the Material Handling Safety Datasheets that the government requires of these concoctions, it appears that the overwhelming ingredient is Stoddard Solvent (Naphtha) which, in the case of Kiwi (division of Sara Lee) and Kelly's (Fiebings, Inc. in Milwaukee) exceeds 90%. The two other popular shoe polish brands here, Lincoln and Angelus, do not make their MSDS as readily available, so I cannot speak to their main ingredient, but both seem to contain more pigment/waxes than the more popular Kiwi*. A notable exception is the Avel wax polishes (Saphir and Medaille D'Or) which both use a turpentine (natural) base. All use some combination of Carnauba and Beeswax as a binder.

Despite this information, which would seem to counter-act the marketing messages of these products, all are useful in the general upkeep of the finish of fine dress shoes. A personal observation is that Lincoln and the Avel polishes are the most effective in regards to coverage, protection and filling/fixing minor scuffs and cuts.


Cream Polish

Available in a huge variety of colors, Cream Polish is very similar to the harder wax polishes with the main difference being some subtraction of solvent and a corresponding addition of mineral oil, or similar ingredient. While equal in it's ability to impart color, the cream polishes generally do not have the same ability to cover the inevitable scuffs and cuts that a leather shoe is prone to experience. In addition to the above manufacturers, others of note are Urad (Italy), Colonnil (Germany) and Smart (Turkey).



The most under-used products in the shoe care market might very well be the neutral, more natural "˜cleaner & conditioner' products. In my opinion, the continual use of these products on a weekly (or more often) basis is far more important to the overall "˜health' of a fine leather upper than even the regular use of colored waxes and creams. Easy to apply, these products all go a long way in keeping leather supple, protected and, in the case of the brown tones, help to bring out that all important "˜patina' that can only develop naturally thru time and attention. Containing little or no harmful chemicals, any of the following are worth investing in: Allen Edmonds Conditioner/Cleaner, Crema Alpina (Italy), Renovateur by Avel (Spain/France) and Lexol (USA).


Featured Sponsor

What is the most important handwork to have on a shirt?

  • Hand attached collar

    Votes: 16 30.2%
  • Handsewn button holes

    Votes: 17 32.1%
  • Hand finish on yolk and shoulders

    Votes: 20 37.7%

Forum statistics

Latest member