Not only does shining your shoes look good, it is a necessary part of properly caring for and maintaining a nice pair of leather shoes or boots. The polish itself helps moisturize and waterproof the leather, lengthening the lifespan of your shoes. And the buffing and shining ensures a clean, pulled-together look no matter the occasion.
This article provides the complete multimedia guide to shining your shoes. There are a number of methods for shining — the pictorial guide below is former AoM contributor Cameron Schaefer’s preferred method which he learned in the military; the video and illustrated guide show Brett’s favored method. Experiment and see what works for you. And at the very end, you’ll find a bonus project for injecting even more masculine vibes into this satisfying footwear ritual.
1. Gather Your Supplies & Prep
- tin of shoe polish
- horsehair shine brush (the large one in the image above)
- shoe polish brush (the smaller applicator brush)
- cotton balls
- shine cloth
Find an old towel or newspaper to spread over the area you will be working on. Shoe polish has an uncanny ability to get smeared everywhere, even when you’re being extremely careful. And it’s really hard to get out of carpet.
2. Clean Your Shoes
Clean the dust and dirt off your boots with a horsehair shine brush or damp rag. If you must get your boots a little wet to clean them off, allow them time to dry before applying the polish.
3. Apply Polish
Cover the entire shoe with a generous amount of polish, using your shoe polish brush. The polish I’m using is black Kiwi Shoe Polish, but be sure to match the color of the polish to your shoe as closely as possible. Make sure you get down in the seams of the shoe and attempt to cover evenly with polish. Allow 15 minutes for the polish to dry.
4. Brush the Shoes
Brush the entire shoe vigorously using the horsehair shine brush. The point of this is to basically brush off all the excess polish, leaving only a small film on the outside of the shoe.
5. Give Some Extra Love to the Toe and Heel
Once you feel comfortable that the entire shoe has been covered and brushed it is time to focus on the toe and heel for extra shine. Dip a cotton ball or pad into some water and squeeze out any excess moisture so it is damp, not dripping. Then get a little polish on the damp cotton. Next apply the polish on the toe and heel of the shoe using small circular motions. Sit back, this is going to take a while.
6. Repeat Until Shoe is Shiny Like a Mirror
Repeat Step 5 until you are satisfied with the level of shine. Remember to use a new piece of cotton each time and to remove all excess polish before applying a new coating. Also, the initial shine is the hardest, it should get a bit easier each time you do it. These boots were fairly new and this was my first time giving them a good shine. From start to finish, it took me approximately 45 minutes to get them to the state shown below. Most of this was spent with the cotton pads shining the toe and heel. If I were to come back in a couple weeks it would take me half the time to do the same job.
Your 60-Second Illustrated Crib Sheet to Shining Shoes
Bonus! Make Your Own Shoe Shine Box
As an extra manly bonus, take it upon yourself to not only regularly shine your shoes, but do so with a stand that you made with your own two hands. It holds all your supplies, and the spinning dowels are a decidedly spiffy feature for superb buffing.
Either click the plans below, or click here to get the step-by-step instructions for this project, which can be completed in just a couple hours.