Suede and leather shoe care
Cheat sheet: How to take care of your suede and leather
Words— Kate Dingwall
Leather is cool. Not only do you look slick, but having on a handsome pair of shoes or a nice leather jacket is an automatic ego booster. Danny Zuko knew it. Peter Fonda in Easy Rider knew it, modern-day SoHo street style icon Justin Theroux knows it. Leather naturally gives off an inherent sense of swagger.
While leather shoes and jackets may feel effortlessly cool, taking care of your leather goods requires a little bit of time and effort. Some TLC of your leather jacket and shoes will them looking better for years longer.
With this in mind, we’ve gathered the core rules for caring for your leather goods.
Know your leather
Consider what your life demands of you when you’re purchasing leather products. If you tend to walk a lot outside or you veer more towards the rugged side of life, suede boots or a lambskin jacket is probably not ideal. Both are soft and beautifully supple, but prone to poor aging if not properly taken care of.
Even if you are OCD with your leather care, Mother Nature probably has a surprise in store for you. Come rain, snow, sleet, and whatever other weather the world brings, chances are, you’re eventually going to accidentally stain your boots or jacket. Salt stains are inevitable. Unless you only wear your leather boots inside, which is silly, your boots will eventually be susceptible to the elements. Delay any unwanted fading or staining caused by the environment by spraying your boots. We highly recommend a high quality leather protectant. It’s a small investment, but an all-weather spray will add a protective coating to your leather, making it more resistant to mud and salt, while keeping it looking fresh and new for far longer. Spray liberally, let dry for about 24 hours before wearing, and you're ready to go. Reapply as needed.
Buff it up
We’re going to re-introduce you to leather polish. Yes, the notion of going to a shoe shiner to freshen may feel a bit antiquated in the age of disposable sneakers, but the dapper gents of the previous decades had something right. Buffing and polishing your leather will add a new breath of life into your shoes while keeping them boss-approved. You can either swing by your local shoe shiners (you can find them camped out in train stations or most business districts) and they will happily freshen up your leather boots, or you can go for the DIY approach.
If you’re opting to buy your own leather polish, spot check first. Pick a spot on your jacket (we recommend a lining or the underarm) that won’t be visible and test it in this area. Wait until the polish dries and make sure there is no color distortion before applying to the rest.
Treat your leather right
Store your leather products properly. Hang up your leather jacket and keep it out of dusty areas. Never throw it in the dryer and keep out of extreme heat. For shoes, don’t let them sit on a wet entrance floor; give them a quick dust off when you arrive home. Invest in some shoe trees. They help the leather maintain its shape.
Thanks to our friends the sneakerheads, there are a ton of products on the market that make leathercare easier than ever. One of our favorites is Jason Markk’s essential kit. It features everything you need to protect and clean your sneakers. A microfiber towel or a nubuck cleaning cloth will also be your best friend when it comes to sprucing up your jacket or leather shoes on the fly.
Keeping your leather goods spiffy can be as easy as breezing through your kitchen cabinet. A fresh stain can be remedied by patting the stain with a damp washcloth. Avoid soap. Fragrant soaps can deepen the stain so unless you’re 100% sure the soap is leather-friendly, best to stick to water.
Know when to throw in the towel
Okay, so you stained the leather. It’s a big ugly splotch in the middle of your buttery leather briefcase. Don’t panic,. As much as you may want to start soaking your leather and attacking it with soap, don’t. If you’ve attacked the stain with a washcloth and still no avail, take it to the pros. If you’re not 100% sure about the home remedy for your leather, leave it. You may end up doing more damage than good. If you’re worried about shelling out cash on a professional cleaners, stop it. Consider how much you spent on your gear in the first place. An extra $20 to fix a stain is well worth the investment. We recommend veering towards Yelp to crowdsource the best cleaner in your neighborhood.
When in doubt, embrace the flaws
One of the reasons we keep shelling out our dollars on beautiful leather goods? Leather has this amazing quality of just getting better with age (for the most part). So there’s a little sun damage on your jacket – do you think Bob Dylan would’ve cared? Hell no – it would’ve made him look that much cooler. Embrace the flaws that leather offers. Leather is a natural fiber, every piece of leather is unique. With that in mind – let your leather get a little beat up, it’ll only get better with age.
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