The Shoe Snob Blog

February 6, 2013

Written by , Posted in News

Reader’s Questions, Sharing Experiences & Saint Crispins For Your Pleasure!

So, two things recently came up that I thought that I would share with all of you. The first being a few questions that the average person whom is not yet a shoe geek might have in regards to shoe shining and the latter being an inspirational story. The pictures in this case are all unrelated but just so you how amazing Saint Crispins shoes are!!

1. READER: Thanks again for your original post and your extensive responses to comments – truly a privilege to be able to get expert advice for free!

Whilst your instructions are all that I need for the ‘how’ to polish side of things, but for a shoe newbie like myself I need a bit more help on the ‘tools of the trade’ side in terms of what equipment I need. So if you don’t mind, here are a few questions to pick your brain a bit more to complete this ‘Shoe Shine 101’ course. I hope other people would find this useful too!

– ME: Glad to help where I can my friend, as I too was once a guy with answers and needing someone to look to. It is my pleasure to try and be that guy for all of you…as per your questions, here you go:

– are horse hair brushes much better than normal brushes? Just curious how important a ‘quality’ brush actually is in terms of shoe care.

-Good question in reality…I have always just assumed horsehair was best as this is what I believe to be ‘common knowledge’, whether it really is or not I can’t really say for sure…I don’t really use a brush to get a shine so for me it’s not really that crucial to my “shine” process. So long as the bristles are not too soft and bring out a glow from a bit of brushing, that is what matters to me…


– I’ve heard that Saphir polishes are ‘best-in-class’, but in what way are they better than more average brands like Kiwi? (saw in your pic that you used them too) Wanted to know whether there is any actual benefit for the price premium.

-I don’t actually use them, I use my own branded wax, which is similar. The difference is in the quality of the ingredients, which therefore results in the quality and easiness of your shine, as well as the effects it has to your leather. You see, polish in reality is a product of chemicals, and the higher grade of polish, the less chemicals involved and a bit more natural ingredients used, like beeswax. That is not to say that the high grade stuff is all-natural, just less harmful to your leather…… If you own cheap shoes then the expensive polish to me is not necessary. If you wear expensive shoes then it is. If you owned a Ferrari, would you buy the car wax at your local convenience store or the top grade stuff from the Ferrari dealership?
– Do wax polishes and non-wax polishes(are they referred to as ‘creams’?) do broadly the same thing, w/ exception that wax gives a better ‘shiny’ appearance?

– No, wax polish provides shine and protection, cream polish provides color, paste does both but not as well as either of the other two do in their respective use

– Presume that silicone as an ingredient in shoe polish is bad for the leather?

– precisely! It blocks the pores of the leather which does not allow it to then breath, which will dry it out and make it crack….

– are ‘leather conditioners’ bad for shoes? What do they do and are they necessary? Seems like just polishing shoes regularly is sufficient to care for shoes?

– Definitely not, they are absolutely necessary! Polish in actuality is something that if used excessively without conditioning will dry out your leather and cause it to crack. Remember that leather is a skin, just like yours and does not have a body to heal it, and therefore needs nourishment, which is precisely what conditioner (like mink oil) does.

– What do the mink oil ‘renovators’ do? Do they help keep the leather from cracking, or is that what a ‘leather conditioner’ does?

-See above

-Many thanks in advance for your guidance.

-Not a problem, and I hope that this has helped others that too had these questions!

The second thing was an email that a reader wrote to me that was very touching and made me very happy as it was just the type of thing that I hoped for invoke when sharing my journey in the world of footwear. Here it is:

First of all I apologise for my english not being the best

My name is VS, I’m a 28 yo guy from Romania who is an avid fan of your blog. With this email I want to thank you for the inspiration you provided me. Reading your blog everyday, admiring the effort you put in it and into starting your line of shoes made me quite jealous(in a good way) for your determination and desire to follow your dreams. Being fortunate to have a rich uncle who is an avid fan of high end footwear you can imagine that seeing a lot of beauties in person(Lobb paris, Corthay, Edward Green, Vass, St Crispins etc) I also became very passionate about shoes. So about a year ago, being very unsatisfied with my job, I told myself that if you can leave everything behind, come to Europe and follow your dream to have a footwear company, why couldn’t I also do it? It was just a new year resolution but it didn’t stay that way. So I started taking baby steps, without quitting my job though:)


Unlike you, I had a different approach. I couldn’t just quit everything and go to a bespoke maker to learn the craft, there were other people depending on me at the time.

I don’t want to waste a lot of your precious time so I am just going to summarize what I have done so far. First I started with the plans. Inspired by Meermins success in the price range I decided that if I were to start a company it would be a small one producing GY welted shoes in that price range that I sell myself, in my own store/stores and of course online. After that I took some of my uncles high end bespoke lasts to a last maker and came up with 3 lasts, a regular pointy one, a more rounded one and a pointier chiseled one with a beautiful shape (sort of a Corthay-esque shape). Next I went in the search of factories, but there is where the bubble burst. Only a handful of factories could provide what I asked for quality wise in the price range I wanted but they all demanded huge orders, meaning that if my line wasn’t going to sell extremely well I would remain with huge stocks.


It is then when the miracle happened. My uncle, who among other things owns a factory that produces leatherwear in the LOHN system for a lot of companies(Armani, Moschino) said to me: “why don’t you open your own small factory? We have a lot of skilled workers(St Crispins and Maftei Vienna make their shoes in Romania), the production costs are among the lowest in Europe, you will control absolutely everything and I will lend you the money to start”. He told me that he can also buy the needed machinery at very big discounts because all of the business he had with those companies over the last 16 years and also source materials at the best prices possible. Also I do not need to rent a place, I can install the machinery at his factory. With his help and business know-how and my passion I hope a beautiful thing can come up. So right now I hope he can deliver on his promises, and if that is the case, within a year or so I hope to have launched my line of classic footwear!


So, I hope I didn’t take too much of your valuable time, I again sincerely thank you for the inspiration and I really hope to meet you some day!………
I really do believe that anyone can do anything that they set their mind to and that too often, many of us go for the path that we feel is easier and more secure rather than chase the dream that we think about each day. With my story of getting to where I wanted to go, as a person with no exceptional advantages, I hoped to show and inspire people that all it takes is determination, passion and self belief to go out and acquire their dreams too. This letter let me know that at least one person went for it. And if this was the only person that has done so based on reading my blog, then it was all worth it!! However, I hope that it wasn’t and that after reading my story, many of you have made a point to put a plan down that can help you get to where you really want to go in life!
While some of you may have already knew all of the shoe shine 101 stuff, and may also not be so sentimental as I am, I hope that you at least enjoyed the pictures of Saint Crispins!
Pictures Courtesy of Leather Soul and Zimmermann & Kim

  • Iulian

    Hi!
    Justin, please give me the mail of VS. I am from Romania, and I would like to talk with him, maybe I can get a pair of shoes from him in the future.
    My mail is ciupercutzaiulia@yahoo.com

    Now in romanian:
    Salut VS!
    Te rog trimite-mi adresa ta de mail. Nu sunt multi ca tine in Romania si as putea sa-ti fiu un potential client.
    Las o adresa fara nume evident: ciupercutzaiulia@yahoo.com

    Regards.

  • Anonymous

    A nicely informative post Justin, very helpful. Though I must say your misuse of “whom” needs addressing :).

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/who-versus-whom.aspx

    best,

    Sean.

  • Anonymous

    hi justin, congrats on the shoe line. got a question re polishes .. when would you choose to use a neutral polish rather than a specific colour? is it for inbetween shades of brown or colours that dont get offered in usual brown or blacks ie the blue/red/green ones you like 🙂
    Cheers, Anand

  • Iulian – I will let him know that you wrote and hopefully he will email you as I would rather not hand out people’s emails without their consent…thanks for writing however!

    Sean – Thanks man, glad that you enjoyed it…i appreciate the look out on the rules of who vs whom…read it but let’s see if it will actually stick….grammar/vocab is not my strong subject….

    Anand – I answered this elsewhere already…

    -Justin