6 Steps To Getting Your Shoes A Mirror Shine!

Just like tobacco pipe, shoe polishing is becoming less and less common nowadays. But while the former has been properly replaced by cigarettes, the latter cannot and will not be replaced (I know it’s a lame comparison but at least you got the point). Which is part of the reason why I made this step-by-step shoe polishing guide that I'm sure will help get your shoes a mirror shine.

To prove myself right, I’ll ask you to do something next time you’re outside.

Pay attention to people walking around and take some time to notice their shoes and how badly they need a polish! You will certainly notice that people nowadays no longer give a shit about their footwear, which is a big mistake.

This guide is mainly destined to people who really understand the importance of owning a quality dress shoe. If you don’t, it’s time. Here’s why.

In fact, a lot of people prefer buying cheap low-quality dress shoes and replace them the moment they lose shape and become ugly.

Which is in most cases after 1 year of regular wear.

Inexpensive shoes don’t last long.

On the other hand, reasonably expensive shoes will outlast many cheap shoes (like Magnanni who are not that expensive but offer amazing quality).

As a matter of fact, a quality leather shoe can and will last you a lifetime  if you dedicate enough time and effort to take care of it. But before we dive in, make sure you have a

Shoe polish kit: 

  • A large brush to whip dirt off the shoes
  • A small brush to apply the polish
  • A shoe cloth. Preferably a soft one.
  • A tin of shoe polish. If your shoes are new you could go with a neutral color. Otherwise, use the same color as your shoes. 
  • Piece of newspaper to protect the surface on which you'll do the polishing.

Kiwi Shoe Care Kit: 

Kiwi Shoe Care Kit

Kiwi Shoe Care Kit

If you don't have any, I'd recommend you to buy the Kiwi Shoe Shine Care Kit that contains:

    • 2 KIWI Select Premium Paste Tins (Black, Brown)
    • 2 Soft and durable Shine Cloths
    • 2 Sponge Daubers and 1 Shoe Horn
    • 2 KIWI Shoe Shine Brushes, 100% Horsehair
    • Elegant wooden box with footrest

What most people don’t know!

Quality over quantity!

If you take time to think about it, you'll find that buying a relatively expensive high-quality pair of shoes will actually save you a lot of money than if you repeatedly buy cheap shoes and replace them as they get rapidly scuffed.

Take a close look at the example below and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Jack considers that spending more than a hundred bucks on a pair of shoes is borderline craziness. Instead he prefers buying inexpensive low-quality shoes that look ‘not that bad’ while still new.

On the other hand, Will who actually cares about his image and knows how important his outfit is to positively influence people around him (and occasionally get him laid with 10’s and 9's), prefers investing in himself and his image by buying a quality dress shoe (along with a shoe tree and a shoe polish kit) and putting in some time to keep it in shape.

After 5, 10 years...​

After 5 years, Jack finds himself with 5 cheap pairs of shoes that had completely lost their shape which is why he needs now to buy a new pair. At this rate, after 10 years he would own 10 shoes, none of which would be presentable. What would he do then? Buy another cheap one of course.

On the other hand, in 5 years, Will bought two quality leather shoes that are classy, beautiful and comfortable. Shoes that not only earn him respect around his colleagues and friends but also get him a lot of hotties’ numbers. Will had thoroughly read and applied the steps presented on this guide so his shoes are constantly looking brand new. After 10 years, he owns 4 quality dress shoes and he doesn’t even need to buy more as they are as new as they were out of box. Some of them have actually got even better (because like fine wine, genuine leather gets better through years).

PS: in this example we’re assuming that a cheap dress shoe will last a year on average, which is way more than reality. Sometimes it breaks down after only a few couple wears. Without mentioning the discomfort, feet pain, bad smells and the many other drawbacks the wearer goes through. Ask Will; he’ll tell you.

Bottom-line: When buying shoes, always think long-term rather than short-term.

How to polish your shoes to get a mirror shine

Not Polished vs Polished

Not polished vs Polished

Now let's get back to our main subject which is shoe polishing.

Many folks who acknowledge the importance of this art still don't know how to do it properly.

(Probably because they haven’t come across this guide yet, which is why you should spread the word by sharing it. Let’s make the world a better place where people wear shiny shoes instead of gross dirty clodhoppers)

In this guide, I will try break down the process into 6 simple and clear steps. It should be easy to understand and apply.

PS: shoe polishing should be done on a regular basis, not once in awhile.

Before getting into these steps, make sure to own this minimal shoe polish kit. 

6 steps for mirror shine shoe polishing:

#1 Prepare the place and the shoe:

Shoe tree+ Shoe

I would recommend to do it in a place where you don't risk to stain the carpet. You risk upsetting your wife otherwise. 

Also, it's preferable to do it with a shoe tree inside. ​

#2 Cleaning your shoes off dirt/dust:

Shoe brushing step

Brush your shoes with the larger brush

Use the large brush to whip all the dirt off the shoe. Sometimes you'll have to slightly wet your shoes to get rid of difficult stains. But make sure they dry off first before brushing if you do so.

#3 Applying the shoe polish:

Polish applying

Polish applying

Apply evenly the shoe polish all over the shoe with the small brush. Make sure to respect these three crucial points while doing so:

  • The shoe polish MUST match the leather color (or at least be very close to). 
  • It MUST be applied with the same quantity and manner on every area of the leather (unless you want a heterogeneous look to it).
  • The polish should properly attain the seams and the joint between the upper and the sole. This will ensure water resistance for the shoe, which is a key advantage of shoe polishing as it allows the shoe to survive through harsh weather.

#4 Letting the polish dry out:

Let your shoe air-dry for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile go do something productive (No Facebook scrolling!)

#5 Brushing off the polish excess:​

Brushing off the shoe excess

Brushing off the shoe excess

Brush the entire shoe vigorously using the large brush. The purpose behind this is to brush off the shoe polish excess, leaving only a small film on the outside of the leather. Be careful when you do so as you risk to stain your clothes or the carpet (you wife/mom will make you sure you remember it for years after).​

#6 Shining the shoe:

Rub with the shoe cloth

Rub with the shoe cloth

Our goal here is to bring the gloss out of the polish. For this you can either use a cotton ball (that you need to slightly moisten) or the shoe polish cloth.

Rub the shoe energetically until you're satisfied with the result.

If you feel that some parts of the shoe still need polishing (if so it's usually the heal and the toe since they are more exposed to scratching), you can get a little polish on the shoe cloth or a damp cotton and apply it upon the leather using small circular motions.

Finishing the work:​

Finally, put the laces back and appreciate your work!

Not Polished vs Polished

Not polished vs Polished

Don’t forget the second shoe!

PS: Shoe polishing should be done at least once a month, sometimes even more, especially for shoes you wear more often.

The good news though are that the process takes less time with regularly polished shoes than with shoes you seldom polish. In other words, your first polishing session will be the longest, but as you do it more and more, future sessions get shorter and the process becomes easier.

Importance of shoe trees:

Shoe Trees

Cedar Shoe Trees

Shoe trees are considered as a staple in shoe care.

In fact, Shoe polishing and shoe trees go together.

Not only do they serve the same purpose -which is to preserve your quality dress shoes and keep them in shape- but they are essential one to another.

Throughout the day, our feet get very sweaty. Both the lining and the leather will absorb all that moisture.

Moisture will cause the lining to rot from the inside out, and the leather to crack over time.

This is not good at all because it will ruin your expensive footwear.

This is where shoes trees come in.

These wooden shoe inserts actually have the ability to absorb the humidity from your shoes, thereby keep them from losing shape and developing bad smells.

They allow your shoes to dry out correctly during the first few hours that come after having put them off, and keep them in shape for the rest of the day.

Consider taking a look at my post about the best cedar shoe trees in the market today.​


Taking care of your shoes will put you ahead 99% of today’s men. Unfortunately, many people ignore the importance of their footwear in making (or breaking) their outfit.

By not doing that, you’ll do yourself a big favor, both aesthetically and financially.

Now that you’re more aware of the importance of shoe polishing, make an effort to build this new habit and fit it in your ‘successful-man’ schedule.

Feel free to share and comment! 

External Sources:

Styleforum.com / theshoesnobblog.com / Amazon Reviews​


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