Taking care of your boots with Mikko.
Hope everyone is having a great Easter with their families where possible during these crazy and unpredictable times. I myself have been keeping myself busy with DIY projects such a re-painting a leather belt and have decided to tend to my boots which led me to discover some gaps in my knowledge so I decided to turn to my long time IG buddy Mikko who most of you will know as @migigp , apart from being one of the most stylish fellows who have graced the heritage menswear scene on IG (just check out his feed if you don’t believe me).
Mikko works for a fine British heritage shoe shop in Glasgow, Scotland so he knows a thing a two about footwear and how to take care of them.
Alongside that Mikko has some great footwear in his personal collection which includes a myriad of brands including Oakstreets, John Lofgren's, Red Wings and Tricker's all of which have been looked after with the utmost of care and respect.
Top: Truman Boots in Coyote Roughout, Red Wing Beckman's in Cigar Featherstone
Bottom: Trickers Stow in Kudu, John Lofgren Donkey Punchers in Burgundy CXL
Right, let's move to the good stuff and see what wise wisdom Mikko can impart on us.
Why is it so important to care for your shoes and boots? Mikko: When you’re looking to investing in a pair of long-lasting, well made and durable footwear you have to face the fact that they will be considerably more expensive than the cemented (glued) shoes or boots you will generally find on the High Street. Traditionally made Goodyear welted shoes or boots take approximately 8 weeks and over 200 steps to manufacture which is reflected on the price but obviously also in the quality and longevity of the product. Goodyear or Sticthdown manufacturing method means the shoes or boots can be resoled several times meaning it is better for your wallet and the environment. Spending the extra money for a properly made pair does come with a responsibility though. It is important that you remember to look after your upper leathers so that the cobbler or craftsmen at the factory can re-last your pair when resoling them with a new sole unit.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make? Mikko: Sometimes I find that people are under the impression that if they’re spending more money on a pair the shoes or boots are indestructible or won’t need any attention whatsoever. I do understand that some might prefer a more ”beaten in” look with their rugged boots but the leather will still require some feeding every so often. In addition, using cedar shoe trees will help massively to look after the shape (minimising creasing) but also killing bacteria and removing moisture from the inside.
What would make a good starter kit for someone who his looking at caring for their boots? Mikko: A simple shoe care kit should consist of at least a good horsehair brush, neutral shoe cream and a neutral wax. I personally like Saphir products for cleaning, moisturising, protecting and finishing my boots. But I do like the movement of smaller companies making their own recipes using natural ingredients!
Can you break down the methods of caring for such leathers as Chromeexcel, Roughout, Shell, Horsehide? Mikko: I personally don’t own any shell or horsehide footwear but I am under the impression that horsehide should be left alone for some time as the there are much more oils in leather compared to cowhide or calf leathers. Brushing goes a long way and if the leather still looks dry after that, a small amount of Saphir Cordovan cream will do the trick.
For more thorough treatment Saphir has made a very useful guide for looking after you horsehide footwear HERE
Horween’s Chromexcel leather is the classic “pull-up” leather meaning that, when folded and flexed, greases that were impregnated into the skin migrate causing a very nice tonal effect. One of the steps of the tanning process is hot-stuffing the leather with waxes and oils which makes it pretty easy to look after. Again, a good brush once in a while helps to even out the oils in the leather and remove the dirt and dust but you should also give your boots a thorough treatment regularly. I personally start with a liquid leather cleaning product (saddle soap is fine too) to remove all the dust and spills from the uppers. If there is a lot of wax build-up or stubborn dirt on the leathers Saphir Reno’mat will strip back all that dirt and built-up residues of polish, silicones and resins on items which are very dirty and which have not been well maintained. Be careful with the Reno’mat though as it is more aggressive than leather cleaning soaps but it shouldn’t remove original colours, only polish.
Let the shoes dry for at least 15 minutes and then you can apply some cream/conditioner on the leather. I have mainly used Venetian Cream, Saphir 1925 Cream and Saphir Renovateur cream for my Chromexcel leathers. After applying the cream let the boots sit for a good while allowing the cream to absorb into the pores of the leather and then give them a good buffing with the horsehair brush!
Roughout leather boots are ideal for someone who isn’t too keen on boot care as they are amazingly easy to look after. Roughout leather is the underside of a hide's grain, so the grain remains intact and very durable. Even though roughout leather is different and more robust than suede (split hide). You can still use a suede brush to clean and bring up the nap (hair) of the leather. Either rubber or brass wire brush will be ideal for this. There are several roughout cleaning products out there but I have found the Saphir Medaille D'Or Omni-Nettoyant -Suede Multicleaner to be the best. After you have either used the brush or the cleaning soap, some like to spray the boots with protection spray to prevent any water, salt or dirt for building up on the boots. Simple as that!
The following applies to all the different leather boots - remember to treat the sides of the soles with cream/conditioner as it is stacked leather and will dry quickly as its most exposed to the elements.
Advice on buying shoes online?
Mikko: Using a Brannock device to measure your feet is beneficial when buying American footwear brands if you can get your hands on one. Never having done that, I always chat with the sellers and manufacturers and give them references to my current shoe or boot sizes in different makes. Instagram has been a huge help as well as someone usually has already bought the pair you have your eyes on and as our community is a friendly bunch, they’re always willing to help!
How to size right? Mikko: Sizing and fit are always subjective but in my opinion leather shoes or boots are sized perfectly when they’re snug without being tight when new allowing the leathers to mould over the shape of your feet. Slipping in the heel suggests they’re too long and if you’re hitting the toebox it won’t give enough to become comfortable once you break them in. One thing to remember when buying shoes and boots is that there is usually a cork inlay under the insole that will drop down a bit with wear giving you added comfort with your own foot imprint.
Fun Question: If you could do any MTO what would it be? Mikko: Fun indeed! At the moment I’m liking the look of the recently released John Lofgren Monkey Boots and would be delighted to do an MTO on them. No idea what the exact leather would be but definitely not Chromexcel as I’d like to try some finer alternatives!
Illya: After pushing Mikko I managed to push him for an answer and he agreed on the Cognac Badalassi for the Monkey Boots. Which I would love to see for myself.
Well there you go folks, I hope you managed to get something out of that (I know I did, and will be stocking up on some of the mentioned products.) Enjoy the rest of your Easter weekend and hope it inspires you to go and take care of your boots.
(All photography is by @migigp unless otherwise stated, thanks to Kärt Tori for additional shots).