Launching Fox Shine

It’s time that I bring my passion and love for shining up a pair of shoes to my home city of Sydney. With that I am launching a side business of polishing leather shoes for any shoe enthusiast in the Sydney community with “Fox Shine”. The website can be found here: www.foxshine.com.au

The Situation

In Sydney, I have seen many shoes look unloved and uncared for on the feet of strangers walking the streets. I’ve had friends and strangers alike talk to me about my shoes and how they look so well cared for. I’ve also heard these people talk about how they try to polish their shoes but the results are lacklustre to say the least.

I’ve seen leather shoes look scuffed and less than impressive even on the display shelves of fashion stockists like Tom Ford and Bally (never Double Monk though, they know what they’re doing). I’ve had conversations with people who wear suits and watches worth five digits each but their scuffed up shoes let down the whole look.

I guess, not many people actually have the skill of looking after their leathers and in Sydney, there’s really three options people currently have:

  1. Trying to DIY with crappy (or even just wrong) products and poor technique. This almost always ends up with a shoe that looks even more distressed than it started with.
  2. Going to the Sydney Shoe Shiners in The Strand Arcade and sit on a high chair and let them slather Kiwi polish all over the shoe. While this is a start to caring about shoes, the products aren’t the best and no mirror shine can be achieved properly this way. Not to mention the conditioners aren’t really given the proper time to bind with the leather for a deeply nourishing job.
  3. Use Baxter and Black’s polishing service. He is my Senpai and I look up to him the most in the shoe business. I would recommend him for all repair and maintenance needs such as flush metal top tap installations.

Fourth Option

This is where I come in.

I am aiming to cater for those who want better care for their shoes with the best French (Saphir) or Japanese (Boot Black) products, but cannot justify the cost of the polishing at Baxter’s.

Sound the horns and the trumpets!

I hope to see any interested Sydney-siders about their shoe care in the near future!

May to June Shoe Shines

I had the pleasure of meeting a Welted Shoes Australia (WSA) member with an impressive collection of shoes. He wanted me to shine and elevate the look of the shoes with my skills that I had displayed via WSA. Throughout May-June, I was busy with this each week and also occasionally shined my other friends’ shoes.

I follow my usual shoe shining techniques outlined here: Ultimate Shoe Care and Shine Guide

Here is a log of what I’ve done:

John Lobb’s

Tan oxfords
Museum calf oxfords
Museum calf Chelsea boots
Black Chelsea boots

Edward Green

Black oxfords
My own pair of EG derby’s

Gaziano & Girling

Burgundy lazyman oxfords
Tan Chelsea boots. Absolutely loved this pair!
Dark brown oxfords

Berluti

Purple Berluti – Part 1
Purple Berluti – Part 2

Aubercy

Went for a mahogany burnish effect on these wholecuts
Gotta be the capstone of my career. Reptile oxfords!!!

Crockett & Jones

Coniston boots
My black Northcotes
Not my dark brown Northcotes
My freshly bought barely worn second hand double monks off WSA

Miscellaneous

My Thomas George Collection shoes
A friend’s Herring Shoes Black oxfords
Navy oxfords (forgot the brand name)
Anthony Cleverley lazyman oxfords
Watch to the end for lols

Hit me up if you are interested in your shoes to look the same! 🤩🤩🤩

Ultimate Shoe Care and Shine Guide

This is a comprehensive guide of everything that I do when it comes to looking after smooth leather shoes. This doesn’t include Cordovan. That stuff is an entirely different beast worthy of its own topic. You’ll notice that I like to use my fingers in the polishing step. Most Japanese shoe shiners adopt this method and I have chosen to do the same.

Equipment

EquipmentSaphirBoot Black
Leather CleanerReno’MatLeather Lotion
ConditionerRenovateur and/or
Mink Oil Lotion
Two Face Lotion Plus and/or
Mink Oil
Shoe Cream PolishPommadierShoe Cream
Silver or Black label is okay
Soft Wax PolishPate De LuxeWax Polish
Hard Wax Polish (Optional)Mirror GlossHigh Shine Base and
High Shine Coat
Horse hair brushNatural Horsehair Brush
Need one per colour. IMPORTANT!
Premium Horsehair Brush
ClothAny will doAny will do
Microfibre Cloth or Cotton High Weaving cloth (Super 180)I use Brift H’s high shine cloth. Bought in HK but…Boot Black’s high shine cloths work great!
Water SpritzerMuji’s PET spray bottle

I must also mention the importance of using shoe trees to retain the shape and wick moisture from inside the shoe. You can grab some quality shoe trees from www.trimly.com.au. While polishing, it is important to have a shoe tree in!

Method

Cleaning and Conditioning

  1. Any dirt and grime or residual old polish needs to be cleaned off at the start. Apply a coin sized amount of the leather cleaner on a cloth and wipe the shoe all over. Repeat this step as many times as it takes to make sure all the dirt and old polish is off.
    Be very careful though! If you do this excessively, you run the risk of stripping off the shoe’s finish.
  2. The cleaner will be very harsh on the leather and you’ll need to feed it nutrients so it doesn’t dry out. After the shoe is dry, brush it with a horsehair brush and then apply conditioner all over the shoe with a cloth. Leave this on for as long as possible – 24 hours is best.
  3. Brush the shoe.

Cream Polish

  1. Dab your finger in cream polish and rub it in all over the leather of the shoe. With a finger, you can feel the leather accepting the polish as you rub it in. Cream polish will hide any small scuff marks by colouring the scratches with pigment and it also has some wax content to give a soft shine after brushing.
  2. Wait at least 15 minutes before brushing the shoe for a soft dull shine.

Soft Wax Polish

  1. Wax polish will provide a little bit of waterproofing against the elements and is the foundation of getting that lustrous mirror shine.
  2. With the index finger, rub the wax polish in the tin to get the polish onto your finger.
  3. Then in circular motions, apply the polish all over the shoe. You will need to keep getting polish onto your fingers when you feel like it stops spreading. I start at the toe box and work my way around to the heel. Make sure there is a maximum of ONE layer on the areas of the shoe that bend. Excessive polish in the soft areas that bend and crease will cause the polish to crack when it is dry. Not a good look.
  4. Apply a generous amount, repetitively, of the wax polish to the toe box and heels to create the base. I do about 10 minutes worth per shoe. Too much polish will cause what looks like wax lumps to appear and you don’t want that to happen. The polish will look cloudy as you do this – this is a good thing. A good trick here is to mix in Neutral polish with the coloured polish for extra effect.
  5. Let the polish dry. Generally wait about 30 minutes to an hour for maximum effect. The turpentine in the polish needs to evaporate before the shoe fully accepts the polish. If it is not dry, the next steps run the risk of creating water spots on the shoe. They look bad.
  6. With a damp, but not wet, microfibre cloth or cotton cloth (make sure there are no loose threads) wrapped tightly around your index finger, gently but quickly buff off the polish cloud all over the shoe to a desired shine. Use circular motions.
    To dampen the cloth, use the water spritzer on the cloth and clap your fingers to temper the wetness of the cloth. Some people like to use a drop of water for this step instead of a water spritzer.

Mirror Shine – With Soft Wax

For this mirror shining technique, it carries on from the previous steps by continuing to use the soft wax instead of switching to the hard wax. While requiring more time and effort, some people say that the soft wax produces are better quality shine than the hard wax technique.

By Step 6 of the previous part, you will now have 1 layer of polish shined on the toe box and heels. From here on, repeat the following steps a maximum of 4 times. Too many repetitions will result in excessive polish that will crack.

  1. Using fingers, rub a layer of wax polish onto the toe box and heels, covering those parts with a polish cloud. This time it is considerably less than the first layer. Don’t apply polish over the cloud more than once.
  2. Let dry for 20-60 minutes.
  3. Buff the cloud off quickly and gently in circular motions with the waist of your finger wrapped in a damp microfibre/high-weave cloth.
  4. Occasionally while doing step 3, dab a tiny amount of soft wax on the tip of the finger in the cloth and rub it gently around the toe cap/heel. The solvents in the tiny amount of wax will react with the existing dry layer and dampness of the cloth to bring out a higher shine.
  5. I personally sometimes combine the use my bare fingers and areas of my hand to gently rub the polish. This generates more heat which is essential to the buffing process.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 until you are certain it cannot get shinier. Don’t worry if it is not a mirror shine at this stage yet. Make sure the cloth is always damp but never wet.
  7. Repeat these steps from Step 1 again at most three more times.

In step 1 and 4, you can choose different coloured wax to the colour of the shoe sometimes. For example, after 2 layers of black on a black shoe, a navy layer adds a bit of dimension, and a neutral layer can add extra pop to the shine. It is best to experiment and come up with your own preferences and nuances.

Mirror Shine – With Hard Wax

This technique is very fast compared to the soft wax technique and requires the purchase of the hard wax. As stated before, some people say that it doesn’t provide as much a high shine as the previous technique.

  1. Apply the hard wax layer to the toe cap/heel. It generally dries very fast. With Mirror Gloss, it dries in about 30 seconds and the Boot Black high shine base in about 2 minutes.
    This step can also replace the toe box/heel steps of the base layer step in the Soft Wax Polish section. DO NOT apply hard wax to the areas that the shoe can bend/crease!
  2. Dab a bit of the soft wax polish on the tip of your finger wrapped in a damp microfibre/high-weave cloth. In the case of the Boot Black high shine product, replace the soft wax polish with the high shine coat product.
  3. Apply the soft wax polish to the hard wax cloud and quickly buff it right off in circular motions with the waist of your finger. Keep doing this until a desired shine is achieved.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 at most three more times.

Video Example

Samples

For any Sydney dwellers, hit me up for a chat about getting a shine!

How I Got Into Shoes

You ever wonder how you got into a certain hobby?

For me it’s the knowledge about and care for shoes. Rewind a few years back and I would not have given a toss about the quality of the shoes I bought. Nor did I really care about how I looked after them as I’d wear one pair for a year, all year until they literally died. No polishing. No conditioning. No care. Who cares. But then again, I didn’t care how I presented myself to others that much either.

Humble Beginnings

One day at work, my colleague and I were taking note about one of our executive staff member’s interests in buying new shoes every term. We were oo’ing and ahh’ing about his new shoes from a distance like a pair of giggling girls.

However, it wasn’t until after one parent-teacher interview night when I had a chance to strike a conversation about his interest in shoes.

One of the brands of shoes he recommended to me was Crockett and Jones. He also showed me Kazuna’s website for custom order Japanese shoes (I’ll write about his services some other time). During this time, I had only just opened Pandora’s Box in learning about men’s fashion such as suiting, ties and cuff links. So hearing this recommendation to check out shoes that cost more than $100 held my interest and it was just something I had to have a look at.

Double Monk

In Sydney, the only place that retails Crockett and Jones is at Double Monk in The Strand Arcade. A couple of visits to the shop later and I walked out with a pair… that quickly turned to two… and then like five pairs before I knew it. The quality was nothing like the cemented crap I’ve been so used to wearing.

My first pair of Crockett and Jones. Did you know that James Bond wears these in Spectre?

For the money I was spending all of a sudden on shoes, I just knew I had to learn how to take care of them well.

Learning Curve

So I learned from talking to the guys at Double Monk who recommended all the Saphir Medaille d’Or stuff to me.

I learned from conversations with Andrew McDonald, an Australian shoe maker whose shop is next to Double Monk.

I learned from watching the Sydney Shoe Shiners do their stuff in the early days. I don’t go to them anymore after learning the craft myself with better quality products.

I learned from watching videos on YouTube from veterans like Kirby Allison, Yuya Hasagawa and John Chung.

I learned from visiting the one and only artisanal cobbler in Sydney; Nathan Baxter.

I learned from making friends with James Seaford from Trimly and the other members of the Welted Shoes Australia Facebook group.

With a bit of practice and the right gear, I gradually honed my skills of mirror shining to the point you can see a pretty high resolution reflection in the shoe. The satisfaction comes from knowing that you can’t get that level of class and shine from just buying a pair alone or paying some guy that rips you off for 15 minutes in a chair.

A pair of Crockett and Jones shoes with a mirror shine

To be honest, I’m still learning.

It’s Not All About Me

This hobby has also grown into something about community and friendships, bonding over shoes.

I offer anyone in Sydney a shoe shine for a bit of remuneration. A few people have already taken me up on the offer and it’s been great fun talking about shoes and how to care for them!

A member from Welted Shoes Australia asked me for a shoe shining workshop with his pair of Joseph Cheaney shoes. Fun session!

Hit me up if you’d like a shine. I’ll even throw in a 20% discount code for http://www.trimly.com.au. I guarantee you’ll be smiling like I am below:

So what hobbies do you have an origin story for? What can you show for it?