You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes. Ordinarily, we rarely look at theme, but take a moment and you’ll see a whole story written around their laces and soles. Managers and even CEOs have said that they judge applicants partly on their shoes. If a person pays attention to how nice their footwear looks, that is someone with true attention to detail. Women and potential partners are also likely to look at your shoes to determine whether or not you’re someone who cares about every facet of your appearance, who knows style and value, or if you’re another rube in sneakers. The short of it is: Shoes matter.
Since shoes can tell a tale to anyone who is paying attention, it’s important to spend a little extra time, energy, and money to keep them looking their best. Getting the right shoe polish is about finding quality ingredients that go on smoothly, giving you more than just a spit shine, but a mirrored gloss to show that you’re a person who cares about their style, right down to the tips of your toes. To help you out, we’ve rounded up the 8 best shoe polishes for men.
Kiwi Shoe Polish Paste
Pro: Good for all shoes
Con: Disappointing packaging tin
Omnipresent: Demographic estimates show that Kiwi is used by approximately 80 percent of the population to keep their shoes sparkling. It isn’t made to handle the more luxurious leather of top quality shoes, but for day to day wear and tear, Kiwi is exceptional for the price. Even professionals suggest having a tin of Kiwi on hand for doing maintenance buffing for your daily wearers. It falls into the “Master of None” category, offering reasonable quality in the arenas of shine, protection, leather care, and moisturization. It’s also a crack brand when it comes to teaching younger men how to polish, and introducing rookies to shoe care.
Meltonian Boot and Shoe Cream
Con: Cream makes it thinner than most polishes
Chosen One: Talk to professionals who make shoes for a living, or those who sell high-end shoes to discerning customers, and you’ll often find one name repeated again and again: Meltonian. They have more than 30 different colors to choose from, and repair damage to shoes, whether using smooth or grained leather. The ability of this polish to revive colors that have long since forgotten their glory days is worthy of notice. It locks out dust damage for either wearing or storing your shoes, and is fine enough to be used on the most expensive leathers without worrying about chemical damage or discoloration.
Lincoln Shoe Wax
Pro: Long lasting and comes in large quantities
Con: Does not condition leather
Workman’s Comp: Lincoln doesn’t try to make a polish that is going to keep your tasseled loafers looking nice as you take a turn on the dance floor, Nancy. The people at Lincoln like their wax coarse and capable for keeping your work boots looking good. Most popular with the military community because of its dedication to durability and low cost, not to mention the fact that it helps your drill instructor see himself in your shoes with its shine. It’s made more for getting an impressive gleam and keeping your footwear from falling apart, not treating fine leathers. Expect minimal moisturizing facets.
Pro: 82 colors
Con: Can streak shoes if not applied correctly
The Gloaming: You won’t get quite the militant shine with Tarrago that you can expect from most shoe polishes, because it’s a cream, intended to give you a soft glow, rather than a glaring sheen. It uses the beeswax and carnauba to treat and soften leather, making it more comfortable on your foot and guarding the leather against fading and damage. The intent here is more to preserve and revitalize shoes than to make them stand out from the crowd. Using in conjunction with a brighter polish will often give you the best of both worlds, a shoe that is cared for well and gleams like a new penny.
Shinola Shoe Polish
Pro: Prominent waterproofing
Con: Limited color options
Home Grown: When it comes to simple gear done with an eye to detail and a dedication to quality, you can always count on the people from Shinola, based out of Detroit, MI. They’ve junked their old polish formula for something a little more personal. The new recipe comes from Zoes Manufacturing in California where it is specifically made in small batches to preserve the integrity of the process and create a more sophisticated polish that can be used in inclement weather. The same family has been running their business since 1905, and refining the recipe to reflect the best of new and old. For those who suffer with each of the four seasons and need their shoes to do the same while shining through; this polish is made to go to work on judgement day.
Allen Edmonds Carnauba
Pro: Zero petroleum products
Con: Shine fades rapidly
In the Business: Most of the best shoe polishes come from cobblers of various stripes. Since they understand the shoe business better than the average person, it stands to reason that they would find what works. Allen Edmonds is the perfect example. When manufacturing their shoes, they use a 212-step process that spares no expense. They have brought that same level of commitment to their polishes, and it shows. A festival of color options allow this brand to work with any wardrobe choices and let you stay on brand when you go from casual to dress.
Pro: Strong moisturizing properties
Con: Check the color in person to get the right tin
Old Timer: Labeled as a shoe “paste” Collonil hasn’t made many changes to their recipe since 1909, and their commitment to providing quality leather care products hasn’t wavered in more than a hundred years. 1909 not only polishes your shoes up to a presentable shine, but they provide a multitude of natural oils and moisturizers to keep the flesh of the leather supple and pliable so that it can be shaped on a tree and won’t crack when the pressure builds. It’s good at increasing longevity, giving your shoes a longer, happier life, which translates into contented feet.
Saphir Pate de Luxe
Pro: A mixture of 7 different waxes
The Legend: Saphir is unlikely to be a name you know, and that’s a shame, because among professional shoe shiners – those devoted men and women who really put their heart and soul into the job – and those who require the finest in polish for their Testonis and their Stefano Bemer footwear, it’s the standard. It’s many times the going rate for a good shine, but if you’re working with finished or tanned leather, you need to step up from the off-the-rack Kiwi stuff that works for your everyday footgear. Saphir is based on a pine turpentine, so there’s no petroleum anywhere. The aroma is pleasant to most, but others say it is far too caustic for them. So caveat emptor if you have a sensitive nose.