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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From the WSJ today.

Olga Berluti doesn't take shoe-cleaning lightly. "A shoe is your companion. It is the physical imprint of your life," explains the creative director of the men's luxury shoemaker Berluti. "Cleaning shoes is a very noble act."

Ms. Berluti, who has hand-made shoes for the likes of Andy Warhol and John F. Kennedy, treats cleaning, waxing and buffing as a ritual. She even has a shoe-cleaning club made up of her favorite clients. It's called the Swann Club, and every few years, the members get together to dine and shine.

But you don't have to be a Berluti client to enjoy polishing a fine leather shoe. On any given Sunday, Ms. Berluti likes to get her male friends together for some group buffing. Where you do it doesn't matter, she says. "The important thing is to respect the shoe. You are the artist."

After placing the shoes on a waist-high table, she selects appropriate music. If they are moccasins, she may put on some Vivaldi; if they are boots, she will listen to Wagner. Bigger shoes need big music, she says.

Her next move is to place a suitable shoe tree inside the shoe. The shoe tree should be made of plastic, which is lighter than wood and less likely to deform the shoe. Once the leather is tight, she gives it a good dusting using a linen cloth.

After tucking the laces into the shoe, she takes a small brush, taps it in some white neutral wax, and rubs around the edges of the soles and heels. This ensures the stitching is well-greased and remains watertight. She doesn't wax the bottom of the shoe, because the wearer could slip and hurt himself.

Ms. Berluti then takes some linen -- she likes to use old Venetian linen sheets but any old shirt will do -- and wraps it tightly round her fingers. She rubs the shoes using white wax until all the dirt comes off.

Next comes the most enjoyable part: the polishing. This is where Ms. Berluti really hits her stride. After pouring out a small amount of iced spring water, she dabs her linen-clad fingers into a pot of colored wax. Red wax is best if you have black shoes. With a small regular circular motion she rubs in the colored wax until the leather "squeals with pleasure," she says. Depending on the polisher's skill and the size of the shoe, this can take up to 20 minutes.

She flecks some water on the shoe and rubs it in to ensure the wax is sealed in. It's important not to use too much wax or water, as that could damage the leather.

The finishing touch is to massage in some Chianti, Pinot Noir or vintage Champagne. This removes excess wax and makes the shoe sparkle. "It's not snobbism," Ms. Berluti explains. "The great officers of the Tsars used this technique to get their boots to shine."

I guess I have been doing it all wrong these years. I tend to prefer some old Springsteen, Dylan or the Flaming Lips as my music choice. Usually use a old cotton worn out t-shirt and some tap water. I love my EGs and Lobbs and probably will love my soon to be had Vass´but I am planning on only imbibing my Chianti, Pinot and VINTAGE Champagne. I think my body needs to enjoy these a bit more than my shoes.

452 Posts
Thanks for posting.

I share Ms Berluti's enjoyment of polishing shoes, if not her levels of fetishism.

But personally I can't get anything done with shoe trees in - only with one hand in the shoe can I get any purchase with the other.

Strident military-band music strikes me as a good choice, although I've done perfectly well on everything from Motorhead to Mozart, including silence and conversation with Mrs ashie259.

What sort of wax are they referrring to, I wonder?

Presumably the 'great officers of the Tsars' only used Pinot Noir, Chianti and vintage champagne because they didn't have anything else to hand!
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