I’ve recently begun to pay more attention to my shoes. I graduated college and realized that my closet needed a serious update. I got rid of my graphic tees, my mass of holed sweatshirts, my cheesy sneakers and realized there weren’t too many quality basics on my closet. It was time to buy. And so I went off, with little guidance, purchased based on style, and not so much on quality, and a year later here I am with some very expensive shoes in some very poor conditions, having thought that very expensive meant lifetime investment.
This year? I reached the other side. I bought a pair of Vintage, Men’s Cowboy Boots for $80. They’re made of crocodile. How did I know they were an insane steal? I’m here to tell: How to Buy Quality Shoes and How to Take Care of Them.
1. Make Sure They’re Leather
This is harder than you’d first imagine. Shouldn’t all boots automatically be made of leather? I wish! Most shoes these days are made out of plastic, or fabric blend. With so many brands making mass pairs, it’s simply more cost effective for them not to invest in quality, and a blend, no matter how beautiful, will never last a lifetime. Leather should. Tell Tale Sign to Leather? Sniff it! You’ll recognize the leather smell immediately. Still can’t tell? If you’re in-store, ask the salesperson, if they’re not sure what the shoe is made of, it’s probably a bad sign. If buying on-line, the product details should clue you in, and if they don’t, it’s probably also a bad sign.
2. Make Sure the Soles and Heels are Well Made
The quickest way to know is if a shoe is “benchmade.” Frye is one of the top boots brands, and they make sure to benchmake each pair. If a shoe doesn’t advertise whether or not it’s benchmade, you’ll be able to tell by turning it over and checking out the sole. A benchmade shoe will have nails along the edges between the sole and heel, and serious stitching along the edges of the sole. If you’re not ready to invest in a “benchmade” shoe, don’t fret. A well-made boot will have stitching either along the sole on the bottom, or will show signs of stitching when you turn the shoe over. If it’s well made, you’ll see a stitch between the side of the sole and the side of the leather.
BUYING VINTAGE BOOTS
1. The Shoe Must be in Good Condition
If a vintage shoe is in good condition when you buy it, it will probably stay that way for most of its life. Just make sure that it looks like you’ll be able to continue to take care of it. Any holes? Put that shoe down–more will come and they’re not easy to fix. Scuffs? No problem, you probably want a well-loved look and leather is easy to polish. A poor heel? That’s okay. When investing in boots you’re going to have to take them to the cobblers every few years in order to replace the heel and/or sole. If the shoes are a good price you won’t have to worry about putting money into them immediately. Just look to make sure they’re “benchmade” or well-stitched, and also look to make sure the heel and sole can easily be updated.
2. Look for “Symbols”
Vintage cowboy boots are a pretty safe buy, as they almost always fit into the “benchmade” category and the quality of leather is topnotch. If they shoe “symbols” at its quality, they’re an even safer buy. Look for stamps like “Texas” or “Mexico.” Or, if your boot is vintage, look along the sole or interior for direction to its brand. Signs like “leather” are good, but if you know the brand, and understand it’s quality, that’s fabulous.
TAKING CARE OF BOOTS
1. Replace Heel & Sole When Required
When your heel or sole becomes too warn (you’ll know–they won’t walk right or a hole will form on the sole) take them in to be updated. I’d recommend going to your local cobbler, and if you need to, calling around to compare prices. Don’t scoff too much at the price, if your boots are investment, it’s alright to spend $50 every few years on new soles and heels.
2. Keep Your Leather Looking Fresh
Polish your boots with a polish that matches. If you’re not sure what color they are precisely, bring them into your cobbler and ask for a recommendation. For cowboy boots, make sure to polish, but you can also give them a beautiful shine with a little oil. Feel free to use what ever you have on hand—olive oil and vegetable oil are good fits—and give them a good rub with a paper towel or cloth.
3. Give Them Love
Encourage your shoes to keep their upright shape. Either invest in boot inserts, or if you’d prefer, stuff them with socks! Wear them often. Give them kisses. Polish them. Compliment them. They’ll stick around and love you just as much.