Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes

Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes
Burnished Edward Green’s by Hancore

I never understood why people do a full shoe shine regime on a brand new pair of shoes. I can understand wanting a cap shine but what goes on in the mind to apply conditioner? A conditioner is something that is used to rejuvenate leather. Brand new leather does not need rejuvenation. It needs break-in i.e. softening of the leather. Conditioners are often made concentrate and can actually do their own damage when used improperly. And all leathers are not the same in finish durability. Some treatments and dyes are more surface-based i.e. crust leather dyes and museum calfs. That being, when the leather is fresh it is actually more susceptible to damage i.e. accidental stripping and/or darkening of the finish. Of course, black leather can withstand anything but not all tan/light colored finishes are going to reward you for conditioning them prematurely.

Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes
Inspiration work by ShoeShineUK

A couple potentially useful analogies that might help are the following: 1. Would you apply lotion to a brand new baby out of the womb? 2. Would you detail your car right after driving it off the lot of brand new vehicles? 3. Would you iron a pressed shirt from the dry cleaners? If you answered no to any of these then why would you condition the leather on your brand new shoes? The issue with leather, and do not ask me why as I am not a scientist for skin, is that when it is new its pores are shut and therefore more reactive of surface based liquids. Thats why it is easier to stain a brand new shoe with rain. Thats why it is easier to accidentally strip brand new leather. Thats why your shine cracks easier after wearing when over-shining brand new shoes.

Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes
Inspiration work by ShoeShineUK

Shoes/leather need time to break in. The more you wear the shoes the more the pores relax and open up, making the shoes easier to shine and presenting a better time for conditioning. It will also become less likely that rain, and the like, will stain the leather. Too often have I witnessed online or had people ask me how rectify their new shoes that they either stipped or stained by being heavy handed in conditoner or wax on their brand new shoes. And often, especially on a light colored pair of shoes, there is no rectification that can be done by the common person (without potentially ruining further). If you dark stain a pair of tan colored crust shoes, only time and light will help to rectify that issue but not adding more liquids on top. If you strip your finish, well, that needs someone truly skilled in finish refurbishing to help.

Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes
Inspiration work by ShoeShineUK

Therefore, I have some recommendations for you to ensure you do not ruin your brand new shoes: 1. Never condition a new pair unless your new pair comes with very dry leather. And if you must, use a very small amount of conditioner. Remember, it is concentrate. Always test on the inside heel to see how the finish reacts. If it darkens, stop immediately. It if strips, also stop immediately. If it takes it okay, proceed cautiously. 2. Never mirror shine brand new shoes other than the tips of the toes and the outer edges of the heels. The rest of the leather needs to break in first before you can start mirror shining it all around (which is still never recommended). If you ignore this, your shine will inevitably crack and if you are unlucky it will take its finish with it and you will have a very ugly shoe to rectify. 3. Never use neutral wax polish other than to finish a mirror shine. For some reason, the lack of pigment actually produces a stripping like effect and too often have I seen people ruin their crust/museum calf/vegetable tanned shoes using neutral wax polish. Use a wax that is always closest in shade to the leather color. 4. Wear your shoes at least once when brand new before starting a shoe shine regime. Anything extreme is bad for your leather. And some of your shoe shine regimes are extreme. Remember, leather was once living. It is a natural product. And the shoe care products are essentially chemicals. They help to certain degrees but can also hurt in others. Always use a little and apply accordingly. Never cake on any shoe care product. It will have adverse effects. And of course, if you fail to follow these instructions, just realize that fixing what you did will be difficult and most likely require you to send them to a specialist and/or give you the opportunity to become your own through trial and error shining. That is, after all, how all of the specialists learned!

Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes
Inspiration work by ShoeShineUK


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15 thoughts on “Do Not Condition Brand New Shoes”

  1. I think it’s often as simple as people are excited with their new purchase, and conditioning seems like the natural thing to do. I very much learnt my lesson on this after damaging a pair of Saint Crispin’s crust leather with some Saphir Renovateur which, in hindsight, just didn’t need applying.

    1. Hi Sam!!!
      I have a pair of nubuck boots that are brand new, never worn – however; they are 5.5 years old. Is there a caveat in this type of situation when it comes to conditioning or should I keep them as is? They are kept in an original box with tissue and plastic form-keeping inserts.
      Thank you!!!

      1. Justin FitzPatrick

        Hello Meleha, I would just wear them. You normally do not condition nubuck. It is not the same as calfskin. Enjoy them

  2. The main rationale Ive heard about conditioning shoes out of the box is that they mightve been sitting out on a shelf for a long time prior to shipping. As I am an amateur when it comes to these things, do you think that point is valid?

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Key word is “might.” Best to wear shoes one day, at least, and then condition. Thats what this post touches on. Pores need time to open

    2. Justin FitzPatrick

      Hey Patrick, of course there are always exceptions. The issue with the people advocating this idea is they say it like its the rule when it is not. Most makers do not have that poor of turnover for their shpes to he sitting for months and months. And also good leather preserves. If it crap leather thats another story. And thats why in my post I write the exception saying that if you must condition your shoes do so smartly by doing a very small amount on the inside heel to see how the leather reacts.

  3. Justin, I enjoy your direct approach to shoes and their care. I have a number of pair in museum calf from TLB. I have been using neutral polish to keep the contrast. In choosing a color closest do I go towards the lighter color? I hope to check out your shop when COVID subsides. Greg did a phenomenal job on the shoes I had done. Thanks

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Hey Russ, thanks for the kind words and support. Yes I would use the wax one shade down from your leather color to keep the undertones enhanced

  4. Justin, Another follow up to your post. When I was thinking of getting a rifle for long distance target shooting, I found a ton of articles on how to break in a new barrel for accuracy. The various techniques gave me a headache as they were quite detailed and time consuming. I found an article by one of the best shooters on the subject. I found the Holy Grail on the subject. When I clicked on the link, the page was blank. He had no magic formula, just shoot. The same holds true for shoes, just wear them. Never got the rifle. The people making it complicated were in the business of selling barrels and cleaning products.

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Great analogy Russ and very true. People dont realize the stories created and mass spread for marketing purposes i.e. money making. A classic one is cedar shoe trees being the best. An American myth created due to our abundance of cedar trees in the US. No one outside of of the US pedals them they way we do and no bespoke shoemaker puts them in their $4000 shoes. Go figure 😉

  5. I have a question? After wearing, can veg tan leather be mirror shined? From what I understood in the video, there was some mentioning of veg tan leather

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