The Winter Survival Guide to Dress Shoes
Note: This story was originally published in January of 2013, but winter comes back strong every year. The same cannot be said for that pair of killer shoes you scrimped and saved for because “damn they’re nice!” unless you take good care of them and have a plan to get through the winter months. But take heart. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to stay well shod even when you have to trudge through the ice and snow.
Things we love about the winter: outerwear, layering and holiday party open bars. Things we hate about the winter: cold, wind chill, more wind chill and stepping into a dirty pile of snow/slush/dirt/salt with our nice leather oxfords on.
In life, there are some poor decisions you can get away with, and then there are those that will haunt you for years to come. Ruining a beautiful pair of brogues because you shrugged off the blizzard forecast easily falls into the latter category.
So before stepping out into that wintry mix, get prepped with our three-part winter footwear guide.
Strategy #1: Abstinence
You’ve heard this one before. The best form of prevention is abstinence. So how can you prevent Mother Winter from impregnating your favorite pair of cognac double monks with dirty slush and salt? Easy, keep them nestled in your closet, far away from the mean streets.
Of course, the problem here is that you love your double monks. And if you’re going to bench them until you get to the office, you want a stand-in that damn well looks good. So we put together a line-up of more winter battle-ready options that won’t mitigate your fresh factor:
Grenson – Fred (Tan Calf) Men’s Lace-up Boots – A nice pair of brogue dress boots will not only be Black Lapel suit-friendly, the thicker soles will help you to confidently man all those winter sidewalk shenanigans. Form? Check. Function? Check.
Red Wing Heritage – 6 Iron Ranger Lug (Oxblood Mesa) Men’s Lace-up Boots – Well, they are called Iron Ranger for a reason. Originally made for miners, these boots were designed for dudes who were doing serious manual labor. As manly as you might be, you’re not mining anything except phone numbers at a bar. These will go great with a pair of jeans or corduroy pants.
L.L. Bean Waterproof Boots – Every man needs a pair of these because there are few things worse than wet and cold feet. Not only will these L.L. Bean Waterproof boots keep your feet dry, they will give you traction so you don’t have an embarrassing wipe out. Wearing these won’t land you on the cover of GQ, but they’re your best bet for taking on the worst of the winter.
Strategy #2: Use Protection
You know what they say about protection – don’t get caught without it. For the days when you must absolutely rock your favorite cap toes, blizzard or no blizzard, protection comes in the form of “galoshes” or overshoes (aka rubber covers or as we like to call them, “shoe condoms”). Like these Swims.
The galosh is meant to be worn over your dress shoes and should cover about ¾ of your shoe. It’s a good option for those days where the snow or sleet has yet to come, but is on the way. Keep a spare at your office or in your gym bag so you can throw on or off as needed.
Strategy #3: “Morning After” Damage Control
Sometimes, for lack of better judgment or unforeseen circumstances, we find ourselves in damage control mode. We’ve all had those days when we find ourselves cursing the idiot weatherman while trudging through 6 inches of street-grimed snow in our favorite shoes. Here are some last resort rescue tactics:
- Dry – If you find your once-handsome leather dress shoes drenched after a storm, avoid the inclination to use a blow dryer on them. Using a heat source will cause the water to leave the leather too quickly, cracking the leather and causing permanent damage. Instead, take your time with the drying. Pat dry it with towel then insert a dry towel on the inside of the shoe to pull the moisture from the inside. Leave for a day or so in this manner to dry slowly in room temp.
- Clean – Once they’re dry, use a horsehair brush and/or a damp cloth and clean off dirt and residue. Exposure to salts / acids can permanently damage leather if not cleaned promptly and properly. If salt residue is pervasive, dip your damp cloth in a solution of 1/3 white vinegar 2/3 water and rub away at the stains in an outward circular motion.
- Condition – Once they’re clean, condition the shoes with a leather cream/conditioner such as Saphir’s Renovateur to moisturize the leather. Leather is animal skin, and thus is susceptible to drying and cracking if not given the proper nutrients. A cleaner conditioner such as Allen Edmonds Condition/Cleaner will also help remove surface area residue while moisturizing the leather.
- Polish – Once steps 1-3 are complete, you can polish your shoes and get that healthy shine back while adding a light layer of moisture protection.
So next time you decide to go frolic in the snow, remember to use protection or better yet, practice abstinence. And if do you get caught up in some unforeseeable wet mess and it looks like you’ve ruined another pair of your favorite shoes, follow our 4 step damage control guide to get them looking new again.
Got any questions or other tips for getting your leather dress shoes through the winter? Share them in the comments below!
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