The first advice I got was to go out to a workshop and bring whatever product I had on hand. It did not go well. Heads up a Bootblack will become visibly pained if you put liquid polish in their eyesight.
Luckily, I did learn a few things at that workshop though. Turns out building a kit could last a lifetime – but gathering the supplies you need to get started on polish* boots? Easy!
Here’s what you need:
- Saddle soap or pure glycerine soap. There are pros and cons to either; personally I’ve found it easier to get a consistency I like with saddle soap, so I use that. Pro-tip: choose the colour of soap that matches the stitching n your shoes, and when in doubt? Use yellow.
- A small spray bottle – easily picked up from a dollar store.
- Polish; if you have a specific pair of shoes in mind, match the colour to those. If you don’t know, pick up a tin of black and a tin of neutral polish. Kiwi is super easy to come by and be found in a grocery store. If you want more options, visit a cobbler.
- Horsehair Daubers. You’ll want one to use for cleaning, and you may want one for polish (if you want to keep your hands clean, that is). If you want to use Daubers to put on polish, be sure to get one for each colour of polish you have.
- Horsehair Shine Brush
- A soft cotton towel – hand towel sized is fine
- A shine cloth. This can be an old cotton T-shirt, a kiwi cloth – whatevs. Point is cotton, and the ability to fold it crease free.
Learning to polish a boot, much like building a kit is both easy to start, and skill you can spend the rest of your life increasing. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that has bootblacks on hand – get out and learn from them. We’re super lucky to have an active Bootblack Community in Toronto – check out the workshop schedule for 2012 here. If you don’t have workshops available to you right away, online is a good place to start. Despite my Google efforts, Fetlife provided me with the only step by step instructions I could find, so I in turn point people this way now. Bootdog.com helped me increase my knowledge about various products and tools and Ian’s ShoeLace Site has taught me almost everything I know about lacing.
So there you go, enough to get you going on your blacking adventures. If you have a pair of boots to polish, you’re golden. If you don’t, hit up thrift stores and pick up a pair to play with – they might make a wonderful gift to someone special one day.
* And by polish boots I specifically mean boots that are meant to take a wax polish, oil-tanned boots require a different process and half a different kit; but that’s another posting.