7 Essentials of the Ultimate Shoeshine Kit 10

“You walk in here and you might sit next to the president of Kellogg Company or a congressman getting his shoes shined. I take pride in the work.”
– Harold Eanes

Shoe shining used to to be a common skill, but, over the last century, it has been slowly dying out.  Today, most non-military men know absolutely nothing about the art of shoe shining.

This is unfortunate because a true man should know how to look and act formal as well as how to “rough it”.

To shine your shoe well, you need to start with the right tools and materials.  Although you can buy a pre-made kit, building your own set will give you the chance to choose the best tools possible.

These are the seven most important things that should be included in every shoeshine kit.

#1 Container

First, you need to find a suitable container for you shoe shining kit.

Depending on your needs and space requirements, you have two main options:

Option 1: Wooden Storage Box With Footrest

If you have the space and money, the original shoeshine box is by far your best pick. Not only will this rugged wooden box hold your shining supplies in safety, but the footrest will make shining easier.

This is the type of box that has been used for centuries by shoeshine boys across the world.

You can either buy this box premade or make it yourself using free patterns (near the bottom).

Option 2: Any Other Bag or Box

If you do not have the space or money for a real shoeshine kit, you can use any container that will keep you supplies safe and together.

Whatever you do, keep your shining supplies in the same container so you don’t lose any of the important tools.

#2 Horsehair Brush

The main tool you will need for shoe shining is a horsehair brush. The bristles are soft enough to not scratch your shoes yet stiff enough to give a professional shine.

This brush will be used while polishing to give the polish a nice shine and between polishings to make the shine last longer.

Kiwi makes a durable horsehair brush.

#3 Horsehair Polish Applicator

A smaller horsehair brush will be used to apply the polish to your shoe.  This brush will not be used to polish your shoe, but to apply the polish before using the larger horsehair brush.

Once again, Kiwi makes a good applicator brush.

#4 Polishing Cloths

The final polishing of your shoe will be completed using a cotton polishing cloth.

These cloths should be cleaned and dried when you finish polishing so that the polish does not harden on it.

You can either purchase special shoeshine polishing cloths or simply appropriate an old cotton t-shirt for the purpose.

#5 Disposable Gloves

Although few shoeshine kits include gloves, these are actually a very important part.

Because you will normally be polishing your shoes just before a formal event, you do not want to dye your hands with the polish. By simply wearing latex gloves, you can give your shoes a nice shine without discoloring your hands.

These can be bought online or at nearly any hardware store.

#6 Polish

Choosing a good polish is one of the most important steps to a good shine.

First, you need to match the color of your polish to the color of your shoe. Don’t try to change a shoe’s color by choosing a polish with a different color than your shoe.  Use a dye to change your shoe’s color.

Once you have decided on the color, you must decide what type of polish to use.

Option 1: Wax

Wax polish will give a better shine, but it will also seal your shoe. Because this sealant makes it difficult for your shoes to breath, it can damage your shoe’s life.

Option 2: Crème

Crème polish soaks into the leather, but allows your shoe to breathe. This will not give as good of a shine, but it will make your shoe last longer.

#7 Edge Dressing

Although not necessary, edge dressing can be used to add a final touch to a pair of nicely polished shoes. This substance is applied to the edges of your leather.

Do you have a shoeshine kit?

10 thoughts on “7 Essentials of the Ultimate Shoeshine Kit

  1. Reply Micheal Feb 22,2010 11:56 AM

    I just wanted to add that if you like the look of edge dressing but you do not have any you can use the black kiwi polish, an old white T-shirt and some water to create the same effect. I used this method while in the Marine Corp because I did not care for the buildup of edge dressing.

  2. Reply Jordan Williams Feb 24,2010 10:41 AM

    So Desmond which do you think is better creme or wax?

  3. Reply Nate Desmond Feb 24,2010 1:30 PM

    @ Jordan

    I think I would probably go for creme, but I am not sure.

  4. Reply Jason V Mar 2,2010 7:27 AM

    I need a video to understand edge dressing. If I find one, I will send a link.

    Also, my father used to use a lighter while waxing / polishing his shoes. It seems that he would dry the wax this way.

  5. Reply W S Burdick Apr 10,2010 7:27 AM

    Great post.

    I have found with smooth leather shoes, to get a great shine, all you need is
    1. polish
    2. a soft cloth (tee shirt material) (and a rubber glove)
    3. a little water in the lid of your polish can and
    4. a nylon sock.

    Put on the glove. Wet the soft cloth in the water. Get some polish on the wet cloth and spread it on your shoe with a circular motion. Don’t worry about getting too much. It should look dull when you finish. Do one shoe and set it aside. Do the second shoe. Then go back to the first shoe and use your nylon sock to buff the shoe. You will be amazed at the shine. Buff the second shoe.

    Of course, edge dressing really looks sharp on well shined shoes.

  6. Reply Nate Desmond Apr 10,2010 8:10 AM

    @W S Burdick – Thank you! I will have to try that method sometime!

  7. Reply Dan Apr 22,2010 12:07 AM

    Kiwi also make a polish called Parade Shine. I use that and after buffing finish off with a damp cloth to make the boots dazzle.

  8. Reply Justin Apr 25,2010 12:11 PM

    Just bought a nice shoeshine kit from Brooks Brothers. However, the bristles on the horsehair brush seem to be shedding. Is this normal for a new brush or should I take it back?

  9. Reply Reid Jul 24,2010 10:43 PM

    I agree with Michael’s comments and would strongly dissuade others from using edge dressing. It’s essentially like putting paint on your shoes. It quickly scuffs and gets dirty no matter how careful you are, and (unlike polish) there is no way to smooth it out or clean it up. You have to keep adding successive coats and eventually you are left with a nasty, sticky mess.

    I don’t personally like a high gloss on the welt of the shoe, anyway. I’ve always been satisfied with just keeping it clean, or perhaps using a bit of polish on it as you would the upper. Edge dressing should be reserved for the military core-frams (plastic shoes) which are disposable anyway.

  10. Reply Kevin S. Feb 16,2011 2:21 AM

    Great post! I miss the Lincoln Wax I used to use. Anyways, I find that using a good amount of heat really sets the wax in too. Either a heat gun or good lighter gives you ample heat to melt the wax and increase the shine when you polish. With the wax melted it can easily penetrate the pours of the leather and establish a good bond. I usually do approx 6 coats of wax before I have a shine where I can see myself in my shoes/ boots. That’s when you know you’re ready to showcase yourself as a professional from head to toe.

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