However, recently I've had some luck when it comes to finding dress shoes or more casual leather shoes such as loafers. As it turns out, a large number of shoes in great condition are donated because either people are simply tired of them, or they get scuffed and they don't know how to properly care for their shoes. So, first I want to talk about the second issue.
Taking care of your leather shoes is a must if you want to keep them looking great throughout the years and it's worth taking the time. Good dress shoes are often classics and will never go out of style, so why waste money replacing shoes every couple years when simple upkeep will keep one pair going? I am no expert on shoe care, but after going to a cobbler, I was recommended the following items: a good leather cleaner, a small shoe brush and polish in colors that match the color of your shoes.
(click photo to enlarge)
Foam-Tex Suede & Leather Cleaner, Star 100% Horsehair Brush, Tarrago Self Shine Shoe Cream
To clean your shoes, remove some scuffing and restore some shine, simply rub the Foam-Tex cleaner into the leather with the brush, let dry and brush one more time. The difference is incredible.
To use the self shine shoe cream, simply rub it on in a circular motion making sure it lays evenly, let it dry for 15-20 minutes and then brush it off. Thats all it takes to keep your shoes looking new. Also, if your quality shoes start to wear through the soles, look into replacing them to save some money instead of throwing them away and buying a new pair. (*NOTE: Do not use polish or shoe cream on patent leather shoes! For those, just stick with the leather cleaner.)
**Also, a new tip I felt necessary to add is the important use of shoe trees for your quality leather shoes. Shoes trees will greatly increase the life of your leather shoes by keeping the leather stretched out and stop it from cracking and creasing. Make sure you get them into the shoe immediately after wearing. There are a few options when it comes to types of shoe trees. Plastic shoe trees will hold the shape well and are great for those with a tight budget, but don't have the moisture absorbing benefits of a nice cedar shoe tree that will increase the life of the shoe even more. It's up to you which one you want to choose, but definitely don't choose "None of the Above" (Thanks to John for submitting this tip).**
Ok, onto the bargain hunting. Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching:
- Bring socks - You will want to try shoes on. You can wear them sockless after you take them home and throughly clean them.
- Avoid pairs that have tears in the leather, unless you want that look, that is not repairable damage.
- Scuffs are ok, the leather cleaner and polish will absolutely get rid of them.
- Check the sole and heel - check the wear and avoid anything that looks like it will need repair soon.
- Don't fret about ruined laces. You can buy a brand new set for cheap that will look great.
- Keep your eyes out for high end labels that occasionally make it to thrift store shelves.
- Finally, if it doesn't fit well, DON'T BUY IT! Even though its cheap, there is no point to throwing away a few dollars on something you will never wear because it doesn't fit right.
Here are my recent finds from a couple area thrift stores:
(Johnston & Murphy shoes, $20 at thrift store, restored to a brand new look with minimal effort and about $5 dollars worth of supplies)
(click photos to enlarge)
With the exception of the brown Johnston & Murphy shoes (third photo) that were polished, the rest were just treated with the leather cleaner and they all look brand new. This is definitely a great, inexpensive way for those on a student's budget to diversify their shoe collection. Good luck with your own search!