Of all the things we look for in a great pair of shoes, one of the top concerns is durability. One of the questions we're asked the most at Taft is, "how do your shoes stand up to the elements? I'm worried about how wool and suede will do in the rain and snow."
Designing unique shoes is a priority for us, which often means using lesser-utilized textiles and materials. While this has it's obvious perks, many are unsure how to best care for their shoes. Wool and suede are much more resilient than people think, but we wanted to put it to the test. To show just how durable they are, we left them out in a snowstorm for 48 hours.
We used a pair of Troy boots and Jack boots, both of which already had a year's worth of heavy wear. We tossed them out in the snow and let Mother Nature have at 'em.
After 48 hours, the weather had done a pretty good number on the boots. We had a hard time finding them under all the snow and when we did, they were completely waterlogged. The wool, the leather, the soles, everything was drenched, and the shoes were looking pretty sad.
These boots were soaked and saturated with water....when I squeezed the leather, water would rise up to the surface.
After removing all the excess snow, we brought the shoes inside to dry out. Remember, these shoes have been worn very very heavily for the past year without any treatment.
We let the shoes do some preliminary drying, they were so soaked that we had to prop them up at an angle so water could drain out of them. It took several days, but once they were slightly damp, we put shoe trees in each pair of boots to help get the shape back. Once they were completely dry, we set to work polishing them both up.
Here's what we used for the Troy boot:
And here's what we used for the Jack boot:
After using the suede eraser and brush to remove any scuffs from the Troy boot, we taped off the toe to prep it for polishing. For the Jack boot we (super lightly) brushed the wool before taping.
Painter's tape is ideal here because it isn't too sticky and won't harm the wool or suede. It provides the perfect barrier to ensure the polish stays on the toe cap.
Before using any polish, we conditioned the toe caps with saddle soap. When boots have been wet for a significant period of time, it's really important to nourish the leather (including leather soles) to prevent any cracking or long-term damage. Saddle soap is basically moisturizer for shoes - you don't need too much, a little goes a long way.
Once the saddle soap had time to set in, we got to work polishing.
It wasn't long before the boots really came back to life.
When everything was said and done, we couldn't be more proud with how they turned out. (Ignore the indigo fades on my Troys, I personally love them but know they're not for everyone. Remember, these guys both have a year's wear on them with no prior polishing, conditioning, or use of shoe trees)
Without any prior treatment or protection the wool, suede and leather held up remarkably well to the elements. Seeing how well they stand up to such intense treatment (and a full year of wear and tear) should also give you a good idea of just how durable they are with day-to-day wear (hint: super durable). They needed a little love after being left in such extreme conditions, but the brushing and polishing was done in a matter of minutes and the results were really impressive. Despite the refined look of the boots, they were truly built to last.