As I mentioned in a previous article, I finally pulled the trigger on a pair of Red Wing boots. I spent quite some time mulling over this decision, 3-4 years in fact. Now that I have them, of course I need to further over-analyze how to care of them.
Shoe shining and shoe care seems as mystical an art as shaving with a safety razor and badger brush. It seems complicated and esoteric at first, but when you really dig deep into it, you realize… it really is.
Just like getting that perfect shave with classic tools, everyone has their own opinion on what to do to break in a pair of leather boots and how to condition and maintain the leather. Digging around the internet, people say to take a shower wearing your boots, or filling them with hot water and then wearing them around until they dry…. Seriously?
Other experts maintain that “a monthly routine of ritualistically cleaning them by candlelight and applying various scented oils is a must”. Bragging about the frequency in which they clean and shine their boots, like it’s a contest.
I was almost ready to climb aboard, figuring the $280 price tag meant I was agreeing to buy into this maintenance schedule. It’s akin to buying a Mercedes or Land Rover. You don’t buy one thinking you don’t have to pay for $100 dollar oil changes. You buy one because you can afford the costly parts and regular maintenance. Right?
But then, I remembered these are freaking Red Wings. These boots were made to take a beating. Especially being Chelsea Ranchers. These were designed for ranch owners to wear out on the farm, doing chores and checking livestock. They’re meant to get dirty, scuffed, and muddy. These boots are cattle dogs. Not poodles. They aren’t supposed to be pampered, cuddled, and lovingly massaged by a Swedish dude named Lars. The last thing I want these boots to look like are the ones worn by this hipster on Newbury Street, rocking his one-of-ten pairs of “lumberjack boots” that have never met anything besides pavement.
And so, with that, they won’t be. Your’s don’t have to either. Make a stand!
Upon coming to this decision, I promptly deleted the $50 shopping cart I’d assembled on Amazon. Filled with all sorts of snake oils, creams, polishes, and every size of imported horse-hair brush (from Pony to Clydesdale). Instead, I’m buying some cheap brushes (one dirty and one clean) and a tub of Red Wing boot oil. I’ll throw on one coat to start, and see how far it takes me. If its a month from now or a year from now, I’m just going to watch the leather for when its dry, give it another coating of oil. If the boots look especially dirty, a couple quick swipes with the brush and I’ll be on my way.
This is one of those times where I have to step back and un-complicate things. Maybe you should too. If you’re reading this, chances are you might be neck deep in uber-boot care fever. Take a break for a moment and realize what you’re doing. Have a snickers, you little man-diva. You’re creating for yourself a new chore of caring your boots instead of wearing them.
I forget sometimes that things need character. Cast iron skillets need a patina. Work pants need dirt. Hands need scars. Boots shouldn’t be any different.
To see how this mentality has faired for me and my kickers, check out Boot Care Made Simple: Part Deux