The most important thing you can do for the environment when it comes to your clothes and accessories is to keep them for as long as possible- ideally until they fall apart. Many of us struggle with this due to poor quality items or we don’t know how to care for our clothes and shoes (and other accessories).
Yes, shoe cobblers are still a “thing”
My journey to maintaining my shoes started many years before I started to change how I care for my clothes to make them last. Proper shoe care requires some tools and a professional and the professional is a shoe cobbler.
For me this started with a pair of shoes that I have had for over 10 years – my first pair of Tahari heels. Because these shoes were so comfortable, I wanted to make them last for as long as I could. Enter my “shoe guy.” Once I found a cobbler, it changed how I care for shoes, how I shop for shoes, and how I maintain what I own. I want you to get the most from your shoes, too!
Why you need a shoe cobbler
A tenet of men’s styling is that the shoes should be the most expensive part of the outfit. I argue that this should be the same for women. *Now before you get upset, please note I do not mean six inch stilettos that cost over a $1,000. What I do mean is shoes should be an investment. Comfortable, high quality shoes that are meant to last cost anywhere from $100 to $300. Sorry you aren’t going to find them for $17.99 at Target. The adage “buy half as much but pay twice as much” applies in this situation. Once you shift to viewing your shoes as an investment, you will want to maintain that investment.
A cobbler will do much more than just shine your shoes. These are true craftsman (and women) and work on way more than shoes as well. Here is a list of things I have had done with my shoes (and more!) and you can too:
- Cleaning/conditioning – The most basic service but usually needed about once a year. You can use conditioner and polish at home but the professional touch up will help them look even better.
- Straps – ladies in particular those elastic straps on the back of sandals or heels that buckle. The elastic/stretchy part can lose its stretch and they can replace that part of the strap.
- Flipflops – my favorite pair of FloJos had the top strap falling apart –the cobbler rebuilt it. Also, those shoes had the sole worn down – they fixed that too with a more sturdy sole.
- Luggage – They have replaced the handle of a rolling bag, the zipper pulls that fall off (thanks airlines) and most importantly the wheels! I have a 22-inch roller bag that is 20 years old!!!
- Handbags – they repair zippers and other hardware on the bag, condition the leather, remove stains, treat the leather to avoid stains, and most importantly will dye the bag – I am about to have this done on one of favorite leather bags so it looks like new again.
- Belts – I have two leather belts that go with jeans and they have been made to a custom length which means I never need new belts. I bought one of the belts from a thrift store. This is a great way to have an investment piece in a belt without spending hundreds of dollars.
- Heel taps – They will replace the heel taps (the bottom part of a high heel) as well as other heels on shoes (doesn’t need to be high heels). This can be done for men and women.
- Shoe stretching – Ever have a pair of shoes you love but they are tight in the toe box? That is one the advantages of buying leather (though I always advise buying secondhand) it stretches! They will put the shoe on a stretcher and open up the toe box for you. I have had this done on a pair of high heels and it made a huge difference.
- Water proofing – You may purchase a pair of shoes and the leather is noted as being waterproof. While that may be the case, unless they are Gore Tex, they aren’t completely waterproof. The cobbler will put another layer of sealant so not only is the leather waterproof but so are the seams. I did this to my beloved Teva boots before taking them to Europe for the first time. They are now going on 4 years old.
- Ultimate shoe makeover – The most amazing transformation was the pair of BCBG Chelsea boots that I found at a consignment store with the sole completely worn down to the point that it bent and moved like thick fabric. I bought them because they were made in Brazil and I knew once repaired, they would last me for a long time and be comfortable. The cobbler rebuilt the shoe with a new sole and heel. See before and after.
- Sole coating – This is the service I use the most and one I think everyone should have for their shoes. I have had a sole coating added to nearly every pair of shoes and boots I own that have smooth soles or leather soles. This coating makes them last longer and makes them more comfortable to walk in. See below the before and after for a pair of sandals.
How to get $300 shoes for less than $50…
You may be asking, I don’t have the money to buy “investment” shoes. How do I buy $300 shoes for way less? Shop secondhand!!
Many women (and some men though I find men are much more familiar with going to a cobbler) will buy luxury shoes with lovely leather soles and once they are scuffed and worn – consign or donate them. Don’t be dissuaded from a purchase because of wear, scuffed soles or worn heel taps. They can likely be cleaned, coated and/or fixed as I have explained above. I have seen shoes with worn soles SO many times that are priced even lower than normal at a consignment store. The reason is because they are worn and most people do not know that they can be made to look and feel like new.
I encourage you to shop secondhand and find higher quality shoes at a price point that works for you. You would be amazed how many shoes have never been worn. I encourage you to go through your closet and see what shoes you love to wear but need to be cleaned or repaired to look like new. Happy walking!
Find a cobbler near you!
If you don’t have a shoe guy, I encourage you to find one. If you don’t like what is available in your area, the amazing “guy” I work with is found here: http://www.cobblersdenaz.com (ask for Chris at the Scottsdale location or Chris or Harry at the Paradise Valley location). If you are not in the Phoenix area, you can ship your shoes or bags and they will repair and send them back to you.
Note: Please know that I am not working with any of these brands, companies or stores and was not asked to endorse or mention any of the products in this post. All opinions here are my own.