Countless uses, dating back thousands of years. A well cared for leather piece can be something your children can use. Wallets, bags, belts, shoes; all wonderful examples. Not only can they stand the test of time, we would argue leathers look better for it. As you’ve become more interesting, refined, and endearing as you’ve aged, so have your leathers. Think of an old worn in baseball glove. Even the smell is desirable.
Now, leather has to be maintained in order to age well. Leather is animal skin, and needs to be treated as such. Your skin has the convenient trait of regenerating and nourishing itself, seeing as you’re still in it. Your shoes (or other leather goods) don’t have the same luxury. They need your help.
The best way is to go with a shoe maker you can trust. With a history of making high quality products.
Alden, Allen Edmonds, Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, Churches, are great companies. They all make shoes worth taking care of. This is far from an exhaustive list of quality makers, these are only some popular ones. There are small boutiques that make some of the worlds best.
Why is my leather cracking in the first place?
When it comes to leather maintenance, cracked leather is a major concern. This happens largely due to dry leather, as well as abrasion. As you wear your shoes, a battle is being fought on two fronts.
The first is abrasion. Dirt on your shoes where they crease is squished together and rubbed against the leather. This often happen on the "vamp." This is right above the toe joints where your shoes normally crease.
This causes micro tearing and thinning of the leather in these areas; think of fine sandpaper. This can be dust, sand, grit, mud. All normal to have from wearing outside. This is one of the reasons that keeping your shoes clean is a big part of longevity! Less dirt means less abrasion. That is why we recommend regular brushing. A few seconds of brushing before and after wearing goes a long way.
Secondly, moisture is king. As you wear your shoes, the moisture in the leather is forced out of them, by the walking motion and/or oils slowly evaporating. The more you wear your shoes the more dry they will become.
This leaves the leather dry, which does two things. Firstly dry things are less flexible and supple. Secondly, dry leather cannot stretch and bounce back (which is what is happening when you walk). Decreasing the strength at stress points, causing breaks. Think of how your hands dry out in the winter.
How do I prevent this?
It is much easier than you would expect. You should be applying a leather conditioner to your shoes 2-4 times a year, depending on how often you wear them. If you wear them a few times a week, we'd suggest more. If you have a big rotation, aim for the lower side. Even if you aren't wearing your shoes, they are drying out over time.
You are putting back much needed essential oils, allowing the leather to act at it should, pliant and willing as ever.
Too much moisture can be a bad things too, so don’t get carried away. No need to apply after every wear. Too much lotion will saturate your shoes and make them weaker. Don't be too afraid as you'd have to use a lot to get to that point.
What product do I need?
Wait a minute or two for the lotion to sink in. Then brush vigorously. Voila! That's it. Now your leather goods are ready for whatever is next, whether that is polishing or protecting.