The Shoe Tree: A Must-Have for Shoe Lovers


With a good suit comes a good pair of shoes. And with that comes great responsibility!

Although I’m a fan of fine suits and all things sartorial, I’m an even bigger fan of dress shoes. I believe shoes play a major role in completing and complementing an outfit. I don’t know about you, but all the outfits I wear only look good once I’ve put my shoes on. Even when suit-fitting or simply shopping for an off-the-rag suit, I have to wear a pair of Oxfords, loafers or even monk straps. It’s the only time I can actually make a certified decision – to buy or not to buy. Having good shoes with me allows me to see how the outfit will look after purchasing.

Being a shoe lover, I’ve had moments when I’ve bought the same pair in assorted colors, knowing very well that there will always be something to pair them with. Some say it’s an addiction. I say it’s therapy. I once worked at an on-course golf shop and I knew golfers with more than five pairs of golf shoes. They would continue to buy for the love of looking good.

“Look after them and they’ll look after you.”

As much as I also love looking good, I have a motto: “Look after them and they’ll look after you”. I have never compromised in taking care of my puppies. Yes, I treat them like my pets. I feed them good stuff, the best quality shoe-cleaning products and I prefer to use top-notch equipment to keep them shining bright like a diamond. I clothe them and keep them nice and cool inside a shoe sock. I give them shelter – always in their shoe box. I know some people, mostly ladies, prefer to not keep shoe boxes because it takes up a lot of space. Every pair I’ve bought, I’ve made a commitment to add at least another cleaning product. I’ve been fortunate that some pairs have a shoe horn inside the box. Some gents still don’t use it, even when struggling to get a shoe on.

Looking after my investments didn’t start recently, now that I’m wearing high quality leather shoes. It started in my secondary school days. I had at least three pairs that I wore to school. Not because I could afford it, but because I sacrificed sneakers for a some formal shoes and two pairs of black golfers. This way I would never wear the same pair on two consecutive days. Not because I wanted to look cool at school (wink, wink) but to minimize the wear and tear on them. I used to walk long distances to catch the train to school and after long hours of wearing, the shoes needed a break – to breathe and dry out the moisture.

Even back then, I carried a shoe brush and cloth in my school bag to clean them after long walks through the dusty streets of Soweto. It quickly became a competition to get bragging rights for the shiniest shoes among my peers. It was less about what shoe I wore, and more about how clean and shiny they were.

“It was not about what shoe I wore but how clean and shiny they were.”

This routine never stopped or changed. The only thing that changed was my shoe size over the years. With all the loving care I gave my puppies, they still looked rather sad after a couple of rounds. They lost their original shape and even with a quality care kit some started to crease and show permanent crack marks. I even kept the tissue paper stuffed into new shoes and placed them back inside after wearing, but it made little difference.

Things became trickier. Back then, shoes were plain black with no detail, but now they came in different styles: brogues, monk straps, tassel loafers and multi-tone. Cleaning such a shoe, with all this detail and different fabric was tricky. I had to be extra careful when applying polish and not leave stains on other parts of the shoe.

During my shopping trips I looked for something strong, yet smooth and comfortable. I started doubting the quality of my shoes, but then learnt that it’s not just the quality of a shoe. Apparently there was an investment I still needed to make to properly take care of my puppies. The only time I’d ever come across this new investment, was the displays in some boutiques. I didn’t even know its name and had never bothered asking what it was.

It’s called a shoe tree – a device in the shape of a foot, placed inside the shoe to stop it from developing creases. More importantly, it maintains the shape of the shoe and plays a crucial role in wicking away leather-damaging moisture on the inside. On hot summer days, wearing a pair of shoes (with or without a socks) will produce sweat and shoe trees made from solid cedar wood help control odour and absorb moisture.

They are rare locally, but when I went to Italy almost every store had them. It makes shoes look good, even the styles I don’t usually wear. Returning home I decided to get to know this gadget more.

Polished shoe trees are good for displaying shoes in stores but not recommendable for personal use –  the varnished wood won’t give the same benefits of raw wood. They come in different sizes and can adjust to accommodate two sizes. This gadget will help loosen tight, new shoes and make cleaning shoes a dream –  making it easy to apply polish.

Wooden shoe trees are recommended for premium, quality leather shoes above R2,500. Shoes above R8,000 usually come with a pair. It’s strange how many shoe stores offer care products but not shoe trees Some stores still believe that by selling them, customers will not need new shoes as frequently.  Stores should invest in them and every shoe-loving gentleman should have at least one pair.

Quality dress shoes are fairly pricey and deserve to be worn with love and respect. Share your thoughts on shoe care in the comments below.


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