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High Gloss vs. Matte Patina

A man’s preference of shoe shine is much like his preference in shoes themselves – personal. There is the traditional matte patina. A softer, not-in-your-face shine that is softer and will not draw undue attention. Call it the everyday shine. Perfect for the office or more casual encounters.

Then there is the Mirror Finish, Spit Shine or, as it is called in the U.K., the Military Parade Shine. This super-high-gloss finish has its roots deeply in military service, where servicemen were required to produce a mirror-like finish on their shoes. The various coats of wax required to build the high-gloss shine also offers the leather additional protection against water and soot. A more bold statement, a high-gloss shine is immediately noticeable. This style of shine is appropriate for a pair of shoes you wish to be noticed or for more formal encounters.

A lot of technique goes into delivering the proper shine. However, the most fundamental difference is in choice of polish. Cream polishes, such as Saphir’s Medaille d’Or Pommadier Cream Polish, provide softer shines. Richer in nutrients and pigment than a wax polish, Saphir Cream Polish yields a beautiful, soft patina that showcases the quality of fine leathers.

And because Saphir’s Cream Polish is so high in nutrients and pigment, it very effectively restores the color saturation of leather while providing the nourishment necessary to maintain its health, much like a facial moisturizer to one’s skin.

Saphir Wax Polishes, on the other hand, contain special waxes that, when buffed, soften to saturate leather pores to create a high-gloss shine. Buffing wax polish with a horsehair brush alone will not provide a high gloss shine. A high-gloss shine is only created by buffing the wax with a cotton chamois (often first spritzed with a little water). The friction created by a cotton chamois generates heat that causes the waxes to melt into the pores of leather. A high-gloss shine arises once the waxes fill these microscopic pores to create a smooth finish – thus the mirroring. The more wax that is applied, the smoother the finish becomes, and the higher-gloss shine that arises.

Photograph from benhour

It is important to note, though, that high-gloss shines are not the best for the leather. The filling of the leather pores with wax polish required to build a mirror finish prevent the leather uppers from breathing. Over time, this can cause cracking. To prevent this, I recommend limiting high-gloss shines to the toe box alone, leaving a softer matte finish for the rest of the shoe, and remembering to nourish the leather with Saphir Renovatuer.

Note: cracking can also be caused when leather dries out, which is why Saphir’s Renovateur is such an essential shoecare product. It provides nourishment without any pigment buildup.

For more on shoe maintenance, read this blog post.

For this reason, it is always good maintenance when polishing one’s shoes to first clean the leather pores of any wax buildup or soot. Consider it like washing one’s face before applying a nightly moisturizer.

Saphir Renovateur Cleaner and Conditioner is specifically designed to remove excess wax buildup and soot while feeding the leather with essential nourishment required to maintain health and longevity.

Alternatively, or additionally, one can use a soft leather detergent, such as a saddle soap or, even better, Saphir’s Cleaning Soap, which provides a slightly more rigorous cleaning than Saphir’s Renovateur.  Best used every-other shine, immediate apply Renovateur after (and only after) the shoes dry.

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