It was on a cold, drizzly evening. You were in a hurry to head to your next destination. Distracted by your surroundings, you suddenly felt that you had kicked something just now. Perhaps it was just a small pebble. Perhaps the outsoles of your shoes were just momentarily stuck between the gaps of the cobblestones. You did not think much about it, knowing there was a big night ahead of you. You made your way there, enjoyed yourself, and eventually went home with a big smile on your face.
As you gently took off your shoes, you noticed there was something strange on the cap. You spoke to yourself, 'hang on, I do not recall the medallion looking like that.' In shock, you came to realize the little kick you had encountered earlier the night was a lot more serious. Much more sinister, as a matter of fact. The worst-case scenario has struck you. It was a dent!
Unfortunately, stories like such occur more often than some of us shoe aficionados would like to admit. Some wise wizards may even call it a natural progression towards nonchalance when it comes to wearing nice things. Over time, we feel less conscientious about wearing the piece and, therefore, damage it when we are paying the least attention.
In all seriousness, I have been fortunate enough to have Kokos, a London-based shoe cobbler I first covered in 2020, restore a dented pair of Adelaide to pristine condition. Kokos has been someone who I have used repeatedly for the past few years to install toe taps on RTW pairs of shoes, as well as tackle larger shoe repair issues such as the one we are addressing today. While it errs toward the more expensive end, it crucially does the repair well.
Hence, I am pleased to share with you today the behind-the-scenes of one method Kokos used for covering dents on calfskin leather shoes. Be aware that there are different ways to approach dents, depending on the severity, so there isn't an ultimate method per se.
Starting off with the scene of the crime. If you observe this image very closely, you will find that the leather upper has been dented and the top layer has been scrunched back.
Fortunately, the dent itself isn't particularly deep, especially in contrast to the broguing from the medallion, with most of the leather residues still intact; making it a somewhat easy fix.
The first step is to tidy up the affected area. The best way to go around this is using an awl, allowing the small piece of scrunched leather to be stretched carefully back into its place.
Now, it can be the case that a leather softener needs to be applied to help stretch the piece. However, as the condition of the calf leather remained supple, it was not necessary in this case.
Once the leather has been tucked back in place, the team covered up the remaining uneven surface with hard waxes. This includes not only the dent itself but also the various scratches adjacent to it. A mixture of various colors was utilized here to ensure the base appears as close to the surrounding area as possible.
Note that these are different from the usual hard waxes one would use in the mirror-shining phase of a shoe care routine. (See image below.) Unlike those kinds of waxes that require an even surface in order to be built up, this type of filling wax allows the user to gradually build it up on an uneven surface. After that, you would only need to buff the surface until the transition is almost seamless.
One consideration that requires close attention is that the finish would be almost 'shell-like' after this process. While this is perfect in this scenario, as the top cap is the hardest part of the shoe, it would be more troublesome where the scuff had been on a softer part that flexes when one walks in it.
In that case, one would either approach it with the time-consuming way of rubbing the wax on to build up layers or melt the wax and pad it in place.
Of course, this is not the only technique out there for covering up the scuff. I have seen others sticking small, delicate leather particles to the dented area using super glue. This is subsequently followed by using sandpaper to sand down the residues to ensure the surface is leveled, and finished by dyeing the said area.
While it is in theory a quicker and more time-efficient method, the latter is not without its caveats. In this case, as the dented area is adjacent to a medallion, sanding down the surface could also affect the evenness of the broguing if not executed carefully.
Patience usually rewards and this is surely one of those circumstances.
Lastly, they gradually built up the color and finish using wax polishes, using the 'spit-and polish' technique. Chances are if you saw me shoe-shining during the Arterton Seasonal Showroom at 20 Savile Row back in February, this is what I was doing for the majority of the time.
In my experience, this is perhaps the most common/ attainable mirror-shining technique out there, where one alternates between a tiny amount of hard waxes and water, while gently buffing the toe and heel of the shoe with a soft cloth. You can tell your progress after each application, making it easier to know when to stop. (Or never.)
In terms of polishing cloth, I prefer using fabrics that are denser — for instance, a shirting fabric — due to the way they grab onto the wax itself. It has allowed for a better shine in my experience.
Finally, as for the choice of wax polishes, the team at Kokos has used the Saphir Pate de Luxe, though I have achieved similar results using the Paul Brunngård Black Spitshine before. In all honesty, it all comes down to a matter of personal preference and what products you are familiar with, I'd say.
That wraps up all the steps behind the shoe restoration! As one would say, may this issue never occur to you, though, frankly, it is also not the end of the world if it ever happens.
Photography: The first and last images are by The Suitstainable Man team; the rest are provided by Kokos.