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THE PERFECT POLISH – LEARN MORE ABOUT THE JAUNTY FLÂNEUR
“Look after your shoes, and they’ll look after you” is the mantra that our Cobbler-in-Chief, has always lived by.
However, if you’re not blessed with four generations of shoemaking know-how in your family, we’ve teamed up with the Jaunty Flâneur to offer a drop-off shoe polishing service in both our Marylebone and Covent Garden stores. In-store on both Tuesday and Wednesday retrospectively, the Jaunty Flâneur has two distinctive styles on offer – ‘The Perfect Polish’ and ‘The Grand Glaçage’, both with highly skilled qualities that are the key to getting your shoes back to looking their absolute best.
We sat down with the man himself to discuss the details behind the perfect polish and the two services. Read on and learn more.
OS: What’s the story behind the ‘Jaunty Flâneur’ moniker
JF: I was trying to capture the mood of the potential customer: the kind of guy who enjoys his clothes, enjoys town, enjoys life. I didn’t want to just be a shoe shine company, we’re more than that, though I’m still trying to work out how more though, which is something we’re working on as we go!
OS: What attracted you to working with shoes
JF: After completing my degree in business, I was working in the City, coming to the end of a job in consultancy, and was working on a lot of grandiose feasibility studies ‘for the betterment of mankind’ – or so they said. Through this research, I discovered the idea of social business, and the more I explored it, the more I realise that it was the future of business and of consumer retail.
The idea of social business is the result of a convergence of two broad trends: first, brands are telling consumers more about their story, how things are made, where they obtain their materials from, responsible sourcing, CSR, that kind of thing. Second, charities are realising that they have to become more sales-driven and diversify their offerings in order to be more successful.
The Shoe Shine Crew was formed from this. We train and equip people who had previously been failed by society, or been homeless, and were now coming out the other side and were ready to work but were perhaps lacking experience or qualifications. Shoe shining is a practical skill, an old skill in fact, that can be easily taught to people and is in demand. So we began to get people into the world of work, taking the crew into offices and creating a niche for ourselves.
As we became more successful, we did more corporate events and had more requests for special shining, one-on-one services and the like. The enquiries snowballed, and a private client service emerged, which we named The Jaunty Flâneur. The Shoe Shine crew continues to grow, and some of the trainees will learn the extra techniques and progress upwards to The Jaunty Flâneur, which has the aim of providing superlative shoe polishing services to private clients.
OS: What’s the worst pair of shoes that someone’s brought to you
JF: Velcro trainers! Someone sat in the chair at an event, and they were wearing leather-ish Velcro trainers. They were in themselves really ugly, and as an object to shine there isn’t a great deal you can do with them, but we tidied them up as best we could, and they looked a lot better. Obviously it’s not really something we do, and you certainly couldn’t have done a full glaçage on them!
OS: If you were to recommend doing one more thing to look after our shoes, what would it be
JF: Shoe trees, definitely. Without using them, shoes have a tendency to curl up, and that makes everything look worse. You can have fairly battered, or even dirty shoes, but if they’ve kept their shape, then they’ll last longer and look better.
OS: Do better shoes tend to hold their shape more successfully
JF: Regardless of what you do with less expensive shoes, they’re usually just rubbish. Once you look at shoes with a traditional construction – like Goodyear welted or Blake stitched – they are made to last and can be looked after; they’re designed to be resoled when they get a bit tired.
OS: What’s the most common mistake that guys make while polishing their shoes
JF: Using too much polish. Thick, clumpy layers of polish have the opposite effect on shoes, making them increasingly difficult to shine, and prone to dulling. What happens then is that inexperienced polishers add more polish, thinking that this will fix the problem, and this doesn’t help at all: thick layers of polish dry out the leather and make it much less durable against the elements. Ideally, what you want is several thin layers of polish application, which is one of the reasons we use our fingers to apply polish, rather than use a cloth.
OS: That’s excellent advice. What exactly does the Perfect Polish service involve
JF: The first step is a brisk brush down with a large horsehair brush, to get rid of debris, dirt and surface clutter. Then we use a renovator cream (mink oil, in our case) which acts as a moisturiser and tides up from the last layer of polish, preparing the surface in effect. We then leave the oil to absorb into the leather over 10-15 minutes, and for longer if it’s a particularly undernourished shoe.
We then brush off any excess with a cloth and then apply a shoe cream, which has a different type of moisturiser in there, as well as a strong colour pigment so that will make the shoe look younger. It also contains lots of beeswax to kickstart the shine process. As with the oil, this should then sit and be allowed to soak in for 10-15 minutes, and is again brushed off briskly with a cloth.
Then comes the polish. We use several layers of beeswax polish, which doesn’t have a strong colour pigment but it does have more wax in, meaning that the shine that you get from it is much, much stronger. We build up several layers, leaving a moment for the shoes to rest while you’re working on the other shoe. Each layer is buffed off with a cloth before finally buffing to a full shine with a nylon strip. And then just on the toe, we use a mixture of water and wax to builds the glass-like glaçage finish.
The Grand Glaçage uses the same process, but builds the glaçage finish further; all the way stone island jeans bluewater around the heel counter and the toe. We don’t apply it where the leather flexes (at the top of the vamp for example) because it will flake off, or around the collar of say, a boot, because trouser hems will rub it off.
OS: Where did you discover the Glaçage technique
JF: There are a small number of people that do it, but not very many at all. I learned from Justin FitzPatrick (of The Shoe Snob blog), but borrowed parts from other people that I liked to create my own take on the technique. It is a broadly-accepted technique though, always involving a mix of wax and water, always buffed using tiny little circles on the surface of the leather, and built up layer on layer. It’s the highest-possible finish for your formal shoes.
Catch The Jaunty Flâneur and our shoe polishing drop-off service every Tuesday in our Marylebone store and every Wednesday in our Henrietta Street flagship.
If your shoes have had the services of The Perfect Polish, why not show us the effects using #OliverSweeney.