One of the first items of clothing I purchased after landing a job out of college was a nice pair of leather dress shoes. Why? Because I needed a new pair, but more importantly, I knew it would be an incredibly important aspect of my professional dress. After doing a bunch of research, I became convinced that it was indeed worth it to spend a little more and invest in a nice pair of shoes, as opposed to getting any Kenneth Cole or Steve Madden dress shoe out on the market. Thus, I treated myself to a pair of Allen Edmond Strands (pictured above), and it has since become one of my favorite items of clothing.
However, I didn't really know how to properly take care of my shoes. I just figured- Hey! I spent so much on these shoes, they should last forever... Oh how I'm an idiot. The truth is, once you invest in a nice pair of leather shoes, it becomes imperative to take proper care of them; your care could allow them to last a decade or even more!
As you can see above, there are some products that I personally use to maintain all my dress shoes. Let me go over what's in the picture exactly, so you know what to get.
1. Shoe tree : This is probably one of the most important things you can get for your shoes. Shoe trees will help your shoes maintain the shape they are meant to take on. After a long day of walking around in your shoes, you'll start to get creases and folds in places you don't want. Shoe trees help alleviate those stress points, and they also have the added benefit of sucking up moisture (from your sweat) and helping your shoes smell fresh.
2. Shoe polish : Interestingly enough, five of the items in the above picture are a form of shoe polish. A good shoe polish serves as the item that keeps your shoes shining like a dime. Not only does polish repair the damage of daily wear and tear, but it also nourishes and moisturizes the leather, keeping it healthy. I recommend getting polishes that match the color of your shoes. If they don't, you run the risk of discoloring your shoes, and that's no good. There's also a quick and easy solution to giving your shoes a shine, and that's the sponge with polish already on it. If you need to shine your shoes quickly, then that's a great alternative option, though I would always recommend the traditional way.
3. Leather conditioner : Conditioner/Cleaner can be used to remove surface area residue and to keep leather soft and pliable. I recommend using it only once in a while though.
4. Shoe horn : You basically stick one of these into the back of your shoe while you insert your foot, and it helps your foot slide right into the shoe without any trouble. Ultimately, it prevents any smashing or creasing on the back of your shoe, and trust me, it's pretty necessary. They can be found for real cheap, and they'll help your shoes last a lot longer.
5. Shoe/Shine brush : You need to brush the dirt off the shoe before starting your polishing, and also brush the polish over the shoe as well. That's where the shoe brush comes in. Definitely a must. You can use it to clean, apply polish, and also shine the shoe.
6. Polishing cloth : You can take the shoe shine brush route, or the polishing cloth route. It can serve a similar purpose (cleaning, applying, and shining).
The process of shining or cleaning your shoes is actually really relaxing and rewarding, as nerdy as it sounds. Sometimes, I have a cup of tea, play some jazz, and polish my shoes after a hard day's work. Makes me sound like an old man, but hey... whatever's clever.
Anyway, point is, you should invest in a nice pair of dress shoes. You'll need them, and they'll be a pleasure to own. Once you have 'em, wear 'em and give them the kind of character they deserve. But every now and then, make sure you give them some love as well. Get yourself some of the items above, and maintain your shoes. They'll thank you by lasting for a long, long time.