About the Author: Adam Terry is Dappered’s resident shoe & denim expert. He’s a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, and raw denim. He’s also a new dad!
Tis the season. And by now you’ve probably been walloped over the head by 82,000 gift guides. So what’s a few more? Instead of doing a highly generalized, throw-everything-against-the-digital-wall gift guide, we’ll be breaking it up by category. Gifts for the guy who likes watches. Or the rugged type. Or the guy who’s always in a suit. Etc.
- Splurge: Woodlore Epic Twin-Tube Cedar Shoe Trees with Monogram – $35/pair
- Spend: Woodlore Split Toe Cedar Shoe Trees via Nordstrom Rack – $15 – $20/pair (often in store)
- Skimp: Kiwi Cedar Basic Shoe Trees via Target – $10/pair
Shoe trees are one of the few essential shoe care items that everyone should invest in. Not only do they help keep your shoes in their proper shape as they dry out after wearing, but the ones crafted from absorbent woods like cedar or beech also help extract moisture from the linings and deodorize them with a pleasant, woodsy scent. You should be using shoe trees in every pair of shoes, every night!.
- Splurge: Wellington Black Organic Cotton Shoe Bags via The Hanger Project – $20/pair
- Spend: Earthwise 100% Cotton Black Shoe Bags via Amazon – $15/pair
- Skimp: DIY! – Under $5.00. Grab some cotton or fleece fabric from your local craft store or upcycle some of your old graphic tees into your own, custom bags. You can learn *anything* with a YouTube tutorial.
Proper shoe storage is also important in keeping your kicks fresh for as long as possible. Soft cotton twill or flannel shoe bags are an inexpensive way to protect your shoes during the times you’re not wearing them. Longwings sitting on a shelf in your closet? All of that dust, dirt, and pet hair loves to accumulate on and in your shoes. Travel a lot for work like I do? Shoe bags can help keep your nice Oxfords safe from accidental luggage damage. I prefer individual bags over one large bag for the pair.
- Splurge: Men’s Large Drop-Front Shoe Box via The Container Store – $10/box
- Spend: Men’s Shoe Box w/ Lid via The Container Store – $5/box
- Skimp: Life Story 6 Qt. Clear Shoe Box Container w/ Lid via Amazon – $18.99/Pack of 10
Don’t have the shelf space in your closet to store your ever-growing shoe collection? Look into clear plastic shoe boxes instead. Unlike the cardboard boxes that your shoes came in, these plastic ones are transparent so that you can see what’s in the box which can be especially helpful if you’re a fan of a certain brand of shoes and have multiple boxes of the same type. If you invest in one size and style of storage box, they easily stack together and make your closet look super organized.
- Splurge: Saphir Renomat Leather Cleaner (Aggressive) – $16/3.5oz
- Splurge: Saphir Leather Cleaning Soap (Mild) – $19/3.5oz
- Spend: Bick #4 Leather Cleaner – $11/8oz
- Skimp: Fiebing’s Saddle Soap – $6/3.5oz
Kirby Allison, founder of Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project and shoe care expert, says it best: “Proper cleaning and conditioning of leather shoes is essential to their long-term care. Regular cleaning prevents the build-up of dirt, waxes, and resins that can cause leather to suffocate and begin to crack.”
Saphir is widely considered to be among the best shoe care products on the market, but they don’t come cheap.
- Splurge: Saphir Medaille d’Or Renovateur Cleaner and Conditioner – $24/75mL
- Spend: Bick #4 Leather Conditioner – $11/8oz
After cleaning the leather, you need to condition the leather to allow the pores to open and breathe, while keeping the leather soft, supple, and properly hydrated. This is where you really don’t want to skimp too much. Saphir’s Renovateur is regarded by shoe fans as the best all-around shoe leather care product out there. It’s worth the investment.
- Splurge: Deluxe Wellington Horsehair Buffing Brush – $30
- Spend: Handcrafted Horsehair Shine Brush – $8 ($10)
- Skimp: Kiwi 100% Horsehair Shine Brush – $6.50
Horsehair shoe brushes are essential for removing dust, dirt, and keeping an even shine on your shoes. I highly recommend investing in a set of at least two shoe polishing/finishing brushes – one for black and one for brown. If you regularly clean, condition, and polish your shoes, you’ll want to make sure you don’t cross contaminate the brown brush with black polish (and vice versa). As the resident shoe nerd, I’ll actually recommend getting a third one for those suede shoes or sneakers that don’t regularly get shoe care products outside of a neutral, colorless conditioner. They’re relatively cheap and make for great stocking stuffers!
- Splurge (Dauber): Extra Large 100% Horsehair Dauber – $12
- Splurge (Chamois): Saphir Medialle D’Or Cotton Chamois Cloth – $10
- Spend (Dauber): Round Shoe Polish Dauber – $5
- Spend (Chamois): Hanger Project 12oz Cotton Flannel Chamois – $9
While most of us probably use an old sock or t-shirt to apply shoe care products, you can certainly get a better result with a horsehair dauber or cotton chamois cloth. It’s recommended that you have two for each color that you polish – one for applying the product and one for buffing it. Personally, I like the daubers for applying the colored creams or wax and a cotton flannel chamois for buffing afterwards.
- Splurge: Handmade cedar shoe valet box, via Brooks Brothers – $76.80 ($128) sale expires today, 12/11
- Spend: Cedar shoe valet box, via Allen Edmonds – $56 ($70)
- Skimp: “Professional style” cedar shoe valet box, via Woodlore – $30 ($50)
I’ll admit, I store all of my shoe care items in an old Vans sneaker box. I’ve been meaning to invest in a lovely cedar shoe shine box, but haven’t gotten around to it yet (*hint hint*). If that special someone is starting from zero and has no supplies, look for one of these with some of the shoe care items included.
- Splurge: Darn Tough Coolmax Vertex No Show Tab UL Cushion – $16/pair
- Spend: Bombas Cushioned No Show Socks – $12/pair
- Skimp: Goodfellow & Co. Antimicrobial No Show Socks – $11/6 pairs
As a kid, you always hated getting socks for Christmas, but one day you started looking forward to it. This denotes the transition from young adult to “I now have to take two Aleve every night for my back” adult. Welcome to the club! Upgrading your athletic socks from those all-white Hanes 12 packs from Wal-Mart is a luxury you can probably afford now. Note: If you’re wearing low top sneakers with shorts, you should be wearing low or no-show socks that closely match the shoes color-wise. Don’t be that guy who wears above the calf white socks with his sneakers.
- Splurge: Chup “Genser” Merino wool/nylon socks – $35/pair
- Spend: Maggie’s Organics Cotton Cushion Crew socks – $11/pair
- Skimp: Pair of Thieves cotton/polyester socks – $6/pair
For casual wear, your recipient might want some fun patterns and pops of color underneath chinos, cords, or jeans. I’m a huge fan of some of the artisanal Japanese brands like Chup and Anonymous Ism, but Darn Tough and Smartwool are great socks mostly made in the USA. Be wary of cheap polyester socks that don’t last!
- Splurge: Nordstrom 2-pack Cashmere Blend Socks – $90/2 pairs
- Spend: Orvis Invincible Extra Merino Wool Socks (made by Darn Tough) – $60/3 pairs
- Skimp: Goodfellow & Co. Textured Polyester/Cotton Dress Socks – $12/5 pairs
When it comes to socks for formal, semi-formal, and business casual wear, conservative styles and color choices usually take precedence. Sock height is a personal preference, but always aim to match the color of your socks to the color of your pants as close as possible. Style experts, feel free to work within the tonal color palette or go for a pop of something complementary on the color wheel.
- Splurge: Custom Quoddy Grizzly Mocs – $350+
- Spend: Rancourt Read Boat Shoes – $250
- Skimp: Sperry Authentic Original Leather Boat Shoe – $95
I know we’re discussing Holiday 2019 gifts here, but Spring/Summer 2020 isn’t that far off. If you’re an early planner, now is actually an excellent time to shop for boat shoes, camp mocs, and super casual penny loafers for your next vacation. I’m a big supporter of products that are made in the USA, so I’m throwing two great brands in here. They’re not cheap, but they’re made very well and can last you a lifetime.
- Splurge: Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Sneakers – $410 (editor’s note)
- Spend: Gustin Horween CXL #8 High Top Leather Sneakers – $209 (Pre-Order)
- Spend/Skimp: Nisolo Men’s Leather Low Top Sneaker – $118 ($148)
There are tons of sneakers out there to choose from, but if we’re looking to surprise that special someone, let’s make them really special. Look for high quality materials and classic looks that pair with everything.
- Splurge: Alden Color #8 Shell Cordovan Handsewn Tassel Loafers – $755
- Spend: Grant Stone Longwing Bluchers in Bourbon Suede – $325
- Skimp: Meermin HIRO Oxfords in Black Calf – $195
If the person you’re shopping for regularly wears suits, sport coats, or upscale casual clothing, you might look into upgrading a pair of their basic or entry level dress shoes to something nicer. Just make sure you pay attention to return policies and keep your receipts should the new pair not fit as expected.
- Splurge: RM Williams Signature Craftsman Chelsea Boot – $795
- Spend: Carmina Unlined Chukka Boots in Snuff Suede – $525
- Skimp: Meermin HIRO Chelsea Boot in Snuff Suede – $240
Chukka and Chelsea boots fill that space between the super formal Oxfords and the slightly more casual bluchers/derbies. If you’re looking for a business casual boot that pairs well with both wool dress slacks and slim fit chinos, look for a chukka or a Chelsea.
- Splurge: Alden Color #8 Shell Cordovan Wingtip Boot – $800
- Spend: Grant Stone Cap Toe Boot in Crimson CXL – $370
- Skimp: Meermin RUI Cap Toe Boots in Snuff Suede – $250
BOOT SEASON HAS ARRIVED MY FRIENDS. If you’re shopping for someone that’s still wearing an entry level or basic pair of boots, look into upgrading them or reconditioning their favorite pair. If they don’t have any good boots, be a friend and get them booted and suited.
Editor’s Note: As you can see, Adam’s true-shoe-fan-status pushes some of his picks into price ranges that might make many of us a bit squeemish. But my people, he’s not just a man, he’s the man when it comes to shoes. Doesn’t mean we can’t scale some of those price ranges down a bit for our own use if need be.