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Basic Care Instructions #8: Shoes & Sandals

 

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BASIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS  #8: Shoes & Sandals

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This is the 8th in a series of newsletters on common care instructions for domestic items and materials most often seen in antique and vintage textiles, including but not limited to housewares and clothing. I hope this care information is helpful to you.

You may well know a lot more about the care of domestic items than I can tell you here, but it's nice to have all this information in one place. So at the risk of boring you, this newsletter goes into some detail.

This newsletter covers shoes and sandals. The information here is basic information relevant to all fiber. Future issues will cover cotton and silk knits, outerwear, sweaters, shoes, trousers, jackets, fine leather goods, and lingerie. 

See our issue BASIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS #1 for information on how to read care labels you may find on vintage fabrics (and you should follow them if you do find them!). All previous newsletters in the series can be found in our library and in the newsletter archives.  

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Shoes

Someone once estimated that even when a person isn't athletic, they'll spend 6,202 hours each year in shoes, and half of that time, they're walking. With this in mind, it's essential that your shoes actually fit you, and are comfortable, both in action and at rest. You also want them to look good.  Here are some suggestions for keeping them that way.

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Fabric Shoes

(i.e. tennis shoes, slip ons, uppers of cotton, canvas, cotton duck, etc)

The care of shoes made of fabric is simple, but even so, it must be frequent and diligent to do any good.

Here are the simple steps:
Spot clean, using a mild detergent and a soft brush.
Rinse with warm water.
Pat with a soft cloth or towel to remove excess moisture.
Let the air dry them.

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Espadrilles

Espadrilles have become ubiquitous.  For our care instructions, we're referring to the Espadrilles that are a shoe usually having a canvas or cotton fabric upper, but sometimes a leather upper, anchored to a flexible sole made of jute rope and sometimes rope and rubber. The jute rope sole is the defining characteristic of an espadrille; the uppers vary widely in style.

The term espadrille is French and derives from the word in the Occitan language, which comes from espardenya, in Catalan or alpargata and esparteña in Castilian/Spanish.Espadrilles, alpargatas or espardenyes are normally casual, flat, but sometimes high-heeled shoes originating in the Pyrenees. In Quebec and Beirut, however, espadrille is the usual term for running shoes or sneakers.

The manufacture of espadrilles is generally more complex than that of sandals. The jute soles are the most critical part. The jute twines are first machine-braided. These braids are then manually formed into the shape of the sole and hydraulically pressed with heat to form the final shape and completed with vertical stitching. These basic soles are then vulcanized underneath. EVA foam or wooden heels are glued in place and more jute braids are wrapped around it to complete the soles. Uppers of different styles are then built on the jute soles to complete the espadrille.


The care of espadrilles with fabric uppers is simple; here are the steps:
Spot clean, using a mild detergent and a soft brush.
Rinse with warm water.
Pat with a soft cloth or towel to remove excess moisture.
Let the air dry them.


The soles of espadrilles are now commonly made with jute rope or braid, which Wikipedia tells us is favored because of its eco-friendliness compared to synthetic substances. The natural bright white color of jute is a major design feature of modern espadrilles. Wikipedia also tells us that Jute soles now typically include fully or partially vulcanized rubber beneath the jute soles for long-lasting espadrille shoes. Sometimes crepe soles are used as out-soles although those are not as durable compared to vulcanized ones. Jute braid soles might include heels made of wood or EVA foam.

Vulcanization or vulcanisation is a chemical process for converting natural rubber or related polymers into more durable materials by the addition of sulfur or other equivalent curatives or accelerators. These additives modify the polymer by forming cross-links (bridges) between individual polymer chains.Vulcanized materials are less sticky and have superior mechanical properties. The term vulcanized fiber refers to cellulose that has been treated in a zinc chloride solution to cross-link the cellulose fibers. Although curing of rubber has been carried out since prehistoric times, the modern process of vulcanization, named after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, was not developed until the 19th century, mainly by Charles Goodyear. 

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Plastic Sandals

The care of plastic sandals is simple; here are the steps:
Spot clean, using a mild detergent and a soft brush.
Rinse with warm water.
Pat with a soft cloth or towel to remove excess moisture.
Let the air dry them.

And carry bandaids with you; plastic sandals are notorious for causing friction blisters.

 

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Leather Sandals

The care of all leather sandals is simple but somewhat scandalous. 

Here are the simple steps:
EITHER
Spot clean, using a mild detergent and a soft brush.
Rinse with warm water.
Pat with a soft cloth or towel to remove excess moisture.
Let the air dry them.
OR 
Get into the shower wearing the sandals. When you get out of the shower, take off the sandals, pat them with a soft cloth or towel to remove excess moisture and let the air dry them. After drying, when you first put them on, they may seem tight, but they will soon stretch out again after wearing them awhile. After all, they're skin. This is also a great remedy for fixing the fit on all-leather sandals that are either a little too tight or a little too loose. If the sole separates after being wet, put a little Elmer's White Glue or leather glue inbetween the sole layers and place the sandal under the chair leg of a heavy chair or other weight, and wait for it to dry.

 

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Fine Leather Shoes

For shoes made of fine leather I recommend the following:

Apply a small amount of creme polish to a soft rag. Use a circular motion to rub the creme into the shoe: begin at the toe and work your way around the shoe. Then, fold up the rag, and lightly buff each shoe with it. Shine the shoe with a clean soft cloth.

Obviously, the care of fine leather shoes involves far more than simply polishing them, so we include the following information for those of you who are diligent in your "footwork".

1. When you buy a new pair of fine leather shoes, before you wear them the first time, polish them with creme polish.  A creme polish is recommended because it contains lanolin, which conditions the leather and gives it the coating it needs to endure wear and the elements.

For boat shoes and the like, made of fine leather, we recommend a silicone treatment to protect them from water or rain.

2. Before polishing shoes at any time, however, you should first clean them with saddle soap., Saddle soap will not only clean, it conditions and preserves leather at the same time. 

3. Brush leather shoes with a horsehair brush, since synthetic brushes tend to be wiry and can scratch shoes.

4. Suede is the underside of leather.  And leather is skin, just like your skin.  Strange as it may sound, leather is porous. Leather "breathes". For this reason, you should rotate wearing shoes. Wearing the same pair of shoes day in and day out doesn't give the leather a chance to breath properly.

5. Obviously, you should use a shoe horn when you put on a fine shoe, especially when you put on a HAND SEWN shoe for the first time.  On fine shoes, the fit will be snug at first, requiring a shoe horn to slip into it, and that is as it should be. In time, a fine shoe will confirm to your foot shape and give you a comfortable fit. 

6. When at home, store your fine shoes with shoe trees inside of them, to help protect their shape and fit.  When traveling, pack your fine shoes inside of shoe bags to prevent scratching them and to prevent them from rubbing on your clothing.

7. Water stains on fine leather shoes can sometimes be minimized by wetting down the entire leather surface of the shoes, thus "blending" in the stains so they are minimized once the shoes are air dried. You can repeat this as often as necessary. Remember to stuff them full of newspaper once wet, and keep the newspaper in them as they dry to help them keep their shape and their fit. When done, clean them again with saddle soap, following to the letter the directions on the saddle soap package, and then, polish them with creme polish. 
 

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Fine Suede Shoes

Here are some useful tips for caring for fine suede shoes, or "bucks" as they are often called.  

Remember, suede is the underside of leather. And leather is skin, just like your skin.  Strange as it may sound, leather is porous. Leather "breathes". For this reason, you should rotate wearing shoes. Wearing the same pair of shoes day in and day out doesn't give the leather a chance to breath properly.

1. On dusty or dirty fine suede shoes, loosen the dirt by rubbing the surface with a suede brush, or against another suede surface.  Then use short quick strokes to lift the suede's nap and remove the dirt. Always brush suede in the direction of the nap.

2. Here is one method to revive worn nap:  
   a. Put the tea kettle on to a full boil.
   b. When steam begins to rise, place the suede directly in the path of the stream.
   c. Caution: when working, be careful not to burn yourself!
  d. Allow time for the suede to completely dry in the air.
  e. Then, give the suede surface a good brushing with a suede brush or against another suede surface.

3. If your suede shoes get wet, stuff them full of newspaper as they dry to help them keep their shape and their fit.

4. Some marks can be removed with an art gum eraser.

5. If you sustain a severe scar on a suede surface, you may be able to remove it by sanding over the area with fine sandpaper.

6. If that doesn't work after a few strokes, however, stop sanding and resign yourself to the scar.  It may help slightly to say to yourself "Oops! That's life!". Then again, it may not. 

7. Severe discolorations might be minimized by dying the suede a darker color. 

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One Last Note About Leather

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, put a self-adhesive sticker (like a label or price sticker) directly onto leather, suede, or any type of skin. Skin is inherently layered porous material, it needs to breath, and will react chemically to any type of adhesive, even the supposedly innocuous and purportedly harmless gum arabic that is the base for the adhesive on most sales stickers used at yard sales. Anything 'stuck' to skin will stain it, and removing the sticker will lift off and remove any surface gold leaf, color, or other decoration. Don't store skin in plastic because it could rot; it needs clean, dry, ventilated storage, such as a fabric shoe bag, but even a paper bag will do in a pinch and is better than plastic. FYI.
 

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In short, have fun with your clothing and take care of it.  After all, you're a "picture worth a thousand words"!

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I sign these newsletters "See Into The Invisible". Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes, 
Debra Spencer

All Content is © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself™ International. Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.

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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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