Should I buy a what? Most likely, an electric shoe polisher is a rare if not unknown contraption for most of us. However, if you step back a generation or two, you’re more than likely to find a few older gentlemen who are quite familiar with this handy gadget. In the 1960s, respected brands such as Sears & Roebuck, General Electric, Hoover, and Black & Decker all sold this essential wardrobe-care appliance. Its purpose was simple—to buff your sturdy leather oxfords, wingtips, and brogues to a high shine. Nowadays, battery-operated versions of this once essential household tool are made in China and can be found on Amazon or eBay. Is this a worthwhile shoe-care tool for the well-dressed modern man?
Why You (May) Need an Electric Shoe Polisher
First, let’s consider who does not need this contraption. If you are the sort of modern man who rarely dresses ‘up’ and has at best a pair or two of ‘dress’ shoes, do not buy an electric shoe polisher. However, if you have built a collection of good-quality leather ‘dress’ shoes that are worn frequently, then this handy-dandy tool is for you! It will make the process of attaining a professional quality shoe shine easier and far more efficient.
I purchased an inexpensive battery-powered hand-held shoe polisher from Amazon ($10.00, made in China) just to see how useful it would be in maintaining my carefully-curated collection of thrifted leather ‘dress’ shoes. I own over a dozen pairs of shoes that are worn in rotation. I like to keep them looking as sharp as possible. However, I needed a way to get a better shoe shine in less time.
It does not take long to do a traditional shoe shine by hand with a bit of cream polish and a horsehair brush for buffing. But I wanted something that would make the task of adding a wax polish ‘mirror shine’ on the toe caps of my shoes faster and better. I did not want to spend a half-hour or more coaxing a highly buffed mirror shine from the toe cap of each shoe. Problem solved! I discovered that by using an electric shoe polisher I can produce a higher quality mirror shine with less wax, less effort, and less time. The rotating buffing action of a battery-powered soft-bristle brush is the secret to a fast high-quality mirror shine!
Here is something else I discovered. Lower-cost corrected grain leather shoes that are normally difficult to shine well can be easily buffed to a high-shine with an electric shoe shiner. Most men’s shoes that retail below $150.00 per pair are commonly made of corrected grain leather. My rugged cordovan Rockport wingtips and the black Rockport split-toe Derbys shown above are good examples of modestly priced corrected grain leather shoes. Polish tends to dull this type of leather when buffed by hand. However, after a quick buffing of the toe area of these shoes with an electric shoe polisher equipped with a soft buffing brush these inexpensive rubber-soled shoes are transformed. They take on a more elegant appearance with a highly shined toe cap.
All of the mirror shoe-shine tutorials on Youtube feature the laborious process of getting a high-gloss shine by hand. To do it properly can take up to an hour per pair of shoes. An electric shoe polisher is a much faster solution with better results! The photo above shows a pair of my calfskin leather wingtip shoes. I polished the toe caps with two thin coats of Saphir Mirror Gloss Shoe Polish and 5 minutes of buffing with my electric shoe polisher. It produces an elegant high-gloss shine in less time without the wax buildup needed for a traditional mirror gloss done by hand.
Recommended: Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish
Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish is the perfect wax for adding that final high-gloss to the toe cap area of your dress shoes. It contains a high concentration of hard waxes, including montan, carnauba, and beeswax, and produces a very high gloss. A 75ml can of Saphir Mirror Gloss will cost about $25.00 – $30.00 when purchased online. However, one can of Saphir Mirror Gloss should easily last a couple of years or more as it is traditionally used only on the toe cap area of the shoe for the final shine (a cream polish is first used to condition and polish the entire shoe).
Saphir Mirror Gloss should not be used on any part of the shoe that flexes—the hard waxes in Saphir Mirror Gloss will create a white, waxy residue if used on leather that creases or flexes. If you buy the neutral color Saphir Mirror Gloss it will work well on shoes of any color, including black. I used neutral Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish on all the shoes featured in this post.
A classic mirror shoe shine (the hard way).
I don’t expect my cheap plastic battery-operated shoe polisher to last forever. However, the excellent results this low-cost gadget provided has inspired me to purchase a higher quality vintage electric shoe polisher kit on eBay for the long term. Generally, you can find a good-quality kit for under $50.00 (new or vintage). Just be sure that you have a soft-bristled brush attachment that can be used for high-shine buffing.
All of the shoes shown here were purchased second hand over two years ago and are worn a minimum of five times per month.
The bottom line: An electric shoe polisher will achieve a high gloss shoe shine in minutes that would require an hour or more if done by hand. Highly recommended!