How to Antique Your Shoes

Get the rich, worn-in look in minutes — not years.

A brand new pair of lace-ups looks great, but a pair of beautifully burnished antique ones can look even better. Trouble is, it takes years and years of wear and polish to create the look.

You can buy new shoes that have been artfully dyed to achieve the same look. But if you want to approximate the same vibe with your existing shoes, all you need is some basic shoe care gear.

Note that It's not going to be perfect — there's no true substitute for professional dye jobs, or the slow and steady patina that wears in over several years of polishing — but it will get you part of the way there.

The Tools

  • Brown shoes
  • Brown polish
  • Black polish
  • Shoe wax
  • A buffing brush
  • A chamois

The Process

Clean and Condition

Use a multi-purpose conditioning cream to moisturize the leather and clean off any gunk or stains that might get in the way of the pores absorbing some new polish. Rub on generously, working it in as much as possible, then wipe clean.

Lay a Base Coat

First, you need to build (or maintain) a base of regular hued polish. Apply two coats of brown cream polish to the entire shoe by rubbing it in thoroughly, letting the cream dry, and then buffing smooth and repeating.

Add Some Color

Next, switch to the darker stuff. Black polish will darken the leather, but only subtly, so don't worry: once the process is done, the leather will only look a little darker. Keep in mind, though, that darker your shoes are, the less noticeable the effect will be.

Apply the black polish only to the toes, the front sides, and the heel. Refer to the image at the top of the article to visualize it. You're trying to mimic the antiquing caused by layer after layer of polish being worn to a deeper shade, which happens only on the most hard-worn spots of the shoe, not all over.

Polish It Up

Follow up the darker polish points with some shoe wax. Rub on a generous amount and then aggressively buff with a chamois. Repeat until those darkened spots are nice and shiny, and your shoes will look beautifully worn in while also staying well-protected thanks to the weather-repelling layer of wax.

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