A pair of alligator shoes is an investment in personal style and can serve you for a long time. But custom handcrafted shoes need to be treated as a financial investment as well with protection and careful maintenance. After all, the skilled artisan who created your shoes couldn’t have done it without years of training, tradition, and attention to detail, and they will last for years if you learn how to properly care for alligator shoes.
Dudes Boutique is a proud purveyor of Mauri shoes, which have been made for three generations in the hillside between Milan and Como, Italy. They combine old-world techniques and cutting-edge design that sets the trends in fashion. They rely on the best exotic skins available, and their shoes deserve just as much care after you’ve bought them. Once alligator skin has cracked, there’s no way to repair the damage.
Alligator leather is unmistakably luxurious, and it will hold up for years with loving care. It is at its best with oils and compounds that help retain flexibility, but they need to be replaced periodically as with any fine leather. Polishing your shoes will restore the shine that can disappear with use. Never wear them two days in a row, or traces of your feet’s moisture can damage them. Keep them in a dry, dark closet, preferably in their flannel bags, in their original box.
If you notice your alligator shoes looking dull, have a maintenance kit at the ready to restore their glory. You’ll need:
- A horsehair shoe brush for cleaning
- A horsehair brush for buffing
- A toothbrush
- Cedarwood shoe trees with spring-loaded heel stays
- Saddle soap
- Mink oil
- Wax shoe polish in a neutral color (to accommodate unique shading)
- Buffing rags
If you’re not sure what to buy, a leather shop in your area can answer your questions about alligator skin.
Wipe Off Any Dirt
After you’ve worn your shoes, get rid of any dirt or dust that might have accumulated even invisibly during the day. Use a stiff brush—gently—to clear out any crevices, then wet a rag and wring it out until it stops dripping. Wipe the alligator skin and let the shoes dry completely before the next step. You can wipe them off with a dry rag or let them air dry.
Insert Shoe Trees
Part of the ritual of having alligator shoes is reverently storing them with their own cedar shoe trees. Some have adjustable heel stays, but spring-loaded trees are easier to work with. Cedar trees will retain the original shape of your shoes, the wood will absorb any lingering sweat, and the cedar will deodorize them naturally. Each pair of shoes deserves its own dedicated shoe trees.
Before you try any product for the first time, it’s a good rule of thumb to test it on a less visible area before going all-in. Because these are alligator shoes and you have a healthy respect for them, you probably aren’t putting them through too much wear and tear. But if they do need cleaning, reach for the saddle soap. Keep the shoe trees in your shoes, and your leather will remain taut as you proceed.
Use your toothbrush (well, not your toothbrush, but a spare) to lightly work the saddle soap into the alligator skin uppers. It will pull and remove any dirt that’s gotten lodged in the texture. You don’t need much, but be aware that as it’s removing dirt, the saddle soap will remove the skin’s necessary oils, too. That can lead to brittleness and cracking.
A conditioner will take care of restoring that flexibility, so put some mink oil back into the leather. It will go a long way toward waterproofing the shoes, too. Don’t use too much, especially if your alligator skin is lighter; the mink oil can darken it. Let it absorb into the scales on the skin for a good hour. Then, using a horsehair brush or a dry rag, buff off the mink oil for a soft shine. It may take a little work to get the residue out of all the scales. If you’d like a glossier finish, try some low-solvent mirror gloss.
Lightly polish the uppers with a neutral-colored wax base, which will give the leather a better layer of protection than a cream polish can. Don’t use too much, and it only needs to sit for a few minutes, and then buff again with a shoe brush. Look around for polish that will match the shade of your shoes in case of scuffs. The colored polish can be used to disguise them.
Avoid at All Cost
Water is not your shoes’ best friend. If you get caught in the rain, gently wipe off the water with a soft, absorbent cloth, and then let them dry naturally out of the sun, which can fade the skin. Use a fan to keep the dry air moving around them, but make sure it’s cool air, not warm. You can rotate them for even drying. Then apply mink oil, wait a day or two, and apply some more. Don’t wait too long, or that gorgeous alligator leather will crack.
Unless specifically created for exotic leathers, keep cleaning products away from your shoes. A burnished finish on alligator skin will suffer when exposed to solvents, cleansers, and conditioners that are used on other kinds of leathers. As far as household chemicals, alcohol-based treatments and other solvents are a hard NO. They are too harsh for a sartorial investment like this.
Treat your alligator shoes as well as you would a luxury car, and they will transport you in style indefinitely. The legendary Dudes Boutique has been the best source for high-quality exotic and original shoes for more than 20 years. As you develop your personal style, you’ll find one-of-a-kind items in our spectacular selection of leather, fur, and exotic skin accessories that will set you apart from the crowd. And once you know how to properly care for alligator shoes, you’ll want to expand your collection.