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My story about how I got into dress shoes

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Hi everyone, my name's Miguel Manyari and I'm the owner of Msh | Patina and this is my first time ever writing on a blog, I want to let you guys know that I'm a terrible writer in English and French because I'm peruvian and my native language is Spanish. I've been living in Québec, Canada since I was 15 years old, Quebec is the only French province in Canada. Sorry in advance for the grammatical mistakes, I'm trying for you because I want to spread as much of the little knowledge that I have about dress shoes.

So how come did I started on shoes? and why? all honesty it all started one night on September 2019. I was working at the time at JC Perrault, which is a local luxury furniture store, my backround is in sales and I've been on the sales industry for more than 5 years now. I've sold furniture, cars, home appliances, cable/telephone services, paving projects door-to-door, gardening services, credit cards ... well I think you got the idea, pretty much a lot of things...But I learned a lot, it was very educational and highly interesting in my opinion!

To get back to what I was saying, It was late at night... like 1am and you know those weird Youtube suggestions we get sometimes? Like really random stuff that you would've never imagine to see in your life? That's exactly what happened to me... I got this random video of some chill dude doing a restoration of a pair of dress leather shoes.... before hitting play I was like ''okay...whatever man, let's see what this guy is about'' and bam!

Basically, it was Preston Soto from the Elegant Oxford, he is a celebrity in the Allen Edmonds facebook groups and not only that, he's starting to get notoriety in the dress shoe industry in general.. his work was published on Business Insider, the Shoe Snob blog of Justin Fitzpatrick's and he's made appearences at Kirby Allison's Youtube Channel who is considered an authority on the matter. The video I watched has more than 2 million views so he's basically a big deal, he's very humble about it but the reality is different. At that time I was completely ignorant about all that but the video got me so hooked. He basically gave life back to his father's Allen Edmonds Park Avenues shoes, they were in terrible state and back then I said to myself ''those are going to the trash, there's nothing to do on them''. I was completely wrong, the care and attention to detail he had on his restoration was impressive and when he showed the finished touch with a ''mirror shine'' I was completetly fascinated by it.

I was not only fascinated but also got me thinking....I thought about how we men buy our dress shoes. We normally go to our local mall, find a ''nice'' looking pair at the most well known shoe store we heard of, test it, touch it, wear it a bit at the store and 20 minutes later we spend between120$ to 200$cad plus taxes, in black and brown of course because we normally buy 2 pairs. We do this to avoid going back in 1 year because it's just too ''time consuming'' to go back again, we are very practical and logical. Then 1 or 3 years later, depending on how many times we wore them or how in bad condition the shoes are, we throw them to the garbage, we then buy another 2 or 3 pairs, and we repeat the cycle, again and again and again....Basically, we don't know or care about what we buy because sometimes in our minds these things are ''trivial''. But they aren't.

I know that all men don't necessarily are into shoes but in my opinion, even the guy with the least interest in fashion knows he has to own at least one pair of dress shoes. Because eventually he will go to a marriage, go to prom, will bring the wife, girlfriend or boyfriend to a nice restaurant, go to a funeral, pass a job interview and he can't go on sneakers or sandals to those special events out of respect for the people he cares about... It's a necessity and that's how it is.

So I decided to dig more about the basic knowledge I had on dress shoes and just learn by myself on the internet. I sat down and wondered ''Isn't there shoes that last more than 1 or 2 years?'' and I got my answer very quickly on google. The solution? high quality uppers, calf leather full grain (which last the most) and a quality construction on the shoe. What do I mean by ''construction''? let me explain, the most popular shoe construction in 2020 for dress shoes is the ''cemented'' construction. This is very simple, a shoe manufacturer (generally in China) builds the upper of the shoes and sticks the outsoles with glue together. That's it, you got yourself a brand new pair. This is the cheapest way to build a shoe and normally they will use low quality leather on the uppers because that's what their big store clients ask. This is exactly why they last only 1 or 2 years depending on wear.

How about a good quality construction? There are 2 constructions in North America that are the most popular. Goodyear welt and Blake stitch, I will not explain what they are, just google them there's a ton of info about it. Both constructions allow the outsoles to be replaced and in doing so the shoe lasts 10, 15 or 20 years depending how well the owner takes care of the uppers. When I learned this I got super excited and loudly yelled ''Eureka!!!'', I searched on google for stores near me and went to my closest mall. Unfortunalety, I live in Canada and we don't have as many specialized stores like our cousins in USA. I wanted a brand new pair of full grain leather goodyear welted shoes and I live in South shoe Montreal, which is the suburbs, in the city of Longueuil to be more specific. There's nothing like that around me, only construction companies, industrial companies, lots of restaurants, car dealerships, Canadian Tire stores and huge malls. Without knowing, my request was too fancy for my little city so I took my car and 20 minutes later I was in downtown Montreal. I found ''my store'' which carried the most variety of goodyear welted shoes, Harry Rosen a men's luxury store, it wasn't the first time I went there. My brother bought a blazer and the quality was amazing, we went to the shoe section together, shoes were beautiful but expensive but nobody came or explained us why.

When I got into the store I finally found what I was looking for, lots of great brands like Santoni, Bontoni, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tom Ford, To Boot New York, Prada and the house brand ''Harry Rosen''.... the only problem? Shoes go for 500$ plus taxes or more.... which completely destroyed my budget.... In other words... No shoes for me. I got sad and went back home. I wen to the Allen Edmonds website and the shoes where also expensive 600$cad and up plus customs, Nordstrom Canada sells them but they cost the same thing 600$ and up. So I was cornered between Aldo or Steve Madden shoes (150$ or more) and Harry Rosen (500$ or more) and nothing in the middle.

I've always been a guy that likes negociating and finding great prices for great quality so I went on Ebay to look around.... after self learning how to identify quality shoes, practising how to used leather dyes and failing, mess up at least 7 pairs of shoes bough at Goodwill stores, practising the mirror shine technique with various shoes, learning to desinfect properly used shoes with the help of a local cobbler... I finally bought myself my first pair of quality shoes, blake stiched oxfords in black from Santoni. They where in really bad shape when I got them.

Front, cheap acrylic paint on them

I paid 66$cad shipping included and after devouring all of Preston Soto's videos I begun my own restoration. I got very unlucky because the shoes initially were brown and the person before me literally painted them black, probably to hide all the scratches and imperfections. There was also a huge coat of cream and old waxes that I had to take off the shoe, add the fact also that it was my first time working on a pair that cost 700$ new. I was very worried about messing them up but I was happy also that I practiced a lot on many cheap and old pairs before working on these Santonis.

Dress shoe restoration
Brown coloring on the heel counters

They took me a lot of time of fix, 3 days if I remember correctly but it was worth at the end, here's and after picture. I was very proud of them and I get a lot of comments from people when I use them.

Final result and brand new shoe trees

After this pair, I started to think about changing the name of my instagran account. Back then my account name was ''My shoe hobby''. One day I was talking with my brother in law and he told me after seeing what I was doing ''man you gotta do something with this, make it look like a luxury brand of your own, I know it's just a hobby but make a brand out of it, don't worry I'll buy shoes so you can work on them, I want them as beautiful as yours''...And that's when Msh | Patina was born. MSH is for me to remember where I started ''My shoe hobby'' and I added Patina because I love the art itself. Thank you for the reading! I will be posting more blogs little by little.

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