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Shoe Waxing: The Most Dangerous Game


Most of us have a loose pair of cloth sneakers kicking around the back of our closet, whether it’s Chucks, plimsolls or something even more summery. After a few summers, they usually look a little worse for wear—and become prime candidates for a little experimentation.

Yesterday we caught wind of an interesting idea: why not try waxing them. It’s the same principle that keeps your Barbour coat waterproof. Just heat the wax, iron it into a receptive stretch of cotton, and you’ll have a fabric that stands up to rain without getting soggy. (Here’s our playbook, for the ambitious.) Once you’re done, you’ll have a pair of light, weather-resistant sneakers to wear on rainy days that might ruin your wingtips.

It’s an exciting prospect, but we wanted to offer a caveat before the nation is struck with an epidemic of ruined Vans: this is a high-risk, low-reward move. Unlike your jacket, this fabric isn’t primed to take wax, so it may not go on evenly. Even if you manage to iron it out, it’s going to end up a good deal shinier than it was before—which may not work with the faded blue that looked so good on flat canvas. There’s a lot of factors in play; that’s why smart people spend so much energy working these things out behind the scenes.

That doesn’t mean don’t do it (we’d never advocate cowardice)—but don’t do it with any shoes you aren’t ready to ruin.