How I keep my summer sneakers pristine

For a recent cottage vacation, I decided to bring along only two pairs of my summer shoes: espadrilles for walking down to the beach and canvas sneakers for everything else. It turns out that the “everything else” included a few muddy walks thanks to some recent rain (I should have brought my Bean Boots after all). And so I returned to town with a pair of rather filthy shoes. And if there’s anything that draws the ire of my inner Jeeves, it is soiled soles.

I can almost see the twitch in Jeeves' eyebrow at the sight of this grime.

I can almost see the twitch in Jeeves’ eyebrow.

Usually, I like to keep my sneakers as clean and pristine as possible. I don’t fawn over them and keep them from harm – I will play soccer in them if the need arises. But it’s nice, when I wear them with a sharp casual outfit, for them not to look like they’ve been in the trenches. Thankfully, they are not fully white, which would be a royal pain to keep clean. I had actually entertained the idea of all-white sneakers but a visit to Pitti Uomo last year changed that. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing white sneakers. They are sharp, it’s true, but the sameness was offputting.

Truth be told, I would have preferred dark blue or even leather uppers (in calf or suede) but I was days away from a trip to Havana when I bought my sneakers so settled for dark grey. This colour does have two advantages: it goes with pretty much anything and it doesn’t show much dirt. My attention is always drawn, however, to the bright white edges. If they start to get dirty, the whole shoe can look sloppy and worn.

So here’s what I do, every few days or as needed, to keep my sneakers looking almost new.

A bit of soap and elbow grease.

A bit of soap and elbow grease.

I start by attacking the really dirty parts of the outsoles first. For this, I use warm water, laundry bar soap and an old toothbrush. The sole is rubber, of course, so I can really go to town with the scrubbing. The satisfying thing is that not much effort returns the shoes to their sparkling white state. I use the rough, green scrubbing side of a double-sided sponge to go over the rest of the outsole, again with warm water and bar soap. I give it all another pass with the yellow side of the sponge, a bit damp, to remove any soap.

Before and after a short but vigorous cleaning.

Before and after a short but vigorous cleaning.

Since the upper is canvas, it can get wet, even soapy, without any issues. I just make sure I remove any soap from there as well. If your upper is leather, you have to be more careful with scrubbing the outsole, treating the leather upper as you would an all-leather shoe. When I’m done, I let the shoes dry in the sun – my mother always said the sun makes whites their whitest.

Now, that's better.

Now, that’s better.

Should you notice that your laces are soiled, remove them and give them a good hand-washing in bar soap and warm water.

In case you are concerned about my sock-free condition, let me assuage your fears: I use removable, washable terrycloth inserts when doffing the hosiery.