Aging Leather Shoes
Following a couple online tutorials, I aged my new work shoes. I like the resulting look better than clean leather. I'll summarize the steps with some tips that I didn't find online.
Gather all of your tools and supplies together. Most important are a spray bottle with about 25% rubbing alcohol and 75% water, abrasives (sandpaper, files, anything to scratch and scuff the leather), a few pairs of gloves (no brown fingers!), shoe polish to match your color goal, leather conditioner and waterproofing (I used Kiwi brand for polish and conditioner), and lastly, lots of paper for stuffing the shoes.
Stuff the shoe full of paper until it holds it shape well then put on some gloves. Spritz the shoe with the mixture in the bottle and rub it around with your hand, wipe off the excess. I started with the most aggressive abrasives first (coarse sandpaper and wood file). Try to damage/scuff the leather in places that would most likely see the most abuse over time. When you have enough markings and fuzzy leather, spray some more of your alcohol solution on the shoe, rub around with your gloved hands then wipe the excess off with a towel. Now use a finer grit sand paper on more of the surface of the shoe. Dampen a towel and wipe it down one last time.
I like to apply the shoe polish with a gloved hand, so swirl some fingers in the polish then just rub all over the shoe. Pay attention to areas of detail or not, you can create cool color contrasts depending on how thorough you are. DO NOT leave thick applications of shoe polish to dry. It's hard to remove. Let the polish sit for a few minutes then rub polish into the leather while wiping excess off.
I repeated the polish step twice before moving on to the conditioner. For the conditioner, I used my fingers and hands to rub it over all of the leather surfaces and worked it in for a minute or two, then using a clean cloth I wiped the excess conditioner off. Let the conditioner dry for a few hours then you can polish the leather with a clean, soft cloth.