Day 2: Shine Your Shoes

2 Sep

My shoes. I'm going to need more polish.

“Clothes really do make the man. Naked people have almost no influence in society.” – Mark Twain

Today’s Mission:

Shine your shoes.  Get out every pair of dress shoes that you own and get them all into ship shape condition. Having a closet full of shined shoes ensures that you are ready for any occasion, at the drop of a hat. Plus, shining your shoes is the kind of quiet, repetitive activity that will calm your mind and soothe your stress. (From the Art of Manliness)

I’ve never been a man that put too much stock in fashion, clothes or trends (when plaid shirts come back into fashion I’ll be ready).  However, I’ve always enjoyed good suits, new pairs of jeans, solid brown shoes and a fresh haircut – those have always made me feel like a million bucks.  Shoe polishing seems like a natural extension of my conservative style, an activity where leather, polish, cloth, horsehair bristles and the occasional open flame combine with elbow grease to rejuvenate a trusted old friend – a pair of shoes.  Some of the pairs in the photo above I’ve owned for more than 7 years and I’m not giving these friends up anytime soon.

I was 18 when I bought my first pair of brown shoes at a department store in Barcelona, Spain.  I was clueless regarding footwear at the time and my female traveling companion insisted that I couldn’t walk around that country with sneakers for two weeks – I’d stick out like a sore American thumb.  She was right and I haven’t looked back since.  You’d be hard pressed to find me wearing anything but brown shoes these days – I love ’em.

My big introduction to the art of shoe polishing came when I started work with the National Park Service.  As a ranger you are expected to brandish a smile, a crisp uniform, and shinning boots on a daily basis.  One of my early supervisors, Ranger Smith, took shoe polishing to a level that I hadn’t thought possible.  The man reveled in the daily shine he imparted to his Vasque Sundowners via his patented “flame polishing” technique.

Ranger Smith - The master of "flame polishing"

This involved lighting a tin of Kiwi polish on fire, waiting for it to liquify the top layer of polish, and then rapidly applying it to the boot.  It is fun, it works well (the hot liquid polish deeply penetrates the leather), and it looks sharp.  My tip: After regular polishing is complete, buff to a shine, then apply another thin layer of polish, spritz with water, and buff again for a more mirrored finish.  Real mirroring takes hours – and panty hose.

So what does shoe polishing have to do with becoming a better man?  I think it represents the value of preparation, pride in one’s appearance, and the proper care of one’s possessions.  I’ve always heard a woman can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.  After my experience in Spain I’d give this axiom the benefit of the doubt.  Shine your shoes fellas.

What value does “shoe shining” have in your life?  Share by commenting below.

Full Mission Briefing:
Shine Your Shoes
(via The Art of Manliness)

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One Response to “Day 2: Shine Your Shoes”

  1. Mark Rosvold September 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    I wish I knew the joy of shining shoes before I was in the military… this may sound sarcastic or like lip service, but when I set my mind to making my boots/shoes look super sharp, its oddly calming. Shine your shoes, men!

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