Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Time to Shine

Posted By on August 10, 2016, 4:00 AM

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Believe it or not, shoe-shining is one of the oldest professions. Almost as long as we've had shoes, we've had "bootblacks"—a term that comes from the simple fact that men's shoes, in the late 1700s to early 1800s, were made from dyed black leather. If you were high-class, the quality and shine of your shoes would show it. Bootblacking was a necessity for centuries.

Veterans will remember a part of boot camp when they learned how to do a spit-shine and a "high shine" in order to pass inspection. That tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside (except in military schools) since the invention of pre-shined patent leather. Back then, you had to show that your polishing job was so good that your commanding officer could see the reflection of a dime if he held it up to the toe or heel of your boot.

When I was really young, my dad allowed me to shine his golf shoes and brogues on Saturdays as a reward for being well-behaved during the week. I grew to have a thing for a good polish.

Who polishes their shoes these days? So many people buy cheap footwear that they toss as soon as scuffs appear. Or, if you can't throw them in the washing machine to rinse out the dirt, you probably choose to chuck them in the donation box. Folks who have made an investment in fine leather shoes or boots are more likely to take care of them because they know that a pampered pair will last a long time.

It's hard to find an old-school shoe-shining stand or repair store these days. Airports often have shine stands, but they can be intimidating to folks who've never stepped up to get a polish.

In Salt Lake City, you can get a shine at Ray's Barber Shop (154 S. Main). Adrian Zamora, one of the shoeshiners that works there, started polishing shoes as a teenager just for tips. His mostly male clientele knew they had a good thing when they saw how hard he worked to get old dogs looking like new again, and he enjoyed it. There are shoe repair shops statewide, from Adams Boot Repair in St. George to White Pine Boot & Shoe Service in Richmond, which can replace the soles of your favorite pair of shoes, or patch up any scuffs or holes.

A well-fitting pair of shoes is a path to happiness. A well cared-for pair is an indication of love and style. And a well-polished pair is just simply a class act.

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