Coping: Have Shoe Shines Disappeared?

A couple of times in the last month, I’ve been to town for things like the doctor’s office, the Tractor Supply store, and a “cheater burger” along the way; the usual stuff.

On these trips, I started to notice people’s shoes.  They’ve changed – even here in the outback.

When we moved here 2003’ish, this part of East Texas was clearly divided between local and city slickers.  The latter were universally noticed for their footwear.  Locals, whether at the barber shop or hardware emporia were wearing the ‘uniform of the day’ – generally a cowboy shirt, Wranglers, and boots.  If you were just off the tractor and needed a part, those ubiquitous rubber boots worked fine, too.  Said you were from around here, not there, and you knew most copperheads bite slow and rubber boots are problematic for ’em.

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On my recent field trips, however, the change of footwear was amazing.  Everyone has gone Texas utility grade footwear to pretty much anywhere comfort-oriented.

Fashion?  What’s that?

I was expressing my frustration on the disappearance of fashion with a friend of my of 40 odd years.  She, a successful serial entrepreneur, has noticed the same thing.

It’s not just shoes.  It’s the whole personal appearance package.

Let’s start at the top:

Women today seem to be wearing less make-up.  My friend, and my wife Elaine too, both “put on their eyes” as part of their morning routine.  “I just want to look good...” explained Elaine.  “It’s part of the whole package – boardroom ready” explained my friend.

I totally get that.  I shave, shower and put on Lotion 9 a concoction made over in Louisiana that smells for all the world like Hoppe’s #9 Gun Solvent.

Most young people today look – at best (being generous here) –unkempt.   No pride in grooming to speak of.  Maybe that’s because my recent survey was done in Palestine, Texas.  But, I think it’s a general and widespread phenomenon.  We’ll find out on our travels this weekend.


Maybe it comes from the crap we are loading into young people’s brains in school:  We aren’t trying to raise kids to be winners anymore.  We’re told they don’t need to do that…just be in the race and it will all work out.  Pure left-wing, weak-willed, molly-coddling academic bullshit embodied in curriculum that spends too much time selling sex changes and “sensitivity” and not enough time teaching how to kick-ass, take names, do great in subjects like home ec, shop, foreign languages, and math.

From here, it looks like we’re teaching too much how to be not what school is really for:  How to Do. How to BE is a home value, doing is what school’s for.

Not in this world, though; Instead, too much “political correctness” and “inclusion.

If you want to be “included” in our circle, don’t look like you just got up from a two-day binge.  Three days of beard should be gone by Monday morning.  And so on.

Then there’s the matter of clothes.

Elaine’s been “coordinating” clothes with Judy this week.  Who will wear what.

“The plan” has gone from  “let’s wear jeans...” to Elaine trying on a pair of very fitted off-white knit pants that look good enough for the Melania type she is.  Yowsah...eye treats.

The great neutering of America is in play.  Our potential adversaries aren’t working to “go soft.”  America’s will-power and with it, internal energy focus (chi/qi) has been obsoleted.  Does the world Shaolin mean something?  Anything?

Judy will likely dress likewise…since in our circle, the grown-ups get to do what they want (we can afford it, after all): dressing down is for slobs, not us.

Poor people are generally lazy.  Dents in cars (and car washes) for example, don’t seem to matter.  Unless it’s a “brag brand” sneaker, neither do their shoes.

To be sure, I will be spending most of my time in “George’s Business Casual Uniform.”  A pair of pressed khaki Dockers, a short sleeve button down Oxford cloth shirt (tails out), and a well-polished pair of solid business loafers.  Shined business loafers..

At the good restaurants?  Shirt tails in, micro-fiber suede jacket on.

I’m coming to the point now:

Shoe shines.

On my “field trips” most everyone was wearing shoes that could not be polished.  If they could be (and a few could), it would have required something the Millennials seems to have skipped:  The Personal Appearance lecture.

Kiwi Select Shoe Care Valet, One Kit will set you back $46 bucks.  But, at least then you will have no excuse.  A decently shines pair of shoes can be had, though it takes a bit of commitment.  Shoes shined is like trimmed fingernails that are clean and strack…part of the package.

While that $46 dollar kit is steep, it’s a one-decision purchase.  An olde farte like me, who  has been polishing shoes for more than 60-years, is entitled to make a different choice than the “rack” S.C. Johnson Kiwi brand of polish.

I happen to love Lincoln shoe polishes.  I have a (late) friend named “Joe” (or was it John?) to thank for that.  Story:

Back in my early news-chasing days there was a shoe-shine stand on the Third Avenue side of the King County Courthouse in Seattle.  The 521 Café across the street had the best roast beef with onions and tomatoes in town, too…on fresh Gai’s Bakery French bread….ah, the times, eh?  We were the “new” San Francisco.  I knew the local Dirty Harry types well.  That was the beat.

The shoe shine fellow, the older one who ran things, was name Joe  (John?).  I’d come by a couple of times a week, generally at mid-morning when all the attorneys were busy upstairs in the courthouse arguing this & that… I’d tip well.

“Joe…what do you hear?” I’d begin.

And then, for a $5-bill, Joe would tell me all the news.  This ran from what a Grand Jury was doing to police this, to murder case that, Vice that and narcs something else…the stuff of genius, good reporting, and the reality of big city law.

I bought tips from Joe – and with the tips, he taught me about Lincoln shoe polish.  “Take some time to put on the edge dressing, too…” he’d tell me for when I’d have do polish my own.  Lincoln still makes a fine sole and edge dressing.

The 1970’s and 1980’s were a time when people understood their LOOK said more about them than anything.

Hard to put it into words but you take the police chief’s aide, Bud.  Always dressed to the 9’s.  Other people in the news world at the time managed their look differently – like Hugh, the Fire Department’s press contact.  He was distinguished looking:  a serious public servant trying to do good and contribute to the fire service.

These guys had nailed personal style. Bud dressed like a floor manager at a casino these days and Hugh looked like the high-end Ivy league academic. Leather arm pads on the wool jacket.

See it?  Both men rose to what their projected-images were and both were great, high-value people. (May they RIP.)

The magic to all this isn’t just about shoes.  It’s a bigger, simpler lesson:  Don’t Dress like Who You Are.  Dress Like Who You Want To Become!

Today, people don’t seem to “get” that.  Start with a classic like John T. Molloy’s Dress for Success. Dressing well is out of style…so is American excellence.

I’m can’t change that.  But, as we wander toward the exit, it’s worth mentioning. We is who we is.  Elaine’s the “hot” one in this outfit. I’m the geek.

This weekend, if you see a couple of very stylish women walking around when men who have their shirt tails out at the Winstar just over the Oklahoma side from Texas, odds are pretty good both will be wearing what?

Well-shined shoes.

Ask yourself this:  What came first?

I wish I were younger and had time to do a study comparing grooming and appearance to eventual (after-tax) income and success.   Next life, maybe.

Better yet?  Do your own study.  Then ask “Which came first:: Appearance or success?”

The school answer – pandered to the neutered masses to take down America – is appearance follows.

Wrong.  Testosterone, estrogen, and “a look” never go out of style.  Liberal ideologists notwithstanding.

Check their shoes.

Write when you get rich (and can afford a shine)


Coping: Have Shoe Shines Disappeared? — 30 Comments

  1. Cheerleaders…

    WTF? I mean seriously, WTF?

    I’ve been watching CBB the last few days, whilst recovering from a minor injury. Probably 35% of the college cheer squads I’ve seen during the past 30 hours of basketball viewing have had at least one fat-to-morbidly-obese girl on the squad. There’s nothing in the world, quite like a 250 pound 20 year old girl, stuffed into a cheer skirt and bare-midriff top (and yeah, I saw one gal who had at least 7″ of bare-belly Dunlop — Coulda gone all year without seeing that.)

    My experience has been that “cheerleading” is the practical application of gymnastics (at least that’s what I told my kids before tryouts), and that cheerleaders were emissaries whose job was to “represent the best the school has to offer.” I can’t, in my wildest imagination, picture these hefty gals stunting, and being they are the representation of a school’s best, their school is no place I’d ever send a kid or grandkid, or so much as a dime of my money.

    I don’t care if the current extracurricular policy is “inclusivity” or “everybody is beautiful” or whatever the contemporary social extrapolation of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” is, or if I sound mean or nasty by saying this. You don’t hire a computer jockey to perform brain surgery on you, if you want to live — that is: “Don’t place people in a position to do things they’re not capable of doing,” or degrade standards until the least-capable can perform adequately. It is also probably not a good idea to have slavish or radically inappropriately dressed people represent one’s institution to millions of people on national television.

    Unless your goal is to emphasize how well you strive for mediocrity.

    [Right here I’m thinking about getting some T-Shirts printed which read: Celebrate Mediocrity — It is the best you can hope for]

    …And my daughters will castigate me thoroughly for this comment, because they’ve both bought into the “inclusivity at all costs” thing. The ex-cheerleader won’t remember the roundoff to 29 backflips in-a-row she did before every game, and the ex-dancer won’t remember the one-count split to standing (actually standing wye to full split to standing wye to kick, in four counts – I winced every time I watched their pom routine) she did in her squad’s championship routine, or how impossible either stunt would be for the subjects of my revulsion, but I remember…

    Whatever happened to the concept of: “Strive for excellence?”

    No wonder we’re 37th, and falling…

  2. Dress for the type of attention you want.

    When I was young, I did the whole meal deal…clothes, shoes, makeup, jewelry…to flaunt.

    When I was farming, I dressed as such; gold mining and dressed as such–brought the whole grocery store to silent focused attentiveness when I walked in in old timey character dress sporting a huge leg iron; when I rode motorcycle I walked into the bank with the helmet still covering my face and the whole bank of clerks stopped breathing and moving just to stare at me…turns out they had been robbed the day before by a dude in a helmet; when I was building boats for Bayliner, my afternoon shopping was in ratty, boat poopy (caulking) stained clothes with rat fur (head liner) knee pads that got me respectful attention; then there is the whole wardrobe of expecting, post-birth, children weary/poor attire; now grey hair and gimpy, worn out parts, casual clothes gets extra service every now and then.

    Dress is relevant to the experience you have.

    P.S. I used to shine my brother’s shoes for a quarter back in the day.

  3. I can’t stand having my shirt untucked and my shoes have to be clean, shined and tied correctly. A couple years ago at the office where shirts and ties used to business dress but now is business casual aka Sloppy, the boss said hey everybody we have an idea, lets have a summer bash and everybody gets to wear their summer gear. Well, it got to be that the place started looking a lot like piles of dirty laundry. And this was from the top down. Got so bad that the “summer bash” was shelved for those who face clients and then ended by early August.
    If you don’t care about your personal appearance you cant care much about anything else either.

    Never seen Lincoln shoe products. I suppose a side trip to Amazon this evening may be in order this evening.

  4. That Kiwi Valet looks like a modern version of an ~80yo maple one my daughter picked up for $5 at a rummage, then gave me as a present. I added new black, brown, cordovan, and white polishes to the original tins still present. The buff cloth resembles denim and is still perfectly functional. I learned to polish from a brother who went into the service in the ’60s — Ain’t nothing like a spit-shine that will not attract the attention of a hard-line DI…

    I buried a niece last month. Aside from the mortuary staff, I was the only one present in a suit — something I’ve also noticed at weddings.

    “Business casual” is fine for business work (in fact, I’d never work a job where it wasn’t), but it’s NOT FINE for business or sales meetings. Wanna get to that corner office? Then when you are in the presence of the current resident, dress like you’re already there.

  5. Hey George, thanks for the memories. You made some good points, and some of the other comments made sense for the times that we live in. Nowadays, looking like a million dollars in public paints a target on ones back that didn’t exist once upon a time like it does now. Too bad. If you go to certain places in public, there are some people that still dress for the occasion, but that’s getting rarer. When I hired in to the lazy ‘B’ thirty three years ago, the managers dressed like they should with suits and ties, nice dresses, etc. Now, the stupidvisors look like slobs, and dress no better a lot of the time than the workers on the factory floor. Dressing up might mean wearing a suit with no tie, which is the most moronic look, and this includes the highest levals of management. Even had one who thought that dressing down on Friday meant wearing a blazer with jeans, which looks stupid as hell. Andy makes a good point though, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover all of the time. I guess the look has gone to overly casual for most occasions and nobody seems to care about their looks as much as they used to. Charles comment about Peter Gunn reminds me of almost any old movie or TV show about everybody dressing up. Times have changed for sure.

  6. As a working TV engineer in the big city of Honolulu my work uniform was New Balance running shoes (Orthopedic support and comfort), blue jeans (durability for kneeling at equipment for hours) and my sole concession to ‘fashion’… an “Aloha Shirt”.

    The bankers and businessmen downtown wore dress slacks, shoes, and Aloha shirts. The only ones you EVER saw in a suit on the street were either lawyers on the way to court, or a fresh Federal Agent just in from the mainland.

    Now retired to the country boondocks, our local small village is full of old hippies, poor welfare dropouts and jungle trolls, and a old retired folk like me. Fashion here is a clean T-shirt, shorts, slippers, and a decent haircut. Ninety percent of the people I see are something less…

  7. If you don’t shine the back of your shoe that means you don’t wipe your ass.
    Yes I used to be a shoe shine boy in a barbershop and the code was that when the customer cleared his voice it was time to make the cloth snap and make a sound so that the man could release gas without embarrassment.

    • Yes I used to dress for success and it works now I dress to be a bum and I am I have long hair.
      I have dirt under my fingernails .
      Beard and mustache gets in my food and my shoes have holes in them in my pants have holes and I never tuck a shirt in.
      I hang out like the dogs and I cry out at night with the coyotes.
      I do what I want when I want I don’t have anyone to impress.
      The ride that I get to go in town once a month is when I put on nice clothes trim up the mustache a little bit around my mouth. Yes i enjoy being .MR.CLEAN. once a month.
      But I enjoy life out here in the woods in my Sugar Shack the rest of the month it feels good out here right now none of the electric heaters are running but the wood stove is keeping the whole place warm even the dogs and cats came in out of the freezing weather only the chickens and roosters stay outside.
      And yet I wonder how long I will keep this lifestyle up it is a venture into an unknown area and it is an experience that I’m glad to be part of,
      Now what’s next on my adventure in this life.

  8. I have two children, a 10 yr old, and an 11 year old. My youngest often wears a button up shirt to school and anywhere else he can manage it (With spring coming in fast, I sometime encourage him to wear something that’ll take mud easier as their recess is now outdoors). I requested we all dress nicely for his birthday dinner with grandparents, and the kid came out with a suit and tie, I kid you not! My elder child, however, wears whatever she touches first; Doesn’t even look at it to see if it matches. I had to gripe at her to wear a dress that night.

    Point to this? You can raise all your offspring the same, but personalities decide what the rest of the world sees them wear in public. My kids make it plain to me that some people WANT to fit in with whatever everyone else is wearing, and others CHOOSE to look different; Finding that appearances often mean something to others, too.

    Both my kids are smart and can think for themselves fairly well. But I see distinctive differences between who is interested in social acceptance, and who is not interested in looking like the rest of the crowd. If I were a third party looking in at this, I’d consider an interesting social experiment. I’m not though, and as their Mom, I just want a nice middle ground with them, not one extreme or the other!

    The old adage comes to mind about being able to pick your friends…

  9. “Don’t Dress like Who You Are. Dress Like Who You Want To Become!”

    An interesting comment.

    If I go to the city, how do I dress like a pimp without appearing gay?

  10. “Had more than a few women say wow, when I’m not in my work clothes. Lol”

    Lol lol worked with a guy…couldn’t hardly read.. we’d start basic than increase till we found his reading capability was approximately sixth grade.. he was big .. sloppy dresser hairy and smelled of stale sweat aged. He’d tell us of all these ladies that was his girlfriends.
    Of course none of us thought it possible. Till one day after work we decided to go for breakfast. As we sat there. Beautiful woman after another would come up to him.. wrap her arms around him and nuzzle his neck. Each inviting him over.. I looked at one of the co workers after he left and said..well I suppose we should bottle some of his sweat and start using it.
    Later at work we were talking and I asked him. What kind of work does your girlfriends do.. they were bank tellers and bank managers.. he didn’t spend a dime..probably had the first penny he ever made.

  11. Schools teach? Ahahahahahahahahahah
    There is a reason so many parents are now homeschooling. It used to be a religious choice. That’s no longer the case. So scary.

    Does anyone remember the 1919 pamphlet called soviet rules?

    1. Get the youth corrupted, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex … Destroy their ruggedness …

    2.Get control of all publicity … Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters … Destroy the people’s faith in their leaders …

    3.Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fact and use [it as] ruthlessly as possible …

    4.Encourage government extravagance … Destroy its credit … Incite unnecessary strikes and civil disobedience …

    5.Cause the registration of firearms on some pretext, with a view to confiscate them leaving the population helpless.

    Whoops, too late.

  12. Since my usual attire is 20+ year old Wearguard shirts and soon-to-be tattered jeans, khakis were my Dad’s generation, that’s how you’ll usually find me walking down the isle in Lowe’s or HD. My dress suit collects dust more than anything else now days and I’ve probably outgrown it around the middle. But I do, severely, miss the days of a distinctive divide in location, associations and times between dressing up and dressing down. As a kid going to a restaurant, almost ANY eatery, you dressed UP! Now the best you do is good jeans, button down shirt and, lately, good hikers. My latest hikers are fairly new ones from an estate sale of a guy I once worked with occasionally but who has “preceded” us in a most untimely manner. You never know who’s going to wind up wearing your shoes…

    Dressing down, very much, is a rural thing now. Jobs are performed outside so current fashion has to match durability standards, too. This is changing in my location, though. Local big, hot money is buying up all the loose land in the area and turning our little town into something its never been – an incorporation to replace the old residents. George, you have no idea how badly I want that huge crash to get here to drain away the money that threatens our old way of life. The old maxims of growth and real estate appreciation does nothing but attract well dressed buzzards that are going to leave a well-picked carcass.

    … Is that a non sequitur?

  13. In some parts of USA dressing nice just puts a target on your back, sad to say. Now a days, better to blend in to the zebra herd.

    • Or flee from the hyenas of urban treachery. Which is why 30-acres of retreat is so appealing.

  14. I prefer a shoe cream over a wax shoe polish like Lincoln. Moneysworth Shoe Cream is my favorite, but I think I will give Lincoln a try (used Kiwi but never Lincoln). Variety is the spice of life especially when wearing a newly shined pair of shoes. I usually check out a person’s shoes, and you are right, shoe care has definitly gone down hill since back in the day.

  15. I am 74 years old and I agree with your fashion comments. A few years ago I was talking with one of my wife’s friends and told how I missed the old days of spring time when ladies would wear lovely floral dresses. Now it is jeans or pants with holes in them. I wear holes in my pants my wife makes me replace them.

    The thing that really aggravates me is the inseam length of today’s pants. I showed my wife an old Peter Gunn tv show and how Craig Stevens slacks came up to his waist and had long
    inseam. I have even shopped at men’s stores and cannot find anyone who makes pants like they did back in the 60’s and 70’s. I really dislike these new pants that sit down on your hips and feel like the inseam is going up the middle of your crotch.

    • I’m with you.. I hate clothes with holes in them. Especially socks and underwear. Even looks like it’s getting thin and their toast. Although I have a couple of favorite jackets that the wife’s been trying to get her hands on.

    • Go to Goodwill or any thrift store, you will find oodles of the pants you remembered.

  16. Hey George,

    Many years ago, there was a standing joke that when the shoe shine boy started giving tips on stocks to buy, it was time to cash out and head for the hills.

    Now with no shoes to shine and no shoe shine boy to give tips on stocks, even the smart guys don’t know when to cash out.

    All part of the plan?

    • My father had to raise his sister worked on the streets of Chicago as a small boy.. at six he sorted fruit so they could eat by getting the markets disposable food over ripe etc. stale bread. He also had a shoeshine stand. When he shined a pair of shoes you would mistake them as patent leather.

  17. When I would do a poor job on something, my father would call it a “Toe Shine”. I used that idiom on an employee recently, and he had no idea what I was talking about.

  18. Hah, I luv your business casual uniform G. The outfit you describe is the classic Engineer look.Every single male engineer I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, (more than a few in my family), has always worn the button down, short sleeve shirt.
    This shirt has always been anathema in my business clothes wardrobe,(IKON/RICOH) Major Accounts Sales.Destroyed my teenage sons decision to wear one or two of them.Same kid is in Med school now,(1stYr/Drexel). Because my father-in-law is/was Surgeon, we have always “dressed up” to go to them respect, respect should be reciprocated.As a child growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s, my family always had to dress up for Church -booooo, and to travel anywhere by plane, we had to dress up. We raised our kids the same way, dress up for plane travel, business, going out for a meal, doctors visits. If folks don’t dress up like they care about their looks,the rest of the world will view you as worthless of their interest/time,a slob, at best.

    Oh Yeah, almost forgot.. Buy The F-ing Dip! in BTC. Peace

  19. I’m usually found in a pair of oil stands jeans, orange t-shirt, black catipillar jacket and mud covered romeos I do own several pairs of ‘buckle’ jeans ($250 a pair) and I clean up well. I have some “maddens” shoes and some other nice clothes. But most of the time I’m in my work clothes.

    Had more than a few women say wow, when I’m not in my work clothes. Lol

    I remember back when I used to sell cars. This dude rolls up in this beat to sh!t Ford pick up all covered in mud, cracked windshield etc. Etc. He jumps out wearing bib overalls, a ripped up flannel short and a international harvested ball cap all covered in dirt and grease. Wearing rubber boots.

    Nobody on the lot went to talk to him. So I mosied over there and hey, can I help you? He said how much for the brand new Lincoln? I looked at it and said well what kinda payment are ya looking for? He said, that is not what I asked. I said, $30,000 plus tax title and all that. He said I’ll take it if you will sell it to me for $30,000 cash. I laughed and said ok, let me talk to my boss, you wanna drive it first? He said no, just have it delivered to my house. Then he whips out 3 rolls of cash wrapped in rubber bands and hands them to me and said take these to your boss and I wanna receipt. Each roll had $10,000 cash. Hahahaha.

    My boss, it’s a deal. When I went out to drop it off, I found out he was the biggest pig farmer in the state. Had hundreds and hundreds of pigs. Worth millions.

    No shine on his shoes. The car was for his wife. A super cute blond about half his age. He shook my hand and said then said, you guys got any new F-350’s diesel? I said yep we have some. He said ok, I deal olly with you. How much for my trade, pointing to his beat up Ford pick up. I said, I don’t know? That is above my pay grade. You will have to come in.

    Next week he showed back up in his mud covered truck and bib overalls, dirty hat and rubber boots. Every sales person on the lot came running. He said, back off I’m here to see Andy. Paid cash them too. Gave him $500 for that piece of crap pick up. He said, them fords sure hold their value. I paid $2000 for that truck 25 years ago.

    I made $3000 commission off that guy in 2 sales. And learned a very valuable lesson. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

    Have a great day dude.

    • I did some work for a guy that took a pencil and tore a corner off of a paper bag wrote a note in pencil for the banker to give me x dollars. I went to the bank thinking god I won’t see this only to have the bank manager come out and hand me the money saying he wished he had more of those.
      This guy filthy

    • A lady I worked it went to work for Walmart the story she told me is. One of the managers rode her tail everything.. single mom.. well she was working next to this nice old man stocking shelves.. the manager had just hiked up his shorts and rode her like the peon she was..she started crying the nice average everyday guy in blue jeans asked her.. what’s the matter. She vented.. afterwards. He looked sad and said I’m so sorry he’s obviously not Walmart quality. The nice man she was working with was sam Walton himself just drove up went to work. Nothing fancy in how he dressed either.