This morning, I commented to a co-worker on how well he kept his shoes cleaned and polished despite the large amount of salt and sand in the parking lot and sidewalks after the snowstorm. I admired his shoes, and then I looked down at my salt laced business loafers. I was suddenly reminded of many of the basic hygiene and personal grooming tips I was taught while attending elementary school and high school in the British West Indies. Boys and girls were expected to keep fingers nail at an acceptable length, laces tied, shoes clean, socks pulled-up, teeth brushed, ears cleaned (especially behind the ears). This expectation lay both with the parents and the school.
I remember attending the St. Vincent Preparatory School1 in Kingstown, St. Vincent and standing outside and lining up for inspection by a teacher. I don’t remember if this was a daily or weekly routine. I do recall that failure to maintain proper appearance could result in a verbal dressing down but the teacher. As a boy, nothing felt worse than being in the company of my peers and being told by someone in authority that my appearance was unkempt. Public shaming worked well. Sometimes, a note would be sent home to my parents, indicating my lapse in judgment regarding my nails’ proper length. I parents would agree, and I would suffer some consequence designed to correct my error.
I am remiss in teaching my kids similar basics and in setting the proper example. My dress shoes are a mess, an embarrassment. I decided in the moment that I wanted to take better care of my shoes and perhaps look for ways to step-up my personal grooming habits. I did some searching using the keywords “art of manliness shoe shine”2 and found a plethora of articles, illustrations and the following video.
After watching the video, I started thinking about creating a shoe grooming kit. The Art of Manliness web site has an article that provides plans on how to make a shoeshine box. However, I have no wish to build one, so I took the easy way out and searched Amazon.com. I chose Amazon.com because I can get things quickly with my prime membership and because I can read customer reviews. When buying something that I’ve never bought before, reviews are helpful. Amazon had several kits available, some of which are inexpensive and basic.
Perhaps I should list what the essential shoe shine kit should include:
- tin of wax polish
- horsehair shine brush
- shoe polish brush (applicator)
- cotton balls
- shine cloth
The basic kit has all those items. However, I want a nicer kit, one that has a classic look. I like the Florsheim Men’s Cedar Shine Box and the Moneysworth & Best 9 Piece Premium Cedar Valet. Both of these kits have the essentials. The Florsheim kit is cheaper but doesn’t seem to include a shine cloth. The Moneysworth kit does.
I did some more searching on Google and found the Shoe Shine Kit web site. Shoe Shine Kit is the web presence of a 36-year-old family-owned shoe repair business selling shoe shine kits and shoe and leather care products. I like the darker wood’s look in the basic wooden shoe shine kit. The package is considerably more expensive than the basic kit on Amazon, but I seem more complete and seems built to last decades.
- Two 6″ 100% Horsehair shoe shine brushes. One for black only and one for brown or another colour.
- Two applicator brushes. 100% Horsehair also, and one light and one black.
- Three jars of Shoe Polish
- Two Professional Shine Cloths
- One 8″ Professional Shoe Horn
Shoe Shine Kit will also engrave my initials on to the box for free. This seems like the sort of product a young gentleman would buy, use often and keep for a lifetime. I think I have found what I a looking for. I am adding the Shoe Shone Kit basic kit to my birthday wish list. A gentleman is also frugal, so until I have saved the money for the upgraded kit, I will start the habit of removing schmutz from my shoes and using a shoe insert.
- The school systems in the West Indies are based on the British system. In the island where I lived, children under 13 attended preparatory schools to prepare them for high school. To enter high school, students must pass an entrance exam. This is similar to the system used in Britain. Coincidentally, I attended for the first year of prep-school and last year of high-school in St.Vincent but attended schools in three different islands in between those years. ↩
- I have made up my mind that the Art of Manliness web site is the sort of web site that my male high-school teachers would have enjoyed and directed us to had the Internet exhausted 35 years ago. It’s culturally very American, but there is much good content that I find useful. ↩