Having a favorite pair of boots means I wear them all the time and it shows: skuff marks gah-lore. Sure I wipe them down and run a drug store shoe shine sponge over them but my puppies needed so much more.
I remembered seeing a shoe shine stand in Penn Station and made plans to stop in on my next train trip. As I walked in I was suddenly very aware that the place was full of men. Only men. The customers, the employees… All. Men. It gave me pause.
Now let me be clear. No one made me feel out of place or unwelcome. The only one who seemed to be feeling some kinda way about this was me. Perhaps like that random man in the nail shop getting a mani pedi. There’s no rule that he can’t be there but his being there is noticed.
I was surprised to realize that I’m almost never in single-sex public spaces: Barbershop, mechanic, shoe shine shop. Nope. But it was capital “D” Delightful.
It was a pleasure seeing men taking pride in their appearance at least vis a vî their footwear. Is it still a thing that a man is judged by his shoes: style, shine, and [giggle] size?
As the men got their shoes shined, they didn’t engage in conversation with the shiners or each other. They were either on their phones or quiet and contemplative; Kinda like me at the nail salon. But I was completely engrossed watching the shiner transform my boots. There were more steps then I ever could’ve imagined. And every time I thought he was done, he’d whip out another spray bottle, brush, and rag. He made my boots look better than the day I bought them.
They looked so good I didn’t even want to walk anywhere. And when I did I just kept looking down at my shiny new boots.
Why the hell don’t I do this more often? Because hitherto, getting my shoes shined has been an add-on to getting them repaired. I’d drop them off broken and pick them up pretty. I didn’t know what I was missing.
Perhaps a visit to the tailor is in order.
Leighann Lord is a veteran stand-up comedian, author, and podcaster.