Interview With a Shoeshiner

For the shiners at A Shine & Co, shoeshining is literally a full time job. Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturday and Sunday, our shiners work 5-hour to 8-hour shifts. This adds up to putting our eyes and our hands on hundreds of pairs of shoes per week, and thousands of pairs of shoes per year. Regarding shoes, we see (and care for) it all, from current trends to classics, from the common to the most exotic. Here is a survey of some of the country’s most experienced shoe care professionals.

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Name: KeaLani

Years shining: 9

Locations worked: San Francisco and New York

Number of pairs in your personal shoe collection: *cough, cough* excuse me, what was the question?

Favorite men’s shoes to shine: Bontoni for their hand-painted finishes, John Lobb for the amazing quality calfskin leather they use.

Favorite women’s shoes to shine: I love women’s boots! Frye, Lucchese, Fiorentini + Baker, Chanel, and Burberry, to name a few.

A pair of shoes you’ve shined that blew your mind: Stanley Anderson’s bespoke red calfskin and alligator oxfords by Cleverley. I love when someone is confident enough to wear unusual colors.

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When a customer asks where they should go to shop for a great pair of shoes: Women don’t often ask this question. I think we know where we like to shop for shoes. As for men, who often ask this question, in San Francisco I send them to Alden, Wilkes Bashford, Barney’s, and Nieman Marcus. In New York, the place for men to go is, of course, Leffot – Steven Taffel, the proprietor, has curated a beautiful selection of shoes.

Favorite shoes you own right now: Engineer boots by Carolina (my personal moto-style!), or any of my snip-toe Lucchese Heritage cowboy boots.

Your go-to shoes: I wear my Wolverine 1,000 Mile black chromexcel ankle boots more than I should admit to. They’re comfortable and classic. I love the way chromexcel breaks in when cared for properly.

Your number one shoe care tip: Condition, condition, condition! Leather is skin, and skin needs to be conditioned above all.

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Name: Kaila

Years shining: 11

Locations worked: San Francisco

Number of pairs in your personal shoe collection: 2 pairs that could be called dress shoes: my work Docs (Dr Martens) and my suede Tims (Timberlands). Everything else is tennis or running shoes.

Favorite men’s shoes to shine: Alden shell cordovan laceups, because they take a nice high wax shine, and they’re a good, solid respectable shoe that’s going to last forever. I like the look of laceups, and they’re easier to shine than monkstraps.

Favorite women’s shoes to shine: Whatever shoes are the client’s favorite! It’s very rewarding to see someone’s face light up as you’re doing a really good job of caring for the shoes they care about the most. For women, these are most often Fryes or Fluevogs, both of which are well-made and stylin’. One of the wonderful things about women is their ability to express themselves, and I am always glad for the expression of gratitude for the favorite boots or shoes being salvaged and/or transformed with a shine. I have had more than one woman scream with joy! I hope that doesn’t sound sexist, it’s true! And it’s awesome!

A pair of shoes you’ve shined that blew your mind: Grey sharkskin boots. A lot of work to shine, a lot of brushing!

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When a customer asks where they should go to shop for a great pair of shoes: I usually ask them how much they want to spend, and then I send them to Alden or Allen Edmonds. The guys that ask my opinion usually are looking for something that will last a long time, but not in the $10,000 range. So I recommend great well-crafted American shoes. I do switch it up if the guy seems a little fancy–Edward Green, or if he seems like a hipster–Wolverine 1000 mile boots.

Favorite shoes you own right now: Hahaha, tennis shoes by Prince. Because of their stability on the court. Sorry to answer that question wrong, but I’m not at A Shine and Co 24/7.

Your go-to shoes: Doc Marten ankle boots for work. With a beautiful Shine & Co Gold Medal shine on them to show off what we can do, and Spenco Walker-Runner insoles on the inside for comfort while I’m on my feet all day.

Your number one shoe care tip: Moisturize and condition your shoes regularly. They will last longer. If you only buy one shoe care product, buy Renovateur by Saphir. It is magic! Well, it’s science, but it works like magic.

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Name: Sam

Years shining: 1 1/2 yrs.

Locations worked: San Francisco

Number of pairs in your personal shoe collection: Jeez…like 30-something and counting. I need to stop buying shoes.

Favorite men’s shoes to shine: Louis Vuitton, Prada and Bontoni

Favorite women’s shoes to shine: Chanel, Frye boots.

A pair of shoes you’ve shined that blew your mind: There’s two that really stand out for me… 1)A pair of shell cordovan Carmina boots in ruby red and 2) Louis Vuitton black patent and calf leather oxfords with a zipper edging.

When a customer asks where they should go to shop for a great pair of shoes: For dress shoes I always recommend Alden across the street from the Crocker Galleria, Nordstorm, and also Wingtip on Montgomery st. You can’t go wrong with Allen Edmonds also. If you want a nice pair of sneakers or something casual I usually recommend brands like Nike, PF Flyers, Cole Haan, Aldo. And smaller brands like Deltoro, Thorocraft, Filling Pieces and Feit.

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Favorite shoes you own right now: 1) A pair of tan suede wingtips by Ted Baker and 2) A pair of retro all-silver satin Nike vandal hi-tops. (They look like space shoes)

Your go-to shoes: I rotate shoes a lot. But usually it’s a pair of Nike’s. Most likely a running shoe.

Your number one shoe care tip: Don’t ever wear suede shoes without first spraying them down with a water and dirt repellant. You’ll regret it.

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Name: Chris

Years shining: 2 Years

Locations worked: San Francisco, Mexico.

Number of pairs in your personal shoe collection: I think i’ve accumulated more than my girlfriend….this job has turned me into a shoe whore.

Favorite men’s shoes to shine: My favorite men’s shoes to shine has got to be Jeffery West, their designs are very sinister looking.

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Favorite women’s shoes to shine: I’m all about those sexy red-bottomed Christian Louboutin black heels.

A pair of shoes you’ve shined that blew your mind: The shoes that absolutely took my oxygen away have got to be a pair of red Berluti Wingtip boots.

When a customer asks where they should go to shop for a great pair of shoes: I usually send people to Allen Edmonds. The quality you get for the price is pretty good. Alden would be the next step up. It just depends on who asks, I wouldn’t send a conservative guy to Jeffery West nor an eccentric guy to an Alden shop.

Favorite shoes you own right now: I love my Converse Chuck Taylor’s

Your go-to shoes: When I’m working I wear my Stacy Adams Madison Captoe Boots, keep it old school.

Your number one shoe care tip: My number 1 tip is to not put cheap products on your damn shoes! You made a big investment on a nice pair now take care of them. You wouldn’t put regular gas in a Ferrari, why would you put regular polish on your expensive shoes?

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Name: Freddy

Years shining: 8 Years

Locations worked: San Francisco

Number of pairs in your personal shoe collection: About 8

Favorite men’s shoes to shine: Bontoni. I don’t love shoes, but I love Bontoni shoes.

Favorite women’s shoes to shine: The ones with women in them!

A pair of shoes you’ve shined that blew your mind: I’m not sure who the maker was, however, they were a pair of bespoke shoes made in a shop somewhere near Union Square. The leather was amazing.

When a customer asks where they should go to shop for a great pair of shoes: Allen Edmonds and Wilkes Bashford

Favorite shoes you own right now: Sandals on my day off!

Your go-to shoes: See above

Your number one shoe care tip: Condition!

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