Shoe Shining is a trade that in summary involves a person shining another person’s shoes using cloths and polish.

We are stating the obvious here but this fine occupation has a rich vein of history to it and has evolved over the years into an extremely useful and vital part of people’s lives as they are on the move and wanting to look their best.

Songs such as Get Rhythm by Johnny Cash includes the line “little shoe shine boy” in on verse of the song and this is because the job was more often than not carried out by a male boy during the early days of shoe shining. This trend has continued in a lot of countries worldwide although in more modernised and Western cultures working laws and child labour laws mean that it’s a working adult who carries out the task.

Shoe shining has been linked back to the 19th century although shoe polish never hit to masses commercially until the 20th century. Reports suggest that honey, champagne, grease and oven soot were all used to shine shoes in the early days as shoe shine pioneers looked to achieve the best shine for their clients.

The tried and tested quality of well known shoe car products these days ensures that you get the best shine without having to experiment with random chemicals and items such as alcohol and honey!

Over the years shoe shining has been the inspiration for many films, songs and there have been many famous shoe shiners.

Films include;

  • Shoeshine – Made in Italy and released in 1946 and won Academy Awards for it’s portrayal of shoe shining in 1948.
  • Shoe Shine Boy – The film musical was released in 1943 and extremely popular
  • Gangster film Goodfellas featured a scene where an old mob boss asks and insults another gangster by asking him to shine his shoes in reference to an old job he used to do

It is likely the industry will continue to evolve but it’s always good to know the history of shoe shining to see where the trade we love started and to remember how modern times are so much more rewarding than the early days – not that we were around in the 19th century!