New used shoes

Kiwi is the Wal*Mart of shoe polish
I don't know if this is a father/son thing anymore, but I have pretty clear memories of shining my shoes with my dad. It wasn't a Sunday-before-church thing every week, but certainly occasionally before church, and always before a wedding or funeral, we would sit down at the kitchen table, get an old tee shirt and polish, buff and shine.
To be clear, I was pretty young. My father stopped going to church regularly in the 1970s (not long after my mother secured our place in Catholic school) and, as our family grew to include six boys, we switched to the Kiwi liquid with which you could shine your shoes in minutes when we bothered to shine our shoes at all.
Shining my own shoes in the 1980s was reserved for weddings, funerals and baptisms pretty exclusively. Since both my parents had close extended families there were plenty of all three to keep in practice with the Kiwi liquid. As I grew up and had a family of my own, I just stayed with the faux polish and often wore beaten leather shoes that neither required nor accepted polish. Getting a good pair of new used shoes changed all of that.
I call it the cigar diet...
Big Fashion Changes
Shopping at Goodwill is something I've always longed to do. Primarily because we've probably already made all the clothes we'll ever need on this planet but also because Goodwill is an awesome project that should be embraced over regular exploitive retail. Unfortunately, for the last 20 years I've been a very, very fat guy. Fat guys are hard on their clothes and, even when they donate them to Goodwill, there aren't many that can be used for anything other than yard work. The short version is, I've been dressed by Wal*Mart for the last two decades.
Recently, I've downgraded to merely a fat guy. I dropped about 70 pounds but have another 70 to go. Regular fat guys aren't (apparently) as hard on their clothes so I've had some Goodwill success which led me to start getting dressed every day. As a person who works from home, I literally got to the point where I would wear my robe for three or four days a week. I used to keep the same pants and shirt combination on a hook by the door and put them on as most people do a jacket when I had to leave the house.
When you get dressed every day, you need shoes (I'm guessing this is obvious) and the cheap dress shoes I bought for my wedding half-a-decade ago were uncomfortable and too shiny in the wrong way and places, as those kinds of shoes tend to be.
Shoeshine don't bother me
They weren't quite Beatle Boots, they were ankle boots, but they were close enough. Also, they fit. Finding Goodwill clothes that fit was getting to be pretty easy, finding shoes nearly is impossible. I wear an 11 1/2 or 12, which are not common sizes among Goodwill donors. The shoes generally are beat to hell and don't appear to be worth repairing. When I saw these, I figured a little polish would freshen them up nicely. The toes and heels were pretty scuffed, though, so I thought they would need a couple coats of the ol' Kiwi Liquid. I spent a whopping $20 (which is, like, $100 for a Goodwill shoe purchase) and came home to clean them up. That is when I was reminded that Kiwi Liquid is really just designed for last minute touchups. It was time for the big guns.
I thought I would look for a vintage shine box, with all the brushes and cloths, but just decided to pop on over to Walmart and get myself a new Kiwi set. It was a little disappointing. The applicator brushes were sponge and plastic, the horsehair buffer was smallish and felt chintzy. To be fair, though, the last time I held a proper brush I was nine years old and the buffer likely had been made in the 50s or 60s. The applicator brush was a tee shirt. The smell, though? That was right on target.
Later, my daughter would come in and complain the house smelled gross only to have my wife come in a little after and enjoy the nostalgia of shoe polish aroma. In case you don't know, shoe polish smells of combustibles, sharp like gasoline or kerosene. The lid seals so tightly it has a specially designed opener that hasn't ever been improved upon, I guess, that allows you to pop the lid off and on with ease.
Trust me, they weren't this shiny before
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
There was a time, and for some people maybe there still is, when a man would spend 20 minutes per day shining his shoes. Whether it was a bedtime chore or a morning chore I'm not certain, but considering the number of men who had learned to shine their shoes in the service, I'm thinking it was part of their early morning ritual. Whenever it was done, for those who weren't going to walk past one of those big shoeshine chairs during the course of their day, it was a part of life.
I don't mind being a shoeshine dilettante, though. I'll shine them because I can, not because I have to, and feel increasingly comfortable picking up beaten old Goodwill shoes and reconditioning them with elbow grease and Kiwi polish. Who knows? Maybe I'll pick up a shine box along the way, throw on a Big Apple hat, and start a new career.


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