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  1. #1
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    Shoe polish: thoughts, fun facts, questions

    Who here loves polishing their shoes? Not many, I'm guessing.

    Warning: random thoughts ahead.

    I know a lot of the old-school military folks have fond memories (OK, recurring nightmares) about polishing shoes and boots. My dad was a career US Air Force officer and Vietnam veteran (F-100 pilot) with a healthy respect for polished shoes, and especially combat boots. I didn't take much interest in it as a kid despite his attempts to teach me, but somewhere in adulthood I developed an appreciation for the look of a well-polished shoe. Not that I necessarily like the looks of a new perfect-condition shoe, but rather one that's well-worn yet maintained with polish.

    I certainly won't claim any expertise or mastery in the art of shoe polishing, but I rather enjoy keeping my dress shoes polished. I think I have somewhere around 7 or 8 pairs of shoes that I keep polished for daily wear, some of which are also my kilt-specific shoes, and a couple pairs of boots. I don't fastidiously polish them for hours and hours, but I do like to get a decent polish on a new pair and then add to it over time. I find that it gets richer the more it's worn, shined, and re-polished. I make it a habit of brushing them clean when I take them off at the end of the day, as well as inspecting and touching them up before wearing them again. It's a satisfying little ritual. My wife even knows to corral the bulldogge when I come home so the dog won't scuff or scratch up my shoes when she greets me.

    Judging by the shoes I see around me at work or in daily life, almost nobody wears the types of shoes that require polishing any more. Or they just don't polish their shoes and prefer for them to look more natural and distressed. Why do you suppose that is? Is it because of the general trend towards a casual look? Are polished shoes considered old-fashioned and stuffy now? Is it a function of a reduced willingness to spend time maintaining things in favor of more disposable type shoes? I'm not necessarily talking about the kilt world here, but just shoes in general. People in kilts still seem to appreciate polished shoes.

    Fun fact #1: when your shoe polish starts to crack or crumble in the tin, or when you're scraping the bottom and still have a bunch of polish left on the sides of the tin, you can melt it over the stove to liquefy the wax and re-settle it in the bottom of the tin. This helps you get all the "goody" out of that tin of shoe polish.

    Fun fact #2: if you accidentally drip the melted shoe polish onto your gas stove when melting it, it will flame up nicely and stink up the kitchen. And it's a real pain to clean off. Ask me how I know.

    Specific to Highland wear, I know that brown shoes are not that popular. But amongst the brown shoes that I see with kilts, it seems very rare that people polish them. It's almost as if they expect black shoes with a kilt to be shiny, but brown ones not to be shiny. Has anyone else noticed this, or am I in left field here?

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobus View Post
    ..Who here loves polishing their shoes? Not many, I'm guessing. ..
    I'll never say, "I love polishing shoes", but I don't mind. I've worn boots all my life. Polishing them has become part of life, or something do. My wife has worn Danish/Swedish clogs forever. Her whites (back office medical assistant, when they had to wear proper med' office uniforms) had to be cared for, weekly. Never did find a good white polish.

    I've used paste polish, but the best black was a liquid. One day, I had a customer in my shop, his toddler was crawling about. He picked up the little one, & saw my highly polished dress boots. He asked what branch of the service I had been in. He was ex-Navy, & could recognize ex-military people by the shine on the shoes. He was devastated, when I told him it was a liquid polish, by a major maker, for kids shoes.....referred to as Scuff Coat. And, that I had never done military service.
    Last edited by Baeau; 4th September 18 at 12:20 PM.
    "I can draw a mouse with a pencil, but I can't draw a pencil with a mouse"

  4. #3
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    Polishing shoes can be theraputic but it can also be a chore. I guess a lot of people don't have the patience for it now. But I think it's rewarding when they come up nice.

    Re the no brown brogues with a kilt I don't understand why some people feel this should be the case. Personally I think black brogue are the only option for more formally dressed time, but I think brown brogues usually go better with kilts when worn with Tweeds during day wear. Bearing in mind Carrans were brown (unless they were furry) I don't see why they should be considered an issue with the kilt. Needless to say I polish mine, especially after walking on the hills where the heather can scuff them.

    Come to think of it when children get put in kiltsat an early age they tend to be in those red buckle sandle type shoes everone has when they are children (or is that now an extinct practice?).
    Last edited by Allan Thomson; 4th September 18 at 12:09 PM.

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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobus View Post
    Specific to Highland wear, I know that brown shoes are not that popular. But amongst the brown shoes that I see with kilts, it seems very rare that people polish them. It's almost as if they expect black shoes with a kilt to be shiny, but brown ones not to be shiny. Has anyone else noticed this, or am I in left field here?
    I agree with your assessment, and am guilty as charged. I too appreciate a pair of well-polished shoes, but when it comes to brown shoes which I almost always end up wearing with my kilt (because the few occasions I have to wear kilts tend to be at Highland games, conducted during daytime hours) I have a tendency to oil them with Red Wing boot oil, which darkens the leather and eliminates the need for polishing. Here are the shoes I typically wear with my kilt before oiling:



    And after oiling:



    Several applications of oil were required to achieve the chocolate color I prefer (which more closely matches belts, sporrans, etc.). It's a lot easier to slap on a coat of oil with a 2.5" brush and allow it to soak in than to achieve a spit shine!

    I know Jock Scot will may comment on the "chunky" soles, but I find that they're much more comfortable for wear on the streets of downtown Houston or the uneven grounds at the Highland games. It's been my experience that they provide better traction, last longer and generally go unnoticed, as folks rarely see the soles of my feet.

    SM
    Shaun Maxwell
    Vice President & Texas Commissioner
    Clan Maxwell Society

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  8. #5
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    Isn't there a halfway house with that though? Ie to have a pair of conventional leather soled brogues & have a cobbler add additional new soles stuck underneath?

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  10. #6
    Join Date
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    Ex military and happy to admit I like polishing my shoes, sadly/gladly (choose whichever one you like) I will admit I love bulling toe caps and find it quite calming/therapeutic.

    I like to think I am quite good at bulling and a long time ago I took my dads concrete encrusted work boots and bulled them up, just because I fancied the challenge, my poor dad said that people would think he never worked for a living.

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  12. #7
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    What's "bulling"?

    I like shining my shoes, brown or black and I'm proud that I'm good at it. Part of the problem today is that it's hard to get shoes with top-grain leather. It's mostly split and burnished and never does come up to specifications or keep a shine either. I like to melt the wax in with the back of a hot tablespoon heated from the inside over a candle and rubbed HARD on the shoe. Proud to look like I've got mirrors on them when I'm done.
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, dreamer, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Sinclair.

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  14. #8
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    Bulling is referred to spit polish this side of the pond.

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  16. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allan Thomson View Post
    Isn't there a halfway house with that though? Ie to have a pair of conventional leather soled brogues & have a cobbler add additional new soles stuck underneath?
    I've tried that, but didn't have a good result.
    Shaun Maxwell
    Vice President & Texas Commissioner
    Clan Maxwell Society

  17. #10
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    I do love a well polished shoe.

    I wear brown oxford brogues from Jones Bootmaker with my daywear set up.

    We were having a beach wedding in Australia, being a rather casual affair I wore my tweed jacket, brogues, brown belt, green tie - day wear.

    My shoe polishing kit came with me from Scotland and I bulled my brogues up to a mirror-like shine. As soon as my shiny feet hit the powder-fine sand of the beach they reverted to a matt finish.

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