Boot Camp



“Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy

And I thought I was gonna jump for joy

Slapped on the shoe polish left and right

He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight

He stopped once to wipe the sweat away

I said you’re a mighty little boy to be-a workin’ that way

He said I like it with a big wide grin

Kept on a poppin’ and he said again”

 –Johnny Cash, Get Rhythm

Boot Camp

2015-01-15 08.36.04-1Get ready ladies, I’m taking you to boot camp! No, not the yellow footprint variety, though I have been there done that as a Marine Corps veteran. Today we’re going to talk about boots! Let’s face it, the boot trend is not going away anytime soon. It may shift from slouchy to cowboy, to riding, to pointy-toe, short to tall and back again, but boots are made for Vermont terrain.

If you’re going to drop between $50 and $350 on a pair of leather boots, please, please, please take care of them. Shining your shoes is a life skill not just for men or those in uniform, but for the fashion conscious and frugal as well. Pictured at left, is a before and after of a pair of my husband’s barn boots, it really does make an noticeable difference.

Please do not shy away from delving into this new world of leather care out of fear or stigma. “According to a recent census there are 3,600 shoeshine boys in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Most of them are young men or adolescents, forced to work in the streets to help their needy families. Many of the shoeshine boys are so ashamed they hide their faces with ski masks.”Stan Jeter, writing for CBN News

Each time I shine my boots I feel a sense of camaraderie with anyone who has taken cloth to boot before me. I don’t find it demeaning or beneath me in anyway at all. In fact, I think skills like sewing, ironing, and shining shoes can instill confidence and be empowering. And as an added bonus, the men in your life will be utterly impressed, and maybe even a little jealous.

boot camp

So here are 5 tips to help keep those boots looking tip-top:

  1. Keep your boots clean and dry. Shake as much mush and slush and mud and muck off before entering your abode, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. If mud is already dried on, use a boot brush off dirt using firm, brisk strokes.
  2. Store your boots with the shaft supported. Those cardboard boot inserts that came with your precious booties and you tossed as soon as you got home had a purpose, to keep the shafts from flopping over when not in use. To prevent flopping and possible creases at said level of flop on your boots, place a tall object inside each boot. Anything you have on hand will work, I’ve used empty shampoo bottles, plastic cups, and my current favorite is baby powder bottles. Instant boot forms. Just be sure your home-made boot form glides in-and-out of your boot easily. The last thing you need to worry about as your running out for that once-every-six-month date night is a jelly jar stuck in your cowboy boot.boot camp
  3. Get the gear. Follow the care instructions provided with your boots. If the manufacturer or salesperson recommends treating your boots with a weatherizing spray before use, do that. (Suede requires very specific care. Today I’m focusing mainly on smooth leather.) Next time you’re at the drug store pick up a leather care/boot polish kit or build your own. The main components needed are a 5-8” large boot brush, a small round boot brush (for polish) with handle, boot polish, (I like to have brown, black, tan and clear on hand as pictured below), saddle soap, and mink oil. For you kit you will also need a smooth rag, a cut up old tee shirt will do just fine.boot camp 2
  4. Polish your boots. [WARNING: Please be sure to wear old clothes and NOT to do this over light carpeting/flooring. Basement, garage, drop cloth, or one of those things that go under a high chair to prevent messes? Yup any of those are great.]
    1. With boots clean and dry, choose appropriate color polish and apply to your boots in small circular motions using the circular handled brush. (Some kits provide a sponge tip applicator, these are totally fine to use, but I’m old school and prefer the coverage and feel of the round brush.) Concentrate on the toe and heel as these two areas typically sustain the most wear and tear. Especially since the uppers of some boots are faux leather.
    2. Once the surface of your boot is covered reach one arm down into the boot and with your free hand “buff” the boot with your large boot brush in quick, swift back and forth motions. You will notice a lovely shine begin to appear on your boots. If you wear your boots often I recommend polishing your boots once per week.
  5. Spit shine your boots at least once in your lifetime. Your boots will look awesome, you will be extending the life of the leather of said boots, and men and women alike will be impressed, oh, and you will rightfully feel like a bad-ass. So how does one spit shine boots? It’s surprisingly simple.
    1. Follow the above two steps and go find an old rag or tee shirt scrap. Tightly wrap said cloth around the first two fingers of your dominant hand.
    2. Dab the cloth into polish tin and swirl a bit on there.
    3. With your hand down in your other boot, go ahead and spit on the toe of your boot. Using small, fast, swirling/circular motions polish your boots. Work in areas of about one square inch at a time concentrating on toe and heel of boot.
    4. Periodically add a little bit more polish and a little bit more spit as you go. A little goes a long way with both. If the spitting is aversive to you, I suppose a spray bottle filled with water could be used to spritz the boots instead, but doing so would negate any bad-assery. Before too long you will have a mirror-like shine on your boots and bragging rights with the girls.

So you go on ahead, those boots are made for walking.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here