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Budding Bootblack Beginnings

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I recently had the rare opportunity to attend a six-hour-long Bootblacking Intensive taught by three illustrious bootblacks as well as an assisting, up-and-rising bootblack.  Afterwards I was all abuzz with excitement to start practicing, but I own virtually no leather footwear and said as much to my friends and colleagues.  I offered instead to shine up any of their boots that they didn’t mind a novice handling, and that is how I ended up with this pair of boots:

Amazing friend that he is, my fellow barista lent me his cavalry boots from his Civil War reenactment days.  He told me they’d be perfect for practicing because “I couldn’t hurt them.”  Well, I certainly didn’t think I’d make the boots worse for my attempts, so I gladly accepted the challenge and took the boots home with me.

On par with my usual obsessive personality, I couldn’t wait to tackle this project and break out my bootblacking kit.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a personal project since, well, I took up knitting (this is perhaps indicative of the kinds of things I get excited about).

As soon as I got home, I cleared space on the floor to lay out my supplies, as well as a large piece of cardboard as my work surface.  I inspected the boots, and though I couldn’t tell myself, I’d been told the boots weren’t made of oil-tanned leather, and should be polished to a shine.  I’d have to take the words of my friends, because even while practicing on boots at the intensive, I couldn’t readily distinguish oil-tanned from high shine leather, and was often surprised by which method was used on which boots.  So confusing!

Regardless, my first step was to give the boots a thorough soaping.  After just a cleaning there was already a marked improvement.

My expectations were already exceeded!  Very encouraging…hah.  Next step: polishing. I opted to use the harder of the two polishes I have, Lincoln Shoe Polish, which came with the kit I bought at the intensive.

Polishing was just a lot of fun, and I have to say, the end result really surprised me:

Side by side comparison of one polished boot

Finished product


before :: after

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!  The difference is quite astonishing; I’d no idea footwear could be so dramatically revitalized!  I can’t wait to return these boots to their owner, and now I’m more encouraged and excited than ever to practice on others.  I’m especially looking forward to practicing on boots while someone is wearing them.  And, eventually, to get to practice on a specific someone’s boots, while he’s wearing them.


Categories: firsts, love, photos
  1. seraglioletters
    January 22, 2010 at 9:44 am

    OMG. That’s so cool and so hot. I didn’t know you could make such a difference either. I have a pair of boots that’s in rotten shape. I’ll have to polish up on my, uh, polishing skills.

    • January 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

      SO hot. And so much fun! I’d definitely encourage getting into leathercare and bootblacking. I never really felt any interest in leather until Max taught me to care for his boots.

      SO HOT.

  2. Max
    January 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Well done, girl.

    I’m proud of you for pursuing this and for finding resources to help you along.

    And I’m really looking forward to having you do my boots.


    • January 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks Sir! Hopefully I’ll have a few more boots under my belt by the time I get to yours. I’ve just felt so incredibly fortunate to have friends willing to entrust their boots with me.

      And I am still reeling over what a powerful and erotic experience this is for me.

  3. Dov
    January 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I can see you will do very well on my old boots 😉

    • January 22, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      I hope so! I still have a lot to learn though!

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