Friday, April 9, 2010

When the Shoe Shines Each Morning

 Good news for shoe polish manufacturers. Shoe care it appears has once again become important in the days of recession. For the past few years it appears ( in this article in The Guardian) the sales director of Cherry Blossom was a sad man. Shoe sales had gone up, but his product showed no increasing sales. When shoes got scruffy, people just went out and bought a new pair. No one tried to make the old pair last. Now, finally, thanks to recession people have rediscovered the art of shoe-care.

Apparently shoe care seems to make economic sense. Cherry Blossom sales in the UK are now 200,000 small boxes a week!  And from five colours last year, they now have 35 trendy colours on offer. Shoe repairers are also in demand

I particularly liked this bit of the article and I quote - Black still accounts for 60% of sales. And most are to those over 50 – the generation brought up to clean their shoes by parents who knew both rationing and self-respect, who knew the golden rule of shoe cleaning: that the sparkle comes only through the application of elbow grease to polish. Unquote

Shoe care. That was one of our daily tasks of school days. Each evening, while school uniforms were ironed and kept ready, shoes were arranged in pairs. First, dirt had to be wiped off the shoes and the leather cleaned. Polish was applied and then made to shine with a flannel cloth. While canvas shoes were washed each week, scrubbed in fact, and once dry, a coat of white wet polish was applied and allowed to stand overnight.  The next day we had sparkling white shoes. Inspections were carried out at the school assembly by our seniors,  and those possessing dirty shoes were made to stand separately and given a dressing down.

Those were the days of black Bata shoes and white Carona canvas.

We also had these little boys with shoe polish kits who were always present at bus stops. I always wondered why people used their services, I mean all of us polished our shoes at home, so why did anyone need to have them polished outside? But generally they were men, probably on their way to work or possibly for an interview. Of course, these boys managed better looking shoes with their labour.  They also inspired a Raj Kapoor film - Boot Polish. 

When Cherry Blossom completed 100 years of the brand, they used a Charlie Chaplin like figure to emphasise "100 years of making perfect gentlemen..."
Most shoe care polish kits these days are a little different. Not little tins, but a tube with a little brush attached. You press it on the shoe and polish it right away. The shine is not the same, but the effort is much less. And as for the white canvas shoes – I do not see many children wearing them. They have been replaced by the expensive Reeboks and Nikes.

Would polished shoes be back again?  Hard to say.  Here is a generation that spends good money buying torn jeans.  But then, this is also a generation that is unpredictable.  It could well be a case of India Shining.


  1. You certainly took me back to my schooldays ! Wonderful post !

    We must have gone to the same school. We did have those monitors in the assembly who checked for dirty shoes, safetypins in uniform belts, and missing school badges. It was a bit difficult to have shining black naughty boy Bata shoes, when you came by public bus each morning, but the entire stuff of polishing, washing the white ones, and drying them overnight was a dedicated labor of love...

    These days, it's use and throw ....

  2. Ha ha interesting analysis, the ones who manufacture shoes r gonna see a decline in their sales now!
    Reminded me of the school days when cleaning the dust off and then applying Cherry blossom was a daily routine :)

  3. What a joy this one. Even the old adage on shoes and man's integrity has got changed to the modern equivalent:
    'Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!' - Bill Connelly

    I still polish my shoes, but can't keep up the rigour of the school days somehow I can't manage the shine either.Not sure if its the penchant for the shine that's missing or its the shoes that don't lend to shine the way they used to, or if somewhere I've realised the pride you take with a shiny shoe is something I genuinely don't have in me. Its like a guy who passionately takes to his bike,shines it up,repairs it himself,simply out of the pride attached with doing so.

  4. Ppl polish shoes?
    actually..*sigh..I did that when I was in school
    these days I buy shoes that match the earth.
    good no>?

  5. Yeaaaah, India Shining...! Interesting story of Shoe polish! I used to wash and do the polishing of my sons' shoes, I remember. If I let them do it on Sundays, it should be before taking bath, you know why!

    The Cherry blossom Charlie Chaplin guy was 'Lallu' of Humlog serial, remember? I think Rajesh Puri is the name.

    So recession helped shoe shine revive its business, interesting!

  6. Interesting that bring up this topic. I'm back from Chennai where I stayed in a "traditional" hotel - traditional meaning an hotel which has been in the heart of the city for many number of years! In the morning, someone knocked on my door and asked if i wanted to polish my shoes! I was wondering, "Really? Does anyone do that these days?" :)

  7. Enjoyable post, Radha!

    I'm sort of glad that the recession has caused a decline in the 'disposable' habits of people.

    I used to love the Cherry Blossom ad with the Charlie Chaplin figure- very simple but effective!

  8. UK - I guess we belong to the same generation! Use and throw is what it is these days.
    Swaram - I guess it accounts for the sales at shoe stores these days.
    Deepak - The Bill Conelly does bring a smile. I guess it is the brand of shoe that gets noticed these days, rather than its upkeep.
    Sorcerer - good solution!
    Sandhya - yes, I think it was Rajesh Puri
    Nona - I found a shoe shine equipment at a small hotel in Thailand and did have similar thoughts - who uses it these days?
    Manju - true - recession did bring back some good old values. But will it change as days improve?

  9. Beautiful post. Now a days if the school shoes lasts for 6 months it is a achievement.

  10. I still remember eagerly polishing my shoes every 2-3 days. What fun it used to be then...
    Loved the post!

  11. Oh my...took me back to childhood days when the youngest of the family always had to shine the whole family's shoes each Saturday night. Course, once I came along,....I WAS the youngest so my job was shoe shining for my entire childhood. Oh my goodness I was awful at it and would end up with polish all over the place. My mom was miffed but she never took the chore away from me! Grin....great post!

  12. Interesting post. Especially when I have polished my three pairs last evening. I find old shoes comfortable to walk in and if one takes reasonable care of them, they do last. I often give my shoes away afer I get bored of wearing them for about three years.
    What started as a compulsory duty while as a cadet in school NCC, when one had to polish the shoe 'toe' to a mirror shine, has now become a habit. I do not polish the shoes as often as I used to but still do the 'shine' job once in twenty days or so.

  13. Nice article. I hate unshine dull shoes. I always have well shined shoes. It should spark.

  14. That is interesting recession affecting the sales of shoe polish. You reminded me of my school days. :)

  15. Good heavens, I have not polished a shoe since I was a child, I think. It does seem that we have become so wasteful that we just go and buy new shoes. We have, I fear, become more slovenly in our appearance, so it would be nice to see pride in one's appearance come back again, even if one is of humbler means. This is a terrific post. I think you could start a whole new wave here.


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