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.