So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Quick tip – shiny shoes

If you have black shoes that are supposed to be highly shined, you can make them really shiny by rubbing on some olive oil. Extra virgin is the best (just kidding!)

Personally, I would only do this in a pinch as olive oil is organic and could be become rancid over time.

Army people know about cheating with Future floor wax. It mimics a really deep mirror shine. The downside to it is that it builds up and cracks over time.

The only way to get a really good mirror shine that holds up over time that I know of is the time-tested spit shine. A great spit shine looks like patent leather. While some military people love doing it, for most, it’s the bane of military life, mainly because it takes some practice and a lot of time.

Basically, what you do is get an all-cotton diaper and wrap it around the tips of your fingers. You get some Kiwi black shoe polish in the can and spit into the lid. You dip your diaper-covered fingers into the spit (very lightly) and rub the moistened tips of your fingers on the surface of the wax. You then swirl the damp wax on the shoe in a circular motion until the color on the diaper goes from black to gray. I like to huff on the shoe as a last step and give it a light buff with a clean part of the diaper. You repeat this as many times as necessary until you can see your face in the surface. For a new shoe, it can take 15 or 20 light coats to get this sort of reflectivity (hence, a lot of elbow grease and time). One you get the mirror shine, all it takes is a pass or two every day to maintain it.

As an alternative, I sometimes spit on the surface of the wax. It’s important not to use too much “water”. Once again, this is a “feel thing”.

It takes some practice to get the ratio of wax/spit/pressure. If you rub too hard, it doesn’t work very well. Too light and the layers don’t seem to build. Fortunately for us waiters, we don’t have a Drill Sergeant or Company Commander ragging us on the depth and level of our shine. Even a half-assed spit shine will put you heads and shoulders above everyone else (unless they cheat and wear patent leather shoes).

For a more detailed look at this process, here’s a good tutorial, designed to help a cadet achieve shiny goodness:

http://www.cadetstuff.org/how_to/200201_elliott_bulling.htm

One takeaway from this tutorial is that you start with a lot of polish and gradually cut back. With an unshined shoe, the first few layers can be pretty crude. You’re just trying to get a good base of black. As you start to see the shine develop, you use less and less polish and less and less pressure until you are almost just kissing the shoe with the tips of your fingers. One other piece of advice that I didn’t know is that you should use regular Kiwi instead of the more expensive and cool sounding “Parade Gloss”. Even though it sounds like you’ll get a better shine, apparently it builds up paraffin over time.

If you want a mirror shine on your shoes, it will take hours of time. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it all at once since you don’t have a 6am uniform inspection tomorrow morning to worry about. If you spend about 10 minutes a day, by the end of the week, you’ll have a pretty deep shine that you can be proud of. After a couple of weeks, you’ll be shaving yourself using your shoes as a mirror. The neat thing is that maintaining a shine that has gotten to that point only takes about a minute or two a day once you get all of the layers set.

Do my shoes look like that? Are you fucking nuts? But it’s got me wanting to get them there so I”m going to start tomorrow. I promise.

Photo courtesy of http://secretlifeofletisha.com/2010/05/27/spit-shine/

6 responses to “Quick tip – shiny shoes

  1. Nick Boodris March 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Brings back old memories during my army days. Nice post.

    • The Jaded Waiter March 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Yes, definitely brings back some memories as well… and good post.

      Here are a few tips I’ll offer from my military time…
      1. There is a brand of polish called “Lincoln” that is superior to Kiwi. It can be hard to find but mom and pop shoe stores will often have it. The wax content is somewhere between Kiwi and Parade Gloss and it does a great job.
      2. A super lazy, yet effective, way to get a very respectable shine involves using a heat gun like the kind that you would use to strip paint. Basically it’s a hair dryer on steroids and it will save you a ton of time. You apply your polish and then do a quick pass over your shoe with the heat gun. You will see the wax liquefy slightly and glaze as you go over it. After you have added several deep base coats.. and you use the heat gun every time you add new polish.. even a brush shine will make your shoes look great. If you want to go for the military look you’ll still need to polish your shoes with the old fashioned spit shine approach the way your post describes.. but you’ll get to the ‘mirror’ stage a lot faster. There is one drawback and it’s a big one… you must be very careful with the heat gun.. if you hover too long over any part of your boot with it, and too long could be less than a second, you will burn the polish and be back to square one.

  2. filetonthefly March 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I have this problem where I can not get my shoes and shiny as I would like. It really does make a different in the appearance of your waiter. Gonna try this method.

  3. Fortune Personnel Consultants May 9, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Really nice and interesting post! i really like the way you express your thoughts keep it up!

  4. a random reader July 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Not sure why that is necessary frankly. Kiwi makes a parade gloss polish that does the same thing without all the work.

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