Historically speaking the united states military could be known for many things, but one thing that everyone knows or associates with a US servicemen,
is how he shines his boots. Really, really shiny method called spit shining. After looking around the internet, there appears to be many different
theories about how this should be done. I shine shoes/boots for money at times, and know a few things about doing it right. Everyone has their own
way, and my way was adopted out of years of trial and error. If you don't like my way, then do it your way!
matching shoe polish (wax polish, kiwi if you can get it)
a gentle rag (rags intended for cleaning glasses work well)
shoe cleaner and conditioner
Go outside! Spread your blanket out and sit on it. Now in a clean area, clean the footwear of all mud, dirt, and dust.
Wrap your rag around your finger. Make sure the rag is flat against your finger tip with no wrinkles in it. The reason for this is to avoid swirl
marks and scratches. Always do this at the beginning of every coat of polish, and check it frequently while polishing. If you have longer finger
nails, you can use your knuckle for this rather than fingertip. You do not want to use the tip of your finger if you have any nail hanging over at
Dip the rag in water, then in the polish. Always go water > polish, never polish > water. The reason for this is because you aren't using the water
as a means to thin the polish, you're using the water as a way to keep the polish from sticking to the rag. Which also has the side effect of giving
the boot a much better shine.
Now, spread the polish around the area of the boot you intend to polish evenly and in every crack. Try to avoid heavy swirl marks, which are a sign
that you may not have used enough water.
Now you wait for the point at which the polish is still tacky, but not fully hazed. This takes about 5-10 minutes depending on humidity. Smoke a
cigarette, twiddle your thumbs, but stay in your work area to make sure the polish doesn't completely haze on you.
Now we buff the layer of polish. Try to get the layer as shiny as you can without breaking through the layer back down to leather. If you do break
down to leather, that's not very good. It will result in a thin and less shiny spot.
Repeat the previous steps with great attention to detail until you've built up about 4-5 layers of polish. Allow 15 minutes after buffing each layer
for it to properly set up, before you move on to the next. I know it does sound like a ton of polish, but it really isn't. The buffing between each
coat smooths the leather, and removes a lot of the polish.
Allow previous layers of polish to dry for a few hours.
Begin again by arranging your rag around your finger as mentioned earlier. Dip it in the water, then in the polish. Use a small amount of polish on
the rag this time, and buff using the polish as a rubbing compound. Go all over the boot and add more polish as needed. Do this until you have
achieved the mirror finish you're after, but be careful not to remove too much polish. Doing so will result in very dull spots.
This is an optional step. You can use a wet rag with no polish or a shoe buffing wheel to get the last bit of "pop" from the shine. Again, use
caution to avoid rubbing all of the polish off.
Helpful tips/things to avoid
Number one enemy of a good shine is swirl marks. Avoid these by carefully making sure that your rag is completely flat against your finger at all
times, and using enough water to keep the polish from sticking to the rag. Always use water, even on the last buff. Another thing to be conscious of
is the thickness of the polish. Do not polish one area too long, or it will become thin and dull. It may also be completely removed, revealing the
dull leather underneath. DO NOT use cotton balls. The fibers will leave little swirl marks in the finish and make it dull.
Currently our military uses dull suede type leather boots, which means the spit shine has become a lost art among even soldiers. Things like parade
gloss shoe polish have become popular, but they do not last as long as regular polish will. A polish like this can last anywhere from a week, in hard
use, to 6 months in light use. Time for completion, could be a while, so do it on a day when you have nothing else to do, if there is such a thing.
Servicemen used to own two pairs of boots, and wore one pair while polishing the other. It's a good activity to do while watching TV if that's
your thing. Anyone can do this, and it looks great at the office as well as the parade field.
Here's the almost finished result of this method on a pair of boots I'm polishing for a friend.
They haven't had the final buff yet.
Disclaimer: No I will not shine your shoes/boots for you, even if you pay me. Sorry, do it yourself.
edit on 7-11-2011 by
Evolutionsend because: added another pic
edit on 7-11-2011 by Evolutionsend because: (no reason given)