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US military shoe shining tactics

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posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:07 AM
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!

Materials needed

matching shoe polish (wax polish, kiwi if you can get it)
a gentle rag (rags intended for cleaning glasses work well)
a brush
shoe cleaner and conditioner
old blanket

Step 1
Go outside! Spread your blanket out and sit on it. Now in a clean area, clean the footwear of all mud, dirt, and dust.

Step 2
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 all.

Step 3
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.

Step 4
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.

Step 5
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.

Step 6
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.

Step 7
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.

Step 8
Allow previous layers of polish to dry for a few hours.

Step 9
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.

Step 10
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)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:11 AM
reply to post by Evolutionsend

Explanation: S&F!

Personal Disclosure: I have heard female soldiers simply use HAIR SPRAY to make the boots shine!

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:11 AM
reply to post by Evolutionsend

tell you a secret, that is the long way, for parade boots, polish and heat.

and you forgot the edge dressing, just adds a bit to the overall picture
edit on 7-11-2011 by pointr97 because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:11 AM
Shiny things are for girls.
I like my boots with mud and blood on them!

Nice job though.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:13 AM
reply to post by OmegaLogos

I'm no soldier, but there's no way I would try using hairspray. What a mess!

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:14 AM

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:15 AM
reply to post by pointr97

This way lasts longer, and imo looks better.

I'm not finished with that one.

edit on 7-11-2011 by Evolutionsend because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:17 AM
You should have seen this old pair of work boots I had. The leather was knicked and scratched and beat all to hell, but when I finished polishing them, I swear to you I had them looking brand new.

I loved those things. I even paid to have them re-souled once... But after they wore out again I decided to cave in and throw them out. Shoe repair is not worth the price for me. Might as well get new shoes.

Nice job on the polish.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:21 AM

Originally posted by gimme_some_truth

I loved those things. I even paid to have them re-souled once...

Your boots have a soul? WOAH! Where can I buy me some of those!
edit on 7-11-2011 by GmoS719 because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:30 AM
reply to post by Evolutionsend

DO NOT Dry clean your laces-- it destroys the Aglets!----(the plastic ends)

just buy new laces..


posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:49 AM
Instead of a rag you should use a white t-shirt. You should use the inside of the shirt and not the outside. The pattern you are looking for is the square pattern on the inside, not the diagonal pattern on the outside. I hope this helps.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:50 AM
Flag for you Evolutionsend the last thing before unconsciousness many a a-hole has seen is a shined up boot heading for their face

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:52 AM
oh i forgot try using a white handkerchief that is what most PXs carry and spit not water my DI said that spit was magic for getting a good even shine but you might thing that's gross

edit on 7-11-2011 by bakedbluedevil because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:57 AM
Another thing is to have a good, quality leather boot to start with.

Crappy leather=crappy results.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:57 AM
reply to post by bakedbluedevil

I'd rather use water.
Some people say spit, some people say water, some people say rubbing alcohol. Notice a pattern here? Most of them saying these things won't back it up with pictures of the work.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 11:59 AM
reply to post by jerico65

That's true. These boots I'm working on right now are not the best. Actual combat boots will shine up even better, but I think I've gotten them about as far as they're going to get.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 12:06 PM
I don't know if you can get it, but Lincoln Wax is far superior to Kiwi.
I used to coat my whole boot with it and soak it in with a heat gun. You get extremely stiff boots at first, but the leather grain fills in and creates a smooth surface that takes a shine much easier. It's the only way to make cheap leather shine. You can buy corcoran's or whatever and cheat, but the old army issue black leather boot was a real challenge. I used damp cotton balls on the final pass, wiping the water spots off with a dry one. I had three pairs in rotation, one to wear, one to display, and a back-up.

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 12:08 PM
reply to post by Evolutionsend

I got to admit im just to lazy to shine anymore

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 12:10 PM
reply to post by John_Brown

I believe you about the wax, but not the cotton balls. I've used them, and they give swirl marks. Just say no to swirls!

The gentle rags for cleaning glasses will give you a shine so smooth, it will look better than a freshly waxed Ferrari.
edit on 7-11-2011 by Evolutionsend because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 7 2011 @ 12:38 PM
We used candle wax!... and a lighter for the glass effect. After the polishing of course.

Man... I seen those boots and got one helluva flashback! lol

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