Today’s Art of Manliness assignment was to shine my shoes.  Of course, polishing just one pair would be too easy… so I took on all 5 pairs of black leathery shoes I own.

Only 1 out of 5 pairs was in shape worthy to be worn… and that’s only because I had worn it to a wedding 2 weeks ago.

Admittedly, I had very little idea what the heck I was doing, but uncertainty is at the heart of any good adventure, so I ventured on.

Despite my not-knowing-what-I-was-doing-ness, the shoes turned out pretty alright.  It took me about 2.5 hours, during which I pondered many things:

I was reminded of my childhood dream of polishing shoes for a living.  In 1st grade I polished my dad’s shoes for 20 cents every morning, so I could save up for an Optimus Prime transforming pencil case.  And I remember seeing little booths where men would polish other men’s shoes for a living.  So when asked to draw what I wanted to be when I grew up, — while other boys drew policemen or doctors — I decided I was going to polish shoes for a living!  My teacher had a talk with my mom about it afterwards…

I also encountered the beauty and the allure of polished leather.  A couple hours with the leather opened my eyes to a new kind of beauty that comes from sleek polished shoes.  You know when you spend a lot of time with someone, you learn to see their beauty and charm in the small details?  I think it was kind of like that with me and my shoes today.  Moreover, now that I have the eyes to see, and know what it takes to polish one’s shoes, I can appreciate other men who wear polished shoes.  Imagine: I notice his shoes, and he notices mine; our eyes meet, and we nod because we share a level of respect exclusive to men who know the value of well-polished shoes.

Also, I couldn’t help but turn my shoes into a symbolism for my own life.  Sure, polishing shoes is not one of my core values (not since 1st grade…), but it reminds me that I want to be shinier, more irresistibly charming, and in every way better than now.  It is true that outside of the military there’s no punishment for unpolished shoes.  In other words, it’s an extraneous and unnecessary thing, and only a few would even notice.  However, the gap between a polished shoe and a normal shoe is in the extraneous details.  The same might be true in a man’s life.


Anyways, here are some pictures!  It’s surprising how just a few hours spent with my shoes make me want to take pictures of them and post them up on the internet.

Simeon Koh

P.S.  I forgot to mention that my mom told me I was selfish for polishing only my own shoes.  So I polished 4 MORE PAIRS for my dad and G-pa!!!  What a day.