Columns » Employee of the Week

Jake Gill

Shoe Shine



Shoeshine stands began to appear on my radar around the time I started dropping multiple C-notes on boots. At first it was a mildly fetishistic stunt, sitting on the stand in black Barbarella boots and a super-short skirt. But I soon became addicted to the firm pressure of the stiff brush, the manly smell of the polish, and the way my boots gleamed post-shine so that I could use them as a mirror to fix my lipstick. I whored around a bit, checking out various stands downtown, but the price ($2.50 for shoes; boots slightly more) and the quality of the Nordstrom shine couldn't be beat, and so handsome D.C.-import Jake Gill became a regular feature between my legs. Jake's been wearing the apron at the downtown Nordie's for eight years, working bankers' hours and enjoying a kickass benefits package along with his paycheck and generous tips—all things that came in handy while he single-parented his now eight-year-old son. Sadly, come July, Jake's hanging it up to become a trophy husband and retiring to Phoenix with his son and new wife—a surgeon he met at a Ministry show.

What's the difference between a great shoeshine and a so-so one?

Us and them. We do great shoeshines. The rest of 'em do bad shoeshines. That's not just my opinion. They have shoeshines in the lobbies of all these office buildings, but people'll walk to us. Guys come in from Beaverton, from Eugene. We had two guys come in from Florida who wanted to send their shoes in to us so we could shine 'em and send 'em back.

What's the process? It seems like there are a lot of brushes involved.

Clean 'em and then give 'em the polish. A lot of places don't clean them first. They just brush right through it and charge an outrageous amount. We go through all the steps, what other stands would call a "Super Spit Shine."

Do you really use spit?

Supposedly it works well because of the consistency of spit versus water. We only spit on shoes if requested.

How often should people get their shoes shined, ideally?

Once every week-and-a-half to two weeks, especially with the weather here. I have customers buy a $600 pair of shoes, wear 'em for half a day, and ruin 'em. With a regular shine your shoes'll last 30 years. The oldest pair of shoes I've shined were over 40 years old.

Do you recommend using shoetrees?

Yes. That's even more important than what I do, because you use them every night.

Dang. I need to take better care of my boots.

Yeah, but then you can't buy new ones.


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