I was in the teacher’s lounge, where the industrious Mrs. E. was pouring me a cup of coffee, when the usual suspects turned up. All of them had years of teaching at the boys’ school where I am auditing my art history class. And all of them have that “old boy” look. Not the Old Boy of English fame. No school ties and pinstripes here. Rather, they dressed as they would have in the days of the dress code: khakis, blazers, oxford cloth button downs, a bow tie or regular tie and loafers or those new sort of boat shoes that are more clunky than they used to be. Despite what you may think, I don’t mind the look, really. At least they are wearing coats and ties when the boys are in shorts and t-shirts. They are a professional lot.
But the point of my story is the joke that was made that I was “showing them up” by showing up in my suits. One of the teachers quipped that the only difference between us was that I was wearing a pocket square and had shined my shoes.
“We could be twins,” I agreed, entering into the spirit of my good-natured ribbing. (He was in a white button down, yellow print tie, tan spotcoat, khakis, and Rockports. I was not.)
Pocket square aside, I think it was the suit and the shined shoes that made the difference. A nicely polished pair of shoes goes a long way to making you look well-dressed. My father-in-law, the ex Navy SEAL, shines the hiking boots that he must wear to support his arthritic legs. He looks magnificiantly prepared for almost any eventuality — deployment or luncheon.
Now, shining numerous pairs of shoes is a pain. It can take hours even if you spend the bare minimum of time on them. I split my shining into two days… one for black and the other for brown. But there is an alternative!
When I called on an investment firm that was a client of mine, I always made sure to wear a pair of shoes that could stand a polish and arrived a half hour early. My client was located in a bank and in the lobby, there is a shine stand! For less than $5, I arrived at the office with my shoes gleaming. Investment types are always very alpha male competitive and it was nice to know that when I — younger than some of them and a lot less wealthy than any of them — sat down opposite that firm’s principles, I looked every bit “their equal.” My confidence was bolstered — I could see the look on my face in the mirror-like shine of my oxfords.
So before the harvest moon sets, stop in and treat yourself to a professional shine. Like a fresh coat of paint for a house, it’s the easiest (and cheapest) way to add a bit of elegance to the everyday.